In December, a really cool regional Thai restaurant called Foreign Correspondents closed after just over a year of business in Houston.
I had mixed feelings about the restaurant. It was one of those places you just want to like because of all the buzz–the interior was awesomely funky with colorful doodles on the wall and low wooden chairs, but the food seemed to be hit or miss. I went there twice: once on a doomed date where, even though he claimed he was “mostly vegetarian,” we ordered the khao soi (and I picked around the chicken to sample the duo of crispy and soupy noodles) and I ate an appropriate amount of food for a date which is to say far less than I would have otherwise consumed.
The second time was when my mom was in town and that was a glory-filled ordering of almost everything I wanted to try. The purple sticky rice was kind of meh and too sweet, the tofu curry was good, the spicy noodles were delicious, but what was really stunning–and what I ordered both times I visited–was the pumpkin stir fry.
Starchy hunks of pumpkin roasted and then sauteed until falling-apart soft and tangled in silky threads of scrambled egg, doused in a savory soy-based sauce. I kept dreaming about until finally a kabocha squash landed in my cart one day and I re-created the recipe the best I could. Guys, I JUST realized what a delicious trio oyster, fish and soy sauce are together. So much more depth than just soy sauce, my typical stir fry crutch. Aside from the roasting of the squash, this stir fry takes about 5 minutes to throw together and I HIGHLY recommend it!
PS. For my Houston readers, Artopia (a super fun party hosted by Houston Press featuring fashion, music, art and food) is this Saturday, 1/28 from 8-11pm! You can check out more about the event here (I went last year and had a blast), and enter for a chance to win a free pair of tickets on my instagram (giveaway ends Thursday at 10 a.m.)!
While I will likely never reach the brunch heights effortlessly pulled off by my talented friends (check this birthday brunch spread that Lisa threw–complete with an utterly gorgeous crepe cake, personalized name tags and a gorgeous holiday tablescape!–or this mimosa bar by Erin!)…I enjoy them to the fullest extent.
Erin made these incredible mini avocado toast bites at a brunch hosted in her light-drenched loft–they were the perfect things to stave off hanger since I ran in late and made everyone wait for another 20 minutes for my eggs to bake–but also so incredibly easy to make and also totally festive!! It’s literally mini avocado toast. Smash avocado on crackers (specifically Mary’s Gone Cracker’s Everything flavor because that garlic/onion/seed combination is majorly tasty), salt and pepper, add cheese and then sprinkle on ALL THE POMEGRANATE ARILS! Instant holiday cheer like there’s no tomorrow!
Speaking of which, I am heading back to California VERY SOON to hang out with my family for the holidays! I’ve taken on the task of creating the family holiday card these days and went with Tiny Prints again this year for our card. I am SO excited to send these out–I love their tri-fold “year-in-review”-style cards because it meshes the styles of the photo card we used to send out with the newsletter we also used to send. If you still need holiday cards, I can’t recommend Tiny Prints enough. Their customer service is extraordinary and your card is pretty much guaranteed to look magazine-worthy!
This may be the healthiest holiday recipe I’ve ever posted and I will keep singing its praises even through the cookie currently in my mouth.
At the beginning of this year, I had the intention of sharing some of my classic family recipes on a monthly basis. One finished business degree, trip to Australia and Thailand, start of a semi-demanding new job and continued freelance work later…that goal had to be moved down the list of priorities.
To the readers who have stuck with me through my irregular posting schedule this year–you are the best! Part of my spotty posting has been due to the fact that I’m still trying to figure out where I want to go with The Pancake Princess in the future. I think the opportunity is ripe to expand beyond a recipe-only blog, so we’ll see if 2017 brings more time to flesh out some ideas.
Wine cake was often made for bake sales, or occasionally for when people came over. After letting the steaming, craggy-bottomed cake cool in the pan, we would breathlessly (though the fear of ripping off the top of the cake due to sticking wasn’t really real thanks to the magic of cake mix) unearth the whole cake by plopping it upside down on a plate and dust the top with a gentle cloud of powdered sugar.
