The Modern Mirepoix

This is not really a recipe or travel post but really just a quick PSA. The old mirepoix of onion, celery, and carrots has its place, but it never had its place in my home. EVER. Instead, I have always used my three favorite items to start every dish or as we might start calling it , the modern mirepoix or maybe even the more flavorful and appealing mirepoix? Its a working title. Anyways, without further rambling, the mirepoix I use on the daily:

  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Peppers of your choosing;

That’s it: Onion, Garlic, Peppers. Its versatile, wanting something mild: put in bell peppers, want something with a light kick but not too crazy: throw in some jalapenos or a serrano. I think it works better than a traditional mirepoix because it can go into almost anything. Soup? YES !! making a red pasta sauce? ABSOLUTLY!! Curry?? ALL THE PEPPERS!!!

It is something I would bet we all use on the daily but haven’t been bold enough to call it a mirepoix. Why not? it meets the definition of the word so I say go for it!

That is all I wanted to do with this post today, to let you know that when you’re using your pepper, onion, and garlic that you are in fact using a mirepoix and if you want to be fancy and call it that, this is the permission you’ve been looking for.

A Food Journey to Iceland

I don’t know about you guys but I am feeling a SERIOUSLY INTENSE case of cabin fever. Like not just the plain “get me out of this house” level of cabin fever but the level where I really need out of the country. Since we can’t safely do that right now, and because I am not a spontaneous person and can’t just hop onto a plane tomorrow, I thought now would be a good time to look back. Specifically back to Iceland. It was my last trip out of the country, google says It was almost 2 years ago now and just the thought of that makes me want to scream . Like I can’t believe this but I am almost starting to miss the plane rides WHICH I HATE (clearly I don’t fly first class or else maybe I’d say something like “planes are my second home” or something crazy like that.) Anyways, I figured I couldn’t be the only person feeling this way so instead of looking back at photos by myself and missing it all, I thought it might be fun to share it all with you guys. So without further delay (airplane puns anyone? No?) Let’s take a journey and look at some of my favorite things in Iceland and of course THE FOOD.

All Things Breakfast 

One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to visit local bakeries and coffee shops. For me, it’s a fun way to observe the town around me while also getting to munch on something sweet and enjoy some coffee. I found that almost anywhere I went that sold lattes or coffee items with whipped cream on top had some sort of a vegan alternative. As someone who is not vegan, but is very much so lactose intolerant, I enjoyed these alternatives greatly.

After Going through all of my photos, I narrowed down my list of favorites to these.

Mosfellsbakari

This place was about a 2 minute drive away from the house we were renting in Mosfellsbær so we went here almost daily. It was a nice place to sit and relax before starting a day full of activities.

The staff was so nice and the food was even better. My favorite thing was this sticky pastry that I honestly have no idea if it was a donut or a cinnamon roll dipped in icing but I do know that I ordered it multiple times. 

Mokka Kaffi

Another bakery favorite of mine was Mokka Kaffi. Their swiss mokka was so good and they served waffles which I can never turn down. Their waffles were served with a side of whipped cream and jam and it was tasty while also not filling me up too much to take on my full day. 

Kattakaffihúsið

Okay, so I did not actually get any coffee from here but I have a good reason! My partner is tragically allergic to cats. To me, someone who has been a cat lady since birth, it is the saddest thing and I will never stop trying to convince him to “just take allergy pills” but I digress. So when he got a phone call that I knew would take him at least 10 minutes I dashed over from Mokka Kaffi over to the beautiful cat cafe kattakaffihúsið. All their cats are up for adoption and I WISH i could have stayed and had one of their cat themed coffees. It’s on my list, even though I did not technically try any of their items, because I hope one of you fortunate people who have chosen travel companions who are not allergic to cats will see it here and go. 

