Although we didn’t get a white Christmas while visiting Portland, we had an unexpected white New Years in Los Angeles. On the first day of January, we traveled above the city where everything is peaceful and quiet and the air is clean and smells like fresh pine. We are so lucky to be just thirty minutes from The Angeles National Forest with gorgeous mountains and countless places to explore, stretching over 1000 square miles of uninhabited land. We found ourselves strolling through icy trails lined with beautiful manzanitas and majestic oaks still dusted with snow from last week’s brief rains. The hike began at 4500 feet, and while we were expecting chilly temperatures, we had no idea that we would be walking in snow! But the sun was out, it was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed peanut butter and honey sandwiches sitting on a boulder on the side of the trail while soaking in the sun’s rays. After a brief drive back into civilization, we came home to put the final touches on an original new recipe, a warm and comforting skillet of tender cauliflower, sautéed leeks, diced tomatoes, bright red chard, and poached eggs nestled between the vegetables, which is topped with deeply toasted pine nuts and a dollop of lime-infused Greek yogurt: say hello to winter shakshuka.
The holidays are here and it truly is a wonderful time of year. There is a cheerful spirit in the air that brings people together. Neighborhoods sparkle with colored lights, friends gather for festive parties filled with spiced drinks and sweet treats, and the cooler temperatures revitalize us, bringing an uplifting and refreshing energy to the new year. And on Christmas day, while many families will be roasting turkeys, baking gingerbread cookies, and sipping eggnog, it is an annual tradition in Ryan’s family to cook an authentic Cuban dinner. The centerpiece is a massive roast pork leg, marinated for a week in garlic and spices, that is usually so big it barely fits in the oven. There is always congri on the table (a savory dish with black beans and rice), two kinds of plantains (both the salty tostones and sweet plátanos maduros), and of course our favorite: yuca con mojo, in which tender cubes of yuca are tossed with an intensely-flavored sauce filled with crushed raw garlic, olive oil, and zesty vinegar. And while yuca is not typically thought of as a Christmas dish, it is perfect for the holidays and other family feasts. Anywhere that mashed potatoes are welcome, yuca is a deliciously bright and tangy alternative.
We just checked the official Thanksgiving Rule Book, and in Article 1, Line 3, it clearly states, “Sweet potatoes must be included on the table in order to qualify as a true Thanksgiving feast.” This detailed book covers all the basics: Must have at least one type of stuffing. Each slice of pumpkin pie shall be topped with a dollop of whipped cream. Omitting the green bean casserole is forbidden and will incur penalties. There is also a great section on how to say the appropriate thing when giving thanks, as well as informative chapters on how to deal with drunken relatives. Everything is covered here: from how to quickly and smoothly change the conversation topic from politics to funny youtube videos, to tips on being polite if the turkey happens to be dry. This delicious recipe has been a tradition in Ryan’s family for over 40 years, and Thanksgiving truly wouldn’t be the same without it. And according to the official Rule Book, this dish qualifies as the perfect sweet potato casserole: filled with tender sweet potatoes tossed with fresh ripe cranberries, covered with a cinnamon and brown sugar oat crumble, and baked until the cranberries soften and burst, releasing their ruby-colored juice, which bubbles under the crisp, crunchy warmly-spiced topping.
We have met so many wonderful people and bloggers from around the world since launching our site just six months ago. The community is filled with talented home cooks, writers, and photographers that inspire us every day with their creative recipes and entertaining posts. We have learned so much just browsing through all the colorful photos and innovative ideas on Instagram. When we stumbled upon Christine Wong’s photo of this vegetarian Indian entrée on her page, it immediately caught our attention because it was so beautiful, and also because it features one of our favorite vegetables as a “substantial main course.” One of our go-to dishes at Indian restaurants is aloo gobi—tender cauliflower and potatoes simmered in a rich and deliciously spiced sauce—and we are thrilled because now we can duplicate these complex flavors at home!
Smoothies are a fun way to start the day, and this delicious and ultra-creamy peanut butter banana smoothie could not be easier to make. With just six simple ingredients, this refreshing drink is packed with protein and vitamins, and comes together quickly in under five minutes giving your more time to lay in bed get your day started. Each glass contains an entire banana giving you a full serving of fruit, plus a dollop of creamy peanut butter, a sprinkle of cinnamon, a hint of vanilla, all blended with cold refreshing almond milk and a drizzle of honey for sweetness. Your taste buds may tell you that you’re drinking a rich and indulgent peanut butter banana milkshake, but they don’t have to know that in fact, you are enjoying a healthy and delicious breakfast.