Our current Instant Pot favorites {April 2018}

Even though we hauled our Instant Pot across the country with us on our big drive last summer, it took me a little bit of time to warm up to it.

While it’s nice to be able to saute, slow cook, pressure cook, etc in one dish, the time needed to get up to pressure (15+ minutes) is annoying and makes weeknight IP’ing (as the cool kids are saying) more difficult.

Nonetheless, I’ve persevered and have been actually enjoying our Instant Pot lately and found a few recipes I’d like to share here (and keep on record for quick reference):

Urvashi Pitre’s Instant Pot Butter Chicken from the New Yorker

We pair ours with naan, jasmine rice, and roasted cauliflower with slivered almonds and raisins.

Delicious, delicious IP butter chicken

Instant Pot Salisbury Steak With Mushroom Gravy by Live Simply

We nestle these Salisbury steaks in a bed of creamy, garlic mashed potatoes with a veggie on the side.

It’s not that photogenic of a dish and I always devour it right away, so no photos. Please use your imagination.

Instant Pot Beef and Broccoli by Savory Tooth

Michael has a soy sensitivity, so when we can avoid it, we do. Thankfully, coconut aminos exist and are delicious as a soy sauce substitute in this recipe. We sub them 1:1 and the sauce tastes so much like “normal” sauce!

IP Broccoli beef

I electronically hoard other Instant Pot tips, tricks, and recipes on Pinterest too. Check them out. And please share some of your IP favorites for me to try out!

Dinner at the Herbfarm

Truffle Treasures at the Herbfarm

Truffle Treasures at the Herbfarm

Brandon and I have a lot of stuff. There I said it. So for Christmas, we decided that instead of more stuff, we would do an experience. We’ve always wanted to visit the Herbfarm, so we started scoping out menus and selected the Truffle menu.

You see, the Herbfarm does theme eating monthly. Right after my own heart! We opted for the “Truffle Treasure” of January and we were very glad that we did!

The Herbfarm is an award-winning restaurant in Woodinville, a suburb of Seattle. It’s on the expensive side and the nine courses (nine!) are paired with drinks for the most part. It also takes several hours. We won’t be going back monthly, but this was a great experience and one that I would recommend you do at least once during your time in Seattle! 

My parents watched Michael and we feasted on…

Herbfarm first course

Herbfarm first course

Truffledom: White truffle shumai; black truffle soup with red beet cream; Dungeness crab with truffle butter; and, beech mushroom tempura, truffle salt, Idaho lemon wedge.

Drink pairing: Blue Mountain Vineyard Brut, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Herbfarm second course

Herbfarm second course

Albacore & Pickles: Grilled rare Oregon Albacore tuna, assorted pickles put up from our larder.

Drink pairing: 2013 Dr. Loosen Eroica Riesling, Columbia Valley

Herbfarm third course

Herbfarm third course

Earth ‘n’ Trees: Oregon chesnut angolloti, cipollini onion, chervil, Oregon white truffle sauce.

Drink pairing: 2002 L’Ecole No. 41 Semillion, Fries Vineyard, Walla Walla

Herbfarm fourth course

Herbfarm fourth course

Black, White & Blue: Buttermilk-poached blue-footed chicken breast, chicken-skin-crusted salsify, sauce perigourdine.

Drink pairing: 2012 Broadley Vineyards Pinot Noir, Jessica, Willamette Valley

Herbfarm fifth course

Herbfarm fifth course

Mr. Kuro Goes to Washington: Bay-braised Gold Beach Oregon Wagyu beef short rib in feuille de brick, turnips & their greens, our Roy’s Calais Flint corn polenta, huckleberry sweet-sour sauce, black truffle puree.

Drink pairing: 2012 Gorman Winery Winemaker’s Reserve Malbec, Red Mountain

Herbfarm sixth course

Herbfarm sixth course

Parsnip in a Pear’s Pad: Grated parsnip and pear, shave Willamette Valley Boerenkaas cheese, nocino sauce.

