Author Archives: Emilie

Onion Cheddar Beer Bread

One of the hardest parts about moving halfway across the country is making new friends in a strange city. Luckily, the Internet makes it relatively easy to find social groups, volunteer organizations, and more. Within a few weeks of moving to Austin, I started exploring the Austin MeetUp website, where I found several local women’s social groups that appeared to be filled with people I could definitely get along with. Through events these groups have sponsored, I’ve been able to explore Austin while meeting lots of funny, smart, and awesome people who have the potential to become a great group of friends.

Onion Cheddar Bread - cookie swap table

Setting the table before the guests arrive.

I’ve begun to enjoy the people in one group in particular over the past few weeks and wanted to give back by hosting my own MeetUp event for ladies in the group. I decided to host a small Christmas cookie swap for those who were interested as a chance to hang out while also getting a fun collection of holiday treats to enjoy over the coming weeks. As the host, I wanted to make sure I had some salty snacks to compliment the sweets we’d be sampling as well as a little mulled wine for everyone. With so much already on my to do list, I needed make a swap treat that had minimal steps and took little time to bake. Spending hours preparing baking sheet after sheet of cookies seemed like too daunting a task when the floor still needed to be mopped.

Onion Cheddar Bread - finished onion cheese bread

The clear choice for my dilemma was mini-loaves of quick bread. With 3 loaves of bread baked per recipe batch, it would be easy to quadruple the recipe and make the required 12 loaves of bread for the ladies to take home aftewards. I even had 12 cardboard mini loaf pans in the closet waiting to be used! It was fate. A few test runs later, I perfected this super easy, 9-ingredient, savory quick bread. It is perfect with a little butter  or cream cheese served on the side of a smooth tomato soup.

Onion Cheddar Beer Bread
(1) 9-inch loaf bread or (3) mini 4-inch loaves

1 large yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 ounces white cheddar cheese
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
12 ounce bottle nut brown ale or porter

1)     Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan or 3 mini 4-inch loaf pans.

2)     Add olive oil to large heavy bottomed skillet over low-medium heat. Add diced onion and cook slowly to caramelize. While the onion is cooking, shred or roughly chop the cheddar cheese. When the onion has just begun to caramelize, about 10 minutes, remove from heat and let cool so that it doesn’t melt the cheese.

Onion Cheddar Bread - cook the onions

3)     Whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Stir in onions and cheddar until evenly distributed.

Onion Cheddar Bread - whisk dry ingredients

Onion Cheddar Bread - add chredded cheese

Onion Cheddar Bread - stir in onions

4)     Slowly add beer, stirring to fully combine. The final batter will be thick and you will need to spoon it into baking dish. Bake for 50 minutes for a large loaf or 30 minutes for smaller loafs. Remove from oven and cool completely before storing, airtight, in the fridge.

Onion Cheddar Bread - add the beer

Onion Cheddar Bread - add the beer 1

Onion Cheddar Bread - add the beer 2

Creamy Garlic Jalapeño Sauce

Nothing causes me more dread than going to the DMV in a new state to change my car registration and driver’s license. I’ve only done it 3 times, but I hate it so much I once waited until my previous registration had expired and I got a ticket before finally making the trip. I’d rather go to the dentist than the DMV any day of the week. Here in Texas though, that feeling of dread only doubled because instead of going to the DMV, you have to go to the County Tax Assessors and the Department of Public Safety. Who created this ridiculous process of needing to visit 2 agencies to finalize residnecy, made all the more difficult when neither is open on the after 5pm or on the weekend?! How does the state expect a new resident, who probably has no vacation time yet, to get your car registered within 30 days when they can only go during work hours! Clearly, this was not a task I was looking forward to completing.

Lucky for me, my new company’s leave policies are pretty generous, and I was able to use a vacation day within a month of starting. So I took Friday off, woke up at 6, and was in line at the County Tax Assessor’s  office 10 minutes before it opened – sans coffee or breakfast. Despite the byzantine process required for residency, I was in and out of both offices by 8:30, under an hour. I was amazed at the speed and efficiency of the individuals who helped me. Pleasantly surprised, I decided to celebrate my success, and fill my growling tummy, with breakfast tacos – like the real Austinite I had just become.

I stopped at Taco Deli on the way home and ordered the Otto and the Jess Special tacos. While waiting, I collected several salsas from the bar, including something they called Doña sauce, a bright green creamy sauce. Back at home, I liberally spread the jalepeño-based sauce on my taco, took a bite, and added more sauce. This stuff was amazing, addictive even, and I knew I needed to put it on everything in site. I only had a small container full, and needed to figure out how to get more. Raiding Taco Deli seemed ill advised, so I clearly needed to recreate it at home.

