Umami Burger, San Francisco

If you couldn’t really tell from my previous posts, I am not really a “burger girl.”  Save for one particular spot in Davis whose bacon cheeseburgers I actually dream about, I never order burgers at restaurants.  I just feel like there are so many other interesting things to order off of menus, and unless there is something on the burger that really catches my eye (read: pork belly, gruyere, fried egg, a combination of the the three), I just won’t go there.

Umami Burger is a little different in that they only serve burgers, so there isn’t really a choice.  The hype surrounding this place is huge; with a few of locations in southern California, the chain has moved it’s way north to San Francisco and recently opened its doors to people like me – people who want a little more ooomph on their burger.  The draw to this restaurant is that the burgers are designed specifically to impart that “umami” (savory, essentially) taste on whoever is eating them.  Because of this, the burgers are a little unusual.  I had heard a lot about this place, so I dragged Andrew and Albano here when I was recently in San Francisco.  Did it live up to the hype?  For the most part, yes.

i would be okay with only eating this cheese for the rest of my life

We started, as one should, with the truffle cheese fries off the ‘secret menu.’ There are really only two items on this menu – these fries, and some cheesy tots – so I’m not sure what the point of the menu is, HOWEVER this were incredible.  Even Andrew, someone who avoids fancier foods at all costs, freaked out about how good these were.  Covered in melted truffle cheese, perfectly crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside, these are a must have.

aioli = life

To accompany the fries, we ordered all the different house dipping sauces.  They are, from bottom to top: Jalapeno Ranch, Dijon Mustard, Habanero Sauce (SPICY), Garlic Aioli (omg), House Thousand Island, and Umami Ketchup.  Obviously I did not try the ketchup because it is my life’s purpose to avoid that condiment at all costs, however all the other sauces were excellent.  The garlic aioli was the best…you could definitely taste the roasted dimension of the garlic.

not as weird as it sounds

Because I always have to get the most complicated thing on the menu, I chose to get the Bacon Wrapped Scallop Burger.  The name of this burger is a little misleading in that it is not actually wrapped in bacon – it is actually topped with pork belly which is a okay with me.  The patty is made of scallops, and it is excellent.  I find that scallops can be either really hit or really miss, and this was definitely the former.  It was the most tender bite of scallops I have ever had, and the patty was complimented greatly by the salty pork belly.  The sauce on this was a yuzu-garlic aioli, and it was also very good.  I just wish it had been a little bigger for the price ($15…I know).

note the cute umami stamp

Andrew and Albano both got the Truffle Burger, which is a hamburger patty with house made truffle cheese (same stuff they put on the fries) and truffle glaze.  While this seems basic and lacking in toppings, the cheese is very strong and with any other accompaniments I think it would have been way too much. That being said, I enjoyed the bites that I had of this burger, and would recommend it.  The hamburger meat is extremely moist, but if you don’t like your meat on the rare side, you should definitely specify that because I think that default for their beef patties is medium rare.  I really enjoyed the bun on this burger (and the scallop one) – it help up nicely to the juiciness of the burger.  Again though, I wish the burger had been slightly bigger.

In all, I would recommend going here, if only to try some of their more unique menu items, like the scallop burger.  They have a lot of other great sounding hamburgers that I would definitely be willing to try, so I do want to return here.  The only complaint I have is that the burgers should probably be a little bigger for the price point, but other than that, no real gripes here.  Just one thing…MAKE SURE you get those truffle cheese fries.


Tomato Braised Chicken Puttanesca

This chicken doesn’t need a lot of introduction.  Based off one of my favorite pasta sauces of all time (one that has a pretty interesting history), this chicken embodies comfort and simplicity, but is also perfect for serving to guests.  Due to the braising method used to cook this chicken, it is extremely tender and I’m not sure why one would ever cook chicken another way.  Sure, it takes a while, but there truly is nothing like the smell of this bubbling goodness filling the kitchen for a few hours.  The sauce is perfectly tangy with a nice aftertaste of heat, and it literally warms your whole body as you take each forkful.  I made this for three hungry boys who really enjoyed it, although looking back I wish I had kept it all for myself cause lets face it I can eat a lot.  The great thing about this dish is that it can be served over any kind of grain, plus the leftover sauce is PERFECT for pasta.  And we all know how much I love that.