The ridges of our bundt cake dictated the size of each slice (alternating thick and thin) and the thick pieces were far superior, not only for the obvious size difference, but also because of the greater surface area of browned, gently crisp yet-still-tender crust that formed around the pale, plush, wine-scented interior (the alcohol bakes out leaving just a mild flavor, don’t worry). I always ate the middle part in short geometric fork strokes, leaving the caramelized crusts for last.
Hilariously, I had plan to recreate the exact cake, but when I found the recipe my mom always uses in the recipe card box, I almost had a heart attack. You guys, the original recipe uses Orville Redenbacher Butter Flavor Oil. As oil. In the cake. And a lot of it. Plus yellow cake mix. Plus packaged pudding mix.
I mentally wrestled with the recipe for approximately 10 hot seconds and then decided to scrap it and try a from-scratch version (for some reason, 95% of wine cake recipes with yellow cake seem to be made with cake mix! Is this some 80s conspiracy?!). Taking inspiration from this DIY instant pudding mix, I added a smidge more sugar and cornstarch to the recipe to act as the pudding replacer. Then, I used this recipe as a guide to replicate the boxed cake mix-type cake.
In the end, the cake turned out deliciously–maybe it was just my imagination, but I think the from-scratch version cake had a more natural, less synthetic-buttery taste to it. The crust was also crisper (major bonus!) and though I have to admit the crumb was slightly less fine (boxed cake mix, why u so darn magical), there’s still a really fresh and plush tenderness to it. This cake makes for great holiday baking and gifting in case you’re looking for inspiration!
This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® & La Moderna but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #MyExceptionalPasta #GoldenHarvest http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV
It’s vegan ziti!
I was shopping for a Halloween party at Walmart the other day and omg dangerous. I came away with so much stuff. I had enough food for a small army and a million pasta recipes in mind. This seems to be becoming part of a pattern because this ziti is actually enough to feed an army.
You may or may not know that I freelance for the Houston Press (which is why my posts have slowed down of late)…one of the recurring series I write for them is “taste offs” of the best food items around Houston–I started with chocolate chip cookies, then holiday cookies, then doughnuts, then pizza, chocolate cake and most recently, pie.
The handful of friends who lingered in the sugar-ridden aftermath after sampling and scoring 25 different pies draped themselves over my furniture yesterday. To my surprise, when I unearthed this giant pan of ziti from the fridge, nearly half of it disappeared (probably thanks to the deep cravings for savory foods after an avalanche of sweets).
This pasta recipe is basically a mish mash of all the leftover vegetables I had in my fridge–carrots, celery, a zucchini. I sauteed a huge bunch of carrots, celery and onion into a tomato sauce (inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s naked sauce) tossed it with La Moderna pasta, a new-to-me brand that had a nice chew, was high in protein, and held up well in the dish (I cooked the pasta to just al dente before baking it in the casserole–you can find the pasta here), topped it with sauteed zucchini slices and then a thick layer of vegan ricotta. Made out of tofu, the ricotta is so easy to make–just a whirl in the food processor with some herbs, nutritional yeast and lemon juice, and it’s ready to go.
And it will feed a HUGE amount of people, so if you need an easy vegetarian entree for feeding a crowd for the upcoming holidays…keep this in mind.
- For the tomato sauce:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ large onion, diced
- 1 cup diced vegetables (a few large carrots or a mix of carrots and celery)
- 1 28 oz can tomatoes
- ½ can tomato paste
- dried basil, oregano, salt
- For the tofu ricotta:
- 1 14 oz container firm tofu, drained
- 1.5 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon each: garlic powder, basil, oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- juice from half a small lemon
- For the pasta bake:
- 4 cups La Moderna penne pasta
- 1 large zucchini, sliced
- To make the sauce:
- Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery, season with salt and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until caramelized. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste and season with your desired amount of basil, oregano and salt. Simmer for 20 minutes over medium-low heat, then turn off heat and set aside.
- To make the tofu ricotta:
- Blend all ingredients together in a food processor. Set aside.
- To make the ziti:
- Cook the pasta according to directions. Saute the zucchini in olive oil over medium heat until lightly browned.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the pasta and sauce together. Pour the pasta into a prepared 9x13 pan. Layer the zucchini on top, then dollop the tofu ricotta over the top, using your fingers to help spread it around evenly. Bake for 20 minutes until ricotta is browned.