The Coocoo’s Nest

This was a place that I remember being so proud I found. It was cute, had a line (which we got there before it formed), and had gorgeous food. I also may have been very stubborn about making sure we made it to this location and I am honestly really proud of myself for it. Because THIS FOOD WAS SO GOOD. We did their brunch, wow remember when that was just a normal activity and not a covid spreading situation??? Anyways, brunch, it was very basic items like green eggs & ham and I really don’t know why that would make it so dang delicious but for some reason it really was. The coffee was adorable, as all coffee is when presented in cute baby mugs, and me being me and thinking that breakfast food equals dessert got myself a hot chocolate. 

Kaffitar- Located in the National Museum of Icelandic Culture

This is where I discovered that vegan whipped topping means something marshmellowy without being a marshmallow and OH MAN IT WAS GOOOOOD.

That’s all, this photo says it for itself.

Everything Else- Including Ice Cream

ísbúðin litla valdís

Lets go ahead and get the ice cream out of the way. This place was packed, I was overwhelmed but in that good way where you know you’re about to get some good food because why else would a place be this packed. It was fantastic, I was freezing but I wanted more. I still wish we went back at least 10 more times before leaving.

Gandhi Indian Restaurant

THIS WAS THE BEST AND FANCIEST INDIAN FOOD EXPERIENCE I HAVE HAD SO FAR. It felt like they gave Indian food the proper elevated status it deserves.  I wanted to go back here as well but we didn’t end up having the time for it. I cannot recommend this place more. The food was so good and the atmosphere of the place gave it a fun date night vibe without taking itself too seriously. 

Eldofninn Pizzeria

We went here because we saw that banana pizza is a thing in Iceland. I don’t know if it’s something you do where you live, I certainly had never seen something like this before here. So we went for it and you guys we did not hate it. It gave a sweetness similar to what pineapple would do for you but with a certain mush feel. We will not be putting bananas on our pizza at home but it was a fun experience. Another thing that seemed different was that although Tayler and I shared our pizza like we would back home, the locals in the restaurant all had their own like a personal pizza situation. 

bæjarins beztu pylsur

This is on my list just because it is something  you must check off your list while in Iceland. It’s a hotdog. I know, not exciting. But it sort of is. They do them very differently than we do in the states so it is just a fun thing to see how differently they taste than ours. I was not a fan but Tayler really enjoyed them so give them a try and maybe you will too.

Flóran Garden Bistro

Who doesn’t want to eat in a gorgeous greenhouse inside of a botanical garden? The menu changes with the season and everything is locally sourced. I found this to be a really nice escape from the chilly weather while still experiencing the gardens. 

Smiðjan Brugghús

The last one on my list of favorites was a small brewery pub restaurant in Vik. You’d think by just looking at this “wow she got a burger? Why you can get that anywhere” and you would be correct for the most part, but you don’t understand. This was the best burger I have ever eaten. I can’t explain it any other way but you really need to get yourself there, when it’s safe to travel again, and try it out for yourselves. The views by the way, were also worth it.

Thank you for taking this food journey with me. While you’re here you might as well enjoy the rest of the photos from the trip. The black sand beach photos are all from Vik so if the burger and views from the brewery was not enough to get you out to Vik I hope the beach photos are. 

Hopefully this helped curb our cabin fever and inspired you to plan yourself a trip to Iceland when it is safe to do so.

April

Roasted Garlic, Peppers, & Cheese Stuffed Challah Bread

Alright, this has been something that I have been making for friends and family for a little while now and I think it is finally time for me to share it with you. The challah dough itself is a recipe I took from Adeena Sussman’s Sababa cookbook. It is perfection, so I do not stray from her dough recipe but I do play around a bit by stuffing the bread. 

Tool Kit:

For the Dough:

  • 7 cups of flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 5 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 eggs (2 go in the dough and 1 is for the eggwash)
  • 1 ¾ cup warm water
  • seasalt ( 1 tablespoon for the dough and about a teaspoon for the top of the bread)

For the Stuffed Portion

  • 3 large heads of garlic
  • 3-6 jalapenos depending on how spicy you are feeling today (or whatever pepper fits your spice preference serranos are also tasty in this)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Your favorite cheddar (shredded)

A Few Notes

  • The amounts listed are for 3 large challah loaves 
  • You can always leave out the cheese to make it kosher if you’re serving meat with it or if you just are not in a cheesy mood today
  • I like to break this up into two days to allow the bread lots of time to relax in the fridge overnight
  • Time to create the dough: about 25mins
  • Total time (excluding the resting overnight): about 4 hours

Let’s Do This!!