Herbfarm seventh course

Herbfarm seventh course

Glass & Ice: Sorbet of muddled Idaho Valencia orange rind and sake, gin glass, Douglas Fir snowbank.

Herbfarm eighth course

Herbfarm eighth course

Oh, Sweet Truffle: Sourdough ice cream, black truffle-caramel apples, fromage blanc, Oregon olive oil cake.

Drink pairing: 2005 Thurston-Wolfe 8-year cask-aged Tawny Port

And course nine: 

Extra desserts!

Extra desserts!

Accompanying dinner: truffled wood-oven foccacia

Thankfully little Michael had equally as fun of night with Grandma and Grandpa. He passed out!

Sleepy Michael

Sleepy Michael

Next on our Seattle food bucket list? Canlis. Maybe next Christmas?

Christmas 2015 recap

Somehow the holiday season is already wrapping up and I’ve been getting ready to go back to work (!!!). Baby vacation is officially over on Monday. What a crazy wonderful past four months I’ve had! I digress. Let’s focus on the past week or so. Here is our Christmas 2015 recap:

Michael visited his first (and second) Santa and did a stellar job! He’s such an adorable kid. (‘Course I’m biased, since I’m his mom…)

Michael's first Santa photo

Michael’s first Santa photo

Michael was skeptical with his visit to the Santa at Theo Chocolate

Michael was skeptical with his visit to the Santa at Theo Chocolate

New Christmas Eve tradition

Michael, Brandon and I started a new tradition: reading the Polar Express before heading to bed on Christmas Eve! Michael didn’t quite understand the story yet, but he will in a few years.

Christmas morning brunch

My parents came over bright and early on Christmas morning and we made the fontina and spinach baked eggs with garlic brown butter breadcrumbs from the latest cookbook we’re cooking from, Seriously Delish, along with hashbrowns; a fruit salad of pineapple, blueberries and raspberries; and chicken sausage. We paired it with mango mimosas. Truly seriously delish.

Christmas morning brunch

Christmas morning brunch

Christmas tamales 

As I mentioned last week, we have a tradition of making tamales for Christmas. This year we made them on Christmas day.

Christmas evening tamales

Christmas evening tamales

We followed our recipe, but this year paired the tamales with some black beans, queso fresco, toasted pumpkin seeds, a kale salad with a spicy lime vinaigrette, and red and green tortilla chips with homemade guacamole. I think this will be our new usual. The whole meal was delicious!

Our Christmas night feast

Our Christmas night feast

Christmas treats

I also made a recipe that I’ve been lusting over for a few weeks: the clementine-cocoa nib meringues from Eating Well. (We picked up the nibs while Michael visited with the Santa at Theo!) These were super easy to make and delicious.

Clementine-Cocoa nib meringues: SO GOOD.

Clementine-Cocoa nib meringues: SO GOOD.

I did run into one snag however. It’s very important that you break up the chocolate nib/powdered sugar combination before you fold it in to the meringue. I wasn’t as diligent about it and chunks of chocolate got stuck in the tip of the piping bag and made things trickier.

Our family feast

We concluded the Christmas weekend with a prime rib feast at my parent’s house, with asparagus, potatoes, and a delicious salad, paired with a pinot noir. The place card snowmen I made last week completed the table scape!

Our Christmas 2015 feast

Our Christmas 2015 feast

Our place settings

Our place settings

Here are a few more of my favorites from this year’s Christmas celebrations:

Santa's little helper

Santa’s little helper

Three generations on Christmas!

Three generations on Christmas!

Santa Baby!

Santa Baby!

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and 2015! Cheers to an even better 2016!!

Christmas tamales

For the past several years Brandon and I have created our own tradition of making tamales on (or around) Christmas. Making tamales requires just a little bit of pre-planning (supply buying and day-of timing) and are fairly easy.