Tomato Braised Chicken Puttanesca 

Serves about 4

  • 8 chicken legs, bone in, skin on (you can also use CHICKEN THIGHS!)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Seasoning for chicken: salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne (I hate using spice measurements – season to your liking)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
  • about 1/2 bottle of wine (plus more for drinking, obviously)
  • 2 teaspoons anchovy paste
  • 1/3 cup capers, drained
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
  • Spices, in order of most used to least used: cayenne, paprika, pepper, salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season your chicken legs on both sides with the salt, pepper, cayenne, and paprika.  Heat up the olive oil in a large, deep pot.  Over medium high heat brown the chicken on both sides, then remove to a plate.
  2. With the oil still in the pot, cook the onions over medium high heat until soft.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 4 minutes.  Add the 1/2 bottle of wine, and scrape up the brown bits that are on the pan.  Cook until wine is halfway evaporated, then return the chicken to the pot.
  3. Add in the diced tomatoes, olives, anchovy paste and capers and stir.  Bring the mixture to a boil, making sure it covers the chicken completely.  If it doesn’t, pour some more wine in the pot.  Add the spices to the pot (salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika) and adjust according to your taste.
  4. Make sure the chicken is flat on the bottom of the pot, then put a tight fitting lid on the top of the pot (it is important for the lid to fit tightly in order for the chicken to braise).  Transfer the pot to the oven, and cook for about one hour, or until chicken is falling off the bone and no longer pink.
  5. Remove the pot from the oven, then serve the chicken on plates, spooning the sauce (it should be nice and chunky) over the chicken.  For a more substantial meal, serve over rice, pasta, couscous etc.  ENJOY!

simple is good

Chicken and Hominy Tortilla Soup

Okay, so it is quite possible I have posted three soup recipes in a row.  And truthfully, I am okay with that.  Soup is one of my favorite foods on the PLANET, and making the comforting bowls of it couldn’t be any easier.  There is really nothing like the anticipation as you wait for you soup to finish simmering – you know the pay off will be worth it, yet you can’t help sneaking little bites, as it gets more and more flavorful as time goes on.  Or maybe that’s just me.

a random picture of me wearing an apron my dad just gave me

Anyways, tortilla soup is actually one of my favorite soups of all time.  Sure, when done poorly it can taste like tomato water with a little chicken, but when done correctly….it is just perfect.  With a nice spicy kick, a crunchy textural contrast from the tortillas, and the extra addition of the slightly chewy, slightly soft hominy, this soup is anything but boring tomato water.

pretend like i haven't posted three soup recipes in a row.

When I made this soup, I used a rotisserie chicken that I had already purchased, and I REALLY advocate that (alternatively you could roast your own chicken but I wasn’t feeling too ambitious that day).  Not only can you use the chicken for the soup, but you can have it on hand for salads, pasta, pitas, etc.  I made a supremely tasty raspberry, garbanzo bean, balsamic and chicken pita with the leftover chicken, and it was very enjoyable.  Also, PLEASE use the hominy in this soup.  It is amazing and kind of hard to describe, but I actually wish it was acceptable to put on everything.

