Ground Walnut & Pomegranate Chicken Stew

I tried to take a pretty photo so you wouldn’t gasp in horror, because if you’re thinking it, just know you’re not the first: this dish has a tinge that can make you think of something you’d rather forget while you’re eating. It’s been a longstanding joke in Iranian culture, which is where this recipe comes from. But it’s just so delicious that I promise you’ll forget all about its color after one bite!

Once you’ve gotten over this fact hopefully you will start making it. And fortunately for everyone it is a cinch to make!  We start by grinding our walnuts in a food processor.  I swear this isn’t a plug but I’m so ridiculously happy that I have a Cuisinart CSB-77 SmartStick Hand Blender.  Basically, it’s everything you could ever need in one: an immersion blender, an electric whisk, and a food processor.  It even comes with a nice measuring cup!  So anyway, put your walnuts in a processor:

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Risotto-Style Farro with Butternut Squash and Parsley

I’ve already made a risotto-style farro recipe (Farro with Red Kuri Squash and Leeks) but I got some pretty good feedback on it so I decided to make a similar dish, this time with pre-cut butternut squash.  I normally like to use fresh squash which I then cut up at home, but doing that really isn’t practical when you’re cooking for yourself or even just one other person.

Cooking farro in this way has become pretty popular.  I say this because I found another farro-risotto recipe over at the fantastic blog Eat Live Run (also in one serving size!) which is made with mushrooms and sweet corn.  Lynda from TasteFood also made a “farrotto” recipe back in March with shiitake mushrooms and beets.  Using farro instead of the traditional arborio rice is much healthier for you, and farro also provides a nuttier and chewier taste which adds great texture to the dish.

I made another video to accompany this recipe, which I hope will show you how easy and doable it is.

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Chicken Breast Stuffed with Spinach, Feta, and Pine Nuts

I hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving!  And if you didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you had a great Thursday last week.  I took a few days off from writing and posting but I wanted to get back into things with this easy chicken recipe which I think you’ll have no problem making for yourself at home.

This time I’m trying something new (hey, that’s what the blogging world is all about, right?) and I made a little video to accompany the recipe.  Just to warn you, this is the first video I’ve ever made for my blog!  So it’s kind of budget – there are no transitions, and I took the video using my iPhone, so the quality isn’t fantastic.  But I think it will help you make the recipe and to see how easy it is to put it all together.

As always, the written recipe will be typed up and highlighted below in yellow.

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Cranberry Sauce with Port & Dried Figs

I think anyone who has spent time abroad will agree with me: there are certain things from your homeland that never be replaced or replicated in foreign territory.  During the 2 years while I was living in Paris I missed a few things, such as cheesecake, key lime pie, and of course my family.  But nothing compared to my disappointment at not being able to enjoy Thanksgiving.  It is hands down my favorite time of year, and my heart ached for the pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, creamy gravy and moist turkey that have come to represent this holiday.  Turkey day is the best!

I am so glad to be in the States for Thanksgiving and to be able to cook for and with the people I love.  When I started getting into cooking, which was about 5 years ago, I tried out a cranberry sauce for the big turkey day, the recipe for which I found on Epicurious.  Shortly after making it we all realized that this wasn’t your ordinary recipe – it was in fact a magical recipe, because it was the best tasting cranberry sauce any of us had ever had – and we really aren’t that into cranberry sauce to begin with! I’ve since made it every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and hands down anyone who tries it raves about it.

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Balsamic-Glazed Steak with Parsnip Chips

I’ve never been a big steak eater.

I don’t usually get the urge to stick my knife into a big, juicy steak and slather it all over with sauce.

But sometimes when I’m in the grocery store and I walk past the steaks, I feel like something is calling me, as if the steaks are standing up on all fours and shouting at me:

EAT ME!

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Chickpea Couscous with Feta-Yogurt Sauce

I think it’s fair to say that most of us have moms, so I’m sure you’ll understand my next point.

My parents are proud of me for starting this blog, and I think they look at this website and get excited.  My mother gets so excited, in fact, that she feels the need to tell me about every necessary addition I need to make IMMEDIATELY.   My most recent example centers around a roast chicken that I made for my friend Joanna last night.

