31.12.14

Most Popular Recipes of 2014



Happy New Year's Eve!

Yes, friends, I'm bringing you another "Best of 2014" post. To be honest, I'm a little tired of these myself, but I also think the impulse to look back and reflect on the past year is a good one--to think about what went well, what went not so well, and how we felt. 

After feeling some wanderlust in 2013, I'm incredibly thankful for my opportunities to travel in 2014. I was lucky enough to be able to travel to FloridaPanama, D.C., Texas, and Italy

2014 was also personally difficult in a lot of ways. I experienced more rejection than I ever have before, which brought a lot of self doubt and reevaluation of my life goals. 

I love the idea of a fresh start, and that's how I'm approaching 2015--More optimism, courage, kindness, connection, and drinking wine with friends. Less fear, whining, anxiety, doubt, and social media. 

Thank you for your support of Stew or a Story.  As always, it's been an important outlet for me, and I hope you've found some good things to eat. Here are your favorite recipes of 2014:




crockpot cheerwine barbecue chicken



pumpkin baked oatmeal with crunchy almond topping



stupid easy gluten-free peanut butter chocolate chip cookies



tacos with crispy chickpeas, avocado slaw & feta



cocoa cinnamon roasted almonds



kale and potato soup with spicy turkey meatballs



multi-grain olive braid bread



spinach arepas with roasted zucchini, black beans & perfect guacamole



healthy veggie crockpot mac & cheese



shandies with homemade sparkling lemonade



marshmallow filled molten chocolate lava cakes with peanut butter fudge sauce


Wishing you lots of love, luck & laughter in 2015!

Most Popular recipes of 2013



28.12.14

Italy Trip & Where to Eat in Florence


Hi friends. 

We got back from our Christmas vacation in Italy last night. My belly is still full and my heart is still happy. 


I'm going to share some details about our day-trips first and then tell you about the FOOD. Warning: many photos coming your way.

Though we spend most of the week in Florence, we took two day trips. One to Cinque Terre and one to San Gimignano. 


Cinque Terre is a 2-3 hour train ride from Florence. The "Five Lands" encompass 5 little fishing villages along the Italian coast. The villages are not accessible by car and are connected by hiking paths. 



When I studied abroad in Florence, my weekend trip to Cinque Terre was one of the highlights of my trip. I went in June and was lucky enough to be able to hike the entire trail. I was so excited to have the opportunity to share this place with Adam and my family. 


One lesson I am continually learning is to let go of expectations. I had such high expectations for our day trip to Cinque Terre. I had fallen in love with it from the moment I stepped off the train at the first village, and I assumed my family would too.  


When we got to the first village, it quickly became clear that most of the stores and restaurants were closed. The day was partially cloudy, and when the wind blew, it chilled us in our light jackets and scarves. I was still optimistic about the day until I learned that the first scenic part of the trail, Via dell'Amore (Lover's Lane) was closed because of land slides. I had dreamed about taking Adam there when I visited almost 7 years ago and was devastated. 


However, with encouragement from Adam and my sister, I let go of some of those expectations. I realized this wasn't about recreating my memories from 7 years ago (however wonderful). It was about creating new experiences and memories with Adam and my family.


So, even though we only got to 4 of the 5 towns, and even though most of the hiking paths and stores and restaurants were closed, we had a wonderful day. We snuck lemons and oranges from the many citrus trees. We watched the sun set over the water and marveled at the colorful houses built up along the rocky coast. And even though it was completely dark by the time we reached the last town, we walked along the water's edge and listened to the waves crash against the shore.


Our second day trip was to San Gimignano, a medieval walled village in Tuscany. This was a much easier day trip from Florence, with a 45 minute bus ride to Poggibonsi followed by a 10 minute bus ride up to San Gimignano.


My favorite part of San Gimignano is the stunning views of the Tuscan countryside, which is lovely even in the middle of winter.


I also enjoy just winding around the village's narrow streets and alleys, popping into artistic shops or catching another breathtaking view of the Tuscan hills.


Now I get to tell you about the FOOD.

First I have to apologize because for the first few meals of the trip, I was so preoccupied with eating the food that I completely forgot to take any pictures of it.

Where to Eat in Florence:


Trattoria 4 Leoni
I made a reservation here on our first night in Florence. I first heard about Trattoria 4 Leoni from my Italian literature professor Lucia. She told us that we had to try their signature dish, the pear pasta. On their menu, the "pear pasta"is fiocchetti alle pere con salsa di taleggio e asparagus or fiochhetti with pear & tallegio and asparagus sauce. The sauce is creamy and rich and contrasts beautifully with the sweet pear, sharp cheese, and crunchy bits of asparagus. I was so excited to find a recipe online that I will be trying soon! I also love Trattoria 4 Leoni because it's in a quiet little piazza on the other side of the Arno. Their menu is only in Italian, and the place is filled with locals, both of which are good signs.

