Ladies Only Dinner Party - Mediterranean Menu

Reuben has been away this past week, hanging out with Michelle Obama in Orlando. Sort of. Not really. But kinda. He's attending the AIA National Convention in Orlando, doing architect-y things and got to attend Michelle Obama's first public talk since the inauguration! Am I jealous? YES. He said that Michelle was incredible and so human, which I can totally believe. I can't wait to watch the talk once it's on YouTube! I actually saw her once when my family and I got to go to the Jay Leno show... LOL yes that happened.

As much as I miss Reuben when he is away, it gives me free range of the apartment. I can watch whatever I want and not compete with sports and I can invite all the ladies I want over to dinner. I mentioned in my previous post that I recently accepted a new job. I wanted the opportunity to share a nice meal with the ladies that make my work life enjoyable each day. These are the only decent photos I got of the dinner, IPhone only. But you know what? Sometimes you don't have time to take nice photos of your dinner with your big camera. You gotta sit down, drink your wine, and enjoy your company. I had forgotten how much I love a good dinner party. There are few things that make me happier than cooking food for people I care about. I also remembered how powerful girlfriends can be and how much we can talk! I miss all my girlfriends around the world! Let me cook you food!

I had a few parameters to build my menu on. It had to be gluten free and vegetarian friendly, which is no biggie. Whenever I have dinner parties with guests that have dietary restrictions, an easy way to please everyone is to provide options and allow people to build their own plates. Eating family style is always my preference. I wanted to make the main dish something that everyone could eat - Chickpea and Quinoa Stuffed Eggplants. It is filling, smokey, earthy, and savory. A dish that could stand on it's own! The flavors of the eggplant inspired the rest of the menu and we ended up with a mediterranean feast. I treated the proteins as side dishes, for the ladies to pick and add to their plates as they wished. And had a super bright and refreshing cucumber and tomato salad over hummus. Even though the pitas were not gluten free, everything on the table could have been eaten all together in a snug pita pocket if you wanted to do that. I stuffed everything into a pita for a few bites and I was all 😊 . The dinner ended with one of my new favorite desserts, a lemon almond cake with a dollop of greek yogurt, honey, and pistachios. LORD. It was so good. And gluten free!! I'm a huge fan of low maintenance desserts. I just had to bake the cake and then throw a bunch of tasty stuff on it. Easy peasy. 

In between the many bites of food, we gossiped about work, sipped wine, discussed our personal struggles, reminisced about Mary-Kate and Ashley movies, and simply laughed a ton. It was so wonderful, my cheeks still sort of hurt from laughing and smiling so much. So if you're itching to host a dinner party soon, here is an easy and super flavorful menu that will leave everyone with happy bellies. I've listed the whole menu below, some of my recipe sources with notes, and a couple quick and dirty recipes. I prepared some of it on a Tuesday night to make my Wednesday night dinner party much less stressful. You can do it! 


Mediterranean Dinner Party Menu

serves 6

Roasted and Salted Pistachios

Pita Bread

Cucumber and Heirloom Tomato Salad over Hummus

Seared Halloumi

Chicken Shawarma-ish

Chickpea and Quinoa Stuffed Eggplants

Lemon Almond Cake with Yogurt, Honey, and Pistachios


Cucumber + Heirloom Tomato Salad Over Hummus

Combine 4 cups of chopped cucumbers, 3 cups of chopped mini heirloom tomatoes, and about half a small red onion sliced super thin in a large bowl. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil and add the juice of two lemons. Season with 2 tsp salt, cracked black pepper, and 1 tsp of sumac, adjust seasoning according to taste. Mix up salad and serve over a bed of hummus, about 1.5 cups of hummus will do the trick.

Seared Halloumi

Slice a block of halloumi into 1/4" thick slices. Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. Sear slices of halloumi on each side until golden brown, about 1 minute each side. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and chopped parsley.

Chicken Shawarma-ish

Cut 3 chicken breasts in half, creating long thick strips of chicken. In a sealable container, add chicken and drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 2 tsp turmeric, 2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp, cinnamon, 1 tbsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper. Mix until chicken is evenly coated. You can either cook this right away or let it marinate overnight. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet (cast iron preferably) over medium high heat. Add chicken to skillet and sear on one side for 4-5 minutes. Flip and sear for another 3-4 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Chickpea and Quinoa Stuffed Eggplant

Source Recipe : http://dishingupthedirt.com/recipes/entree/chickpea-stuffed-eggplant-with-couscous-and-tahini-sauce/

My adjustments : make 3 eggplants, omit the tomatoes, add 1/2 cup of toasted pinenuts, and swap out the couscous with 1 cup of quinoa. Season your filling with cumin, smoked paprika, and salt! 

I also made a greek yogurt sauce instead : 3/4 cup of plain greek yogurt, 2 tbsp water, juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper, and a dash of cayenne. Adjust to taste.

Lemon Almond Cake with Yogurt, Honey, and Pistachios

Source Recipe : http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/almond-cake-366229

I baked the cake in a 9" x 13" pan. Make sure to line it with parchment paper, this cake sticks. Once its cooled, I used a 3" ring mold/biscuit cutter to cut out individual mini cakes. Serve by adding a dollop of plain greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkling of pistachios.