The sauce is a deceptively simple combination of  jalepeños and garlic, oil, and salt and pepper. Similar recipes boiled the peppers and left the garlic raw, but I was nervous about the over powering flavor of raw garlic, so I decided to roast the them together and pureed them until smooth- although next time I might try smoking them with mesquite wood for a deeper flavor. It’s an easy, straight-forward recipe that leaves plenty of room for additional creativity for those so inclined.

Jalepeno Cream Sauce - cream sauce on tacos one

Creamy Garlic Jalapeño Sauce

1 pound jalapeños
2 heads of garlic
⅓ cup virgin olive oil
salt & pepper

1)     Place a large cast iron pan or griddle in the oven and pre-heat to 325ºF. While the oven pre-heats, separate the garlic, leaving the thin papery cover on the cloves. You’ll need about 12 large and x-large cloves of garlic. Any cloves that are too small will burn and be unusable.

2)     Toss the garlic cloves and jalapeños with a drizzle of olive oil and put in the oven on the pre-heated cast iron. Roast for about 40-45 minutes until the garlic and jalapeños are soft. Stir at ⅓ and ⅔ of the way through.

Jalepeno Cream Sauce - place the peppers & garlic in a pan

Jalepeno Cream Sauce - stir half way through roasting

3)     Once the garlic and jalapeños have finished roasting, place them into plastic container or plastic bag and seal tightly. Let sit for 15-20 minutes, until everything is cool enough to handle.

Jalepeno Cream Sauce - finished roasting

4)     Carefully remove the skin from the jalapeños. Slice the skinless jalapeño open and scrape out the seeds. Toss the seeded and skinned jalapeños into a blender or food processor with the peeled roasted garlic cloves.

Jalepeno Cream Sauce - puree garlic and peppers

5)     Turn on the blender on puree and slowly drizzle the oil into the blender, add about a 1½ teaspoons of salt and a teaspoon of black pepper and blend for an addition 30 seconds.

Jalepeno Cream Sauce - season with salt and pepper

6)      Once the sauce is complete, you can store it in the fridge in a squeeze bottle for months – if you don’t finish it first. It is wonderful on fried avocados, baked salmon, nachos, and – of course – tacos, like Ruth’s shrimp tacos. Shake vigorously between uses, as minor separation may occur.

Jalepeno Cream Sauce - store in a squeeze bottle in the fridge

Jalepeno Cream Sauce - cream sauce on tacos 2

Let’s Get Crafty: Wine Cork Christmas Wreath

It’s the weekend after Thanksgiving, and while many people are out battling each other over the latest and greatest children’s toy, I am decorating for Christmas. Growing up, the third Friday in November was always about setting up the Christmas tree, decking the mantel with garland and stockings, and hanging Christmas lights along the roof.  The third Friday of November was the start of Christmas season.

Wine Cork Wreath - finished up close

This year, I’m really excited to hang my first Christmas wreath on the front door. I know, how is it possible I’ve never had a Christmas Wreath?! As someone who loves adding meaningful personal details when decorating, I’ve always shied away from store bought wreathes so I’ve never had one for our front door. This year, though, as I was unpacking all of our moving boxes, I realized I had a lot of wine corks, and what better way to create a personalized wreath than to use wine corks from all the bottles of wine I’ve shared with friends and family.

Wine Cork Wreath - finished full doorAfter a little research, and dozens of wine cork wreath tutorials, I finally settled on a DIY tutorial from Save-on-Crafts as my base inspiration.  By adding some Christmas-like berries and a greenery center piece, I was able to take the simple wreath to the next level.

This is a simple, inexpensive craft that cost me about $15 in supplies – not including all the wine I had to drink. If you want to make your own wreath this year, but are short on corks, make friends with your local bartenders and ask them to hold corks for you and ask wineries or grocery store tasting booths (like at Trader Joe’s) if they have any they can save for you.

How To Make Your Own Wine Cork Christmas Wreath

12-inch straw wreath form
floral wire or string
approximately 200 wine corks*
5-6 sprigs of faux berries
greenery and decorations for center piece
hot glue gun
high-temp glue sticks, at least 8

First, sort through your corks and set aside any that have special meaning for you. For example, I made sure to set aside at least one cork from each Virginia and Texas winery I’ve visited as well as any corks I found particularly pretty or touching. These will be the top level of your wreath and the corks people will see when they look at the cork. Any corks you have lots of or aren’t inspiring can form the bottom, hidden layer.