DAY 1:

In the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook, put in the flour, salt, sugar, olive oil, honey, eggs, warm water, and yeast. Mix on low until the threat of flour getting everywhere is gone. Then increase the speed to medium and let it go until a ball of dough is formed.

Pull the dough out, knead it a few more times if you have some crumbly stragglers, and place it in a large oiled bowl. Make sure you get a bit of the oil all over the dough ball so it doesn’t get stuck to the sides of the bowl when rising.

Now cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and place it somewhere warm to rise for an hour.

After the first rise is complete, turn the dough out on a clean surface and divide the dough up into 3 even chunks. I find using a kitchen scale to be the easiest way to ensure they are three equal parts. Cover each piece up with plastic wrap or bee’s wrap and stick them in the fridge to rest overnight.

DAY 2:

Preheat your oven to 350F. Cut the tops off of all the garlic heads, place them each in their own foil purse and top them with olive oil, salt, & pepper. Get out a bake sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat and place the foil purses and all the peppers onto the bake sheet. 

Let them hang out in the oven for 30-50 minutes, start checking on them around the 30 min mark, you want the peppers to look blistered and you want the garlic to look brown and mushy but not burnt. While you wait on items to finish roasting, now would be a great time to shred your cheese.

Pull them out of the oven and allow them to cool completely. 

Once cooled, Squeeze out all the garlic and lightly smash them with your knife until a paste forms. Peel all of the skin off of the peppers, discard the skin, and chop up the pepper seeds and all. 

Pull the dough out of the fridge and divide each into 3 smaller portions. Take them and roll them out into little snakes or ropes. Once you get them all to your desired length, flatten them out.  This is where you’ll brush on your garlic & peppers and then carefully place the cheese on top. Then roll them back up and be careful not to let the fillings ooze out in the process. Next is the easy part: the braiding. Squish the tops of 3 ropes together and braid them normally and tuck the ends under themselves. Repeat for all 3 loaves. Now you, and the bread, get to rest. Place them on a bake sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat, cover them with a clean kitchen towel, and allow them to rise in a warm place for an hour.

Preheat your oven to 350F. While you wait for the oven, get started on the egg wash. All you need is one egg and a splash of water, mix it up and then brush it onto each loaf and then add your salt on top.

Place them in the oven for 25 minutes and allow them to cool slightly before serving.

Enjoy!

Throw-It-All-In Shakshuka

Shakshuka is one of my favorite dishes to make when I have veggies or eggs that I need to use up soon. This time the item I needed to get rid of was potatoes. Which yes, I could have gone the mashed potatoes route but I was CRAVING shakshuka so I decided to go a little nuts and add it to my shakshuka dish. If you do not have potatoes to use up then you can skip the potato section and will have DELICIOUS traditional shakshuka. However, If you do need to use up a few potatoes, join me on this weird potato filled shakshuka journey.

Tool Kit:

  • A tablespoon of olive oil
  • 20 tomatoes quartered
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • Garlic, minced (you can use however much you’d like I won’t stop you, but I will judge you if you use less than 5 cloves)
  •  2 bell peppers
  • 6 eggs (or however many you can fit in  your pot, this was just the amount mine was able to handle)
  • ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
  • To taste: Salt, Pepper, cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper
  • Optional: spicy peppers you have on hand, minced
  • Optional: a handful of potatoes, quartered and cooked
  • Pita bread or if you don’t have pita naan is also delicious

A Few Notes

  • If you want to make the dish vegan you can leave out the eggs or if you want to go the complete opposite and make it meaty you can do that too.
  • In my photo I used WAY TOO MANY potatoes. So if you make it with potatoes or skip the potatoes all together, Do not be alarmed when it looks different from mine. I promise you, yours looks better.
  • Feeds 4 people
  • Total cook time: roughly 1 hour

Let’s Do This!!