Chicken and Hominy Tortilla Soup

Serves 6 

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, skins removed, shredded into little pieces (alternatively you could use about 3 shredded chicken breasts)
  • 2 tbsp.  olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 anaheim chile, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 4 (or more, if needed) cups chicken broth
  • 1 15 oz. can black or pinto beans, drained and rinsed (I used a mixture of the two)
  • 1 15 oz. can hominy, drained and rinsed
  • SPICES, ordered from most to least (use as is your preference)
  • cumin
  • paprika
  • cayenne
  • garlic powder
  • pepper
  • salt
  • 4 corn tortillas, cut into strips
  • monterey jack cheese, shredded, for serving
  • sour cream, for serving
  1. This step is optional, but I chose to add some seasoning to my shreds of chicken before cooking.  I tossed the chicken in a little salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, and cayenne, and olive oil, and let marinate for about thirty minutes.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large deep pot.  Over medium high heat, cook the onions until translucent, stirring occasionally; about 8 minutes.  Add in the garlic, chile, and pepper and cook for another 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add in the chicken, and  cook for about one minute, stirring to combine.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Pour the chicken broth and tomatoes into the pot.  Bring to a boil.  Add in the spices, beans, and hominy.  TASTE your soup, and adjust spices as necessary.  Return to a boil, then bring down to a simmer for about 45 minutes.
  4. Put the tortilla strips on a cooking sheet covering in cooking spray.  Pop in the oven and cook until nice and crispy.
  5. When the soup is done simmering, give it another taste.  If any spices need adjusting, do so now.  Add in half the tortilla strips, then continue to simmer for another 15 minutes.
  6. Serve up the soup in a bowl, topping with the sour cream, cheese and remaining tortilla strips.

comfort in a bowl. i know i say this about everything but....for reals.

Curry Spiced Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup with Apple Chips

The name is a mouthful, but the soup is delicious enough to warrant the title.

Even though the weather is fluctuating here – one day it is 80 degrees, the next it is raining, no joke – October marks fall to me, which means comforting and labor intensive meals that warm up the kitchen (even if I did wear shorts and tank top to school that day).  To me, a labor intensive meal means one that gives me an excuse to break out my dear old food processor, which has become my favorite kitchen tool IN THE WORLD.  For reals, if you are on the fence about buying one do it now because I promise you that you will find a least fifty nine different uses for it.

october = orange

Anyways.  This recipe definitely falls under the category of “labor intensive.”  I’m just wondering – why do things that require so much work always taste so good?? Cutting the butternut squash up for this soup was STUPIDLY time consuming and difficult.  There were some near brushes with my gigantic knife, but I managed to emerge unscathed and I am happy because YUMMMM this was good.  Not too sweet, with a little bit of a spicy kick and a surprising crunch from the apple chips, this was anything but a boring soup.

experimenting with my fancy placemats

Difficulty level of cutting the squash aside, I can’t emphasize buying whole squash and chopping the whole thing up enough.  Don’t buy the precut stuff – I have done that before and it’s just not the same. Plus you look pretty bad ass wrestling that giant squash.  You could really make this with any kind of squash/root vegetable combo – I just used what I happened to have, and it worked out great.


Curry Spiced Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup with Apple Chips 

Serves WAY MORE THAN I INTENDED….or, about 6

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into uniform dices (don’t forget to get all the nasty out of the butternut squash – probably the worst part)
  • 2 sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into uniform dices
  • about 2 carrots, washed and diced into uniform pieces
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled and diced
  • two tablespoons olive oil
  • curry powder, salt and pepper – as much as you want for coating the veggies
  • about 4 cups chicken broth – depends on how thick you like your soup.  You could also use veggie broth (I would have if I had some)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • The following are the spices I used in order of most to least – I HATE using measurements for spices because I feel it is more important to taste and adjust as you go
  • curry powder
  • nutmeg
  • paprika
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 apple, cored and sliced thinly into chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Gather the cut up squash, carrots, potatoes and onion and place them on a large baking sheet.  Drizzle them in the olive oil, tossing to coat completely.  Sprinkle with some curry powder, salt and pepper, and toss to coat.  Pop in the oven for about 45, turning over half way through.
  2. When the vegetables have been roasted, transfer them in very small batches to a food processor, adding about a cup of chicken broth each time.  Blend until super smooth, then transfer to a large, deep pot.
  3. When all the vegetables have been pureed with the stock and then moved to the pot, heat the mixture until it comes to a boil. Add in the salt, pepper, curry powder, cayenne, nutmeg and bay leaf (TASTE to make sure you like it – adjust as needed), and bring the mixture to a simmer for about 40 minutes.
  4. While the soup simmers, arrange the apples on a foil lined baking sheet, and brush with the melted butter.  Pop them in the 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until crispy.  Mine got a little black.  It’s all good.  When the soup is done simmering, plate it up, topping it with the apple slices.  Enjoy!