Next, tie a string or floral wire to the wreath for hanging the finished
product. I tied two peices of floral wire around the wreath, about 2 inches apart, and then connected them with a third wire, which would support the wreath.

Wine Cork Wreath - attach the wire


Start by gluing the corks along the inside of the wreath form in a straight line. You will almost certainly come to a point near the end where the corks will not line up as you’d likeand you will have repress the OCD and just make it work. I happened to have a few abnormally short corks and I squeezed one of those into that space, you could also trim another cork smaller, or just lay them out slightly askew. 

Wine Cork Wreath - starting the 1st layer

Remember to leave the back of the wreath empty so that it will lie flat against the wall or door.

Wine Cork Wreath - wonky corks

Continue with the first layer of corks, lining them up flat against the wreath until it is mostly covered. You want to line these up as closely as possible to minimize areas of visible straw.

Wine Cork Wreath - completed first layer

Begin layering the second level of corks, arranging to cover gaps in the first layer of corks. This is where you get to start being artistic with your arrangement.

Wine Cork Wreath - starting the 2ndlater

While creating the second layer of corks, you should start arranging small bunches of berries throughout the layer. I used inexpensive styrofoam berry picks from Michael’s Christmas collection, but the exact type of berries used is totally up to you and what you feel most comfortable using.

Wine Cork Wreath - 2nd layer 60%

At this point you are going to start wanting to think about what and where you want the wreath’s center piece. I decided to place mine slightly above center on the right side of the wreath.

I began by arranging the main piece of the greenery – a Christmas pick with a red bird I bought at Michael’s Craft – and attaching it with floral wire and a little hot glue. I then cut small branches from basic greenery picks and used those to fill in the center piece.

Wine Cork Christmas Wreath - centerpiece up close


Once the center piece was arranged the way I wanted, I finished attached the last of my wine corks and berries. I let it sit for a few days and then double checked my corks to make sure they were all secure. Then it is ready to hang on your front door or anywhere else you might like to put it!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Halloween is almost upon us, spooky, fun , awesome Halloween. When you are a kid it is second only to Christmas – your chance to be someone or something else for one night, limited only by your parents ability to say no to you. I remember the year my mom made me an amazing pink poodle skirt. I wore a white turtle neck, little white socks with lace tops, and my hair was in a curly pony tail with a pink bandanna. I was rocking it – absolutely rocking it. Add to that the pillow case filled with free candy, the chance to go out on a school night (at least every couple of years). Halloween was awesome as a kid.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - Jack O' Lanterns

As an adult, though, the act of celebrating Halloween is no longer about dressing up and being someone else – not for me at least. I have no desire to be around people who dress like “sexy” pizza slices (seriously, how is that even a thing!?!?) and don’t know how to hold their drink. Now, I love Halloween because it is the night I watch Hocus Pocus and hand out treats to the new generation of super heroes, witches, ghosts, and princesses. I love seeing all of the incredibly creative costumes and excited children.

I also love decorating for Halloween, especially carving jack-o-lanterns. In addition to creating awesome displays for my front porch, a night of pumpkin carving gives me one of the best fall snacks a person can hope for – roasted pumpkin seeds, aka pepitas. Spicy, salty, or sweet – I can eat pumpkin seeds (hull and all) by the handful, so it is a good thing they are easy to make. Tom makes the best pepitas using butter, olive oil, and seasonings, so I make him do all of the work. You can follow his simple steps to make your own this Halloween.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds 2

How To Roast Perfect Pumpkin Seeds
Recipe based on 1 cup of raw pumpkin seeds

1)     Clean your fresh pumpkin seeds until they are completely clean of all pumpkin guts. Place the seeds in a large bowl and cover with cool tap water and agitate the water to help clean the seeds, picking off large piece of pumpkin meat as you go. Strain using a colander and repeat at least once more.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - Clean the seeds 1 Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - clean the seeds 2 Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - clean the seeds 3

2)     Once the seeds are meticulously cleaned boil the seeds in well salted water. Bring a large sauce pan of salted water to a roiling boil, add the cleaned pumpkin seeds, and cook for 2  minutes. We use approximately 1 quart of water and ½ tablespoon of salt per cup of pumpkin seeds.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - boil the seeds

3)     Drain and dry pumpkin seeds. Drain pumpkin seeds using a large colander, tossing a couple of times to shake of excess water. Spread seeds out on a clean flour sack or tea towel and pat dry.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - dry the seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - dry the seeds 2