We use this recipe from Pepper Fool, of course with our own tweaks:

For the tamales:

  • 1/2 eight-ounce package dried corn husks
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) vegetable shortening
  • 1 pound (2 cups) fresh masa
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 16 oz purchased salsa verde (We use the LaVictoria Thick’n Chunky Salsa Verde)
  • Shredded chicken from a rotisserie chicken (about 2-3 cups)

Toppings:

  • Cilantro
  • Cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Onions
  • Whatever else you want!

Prepare corn husks:

Soak the husks in water till pliable. Make sure they are fully submerged. If using room temperature water, they made need to soak for a few hours.  To speed this up, you can put them in simmering water for 10 minutes and then let them continue soaking while the water cools. 

To make the dough:

Beat the vegetable shortening in a mixer until very light, for about a minute. Add 1/2 pound (1 cup) fresh masa to shortening. Beat until well blended. Continue beating, adding alternately the remaining 1/2 pound masa and the broth, adding only enough broth to give consistency of medium thick cake batter. Then sprinkle in the baking powder and salt. Beat 1 minute more.

To form the tamales:

Remove husks from water when they have softened. Pat husks dry. Tear extra husks into 1/4 inch wide, 7 inch long strips one for each tamale. Take one that is at least 6 inches across on wider end and 6-7 inches long. Lay out this corn husk with tapering end toward you.

Tamale making begins

Tamale making begins

Spread a couple of tablespoons of dough mixture into a square, leaving at least a 1.5 inch border on side toward you and 3/4 inch border along other sides. Add chicken, cheese and salsa. (Along with whatever else you decide to add!)

Filling the tamales

Filling the tamales

Pick up two long sides of corn husk and bring them together, overlapping one over the other.

Fold up the bottom section of husk tightly right up to the filling line. Leave top open. Secure it in place by loosely tying one of strips of husk (or some baking twine) around tamale base.

Wrap up the tamales

Wrap up the tamales

Repeat with remaining husks and dough mixture.

Stand tamales on the folded bottom in prepared steamer, being sure they are not packed too closely in steamer they need to expand.

Cover with layer of leftover husks. Check carefully that all the water doesn’t boil away, adding boiling water when necessary. Cover with lid and steam for 1 hour.

Unwrap the tamales, discard the husks and serve with additional salsa on the side.

Our tamale feast

Our tamale feast

Yield: 4-6 servings

 

Thanksgiving {2015}

With the excitement of the holidays and a newborn who isn’t fond of napping, my posts are a little delayed these days. But, without further ado, some photos from this year’s Thanksgiving extravaganza.

First, we’ll start with our little turkey. Michael sported a Babies ‘R Us onesie and was a champ. He met my extended family, in town from California, and even decided to nap a wee fit, obviously exhausted from the festivities.

Our little Thanksgiving turkey

Our little Thanksgiving turkey

Not knowing how much time we’d have to prep a dish for the celebrations, we brought appetizers. I was able to find the time (no more than an hour required!) to prep not one but two platters.

I took inspiration from my platters from 2013 and 2014 and created an antipasti tray and vegetable platter.

Thanksgiving antipasti tray

Thanksgiving antipasti tray

Thanksgiving vegetable tray

Thanksgiving vegetable tray

The “turkey heads” are easy to make. Start with a smallish lemon with a bit of a stem nub. Then, whittle a carrot beak and glue it, a “hat” and some candy eyes onto the turkey with super glue. Hats can be anything from a radish top, broccoli, cauliflower, or something inedible too! Once you have your hat, make sure both of the surfaces are dried off, to the best of your ability. This will help the glue stick.