Put your dutch oven pot, or whatever deep pot you have that has a lid, on medium high heat with a splash of olive oil. Once the pot is warmed up add in your onions. Leave them on there until they are beautifully caramelized, this will take around  10-15 minutes. Be sure to add more olive oil if your onions stop sizzling. Next add in your peppers and cook them down for 5-10 minutes. Next add in your garlic and spices. Stir them around for a couple of seconds until all the spices and the garlic are toasted, be careful not to burn the spices. Next add in the tomatoes (and the potatoes if you are including them today) and stir till everyone is coated in the spices. Put the lid on, lower the heat down to medium low, and leave it alone. You can check on it every 10 minutes to give it a nice stir and make sure the tomatoes are breaking down nicely. 

Once the tomatoes have turned into a beautiful stew consistency, it is time to add the eggs. Create a well for each egg and gently crack an egg into each well. Put the lid back on. Now you can either wait for it to cook on the stovetop OR you can take  your enamel pot and place it in an oven set to 400F for 3-5 minutes. 

Once the eggs are cooked to your liking set the pot on the table and serve with bread. 

This dish is best eaten right out of the pot. But if you don’t trust your dinner guests not to make a big mess you can also serve it up on a plate.

Enjoy!

Mango-Lime Pavlova

I was first introduced to the New Zealand dish a while back when watching one of Ina Garten’s shows on the Food Network. Which afterwards I made once and then forgot about them for quite a while. That is, until quarantine. 

I was looking for a little inspiration when I came across @farahazureenalmedwahi on Instagram promoting her food Instagram account (@firstweeat.my) and at the same time letting us all know she is selling the MOST BEAUTIFUL pavlovas I have ever seen. I wanted one so badly, but here’s the sad part for me, she lives in Malaysia. So instead of buying 100 of them as I truly wanted (which if you live in Malaysia or happen to find yourself there please buy some and eat them for me let me know what I am missing out on) I had to create my own. 

These are not nearly as beautiful or as tasty as hers are. So get the real things if you can. But if you live far away from Malaysia like me here is a good alternative.

So without further delay, take this trip with me (through your kitchen) to Malaysia (or New Zealand where this dish originates or even Russia since the dish is named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova; You do you).

Tool Kit:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • The zest of 6 limes
  • Vanilla bean Paste
  • Patience 
  •  Two mangos cut up

A Few Notes

  • Depending on how big you make your pavlova’s will depend on how many this makes and how long this dish takes. I used a silpat mat with pre marked circles on them. I think it is technically for macarons but I use it every time I am dealing with a meringue.
  • This will make about 10-20 Pavloves depending on the size and will take approximately 3-4 hours to make. (this is counting for prep, baking, and cooling time)
  • You can also make a whipped cream to go on top which I highly recommend. I just did not have any cream so I made mine without. 
  • If your oven is too hot, the sugar will melt too quickly and will make the bottoms ugly. You have been warned. 

Let’s Do This!!

Seperate your egg whites from the yolks, save the yolks for a different dish (I always use mine to make Hummingbirdhigh’s egg yolk chocolate chip cookies, it calls for 3 but I put in 4 because why not?) Next add your egg whites to the bowl of your stand mixer and mix with the whisk attachment until frothy. Once frothy, slowly add in your sugar. Mix on medium high until medium peaks have formed.

While you wait on the mixer to do all the hard work, Get a piping bag ready. You can use whichever tip you’d like. OR if you are feeling extra rebellious you can always use a cookie scooper to get yours out and then just create a well in the center. 

Once you have medium peaks, add in your lime zest and vanilla bean paste. Now whip till stiff peaks have formed. While you wait for the mixer to do its magic, preheat your oven to 215F (or 101.7C) and prepare a bake sheet with either a silicone mat or parchment paper.