 

Honey Ginger Iced Cookies

Hey guys! It's been a minute. For the last two weeks I have been running around like a mad woman. Life tends to work like that for me. I go through weeks of calm and relaxing weekends painting carrots. Then all of a sudden a whole bunch of exciting things happen at the exact same time. Here are some life updates...

I have become the resident party designer at my office recently. Which is awesome! They trust me to execute my weird ideas... like painting a mural and building a donut wall. I built and painted a mini mural to help my office announce the opening of a new Los Angeles Office! It was super cute with big palm leaf graphics and I was able to keep my hand steady to paint in our office font. yay! We had a wonderful party this past Wednesday and transformed a portion of our office into a LA Rooftop party; complete with string lights, palm trees, food inspired by LA neighborhoods,  a super boozy drink called "LA Water", and 80 Bob's Donuts that spelled out "I <3 LA". It was great!

Reuben's best friend, Andy, was visiting from Michigan the last 10 days and we have been eating all of the BEST food. He just left and we miss him already! It was so great to have another food loving friend dine and explore with us. We debated whether a hot dog is a sandwich, critiqued our meals like food network show judges, I watched them drink lots of beer, and developed an idea to start a breakfast restaurant that only serves leftovers like cold pasta and Chinese food. MY DREAM. When friends are visiting on vacation it puts us in vacation mode as well, which is great but I need to go on a juice cleanse now. We took him to all our favorite restaurants (Brother's, Y&Y, Richmond Republic, Sakesan, and Good Luck Dim Sum just to name a few) and I realized that I really need to make a San Francisco eating guide. That's going to be my next project, so stayed tuned!

Oh. and I accepted a new job. AH! I'm super excited and nervous, but mostly excited! I'm feeling so so ready for a new experience! However, it's been really hard telling people that I'm leaving my current job because I've made some really wonderful friends at BAR. I'm having some of my main work ladies over for dinner this week so I'm just going to keep inviting them over for dinner all the time! I'm also going to bake some farewell mini cakes so people will still want to be friends with me after I leave.

Now, I have some blogging, recipe writing, and painting to catch up on! We leave for Ohio in 2 weeks so I'm trying to get as much work done as I can before we are off to the happiest place on Earth! A part of me really loves buzzing around and always keeping busy. I searched online yesterday for cute loose fitting jogger pants and a new blanket to add to my collection, which may be a sign that I'm just about to burn out and need to veg out on our couch for a little bit and watch Naked and Afraid. That's our new trashy TV obsession btw. 21 days without a single dumpling?!! Despite the slight exhaustion, I'm always thankful for the exciting and not so exciting things that happen in life.

You know what else is exciting? HEXAGON COOKIE CUTTERS! I'm super happy about the fact that I accidentally ordered a set of varying size hexagon cookie cutters! I was only planning on getting one... but now I have like 8. I have a background in architecture, so I'm really drawn to bold shapes and the potential of making something graphic with food. I saw these cutters on amazon and I instantly needed them. I've been brainstorming ways to utilize hexagon cookie cutters. "What foods are hexagon shaped???" Honeycombs, ZEBRA CAKES, oyster crackers! "What foods can I make hexagon shaped??" - cookies, biscuits, mini cakes, rice crispy treats, rice cakes! Do you have any ideas?

I knew I wanted to make something with honey to play off the honeycomb shape. And so, these cookies were born! These Honey Ginger Iced Cookies remind me of those iced animal crackers that I would always eye up at the grocery store, but a spicier adult version with less sugar and sprinkles. I might add sprinkles next time. They are soft and chewy, and I feel like they are somewhat good for me due to the ginger-honey combo. I'm just going to keep telling myself that each time I make these. They are dangerously easy to eat, so either prepare to snack away at them all or share with some sweet friends!

 

Honey Ginger Iced Cookies

makes 40 2" cookies

Steps :

  1. Combine butter, sugar, honey, and salt in a large bowl or bowl of a stand-mixer. Beat until light and fluffy, scrape down the sides as needed, 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add whole egg, egg yolk, and vanilla into the creamed mixture and beat until combined.
  3. Combine flour, ginger, and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Slowly incorporate the flour into mixture and mix until just combined.
  4. Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. The dough will be very soft. Place in the fridge to chill for at least an hour.
  5. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  6. Bring your dough out and allow them to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin. Roll out half your dough to 1/4" - 1/8" thickness. Cut out cookies with your cutters. I used 1.5", 2", and 2.25" hexagon cookie cutters. Place cookies on lined baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 8-11 minutes, depending on size, until golden brown. Allow cookies to cool completely on a cooling rack. Repeat steps 6-7 with second half of dough.
  8. Make icing by whisking together powdered sugar and heavy cream. Add a bit more cream if you feel your icing is a little thick.
  9. Once your cookies have cooled completely, you can decorate your cookies by dipping half of each cookie in icing. Shake off any excess icing and then tip iced portion into crush pecans. Place back on rack and allow icing to set. 
  10. Enjoy and Share!

