Pad Thai Party

Let's have a pad thai party!

Invite your friends.  Friends who don't mind when you take pictures of them shoving noodles in their face.  (We missed you, Kara!)

Or, invite friends that you're trying to get to know better. This is going to be an interactive dinner party, so when people arrive, you're going to ask them to chop some peanuts or stir the shrimp, or taste the sauce.  It removes any initial dinner-party-awkardness and they'll have fun. 

There are a lot of moving parts here, but that's ok because you have help. Have a drink while you stir the tofu and talk about the noodle variations that you love. 

This is the kind of dinner party that will please anyone.  The rice noodles are tossed with savory pad thai sauce, eggs, garlic, and green onions.  Everything else is cooked and plated separately.  We sautéed shrimp, tofu, broccoli & red pepper and prepared easy pickled radishes, bean sprouts, cilantro, chopped roasted peanuts, lime wedges and red chili sauce for toppings. 

Your guests will be so pumped when they learn they get to make their own pad thai party combinations. 

(I'm actually not hazing my sister by posting this photo on the internet. She specifically requested it.) 

I'm telling you, everyone will go crazy for these noodles. 

This is the good stuff.

I've been in a bit of a funk lately with my food photos. The sun shines so infrequently in the winter and nothing seems to turn out as beautifully as I'd like it to, but I think what's really missing in my food photos is people.  A professional food photo may be flawless and stunning and artistic, but it's shot in a light box with reflector boards and a flash and lots of equipment. A real food photo features real people enjoying real food.

I'm trying to remember this when I slip into the tendency to compare my food photos to others, or to compare my life to the "perfect" images I see while scrolling through instagram.  Images may be beautiful and powerful, but they don't necessarily equal a beautiful life.

A beautiful life is one filled with people that you care about.  Throwing a pad thai party for your people might be a good place to start.

Pad Thai Party:

10 ounces wide rice noodles
4-5 tablespoons peanut oil
12 ounces frozen (or fresh) shrimp
1/2 pound extra firm tofu
1 head of broccoli, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 red pepper, shredded
4 tablespoons tamarind paste*
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
6 green onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
1 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts
handful fresh cilantro
pickled radishes**
hoisin sauce
red chili sauce
2 limes

Prepare rice noodles according to package directions.  Most types will require soaking the noodles in hot water for 10-25 minutes. Drain as soon as noodles are starting to soften.

Add 1 tablespoon of peanut oil to a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until pink and lightly browned.  Remove from the pan and set aside to keep warm. (We covered the finished bowls with aluminum foil and kept them in the microwave.)

Add another tablespoon or two of peanut oil to the pan, followed by the tofu. Cook for 7-8 minutes or until browned on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside to keep warm.

If needed, add a little more peanut oil, followed by the broccoli and red pepper.  Cook for 4-5 minutes or until broccoli reaches your desired texture. Remove from pan and set aside to keep warm.

In a small saucepan, combine tamarind paste, fish sauce, honey and rice vinegar. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, add another tablespoon of peanut oil to the saucepan.  Add green onions and garlic.  Cook for 2 minutes, then crack the eggs into the pan and stir around until just cooked.  Add noodles and sauce to the pan.  Stir to combine and cook for another couple minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Set out the noodles, along with the tofu, shrimp, vegetables and other toppings. Dig in!

*I had a difficult time finding tamarind paste. Your regular grocery store may have it, but if not, try a specialty grocery store or asian market.  Tamarind provides a sour flavor. In a pinch, substitute with a mixture of equal parts lime juice and brown sugar.

**To make the pickled radishes, add radishes to a couple tablespoons rice vinegar and 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Set aside for thirty minutes.

  • These recipe directions are for a pad thai party, with most of the components made and served separately.  However, if you're just cooking for your family or non-picky eaters, you can cook the tofu, shrimp, and veggies together. 
  • This recipe is gluten-free, so long as your fish-sauce is gluten-free. Check the label. 

Inspired by Mark Bittman and Bon Appetit.


Superfood Soup with Sweet Potato, Kale, Lentils & Barley

So I'm having a homely soup moment.

I know, I know the colors aren't doing me any favors here, but trust me, once you try this soup, you'll be hooked too.

This bitterly cold weather has me craving hot filling dishes.

This soup meets that craving while also being packed with nutrient-rich super foods: sweet potato, kale, lentils and barley. It's got everything in it--vegetables, greens, protein, and whole grains.  You could serve it with some salad and bread, but you don't have to. This is a complete meal in one bowl.

Lentils once had a bad reputation as tasteless hippie food, but don't be fooled--they're wonderful here.

They're seasoned with cumin, chili powder, paprika and tomato paste and simmered into soft, flavorful, filling nuggets of goodness.

This superfood soup is what we need to power us few the last few weeks of winter.  We got this!

Superfood Soup with Sweet Potato, Kale, Lentils & Barley

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1/4 cup plus two tablespoons barley
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
4 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup lentils
1 bunch of kale, leaves removed and finely chopped

Add olive oil to a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add diced onion, carrot, and sweet potato. Cook for 8-10 minutes until onions are translucent and carrots and sweet potatoes are starting to soften.

Add barley, tomato paste, garlic, cumin, chili powder, and paprika. Stir to combine and cook for 2-3 minutes until barley is lightly toasted.