just. so. good.



Wattle Creek Winery and Lou’s Pier 47, San Francisco

Because I knew I would be in the Bay Area all this previous weekend (see my most recent entry about my now beloved Absinthe), I had to make plans to explore the food that SF has to offer.  Obviously I called upon my friend Albano, who enjoys food possibly more than I do and whom I ventured to Mission Cheese with this summer.  Conveniently he is a member of the wine club at Wattle Creek Winery in Ghiradelli Square, and is able to participate in free tastings with guests.  This is why I keep him around.

a photogenic bunch

Just kidding, Albano – I keep you because you pay for me when my debit card doesn’t work!

Andrew was a good sport, and joined us on our foodie date.  It was a beautiful day in SF, perfect for drinking too much wine and pretending to be sophisticated.  Wattle Creek is an interesting place; while the winery is based in the Alexander Valley, they have a small tasting room located in Ghiradelli Square.  I have never done a tasting before, so I didn’t know what to expect, but I really enjoyed myself here.  The man who did the pouring for us was extremely knowledgeable about wine and (probably more importantly), really friendly.  We did a tasting of about 12 different wines (small pours, I promise), starting from light and moving to dark.  He was very patient with us, and was happy to explain the different notes in the wine (although, how can wine taste like creme brulee, really?? or butterscotch?? it’s made of GRAPES).  I don’t know a lot about wine (except that I like to drink it), but all the wines were very good and were I not a Two Buck Chuck faithful at this stage in my life, I would have bought a bottle or four.

i believe this was the tail end of my Malbec - one of my favorite wines

After we felt we had drank a sufficient amount of vino, we ventured around the wharf area to find somewhere to eat.  Originally I was all about going into the Marina to eat at Delarosa (I WILL go there someday soon), but after 12+ pours of wine, no one really wanted to drive over there.  I am kind of a snob when it comes to Fisherman’s Wharf because I feel like it is pretty pricy for food that is just okay, but we ended up at a place called Lou’s Pier 47, and I was pretty pleasantly surprised.

second time having mussels in less than 24 hours...i'm okay with that

Andrew got a hamburger (obvi), so Albano and I split an appetizer and an entree.  First, we got the steamed mussels, with garlic, onion, tomato, white wine, and parsley.  These were good!  Two of the mussels didn’t open, which was sad, but the broth was really tasty, and perfect for dipping my bread in.

more shellfish

For our entree, we ordered the gumbo – shrimp, mussels, fish, and oysters in a blonde roux served over rice.  At $20 a plate, there is no way I would get this for myself, but they were nice enough to split it into two bowls, and half of this was more than enough.  It was also really good – I loved the spices and the rice was nice and tender without being mushy.