Thanksgiving platter turkey "heads"

Thanksgiving platter turkey “heads”

The trays are easy to create as well. A quick trip to the store a couple of days before the holiday will suffice, with about an hour of “construction” time the morning of the holiday:

The antipasti platter: 

  • Cured meat three-pack from Costco
  • ~1 lb Beecher’s Flagship cheddar cheese (Costco)
  • A wheel of brie (Costco)
  • Trader Joe’s new four-olive medley
  • Marinated mushrooms (Trader Joe’s)
  • ~1 lb of reduced fat smoked gouda (Trader Joe’s)

The vegetable tray: 

  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 bag of baby carrots
  • 1 orange pepper
  • 2 cans of whole baby corn
  • 1 can of asparagus
  • 1 heart of celery
  • A couple of tomatoes
  • Not pictured: Fat-free sour cream with the Hidden Valley Ranch powder packet mixed in. (My favorite veggie dip!)

Here is a photo of the table, with my Aunt capturing the spread from a different angle. It was fun having such a large group (19 people!) to celebrate the holiday!

Our Thanksgiving set up

Our Thanksgiving set up

I also put my new modern calligraphy skills to use (did I tell you that I recently took a class with some girlfriends and discovered a new talent!?) and made place cards for the dinner. Don’t they look nice? I’m so impressed with myself– and clearly very humble!

Place cards by me!

Place cards by me!

I hope these inspire you to make a meat and cheese or veggie platter next Thanksgiving. Now I’m off to help Christmas explode all over our house! Photos to follow!

Halloween preparations on Megan’s Island {2015}

2013-10-31-Halloween1

Man, this baby vacation is flying by and I’m not doing nearly the amount of fun festive crafting and blogging that I had hoped I would be! I had grand plans of decking the house (and the kid) out for Halloween, but I’m nowhere close. Alas, he’s worth it — and I followed through on decking him out!

Michael & Beary Goldberg: best friends!

Michael & Beary Goldberg: best friends!

BOO! It's Michael!

BOO! It’s Michael!

First things first, I found a bottle of wine for Halloween: the 2013 Dearly Beloved Forever Red. There are many bottles out there and this one matches Michael’s skeleton costume the best, so I had to have it. Plus the price was right at under $10.

Skeleton baby & skeleton head wine!

Skeleton baby & skeleton head wine!

I’ve seen lots of Halloween-y wines at QFC and Trader Joe’s, and here are some wine-specific candy pairing ideas I found this year. If wine isn’t your thing, VinePair had some great Halloween Candy/alcohol pairings last year. Read my post here.

For a festive dinner, I’ve been scouring Pinterest during middle-of-the-night feedings and have settled on a “scary” lasagna. I opted for this “Cheesy Brussels sprout lasagna” with a scary face topping. I’m hoping it looks like this, but without the red sauce:

Scary lasagna!

Scary lasagna!

Last year we made a zombie meatloaf (this is awesome, delicious, gluten-free, and quick and easy, if you need an idea!).

Turkey meatloaf zombie

In 2013, we made squid ink pasta with “brain” sauce.

Spooky Halloween Pasta | Megan's Island Blog

For more Halloween ideas, check out my Pinterest “Halloween Inspirations” board. So many great ideas that you could even do on short notice for this year!

La Spiga’s “Chef’s Table with Gnocchetti 101” class

DyneHave you heard of Dyne? According to them, Dyne is a better way to book and enjoy the dining experience, to discover secret menus, pop-ups, and special offerings at select partners in Seattle. Based on this experience and the offerings I’ve seen, I would have to agree!

Brandon and I had the pleasure of using Dyne to attend a very select class this past June, in the private dining mezzanine (upstairs) at La Spiga Osteria, one of our favorite Seattle spots.

“Chef’s Table with Gnocchetti 101” was limited to 20 people and led by La Spiga owner and chef Sabrina Tinsley. Sabrina walked us through a demonstration-style cooking class on the techniques to master gnocchetti (the soft, delicate pasta cousin of gnocchi) followed by a three-course dinner with optional wine flight. Brandon opted for the wine flight, I opted against it.