Add vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add lentils and cook for another 15-20 minutes.

Right before you're ready to eat, add the kale and heat through until kale is just wilted.

When reheating later, the barley and lentils may absorb liquid, so add more broth/water as needed.

Inspired by this soup.


Cocoa Almond Butter Latte

It's been a hard week. 

Three bright, amazing young people were brutally murdered a few miles away from where I live.  A former law school classmate passed away.  And yesterday, a dear friend's mother lost a four-year battle with cancer. 

I didn't know any of these people personally, but my heart aches for those who did.  In the wake of their losses, everything else seems superficial and unimportant. 

But, life keeps going, and we try to live our lives a little better, remembering how very short and precious they are. 

A few weeks ago I was in Richmond for the day and visited the Urban Farmhouse Cafe. Their coffee special of the day was a cocoa almond butter latte.  I was already a fan of the coffee, almond milk, and hot cocoa mix combination, so I knew I had to try it. 

It was amazing. 

I love the way the flavors of almond and chocolate compliment each other, (part of the reason why I love these cookies so much) and of course coffee and chocolate always go together.  I must add though, that even if you're not a coffee fan, you should try this method for almond butter hot cocoa. 

Though it can be pain to get out the food processor, it's worth it for this recipe. Once you've warmed the milk, the food processor acts like a milk frother and builds in all those air bubbles.  You'll feel like a  barista!

I also like to think of this cocoa almond butter latte as a healthier alternative to the butter in coffee trend. The idea behind adding butter to your coffee is that the fat helps your body metabolize the caffeine more gradually, giving you longer bursts of energy and productivity. I'm not entirely sure of the science behind it, but I think I'll take the healthy fats and protein in almond butter over the saturated fat in butter.   I like to save my butter consumption for brownies.  :)

For what it's worth, I did feel full and wide-awake all morning after drinking one of these. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the trend and whether you think almond butter would be a good substitute! 

Have a blessed week, friends. 

Cocoa Almond Butter Latte

1 tablespoon almond butter
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup almond milk
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup strongly brewed coffee (Our favorite is Enderly Coffee. It's run by two former two teachers in Charlotte. They're amazing people, part of the proceeds go back to community programs, and the coffee is fantastic.)

Combine almond butter, cocoa powder, sugar and milk in a microwave-proof bowl. Microwave for 1 minute, stopping to stir every 30 seconds. Add the vanilla extract. (There may still be some clumps of almond butter. That's ok!)

Add chocolate almond milk mixture to a food processor, along with the coffee. Blend for 30 seconds to a minute, or until smooth.

I drank mine as is, but if desired, pour through a fine mesh strainer.

  • Not a fan of almond butter or almond milk? Try peanut butter and regular milk. 
  • This recipe makes one serving, but can be easily doubled.  You might need to pulse it in the food processor/blender in two batches.
  • Have an immersion blender? Use that instead. Warm the milk, almond butter, sugar, and cocoa in a pan on the stove. Add the coffee, then use the immersion blender to combine. 


Mini Raspberry White Chocolate Scones and a Valentine's Day Tea Party

Who says Valentine's Day has to be about the boys?

Let's have a girls-only tea party.

I'll bring the scones.

Boys are great and all, but sometimes you just need some girls-only time, right?

I read in The Happiness Project that both men and women report greater feelings of happiness and satisfaction after having a conversation with another woman.

Let's nourish the female relationships in our lives!

A tea-party with these scones is a good place to start.  There's a special story behind these teacups.

Late last summer I had high tea at the Carolina Inn with my friend Tori and her mom.   As we nibbled on tea sandwiches and sipped rose tea, I mentioned how much I loved the mismatching vintage teacups.

Then, this past December for my birthday, Tori surprised me with 4 vintage tea cups, including one from her grandmother's collection!!  I have the most thoughtful friends.

Until now, I thought my favorite scones were these whole wheat apple cinnamon ones, but these mini raspberry white chocolate scones are also pretty fantastic.

While most scones are made with buttermilk and butter, this recipe just uses heavy cream.  The raspberries and chocolate are a dream combination here, and the ginger and cinnamon add depth of flavor and transform these from ordinary--> extraordinary.

In addition to any date plans you have next Saturday, consider having some one-on-one time with your girlfriends.  Make them these scones or another treat to remind them how special they are to you.

Hope you have a love-filled week, friends!

Mini Raspberry White Chocolate Scones

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of ground ginger
pinch of cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup heavy cream (plus a couple extra tablespoons if needed)
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray liberally with non-stick cooking spray.  Clean a space on your counter and lightly dust with flour.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.

Measure heavy cream into a large class measuring cup. Add vanilla extract and stir to combine.

Gradually add the cream & vanilla to the flour mixture, stirring as you pour it in. The dough will be craggy. Continue stirring. Add another tablespoon or two of heavy cream if necessary.  The dough should just come together, but should not be sticky.

Roll dough out onto cleaned, floured surface. Use your hands to gently flatten dough out into a rectangle/oval of 3/4 thickness.

Use a biscuit or cookie cutter (or a cup or a jar) to cut out desired scone size. Place on baking sheet. The raspberries will melt a little as you work--that's ok!

Brush scones with heavy cream. If desired, sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake at 425 for 12-14 minutes or until tops are just staring to brown.

Adapted from Joy the Baker.
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