We finished off the afternoon by driving down Lombard Street like true tourists, before heading back home to San Mateo.  Looking forward to my next foodie adventure in SF!

the viewwwwww

Absinthe, San Francisco

First, a happy belated birthday to my dad!  Thank you for indulging my neurotic food tendencies, developing an interest in ballet, and overall just being the best dad I could ask for.

the becks after a long day in disneyland, circa 1993

October 13th marked the birthday of not only my dad, but of my good family friend/sister Leslie (my best friend Lauren’s sister, and fellow food lover mentioned here and here and probably multiple other places on this food centric blog).  Though we were missing some key players (namely Lauren, living it up in Boston), our families decided to venture to San Francisco to celebrate with some great food (and drinks!  Being 21 rules).

leslie and i at absinthe

I was given the task of choosing the restaurant (a task I took on happily), and after some Yelping, I ended up choosing Absinthe Brassiere and Bar in Hayes Valley.  I generally tend to gravitate towards modern Italian restaurants, so I was apprehensive about choosing French food at Absinthe but WOW I was so so happy with my decision.  The restaurant itself is awesome, and set up similar to a brassiere in Paris.  There are cute outdoor tables, and the inside is dim, very bustling, and slightly romantic – a really great ambiance, even it if was a little loud.  Something I was very impressed with off the bat here was the large selection of unique cocktails – there were at least 20, and the majority of them sounded incredible.

slightly twisted version of my beloved mojito

I chose the Ginger Rogers, partly because it sounded good, and partly because I am a sucker for old movies (Q: Why is Ginger Rogers more talented than Fred Astaire? A: Because she had to do everything he did, but backwards!….I can thank my wonderful grandpa for that one).  I didn’t know that it was their most popular cocktail at the time, but now I understand why: mint, ginger syrup, lime juice, ginger ale, and gin combined to create a drink similar to a mojito, but a little more refined.  I loved it.

Foodwise, we chose to get a mixture of small snacks, share plates, and one entree to split between five people, which is something I definitely recommend doing at any restaurant.  We are all pretty adventurous eaters so there wasn’t much of a problem, although my dad did wonder out loud “Who did I RAISE?” when I proclaimed my love for caviar.   Here is what we got:

fancy pretzels? yes please

Soft Garlic Pretzels with Cheddar Mornay: These were featured on 7×7 as the thing to get when you come here, so I pushed to get them. I wouldn’t normally order pretzels off a menu at a place like this but ummmm these were amazing.  It’s hard to describe how perfect the texture was, and don’t even get me on started on the cheddar mornay.  I ran out of things to dip into it and started eating it off my fork.


Spicy Fried Chickpeas, with Berbere Spice and Parsley: This was another small snack plate, and it was the only dish that didn’t really wow me.  I know I could probably make something similar to these at home, and they were almost uncomfortably spicy – not what I was expecting.  To make up for those we also had some spicy pork meatballs (didn’t catch a picture!) that came with some delicious crostini.  Noms for sure.

embrace the raw food

Beef Tartare, with Violet Mustard, Green Apple, Red Onion, Cornichon, Quail Egg Yolk, and Crostini:  I know what you are thinking.  Raw egg AND raw beef?  BUT DON’T BE SCARED!!! Trust the chef and embrace the unfamiliar – this dish was seriously excellent.

look at that beautiful egg

Chanterelle and Artichoke Tart, with Poached Egg, Frisee Salad and Black Truffle Chicken Jus: As I post this I am getting sad that I probably won’t have this dish for a while.  Super comforting, extremely fresh ingredients, and the egg made the dish.  Loved this.


Shellfish Stew, with Blue Prawn, Manila Clams, PEI Mussels, Cranberry Beans, Bell Pepper Bacon Broth, Crostini:  I always love me some shellfish, and this did not disappoint.  The broth was extremely unique, and the seafood was fresh and delicious.  This place must have some crazy stockpile of crostini because they came with a lot of dishes – not complaining though because bread = an excellent sop mechanism.