Trattoria Zaza
Zaza's is highly rated on Yelp and Trip Advisor for good reason. Though it is in a touristy area and has an English menu, the food is delicious. They have an entire menu dedicated to items with truffles. Our favorite items were the spinach, the white beans with tomato sauce, and the pasta a la carbonara.


Rinascente Cafe  
I found out about this cafe from Aspiring Kennedy's florence guide, and I'm so glad that I did.  The Rinascente is a bustling, high-end department store in the Piazza de la Republica. If you take the escalator all the way to the top floor, and then keep going up the stairs, you'll end up at the little rooftop cafe with amazing views of Florence and the Duomo. I probably paid too much for my cappuccino, but the view was worth it.


If you come to Italy, you HAVE to eat Gelato. At least once a day. Trust me. These are my two favorite places:

Grom
One way you can that Grom is good is that the gelato is kept in metal tins, not piled up high with toppings like the touristy gelato shops. They have many different seasonal flavors that are delicious, but whatever you do, you have to try the chocolate.

Gelateria Santa Trinita
Located at the other side of the Santa Trinita bridge, this gelato shop is colorful and fun. The fragola (strawberry) is my favorite.


Pizzaiuolo
Ya'll, I have been dreaming about this pizza for the past 6 and a half years. For real. I went there twice when I studied in Florence, and I think each time I ate almost the entire pizza. I'm so thankful to my friend Jack for introducing me to this place.


The pizzas are made Naples-style in a burning hot wood-fired pizza oven, which you can see in the photo below. The classic margarita pizza is a must try. We also got a white pizza with broccoli rabe and sausage (shown above) that was fantastic. I'd recommend ordering the house Italian beer alongside your pizza. I'll be dreaming about this pizza until I return to Florence. 


Rivoire
My mom's one request on the trip was to go to a chocolaterie, and my research pointed us to Rivoire. Rivoire is located in the popular Piazza de la Signora by the Uffizi. It has a sort of classic-French vibe with elegantly dressed waiters and lots of paintings adorning the walls.


Adam and I drank cappuccinos and ate pastries, while my mom drank a luxurious hot chocolate, which she said was like drinking melted chocolate. Rivoire also sells cute little boxes of Italian chocolates.


Finally, some of the best meals of the trip were meals that we prepared ourselves. We rented an apartment for the week through VRBO, which was much more affordable than a hotel and gave us the benefit of a kitchen.

Shopping in the central market in Florence was one of the highlights of the trip for my parents and sister. Instead of having a set menu for our meals, they wandered around the market until they found vegetables, meats, and cheeses that inspired them.


On Christmas Eve, my sister made us a feast of fresh artichokes au gratin, meatballs (made with homemade breadcrumbs, parmesan, ground beef, and lots of fresh parsley) and white beans with tomato sauce.

On Christmas Day, we had a pork loin seasoned with garlic and rosemary, fresh orecchiette pasta with parmesan and parsley, sautéed onions and peppers, and a simple salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.


It was an amazing trip. It was not without hiccups, of course. We very nearly missed our plane into Florence,  we missed two trains, and once we got lost after getting off on the wrong bus stop. It was all part of the adventure, and I'm so very thankful that I got to share my favorite city with my favorite people.

Thanks for reading and scrolling through all the pictures, friends.

Happy New Year!


21.12.14

Orange Cinnamon Rolls with Eggnog Icing


Nostalgia time.

Did anyone else grow up eating those orange Pillsbury cinnamon rolls from a can?


Those orange cinnamon rolls pretty much defined special weekend breakfasts at my house. Well, that plus the frozen orange juice concentrate that my mom mixed with water in a green pitcher. 


Obviously, there's something about Christmas that stirs up childhood memories….


…and also brings a craving for a special breakfast.

I'm definitely an oatmeal-loving girl, but at Christmas time I want something baked, cinnamony and drenched in icing.

HI.


Like all yeast recipes, the rolls take a little time and preparation, but the end result is fluffy and flakey and oh-so worth it.

You're worth it too, friends.


The eggnog icing was a last minute addition to the recipe. We had just a little bit left in our fridge, and I thought it would pair well with the orange. (It did!)

If you're looking for other ways to use up eggnog, I also suggest eggnog french toast.


My family and I are so lucky to be celebrating Christmas in Florence, Italy this year. More photos to come next week!

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas, wherever you are.