4)    Season and oil  the pumpkin seeds. Place dried seeds in a bowl and drizzle with a mixture of 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil (per 1 cup of pepitas).  Mix the seeds well with the oil, ensuring all seeds are well coated.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - butter the seeds 1


Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - butter the seeds 2

Spread the seeds out on a rimmed cookie sheet and season as desired. We used onion and garlic powder, fresh pepper, and seasoned salt.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - season the seeds 2
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - season the seeds 1

5)    Bake at 350ºF for about 10 minutes. Stir seeds about half way through the cooking time. Seeds are done when the outer hull is crunchy and easy to bite through.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - stir the seeds

6)     Eat! Or cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. They are good right out of the tupperware, but we like to pop them in the oven for 2 minutes at 350ºF to warm them up.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds 1

Wine Tasting in Fredericksburg

For most of my life, Fredericksburg has had only one meaning – a city in Virginia, known for its proximity to great vineyards and rich history, where I attended college, and met the best friend and blogging partner a woman could ask for. So it wasn’t surprising when, a two weekends ago, Tom surprised by telling me we were going to Fredericksburg on Saturday. Turns out that Texas has its own Fredericksburg, about an hour and a half west of Austin. 

Fredericksburg, Tx Library

The Fredericksburg, Tx library, also the former courthouse.

Fredericksburg, Tx Library plaque

We arrived in Fredericksburg early, around 11am. and found parking at the Visitor Center off of Lincoln Street, behind the National Pacific War Museum. Main Street is lined with dozens and dozens of shops including gourmet food stores, antique shops, clothing stores, and more.  It was Oktoberfest weekend, so it was pretty busy, and more than once we left a shop quickly, tired of fighting the crowd inside. Despite that, I was able to find a great necklace – very similar to something I’d been lusting after for months – at a quarter of the price!  I’m still pretty proud of that.

Grape Creek Vineyard, 2

In addition to great people watching and shopping Fredericksburg, Tx, is ideally situated for a day of wine tasting. It is surrounded by vineyards, with about half a dozen on U.S. Route 290 between Austin and Fredericksburg alone. Several of those vineyards have opened tasting rooms in store fronts on Main Street in Fredericksburg, making it even easier to experience several great Texas wineries while exploring the city. The first tasting room Tom and I stopped in was also my favorite, so much so that I went back to buy a few bottles of wine at the end of our trip.

The Grape Creek Vineyards tasting room is on the corner of Main and Lincoln Streets, and is one of 2 satellite tasting rooms the vineyard manages, in addition to their vineyard tasting room. As it was one of our first stops, we were able to beat the crowds, so it was quiet and easy to chat with Debbie, behind the tasting counter. For $12 you can select 6 of 14 wines to taste, although Debbie kindly let me taste one extra wine – making my total tasting 7 wines.

2012 Cabernet Trois: As the name hints, this medium-bodied wine combines 3 Cabernet grapes – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Ruby Cabernet – resulting in  a rich nose of leather and cedar wood. It is a smooth wine with notes of ripe cherries and warm fall spices. I loved this wine and can’t wait to sip while sitting by the fire on a cold winters night (Austin has those? Right??Please tell me they do…).

Grape Creek Vineyard, 3

2012 Mosaic: This was the last wine I tasted, but my second favorite after the Cabernet Trois.  It is rich full-bodied Bordeaux-style wine that would pair beautifully with a steak and Gorgonzola sauce. It smelled like chocolate and cherries with a light grassy undertone and had tasting notes of dark chocolate, cloves, and ripe berries.

2013 Viognier: This was the only white wine I tried from Grape Creek Vineyard, and I’m glad I did. A 97 point Double Gold winning wine at the 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition, this is a crisp dry wine with balanced acidity that would pair well with a light cream pasta like shrimp scampi. It has a lovely floral nose and tastes of honeyed peaches with a bright lemon finish.

Grape Creek Vineyard, 1

2012 Rendezvous: This wine, with a sweet floral nose, is a combination of Mourvedre, Syrah, Cinsault, and white Viognier wines in the Rhone Valley style. It was a soft, dry wine with plum and cherry flavors that would pair well with a slightly acidic tomato sauce.

2012 Cabernet/Syrah: I had not originally chosen this wine as one of my six, but my tasting guide, Debbie, insisted I give it a try. Like the Viognier, the Cabernet/Syrah did very well at the San Francisco International Wine Competition where it placed best in class for Cabernet/Syrah blends and also received a double gold medal. It’s complicated wine rich with flavors of plums and pepper.