Although I ask my mom to keep her criticisms to a minimum, she had to speak her mind this time: “you made great roast chicken last night? And you didn’t take any photos?! Ashley, you have to put these things on the blog.  Every one needs to know that you have a life, I’m sure they want to know what you do besides making recipes for one.”  Maybe my mom is right; much to my chagrin she’s right most of the time.  All I can do is swear that I have a pretty normal life outside of making recipes for one, and that this life usually revolves around food: eating it with others, making it for friends, or dreaming about it.   Just kidding…who dreams about food? :)

Now let’s get back to a recipe that I feel a little guilty writing about (but which is nevertheless the entire point of this blog): Israeli couscous with a fantastically easy yogurt-feta sauce, all for you.  I don’t know if you’re like me, but I love foods that pack a lot of punch.  If there is any sweet-salty combination going on, chances are I’ll like it (bacon in chocolate, anyone?!).  So I clearly adored this recipe for Israeli couscous that combines sweet Medjool dates with salty feta and slightly bitter yogurt.  I made the sauce on the side, but I of course slathered it all over the couscous before digging in.

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Wild Mushroom Open-Faced Sandwich

Open Sandwich

Definitely a funny business, this food blogging stuff. I read a great post from Joy The Baker about ways to improve your blogging skills. One thing she emphasized was that readers never really see the “behind-the-scenes” of writing a food blog. For example, would you have guessed that it took me 170 photos to get this one just how I wanted it? A lot of times I just stop myself midway and ask, what’s the point of any of this? Does anybody care? Is anybody even trying these recipes? An evil tiny man in my head tells me no (I so want this evil man to be wrong!)

Maybe you like this photo, or maybe it doesn’t quite give you the tingles that I hoped it would. I have to say though that my photo-taking skills have gone leaps and bounds since my first post – and not because I got a super fancy camera, but because I, maybe like yourself, spend lots of time ooh-ing and aah-ing at other beautiful food blog photos. I won’t say my photos are top-notch – when I look at blogs like Sips & Spoonfuls and Back to the Cutting Board I have to drink my tea and sigh in envy, all the pictures are showstoppers….but there are things anyone can do to make food photos go from good to “gobble me up.” If you’re looking for some tips on how to improve your photos, feel free to check out this article I wrote for The Daily Meal, 10 tips for gorgeous food photos.

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Special Ingredient Post: Caramelized Fennel and 5 Ways to Eat It

This was a “feel-as-you-go” type of day, meaning that everything came together in a way I still don’t understand.  I guess it all started when I decided to pick up fennel from the supermarket this morning, since I haven’t been cooking with it enough (ok, at all) this season.  I think I’m not the only one who doesn’t love fennel’s natural licorice flavor, so anything that minimizes this quality suits me just fine.  That’s essentially how caramelization came into the picture, which both my mom and I agreed gave the fennel a deliciously sweet component (added bonus! mom acted as taste tester today).

My plan was to make the fennel as I wanted, then set it aside and use the same pan to quickly saute a fillet of whitefish, which would be served over the fennel.  This is exactly what I did, and it came out like so:

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Sweet Potato and Feta Pancakes

I really wanted to call these pancakes, but they don’t really look like what I’m used to.  I guess we can still call them sweet potato pancakes, but they did turn out to be, well, chubbier than I had expected.

I think you will like these pancakes/fritters/chubby bunnies/balls of fun.  I’m getting more and more of a sense of what readers and subscribers look for in recipes (need I remind you?  This whole blog is about YOU!), and I am getting the most positive feedback from seasonal, healthy, and quick recipes.  Price also seems to be important for you, but as far as I can tell most recipes are within your budget (because they need to be in my tiny budget too).

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Baked Shrimp with Feta and Spinach

This dish gives you a great excuse to eat right out of the pan – it’s not only recommended but almost required! Add to the equation tomato sauce that’s baked in the oven and lots of bread for dipping, and you have my ideal recipe for a hearty winter meal.  Even though it is a beautiful and sunny day in New York and I can almost forget that it was snowing here last Saturday.  Almost.

This recipe is very straightforward with no surprise ingredients.  Just heart-healthy spinach and crumbly feta, with onions, garlic, and of course plenty of tomato sauce.


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