Hawaiian Albacore Poke, with Habanero Chili, Fried Garlic, Sesame Oil, Macadamia Nuts, Pickled Cucumber, Soy Sauce: Poke will always be my favorite kind of raw dish, and this did not disappoint.  I looooooved the crunchy strips that topped this – there is nothing worse than a textureless dish of mushy fish.  Beautiful presentation, as well.

the point in the meal where i realized using flash would probably help....duh

Masami Farms Pork Rib Eye, Jalapeno Cheddar Grits, Braised Red Cabbage, Natural Jus: The only entree we ordered. There was some general exclamation around the table that no one really knew a pork rib eye even existed (essentially it was just a huge slab of pork), but this was a good choice.  Not being a huge meat eater, my favorite part was the jalapeno-cheddar grits which were ACTUALLY AMAZING (and totally inspired me to make my own); they were so creamy with just the perfect amount of kick.  The pork was very nice as well, and complimented the cabbage nicely.


So, as you can tell, the food was awesome.  The service was good too, and I especially appreciated that they noticed Leslie didn’t enjoy her cocktail and comped it without having to be told.  I could not recommend this restaurant enough, although it is important to reflect that the prices reflect the fancy presentation – this is probably a special occasion restaurant.

We finished off the night at Jardiniere (whaddup Traci Des Jardins and Top Chef Masters) with a glass of rose champagne and I got to fulfill all my foodie dreams by breathing the same air that a celebrity chef does.

Loved this night, loved the company, loved the food – thanks Dad and Leslie for being born! 🙂

Davis Village Feast

A little back story here.  I never, EVER, wanted to come to Davis for college.  I had big plans to move to the east coast, attend a small liberal arts school, brave the snow and cold (silly, because I don’t handle extreme weather well) and watch the leaves change with the seasons.  Davis was the last thing on my mind when applying to schools – my dad went there, and was very pro-AG.  I was going through my difficult teen years (sorry, Dad!…again) and was feeling very defiant.  I applied only as a safety, and only because it could be included on the rest of the UC application.

like father, like daughter

Well, long story short – I ended up choosing to attend UC Davis (much to my father’s justification).  But you already knew that part of the story.  What you don’t know is what an amazing place Davis is.  It is pretty hard to describe why this place is so special,  but one of the main reasons is the overwhelming sense of community here.  People are just NICE.  Sometimes to the point of being overly so (ex: Trader Joe’s employees – you people freak me out), but for the most part everyone is just genuinely happy, friendly and maybe even a little bit of a hippy.

straight noms

In August I was lucky enough to win two tickets (lucky for Andrew!) to the Davis Village Feast – an event that perfectly demonstrates the Davis spirit of community.  Huge shout out to the Davis Food Co-op for hooking it up.   I am just blogging about this now due to, well I’m not really sure why, but I can assure you that this entry is worth the wait.  The Village Feast takes place every summer in Central Park.  It is a fundraiser for Davis Farm to School (another reason Davis rules – constant emphasis on fresh and local food!  Click the link to learn more, it’s actually pretty awesome) put on by Slow Food Yolo (an equally awesome organization).  300 people sit at long tables under strategically placed umbrellas (it was HOT), enjoying an insanely delicious family style meal with locally produced and grown food.

the feast!

While Andrew and I were definitely not the target demographic of this event, we had the BEST time.  Before the actual meal was a silent auction, live music, appetizers (AMAZING pizzas, and some olives that I annihilated) and (for a newly 21 year old this was huge) free beer and wine.

andrew found the beer, and all was well

We sat down for lunch at a huge table, surrounded by strangers.  While this could have been awkward (especially for me, as I have been known to enhance awkward situations exponentially), the people we were sitting with were great.  We talked about food, Davis life, travel, my blog – it all felt very sophisticated.