Grape Creek Vineyard, 7

2012 Petite Syrah: This wine, with its nose of blueberries and cinnamon, is a jammy rustic wine that would pair well with lamb and rosemary roasted potatoes.

2012 Bellissimo:  This blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is a Tuscan style wine with warm vanilla notes, oak, and ripe cherries.

Grape Creek Vineyard, 6

October, as we all know is Virginia Wine Month, but it is also Texas Wine Month, so if you get a chance, be sure to get out and give it a try!


Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts

“Everything is bigger in Texas.”

Including my new digs here in Austin. For the same price I was paying for a 400 sq. ft. 1-bedroom apartment in D.C., I am now renting a 3-bedroom duplex with a backyard and a garage. We have so much space, I am going to get a craft room – and Tom agreed to it!  It is all pretty fabulous and I am in love with our new place.

Living in Texas - Living Room Living in Texas - Dining Room

Moving from a tiny galley style kitchen with maybe 2 square feet of counter space to my new spacious kitchen (with a dishwasher!) is the best part of the new house. Precious counter space that once belonged to an ever present stack of drying dishes has been given to my KitchenAide mixer. Now it is always close at hand and easy to use in a moments notice. Recipes that involve half a dozen bowls are no longer daunting because those dishes just go into the dishwasher – no more hours of cleaning. I am having a bit of trouble re-learning how to use an electric stove and I may have burned a few batches of bacon, but I’ll figure it out soon enough, I just have to keep practicing.

Living in Texas - Kitchen

After finally unpacking my cooking supplies, I decided to celebrate my new kitchen by getting my hands dirty making my first from scratch meal. No more frozen pizza for me! My first dish in the new kitchen needed to be something fun, not too difficult (I was tired after all that unpacking), and hearty (to fuel a long night of organizing my walk-in closet). By combining Hungarian noodles and cabbage with Italian pasta carbonara, I came up with this fabulous dish of noodles, shaved Brussels sprouts, bacon, and poached eggs. A rustic, satisfying pasta carbonara with veggies thrown in for good measure.

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts v 3

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts
2-4 servings

4 cups shredded brussel sprouts (see Recipe Notes)
½ pound uncooked pasta (see Recipe Notes)
1 large shallot, minced
salt and fresh ground pepper
¼ pound of medium thickness bacon
4 eggs
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
¼  shredded Parmesan cheese + more for serving

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - prep the veggies

1)      Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil for the pasta. Once at a roiling boil, cook pasta according to package directions. Also place a large, wide pan or pot with about 3 inches of water on medium-low to bring it to a simmer (I like to use my large soup pot).

2)     In a large heavy bottomed skillet fry bacon to desired crispness and remove to a paper towel lined plate. Pour off some of the bacon grease, leaving about 1-2 tablespoons in the pan. Make sure you save the extra bacon grease in case you need a bit more.

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - fry the bacon

3)     Add minced shallot to pan and cook for 1 minute. Add shredded brussels sprouts and toss to coat in the bacon grease. Sauté brussels sprouts for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so that they do not burn, but not so frequently that they don’t brown in places.

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - saute Brussels sprouts

4)     At this point your poaching water should be simmering, add about 4 teaspoons of white wine vinegar to the water and, using your preferred method (like the one described here) poach your four eggs. I use 2 eggs per dish for the 2 servings, if you are making 4 smaller servings, you may want to poach more eggs, or just serve one egg each serving.

5)     Remove brussels sprouts from direct heat and add drained, cooked pasta, tossing to coat. Here is where you may want to dribble on a bit more bacon grease. Sprinkle with about ¼ cup of Parmesan and toss to incorporate.

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - add drained pasta 1 Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - add drained pasta 2

6)     To serve, spoon pasta-brussels sprouts mixture on a plate, top with a few slices of the cooked bacon, crumbled, sprinkle with extra cheese, and top with your poached eggs. Ta-Da!

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts v 1

Recipe Notes
Shredded Brussels Sprouts sound much harder than they really are – for me the real trick is buying the largest sprouts you can find. The website Almost Practical has a great step-by-step tutorial, with pictures on how prep them. If you want a bit of guidance before you get started, check it out.

Traditional carbonara is made with spaghetti or bucattini, but with the addition of the brussels sprouts, I didn’t think these would work as well. I ended up  using campanella pasta, so that the Brussles sprout shreds could easily wrap around the pasta and be better incorporated. Really, any shorter sturdier pasta like farfella or radiatori should work here.