For $48 per person (plus $25 extra for the wine flight), this was a deal — and an experience — that we couldn’t pass up!

Our group of Dyners

Our group of Dyners

THE MENU

First Course: Insalata Primavera con Carciofi Croccanti
Spring salad with crispy fried artichokes, spring peas, asparagus, fava, bibb lettuce and pecorino fresco

First Course: Insalata Primavera con Carciofi Croccanti

First Course: Insalata Primavera con Carciofi Croccanti

Second Course: Gnocchetti al Norcina
Gnocchetti pasta with pork sausage, truffle and cream sauce

Second Course: Gnocchetti al Norcina

Second Course: Gnocchetti al Norcina

Third Course: Panna Cotta
Strawberry panna cotta with 30th Anniversary balsamic vinegar

Third Course: Panna Cotta

Third Course: Panna Cotta

Dinner was delicious (as we’ve come to expect from La Spiga) and the best part of the evening was that we got to take recipes for each of the courses home with us! And now I will share the Gnocchetti alla Norcina (ricotta gnocchi with sausage, truffle and cream sauce) recipe with you!

Gnocchetti 101 class at La Spiga

Gnocchetti 101 class at La Spiga

Gnocchetti alla Norcina from La Spiga Osteria
(Ricotta gnocchi with sausage, truffle and cream sauce)
Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ricotta, drained overnight
  • 1 egg
  • ~1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 2 T truffle flour (optional)
  • 2 c all purpose unbleached flour + extra for dusting
  • 6 pork sausage links
  • Olive oil
  • 3 T truffle butter (optional — available for purchase at La Spiga)
  • 3 c heavy cream
  • Parmigiano Reggiano

Make the gnocchetti

  • Mix together the ricotta, egg, salt, a little fresh ground pepper and the truffle flour, if you’re using it.
  • Add the all purpose flour and blend until smooth. The dough should be a workable consistency and may be sightly sticky. (About 2 minutes)
  • If the dough is too sticky, you may add up to a 1/4 c extra flour, but resist the urge to add any more.
  • Dust your work surface with plenty of flour and roll out the dough in small batches into 1/2″ cylinders with your palm.
  • Cut the cylinders into 1/2″ pieces like the below photo.
  • Dust the pieces with flour and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment, you may freeze at this point, if you’re enjoying them later.

Little gnocchettis

Little gnocchettis

Make the sauce

  • Remove sausage from the casing (Sabrina recommends using sausage WITHOUT fennel– it’s her preference) and saute in a sauce pan with 2 T olive oil. (Sabrina only uses Bono Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which I have only been able to find at La Spiga, not at PFI), lightly salt the sausage to prevent the loss of flavor to the cream.
  • When the sausage has just cooked through, add the optional truffle butter and allow to melt.
  • Add the cream once the butter has melted.
  • Bring the sauce to a boil and remove from heat. Don’t worry about boiling the sauce down or reheating it. It will do this on its own.

The best sauce EVER: sausage, truffle and cream

The best sauce EVER: sausage, truffle and cream

Cook the Gnocchetti

  • Bring salted water to a boil. The water should “taste like the sea”
  • Cook the gnocchetti in small batches. Do not stir.
  • When the gnocchetti rises to the surface, allow it to cook for about one more minute. Skim the finished gnocchetti off of the surface with a slotted spoon and transfer to the sauce pan.
  • Continue to cook all of the gnocchetti in this method.
  • Dress the cooked gnocchetti by folding it into the sauce. Take care not to break up the gnocchetti and serve immediately. (This should only include ~one minute in the pan)
  • Add garnish (microgreens pictured here) and/or Parmigiano Reggiano

Second Course: Gnocchetti al Norcina

Second Course: Gnocchetti al Norcina

AND ENJOY!!! Now I’m hungry and want to go make a batch of this Gnocchetti alla Norcina! Thanks for the recipe, Dyne and La Spiga!