Orange Cinnamon Rolls with Eggnog Icing


Ingredients: 
Orange Cinnamon Rolls:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon grated orange rind (from one large orange)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk, warmed
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon butter, melted and slightly cooled 
~3 cups bread flour
Cinnamon Sugar Filling:
1 tablespoon butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon 
Eggnog Icing:
3 tablespoons eggnog
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 tsp vanilla extract


Directions: 
Clean a section of your counter. Dust with flour and set out a rolling pin. Grease a large bowl and a 9 inch round pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine, sugar, orange rind, and salt. Add warm milk and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in orange juice. Then add melted butter and 2 3/4-3 cups flour (enough flour to make a soft dough)

Turn dough onto the floured surface. Knead for 3 minutes. Place dough in the greased bowl and turn over so that the greased side of the dough is facing up. Cover with a  cloth and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Punch dough down. Roll out on a floured surface into an 8 by 12 rectangle. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

Starting from the 8 inch side, roll together. Pinch seams and tuck in the edges.

Use a sharp knife to cut into cut dough in half, then cut each half into 5 slices.

Place slices in a greased 9 inch round pan.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes or until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 350.

Bake rolls at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

To make icing, whisk together eggnog, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Drizzle over warm rolls.

Serve with milk or coffee!


Adapted from Bread Baking's Orange Cinnamon Swirl Bread.

14.12.14

Apple Cider Farro Salad with Arugula, Shaved Apple & Parsnip, and Goat Cheese


I'm back!

I've been sort of absent here, what with the two recipe round-ups and the guest post, but I am so happy to be back. 

No more 30 page research papers, no more exams, no more eating cookies at midnight…

Well, maybe not that last one.


Early on in the semester, I realized that this was going to be a semester of survival. I had taken on too much, and I could see the nights and weekends of work and stress panning out in front of me like a line of dominoes. "Just make it to December. You can do anything for 3 months," I told myself. 

Then in my legal ethics class we had a speaker come talk to us about the high incidence of depression, anxiety and substance abuse in the legal profession. It turns out that before law school, students have similar rates of those issues compared to the rest of the population, but by the time those students graduate law school, their rates have increased to the level of the legal profession.


The problem, according to the speaker, was that, like practicing lawyers, law students get into the mindset of survival. If I can just make it through this semester, everything will be ok. 

If I can just make it onto a good journal, I can relax. 

If I can just make it to partner, I can spend more time with my family. 

If I can just make it through this case, I'll have time to exercise.


I felt my stomach sink as he spoke. This was totally me. I was going to push away most of the enjoyable and healthy things in my life to hunker down and just survive the semester. The problem of this survivor mindset, he said, is that it's hard to let go of. We just keep setting new goals that we have to reach, or more work is put on us, and we subjugate the things that really matter to us until we are overworked, miserable, and depressed. 


Uh, no thanks. While his talk didn't make all my work and responsibilities disappear, it did give me a better outlook on things. I have no interest in graduating law school a miserable shell of a person, even if that person is at the top of the class. It's just not worth it for me.

So, while I did spend lots of Friday and Saturday nights working, I also made time for friends and time for Adam, and I refused to allow myself to feel guilty about that.

But now, I'm DONE. And so in need of some salad.


I've been really excited to share this recipe for a while now. As I've shared before (here and here), I LOVE farro. When I ran across a recipe for apple cider-cooked-farro in Bon Appetit, I was immediately intrigued. I knew the farro would soak up the sweet apple cider flavor perfectly.

I'm continually going on and on about my texture preferences in salad, and this one checks all the boxes. Something crunchy? sunflower seeds. Something sweet? apple slices. Something chewy? farro. Something healthy? arugula & parsnip. Something creamy? goat cheese.  Win.

The whole grains and healthy fats also make this salad nice and filling. This is a lunch salad, not a side salad friends. 

Try it! Then take some time to do something completely unproductive and unresponsible that makes you totally happy. :)



Apple Cider Farro Salad with Arugula, Shaved Apple & Parsnip, and Goat Cheese


Ingredients:
For the salad:
1 cup farro
2 cups apple cider
1 bay leaf
3 cups arugula (or spinach if you're not a fan of arugula)
1 parsnip
1/2 apple (I used honey crisp)
handful of roasted sunflower seeds or pepitas
2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
For the shallot vinaigrette:
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
1 tsp salt
black pepper
2/3 cup olive oil

Directions: 
For the salad: 
Cook the farro according to package directions, substituting the apple cider for the water. (Try to cook as long as possible to allow most of the apple cider to be absorbed, but you can still drain it at the end if necessary) Place aside to cool, or put in the fridge to cool while you assemble the other ingredients.

Use a mandolin, or a blade on a boxed cheese grater to thinly slice the apple and parsnip. (You'll want to peel the parsnip first.)

In a large bowl, combine the arugula, parsnip, and apples. Toss in the cooled farro and stir to combine. Sprinkle on some toasted sunflower seeds and the crumbled goat cheese.

For the shallot vinaigrette:
Whisk together the shallot, vinegar, salt and pepper. While still whisking, gradually stream in the olive oil. Serve immediately or keep in the fridge for up to a week!

Apple Cider cooked Farro inspired by Bon Appetit
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