Wherein One Half of Cork and Spoon Moves – to Texas

D.C. to Texas- cookbooks

Earlier this year, right around my birthday Tom forwarded me Buzzfeed’s 101 Reasons You Should Live in Texas at Least Once in Your Life. We had been considering a future move to Texas, Tom’s home state, about 2 or 3 years down the road, and he was using it to help convince me of how much I’d love Texas. Don’t tell Tom, but I think he was right.

I’ve been in Austin, Texas for just over 3 weeks and I can’t find anything to complain about – not even the 100+ temps. Due to some changes at Tom’s job and me getting the first job in Texas I applied for – our plans fastforwarded about 24 months and I started with a great tech startup at the beginning of September. The job is incredibly challenging and will, if I succeed, do amazing things for my career. Plus our new rental is pretty amazing – so much space! Rosie doesn’t have to hide out in cabinets any more, but can stand proud on the counter.

D.C. to Texas - my kitchen aide has a home

While I haven’t had a chance to really start exploring all of Austin yet, I have spent some time getting to know my neighborhood and what it has to offer. Like the Torchy’s Tacos less than half a mile from my house. Austin is a city that lives on breakfast tacos and I am looking forward to trying every single one, but in the meantime, any excuse to walk Abby and get migas tacos works for me.

D.C. to Texas- Torchy's Tacos

I have also rediscovered the joy of the famous Trudy’s Mexican martini; found delicious gourmet burgers right up the road at HopDoddy; and enjoyed a glass of wine with chips & queso while watching Guardians of the Galaxy at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (they deliver more glasses of wine directly to you while the movie plays, its kind of amazing).

All of that pales in comparison to what may be my favorite store ever: Make it Sweet. This store has an entire wall of cookie cutters and more flavored extracts than I knew existed. But best of all I walked in the first thing I saw was an entire wall of bulk sprinkles. When Ruth comes to visit- forget the bats, we’re going to the baking store.

D.C. to Texas-Make it Sweet

As exciting and amazing as everything has been, it has been pretty taxing and stressful. I packed and moved our house in 3 weeks, while still working, and then moved Abby and myself to Texas a full 3 weeks before Tom. His amazing mother and sister drove in from out of town to help me unpack and keep me company a few weekends ago, but it has still be a little hard to get out and meet new people. That has been the hardest part, especially when all you want to do is come home from work and talk about the new job. But Tom comes in from D.C. tonight! He’s almost home! So, in typical Emilie fashion, I baked him something.

D.C. to Texas-cookies

Using my favorite rolled sugar cookie recipe from All Recipes, I created about 2 dozen Texas state shaped cookies that I decorated like – what else – the state flag. It was really nice just spending the day baking in the big new kitchen, and I can’t wait to spend more time in there.

Did I mention they still have hatch chilies in some grocery stores? Yea, Texas is going to be good for me – and hopefully good for you guys too.

“You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas” ~ Davy Crockett


Garlic Naan and a Duo of Dips

Many of summer’s best moments include sharing food and laughs with good friends. Whether I am attending a backyard BBQ or picnicking in the park with friends, these moments never fail to make me happy. If I had to pick a favorite place to share sunshine and food with friends though, it would be a winery. Wine makes everything better (obviously) and the bucolic scenery and atmosphere are prefect for unwinding. Share a couple bottles of wine;  indulge in plates of breads, cheese, and crudités; and chat with friends. It really is the perfect day.

As someone who loves to cook and try new recipes, these types of events are extra fun because they give me the chance to try new recipes designed for sharing. So, when Ellen invited me along for a trip to Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn in Delaplane, VA, I immediately said yes and began planning my contribution to the picnic. After some debate, I finally decided on a couple of unique dips and homemade garlic naan.

Naan and 2 Dips- naan with yogurt and lentil dips 2The dips, both based on recipes from Food & Wine, were simple to make – especially the yogurt-mint dip which was a simple as stirring 3 ingredients together – and could easily be served with pita if you aren’t up for making naan.

Really though, you should make the naan! It is more labor intensive than the dips, but it simple and hard to mess up. It is a great recipe for someone who wants to start working with yeast breads but is a bit nervous about the whole process. Tom and I fell in love with the naan, and could have easily eaten every piece if I wasn’t saving it for the picnic.