Now for the fun part, creating your bowl. If you are doing the cookie scoop method then just go ahead and scoop onto your bakesheet and create a well in the center like we discussed earlier. Now for the piping bag method: take your piping bag and start in the center. Create circles going out until you have your desired base, then build up along the edge until you have what looks like a bowl or a cute little birds nest. 

Place in the oven and start checking it after 1 hour. It should feel solid all around and the bottoms flat. If not, put it back in for another 30 minutes. Repeat until perfect.

Let them cool, this is where you would make your whipped cream if you wanted to. Chop up your mangos, fill the center with the fruit and EAT THEM ALL.

Enjoy!

Sweet and Spicy Tomatillo Salsa

Tool Kit:

  • 2 heads of garlic
  • 2 jalapenos (or more if you’d like)
  • 9-12 tomatillos
  • 13-15 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar (may need more or less depending on how acidic your batch is)
  • Salt & pepper
  • Olive oil

A Few Notes

  • This is messy if you do not use foil. I usually use a silpat mat when doing anything in the oven, however the juices of this will get everywhere if you use something like that so i suggest foil and make sure to bring the edges up on the foil to create a barrier on all sides.
  • This can be acidic depending on how your batch is so when adding your sugar be sure to taste it first and then add accordingly.
  • However, IF yours is super acidic and two tablespoons does not get you there, add a ½ teaspoon of baking soda to your mixture. It will lower the pH of the solution without adding sweetness.
  • Also, keep in mind that this needs to cool before tasking just right. So if you feel like you’ve got it as good as you can on the sweetness/acidic balance, pop it into the fridge overnight and it will be perfect by morning. 

Let’s Do This!!

Preheat your oven to 375F. 

Line a bake sheet with foil and place your tomatoes & jalapenos on the sheet, be sure to take off the stems first so you don’t have to do it while they are hot like I had to do. 

Next take the tops off of your garlic and place them each in their own foil, add salt, pepper, and olive oil, and then close them up in the foil and place on the bake sheet.

Pop them in the oven for about 15 minutes. After the first 15 minutes, bring the oven up to 400F and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes. You want them to be charred on the outside.

After you’ve pulled them out of the oven CAREFULLY open up the garlic foil to let it cool down.

Once you can handle the garlic, squeeze them out into either a bowl, blender, or food processor depending on what you have. I have an immersion blender so I put mine all into a bowl. Next take the foil with all the roasted items and all the juices and empty it out wherever you put the garlic. Blend it all up and taste test to see where your acidity level is. Add sugar accordingly.

Transfer to a seal tight jar and place in the fridge overnight.

Enjoy!

Blueberry Pop Tarts

Tool Kit:

  • Blueberry Syrup (see my previous post)
  • Pie Dough
  • The zest and juice of one lemon
  • 5 tablespoons of powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • A splash of water

Let’s Do This!!

First roll out your choice of pie dough and use a round cookie cutter to cut out perfect circles. Next, Take a spoonful of the blueberry syrup and plop it right in the center of one of the circles and place a second circle on top. Repeat until you’ve got them all filled.

Preheat the oven to 350F. While you wait for your oven to preheat,  take a fork and press down around the edges of each circle to close in the filling. Next, create your egg wash by mixing one egg and a splash of water. Take your egg wash and brush it on top of each circle poptart. Now make it your own by creating air vents of your choice. You can poke holes with your fork or get fancy and use a paring knife to create designs.

Place in the oven and start checking on them after 15 minutes. They should be golden brown and crispy.

Let them cool completely. 

You can eat them like this if you’d like or if you want to make it more like a true pop tart with icing and all. To make the icing, mix your lemon juice, zest, and powdered sugar. Dip each in the icing and if you want to add some color and extra flavor, mix some powdered sugar and leftover blueberry syrup and drizzle or spoon over them as well.

Now don’t be like me and get them stuck on a plate. Instead, Let them sit on a cookie sheet until the icing hardens. 

Enjoy!