Cookie Materials :

1 C unsalted butter - room temperature

1/2 C granulated sugar

1/4 C honey

1/4 tsp salt

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 C all-purpose flour

1.5 tsp ginger powder

1 tsp cinnamon 

Crushed Pecans - optional

 

Icing:

1 C powdered sugar

5 Tbsp heavy Cream 

Mini Bourbon Apple Galettes

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Hey! Happy Saturday! I wish I had one of these mini galettes for breakfast this morning. Before I give you the recipe for these cuties, I have a few things that I need to confess to you guys... 

1. I've never made my own coffee 😣

2. I've never made a pie 😧

Are you going to unfollow me? I feel semi-embarrassed and slightly confused about how this happened. I will address the coffee issue first. To be honest, I've spent an exorbitant amount of money buying coffee and I've always been around people who are really great at making coffee. I love the ritual of stopping by the coffee shop 30 seconds from my apartment or the Peet's on my way in to work. Reuben takes his coffee making seriously and I always just ask him to make a half cup of coffee for me (that's all I really need anyways to get pepped up). I've also jumped on the Matcha Latte bandwagon and have been focusing my caffeinated desires towards making a good cup of matcha. I NEED to learn how to make my own coffee. It's just plain silly that I don't know how. Reuben will give a crash course in grinding and brewing soon. That wasn't meant to sound weird.

Pie. I am most definitely on Team Cake. It's my favorite dessert and it's been my 2017 goal to be able to bake a mean cake with little stress. Growing up, my parents would always buy a banana cream pie for either my Dad's or Brother's birthday. That and sweet potato pie are the the only pies that I could ever get behind. I may have just never had a great fruit pie... the fruit pies that I've had are always so sugary sweet and the fruit tastes like it's from a can. If there was an occasion that pie was the only sweet option, I'd just go for the crust.

I don't want to feel this way about pie forever though. Which is why I am making baby steps towards making and enjoying pie. Mini Galette Steps, if you will. The list of things that I've never done or don't know how to do is infinite. But I'm the type of person that wants to figure out how to do it and how to do it well. I taught myself hand lettering and how to make stationery! I can figure out how to make a damn great pie. Although, there are a few things that I'm totally okay with not being good at. Like skiing. I'm perfectly fine with not being able to ski. Reuben tried to teach me how to ski 2 months ago and I was a dead starfish laying in the snow, cursing at the sky, as 4 year olds zoomed passed me. It was a new low for me.

These mini galettes almost made me switch to Team Pie. They were so effing good. Reuben and I ended up eating all of them throughout the weekend. Sorry, co-workers. I miniaturized the Bourbon Apple Galette recipe from Food52. I thought that by making them mini it would prevent us from eating the whole thing... what was I thinking? The recipe features a super easy all butter pie crust that is INCREDIBLE. I don't think I need to find another pie crust recipe for the rest of my life. In the following months, I'm hope to make my first fruit pie of some sort and maybe a purple sweet potato pie! I'll also need to be a good daughter and sister by learning how to make a killer Banana Cream Pie. Papa Cho and T.Cho will be very very happy : )


Mini Bourbon Apple Galettes

makes 6 mini galettes or 1 large galette

Steps :

1. Start your pie dough by whisking together flour and salt. Add butter cubes and toss in flour until evenly coated. With your hand, rub the butter into the flour until they are the size of walnut halves. You still want to be able to see the chunks of butter.

2. Make a well in the middle of your bowl. Add a few tablespoons of ice water at a time and mix just until the dough comes together. Wrap dough in plastic  and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

4. In a small sauce pan, bring the bourbon to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce until there is about 2 tablespoons of  liquid remaining. Stir in butter until melted.

5. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon. Stir in the bourbon butter mixture and let cool.

6. Cut your apples into quarters and remove the core. Slice each quarter into thin slices. Try to keep the quarters together when you slice.

7. On a lightly floured surface, give your pie dough a quick knead. Divid your dough into 6 equal pieces. 

8. Roll out one of your pieces into roughly a 4"x6" rectangle. Dust with a little bit of flour if the dough starts to stick. Transfer the rectangle to your baking sheet. Layer apple slices in the middle of our dough, leaving about a 1/2" border of dough around the filling. Fold the edges over the apples. Pinch the edges a little to secure the edges. Repeat 5 more times with the remaining dough and apples.

9. Carefully spoon the bourbon-sugar mixture over the apples. Egg wash the edges of the dough for a golden color.

10. Bake the galettes for 24-28 minutes, until golden brown and the apples are tender. Bake for 28-33 minutes if making one large galette.

11. Let cool and enjoy with some ice cream!

Pie Dough:

1 1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour - Sifted

Pinch of Salt

8 Tbsp Unsalted Butter - Chilled and Cut into 1/2" Cubes

1/4 Cup Ice Water - more as needed

Galette Filling :

1/3 Cup of Bourbon - The mini bottle is only about 1/4 cup!

3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter

1/3 Cup Brown Sugar

1 Tbsp Cornstarch

1 tsp Cinnamon

3-4 Medium Apples

Egg Wash (1 egg whisked with 1 Tbsp Water)