Naan and 2 Dips- naan with yogurt and lentil dips

Garlic Naan
Adapted from Daydream Kitchen’s Garlic Naan

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
¼ cup white sugar
3 tbs. milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp. salt
4 cups bread flour
2 tbs. garlic, minced
⅓ cup butter, melted

1)    In a large bowl combine warm water (approximately 105ºF to 110ºF) with about a teaspoon of your sugar – just eyeball it here- until sugar is fully dissolved. Sprinkle yeast packet over warm water and let stand 10 minutes, until frothy. This is the time I used to mince the garlic.

Naan and 2 Dips-making naan step 1

2)     Stir in remaining sugar, milk, egg, salt, and 1 cup of flour. Once this is all fully combined, add the remaining 3 cups of flour.

Naan and 2 Dips-making naan step 2

3)    Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Begin adding in minced garlic about half way through this process. I added the garlic in 3 different portions to help ensure it made its way throughout the entire dough ball. Dough is read when it is smooth and garlic is pretty evenly distributed.

4)    Place dough in a well oiled bowl, and loosely cover with saran wrap (I spray the saran wrap to avoid the dough sticking to it) and a dry kitchen towel. Let dough rise until it is about double in size. This took about an hour outside on a 95ºF day.

Naan and 2 Dips-let the dough rise 1 Naan and 2 Dips-let the dough rise 2

5)     Punch down dough and pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into rough balls (no need for perfection here), and place on an oiled baking sheet. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Naan and 2 Dips- naan dough balls 2

6)     Preheat a large cast iron pan or grill over high heat.

7)     Roll one dough ball out into a thin circle, about an eight of an inch thick. Lightly oil grill. Place dough on grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with melted butter and flip. Cook another 2 to 4 minutes, until light brown. Continue the process with all of the dough.

8)     If you somehow manage to still have some left, store in an airtight bag or container. It should last 3 or 4 days.

Mint Garlic Dip
Adapted from Food and Wine

2 cups plain Greek yogurt
½ cup finely chopped mint leaves
3-4 large garlic cloves, finely minced
salt & pepper

1)     In a medium sized container with a lid, stir together the yogurt, chopped mince, and minced garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and let sit for at least 1 hour (flavors will mingle and intensify the longer the dip rests), serve cold with naan or pita.

Naan and 2 Dips- mix the yogurt mint garlic dip

Spicy Lentil Dip
Adapted from Food and Wine

2 cups brown lentils
1 carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large shallots, cut into large chunks
1 quart vegetable broth
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Juice of half a lemon

1)     In a large sauce pan, combine vegetable broth, carrot, and shallot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the lentils, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until most of the water has been absorbed and the lentils are tender. It took me about half an hour.

Naan and 2 Dips-lentil dip step 1 Naan and 2 Dips-lentil dip step 1.5

2)     Using a food processor or blender, puree lentils and vegetables (and any leftover liquid). I found this easier to do in 2 batches, and I had to add little more liquid (just less than a ¼ cup) to get it to the right consistency. Set the puree aside.

Naan and 2 Dips- lentil dip step 2

3)     In the original sauce pan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the spices to the melted butter and cook for 1-2 minutes. The spices can go from perfect to burned in the blink of an eye, so watch them carefully. Add the pureed lentils and cook for another few minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.

Naan and 2 Dips-lentil dip spices Naan and 2 Dips- lentil dip 3 and a half

4)     Serve warm or room temperature with naan or pita chips.


Meatless Monday: Gnocchi with Summer Vegetables

I think we can all admit that Pinterest is a pretty fabulous tool for bookmarking recipes, knitting patterns, outfit inspirations, and pictures of things that just make me smile (I will neither confirm nor deny that I have an entire board dedicated to pictures of turtles). Yet, for all the fun I have pinning a plethora of ideas and inspirations to my boards, I recently realized that I rarely do anything with them. For example, I only attempted a handful of the 150 recipes I’ve taken the time to save (notable favorites being the Brie Baked Artichokes, Roasted Squash Soup, and Matzoh Chocolate Cherry Crunch). Wanting to try something new in the kitchen and knowing I had a wealth of ideas at pinning fingertips, I turned to Pinterest to find my next meal.

I was immediately drawn to a gnocchi dish I had pinned to my recipe board several months ago. The Garlic & Kale Baked Gnocchi dish from A Beautiful Mess looks amazing, but the more I thought about it, the dish felt too heavy for the 98 degree day. By that point, I was set on the idea of gnocchi for dinner, and came up with this gnocchi dish with fresh summer vegetables, light tangy goat cheese, and herbs fresh from my garden.