Whole Roasted Chicken & Basically Gravy Potatoes

Tool Kit:

  • Your largest cast iron skillet
  • A digital meat thermometer 
    • Preferably one that you can tell it what temperature to go off at
  • One whole chicken 
  • One whole head of garlic 
  • One medium yellow onion quartered
  • One blood orange quartered 
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • 6 tablespoons of butter
  • Roughly 20 idaho red potatoes quartered

A Few Notes:

  • I would not make this without a meat thermometer, it ensures that you are not over or under cooking the chicken and I promise you it will make a huge difference.

Let’s Do this!!

First preheat your oven to 425 F. Next, cut the top off of the garlic and quarter all of your veggies. Take the butter and mix in the thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper and set it aside. Next, put your cut up potatoes at the bottom of your cast iron skillet and season them generously with salt, pepper, and rosemary. 

Now for the gross/ fun part: The chicken. Take that chunky bird and pat it dry, this helps you get extra crispy skin. Now place it on either a cutting board or you can put it right on the potatoes, whichever you find easiest. From the butt end of the chicken gently separate the skin from the meat. DON’T TAKE THE SKIN OFF!!! Now take about half of  that butter herb mixture we just made and stuff it in between the skin and the meat of the chicken. This will feel weird but it makes the meat flavorful and the skin extra crispy. Take the rest of the butter mixture and rub the bird down all over. This is the last awkward step I promise: put the orange, garlic, and onion all in the chicken’s butt. 

Now that the weird part is over, position the chicken on top of the potatoes breast side up. Put the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken, set it to 160 (It will continue cooking up to the proper temperature when it is resting outside of the oven), and pop it in the oven. 

When it comes out the chicken will be crispy and the potatoes will be mushy and gravy like but oh so good.

Blueberry Syrup

Tool Kit:

  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • The zest and juice of one lemon

Let’s Do This!!

Put all of the ingredients into your favorite sauce pan or enamel cast iron pot and put it on medium low heat. Stir every couple of minutes to ensure everything gets dissolved evenly. Once it starts to bubble, lower the heat and allow it to simmer while stirring for 2 minutes. 

Take off the heat and let it cool completely before putting it in a jar or squeeze bottle. 

Pour over pancakes, or add to a bubbly wine to make a fruity cocktail. 

Enjoy!

Mini Baked Alaskas

Tool Kit:

  • 4 mini bowls
  • Plastic wrap
  • Patience
  • Ice cream
  • French meringue
    • (see my french meringue recipe) 
  • Strawberry Cake
    • (see my strawberry cake recipe)

A Few Notes:

  • Okay so I want the record to show that I was beyond excited to make these. They feel like the ultimate fanciness level you can achieve as a baker. I mean it has layers and fire and it takes DAYSSSSS to make so it should be amazing. BUT after the days I put into these little lovely babies, it took so long to make that I bonded with them and named them it was an experience, I realized the most important thing. I HATE BAKED ALASKAS! They look pretty, and I really thought that I would love them but I just couldn’t. Now that we’ve gotten that over with, I think if you still want to give them a try you really should. The process is fun and we all seem to have the time now.
  • Another thing, when making the french meringue portion stop after they are fluffy so don’t go into the piping or baking portion of my french meringue recipe.

Let’s Do This!!

Set out your favorite ice cream and let it get soft and pliable. While you wait on the ice cream, prepare your mini bowls.  Take your plastic wrap and line the insides of your mini bowls. Next, place about one scoop of your ice cream into each mini bowl, cover with the plastic wrap, and place in the freezer overnight. 

The next day prepare your cake as instructed in my previous strawberry cake post. Cut out your cake with ring cookie cutters.  Take your mini bowls out of the freezer, uncover your ice cream, place the cake circles on top of the ice cream, recover, and put back into the freezer overnight.

The next day, prepare your french meringue as instructed by my previous french meringue post. Preheat your oven to the highest setting, and take out your mini bowls. Unmold your naked unbaked alaskas and place them on a silicone mat. Cover them with the french meringue mixture, make sure you get it completely covered or else the ice cream will melt, and place in the oven. Keep an eye on them, this step should not take long. Once you notice the tops getting nicely toasted pull them out and enjoy. Or realize you also hate baked alaskas.