Gnocci with summer veggies -final plate 2

Gnocchi with Summer Vegetables
serves 4

1 16-ounce package fresh gnocchi
1½ tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 medium zucchini
⅔ cup fresh or frozen sweet corn
1½ tablespoons fresh thyme
salt & pepper
juice of half a lemon
2-4 ounces crumbled goat cheese

1.     Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. While it boils, halve the zucchinis lengthwise, and cut into slices approximately ¼-inch thick. Once the water has come to a boil, cook gnocchi according to package directions.

Gnocci with summer veggies - ingredients2.     Melt the butter in a heavy large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat. Add the minced garlic to the pan and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant.

3.      Increase heat to medium-high and add zucchini in a single layer in the pan (or as close to a single layer as you can get). Let cook for 1 minute before adding corn and fresh thyme. Sauté veggies until they begin to brown slightly.

Gnocci with summer veggies - saute the veggies

4.    Add cooked and drained gnocchi to the pan, stir well to mix. Squeeze the lemon over the mixture, stir, and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste.

5.     Remove the pan from heat and stir in crumbed goat cheese. I used about 2-ounces of cheese, but you should adjust as you see fit.


Jefferson Vineyards

This year I celebrated Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer Jefferson Winery-welcome sign(already!?) about 120 miles southwest of D.C. in Charlottesville, Virginia. Early Friday afternoon Tom and I left D.C. to meet Tom’s parents for a
weekend of history and wine. We arrived at the hotel about an hour before Tom’s parents and decided to head downtown and stroll the Pedestrian Mall. We stopped at a place called Citizen Burger Bar for drinks and snacks, and, while we didn’t eat dinner here, the menu looked amazing. The bartender let it slip that the restuarant will be expanding to Northern Virginia and D.C. in the next year, and I’m excited to check it out.

Copyright © Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.

Sadly, none of my pictures of the Monticello home turned out, but this one from the website is lovely. Copyright © Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.

Saturday we got up early and headed to Monticello to wander the grounds and tour the house.  I had been to Monticello once before in grade school and was excited to see many new exhibits at the home. I think my favorite though was the recreated kitchen below the house, which opened to the public in 2004.  Did you know Jefferson was one of the first to install a French-style stew stove in his home and used a wine dumbwaiter to deliver wine from the cellar to his dining room? Pretty advance stuff for the time period.

The stew stove at Monticello kept the cooks from having to stand over open fires when preparing meals

The stew stove at Monticello kept the cooks from having to stand over open fires when preparing meals.

After we finished up the tour of Monticello and a quick lunch at the historic Jefferson Winery-History SignMichie Tavern, Tom’s dad and I were ready to do a little wine tasting. We didn’t have a lot of time, so we stayed close to and chose Jefferson Vineyards, about 3 miles from Monticello.   I had heard good things about the vineyard and its wines, rumors which were only confirmed by the rows of medals hanging over the checkout area. The winery has 2 tasting rooms, the main room and a second room for weekend overflow located in a separate building across the courtyard.  The vineyard has only one tasting option – 10 wines for $10. We paid for tastings at the register, where we also got our glasses. I was excited to find a spot for the 3 of us (Tom’s mom didn’t taste with us) in the main tasting room, with its wall of wine bottles.

Jefferson Winery-wall of wine2

Jefferson Winery-getting ready

The tasting consisted of 5 whites, 1 rosé, and 4 reds. The winery specializes in dry wines, including a rare dry Riesling with only 1% residual sugar and light oaking. It remained refreshing and light instead of heavy and syrupy. I also enjoyed their Meritage blend made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Fran, Petit Verdot, and Merlot, which are each aged individually for 4 years, then blended together and aged for 1 more year.  Other favorites on the list were the Viognier, Petit Verdot, and the semit-dry Vin Blanc. Although I can’t find anything really bad to say about any of their wines and ended up walking away with 6 bottles after the tasting.

Jefferson Winery_tasting notes


After our tasting, we spent a little time relaxing in the shade on the Jefferson Vineyard deck, admiring the picnic area, and taking in the beautiful scenery. Jefferson vineyard is a lovely vineyard with great bottles for those who enjoy drier wines. I’m looking forward to going back with Ruth later in the summer for a girls’ weekend.

Jefferson Winery-deck off of tasting area1

Tom and his parents relaxing on the deck outside the tasting room.

Jefferson Winery-picnic area

Jefferson Vineyards picnic area, complete with umbrella festooned tables and plenty of space for a blanket or 2.

Jefferson Winery-view from the picnic area

One of the views from the picnic area.