As for the food – it was incredible. From heirloom tomatoes, to fresh baguettes, to lamb, to roasted vegetables, everything was delicious and you could seriously TASTE the freshness.  The highlight of the meal (for me) was this FANTASTIC aioli.  I am NOT kidding I was basically drinking the stuff by the end of the meal.

nectar of the gods

It was a wonderful afternoon that reminded me of the reasons Davis is so great (and why I am so lucky to come here!) and I was seriously sad when it was over.  If you are ever considering coming to this event PLEASE do not hesitate.  I would do it in a heartbeat if I could again, plus it helps a very cool cause 🙂

My Return to Blogging, and Spiked Chili

I’m back!  September 2011 has truly been one of the busiest months of my life.  Between summer school finals, transitioning into a new school year, and taking a leadership role for my sorority’s recruitment (what’s up nine hours a day spent with ninety girls for three weeks), blogging has sadly taken a backseat in my life, and I’m feeling kind of guilty about it.  There were obviously moments of downtime in the past month, but the truth is I have hardly touched a pot or pan since the last time I blogged.   Coming home from recruitment I was so exhausted that the thought of cooking made me cry a little inside (this means I was REALLY tired – because seriously, I usually love to cook no matter what the situation).  I will be honest – I subsisted off of Trader Joe’s salads and VENTI ICED COFFEES (written in caps to demonstrate my new found love for caffeine) in the past few weeks.  Not complaining because for reals they are bomb, but as a self proclaimed foodie I have higher expectations for myself.

post recruitment silly string

The transition from September to October has brought on a lot of things.  My last recruitment is over, and it was a weird/bittersweet feeling knowing that I’ll never go through that again.  Last week was my last first time getting ready to go out with my friends, and it also marked my first (and probably last) time doing karaoke to “Tiny Dancer” at the Davis bars. I know these are the first of many “lasts” for me, so excuse me if I get a little sentimental on here once in a while.

last preference night!

Another change October has brought is the weather and I am kind of excited about it.  September is the hottest, most miserable month in Davis (I don’t deal with extreme weather well), and now that it is October it is currently drizzly and gray outside, and I don’t hate it.  While I did adjust to lighter summer cooking, I am beyond looking forward to indulging in some more hearty meals (like SOUP! I love soup) to match the weather.

so glad to be back in the kitchen

I have been wanting to make chili for the longest time, but the temperatures constantly at around 95 degrees prevented me from making that dream a reality.  UNTIL NOW.  I made this chili last night (spiked with tequila AND beer, because why not?) and I am in love.  In fact, I just ate the last of it for lunch, and am legitimately sad it is gone.

Note: if you eat this without the Frito’s I will be very, VERY, disappointed in you.

Spiked Chili

Serves 6

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 16 0z. italian sausage (usually I would get hot, but I made this for my roommates and one of them doesn’t like spicy things!)
  • spice mix (recipe follows)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 anaheim chile, roasted, skinned and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 12 oz. beer (I used Corona, because that’s what I had)
  • 1 cup tequila
  • 1 1/2 cups pinto beans, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup black beans, rinsed
  • shredded cheese, for topping
  • FRITOS! for topping (don’t skip – these add the best crunch)
  • sour cream, for topping
  • Spice Mix – if we are being honest I really just eyeballed this and adjusted the taste as I went along, so these are just guidelines. 
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon cayenne
  • 3/4 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin

This spice mix is loosely based on Emiril’s Bayou Blast, if you are interested in that recipe.  

Okay, so on to the chili.  Start by heating your oil in a large pot until shimmering, and then add the sausage, ground beef, and spice mix.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink.  

where's the beef? there it is.

When the meat is browned, add in the bell pepper, anaheim chile, garlic and onions, cooking for about 6 minutes over medium heat until softened.

used to hate bell peppers. i am finding them pretty okay now.

Time to add the booze.  In all seriousness, the beer/tequila adds a really nice depth of flavor to the chili, and I wouldn’t recommend skipping that, although I’m nearly positive you could get away with using only one of the two.

ACTION SHOT. the coordination involved in taking this picture was intense.

Immediately after the beer and tequila, add in the can of tomatoes, along with the beans.  Stir around to get combined.  It is SO important to taste the chili at this point to see if it needs any flavor adjustments before you begin to simmer it.  I know when I made this I added more of the spices at this point to elevate the flavor more.

now, the waiting

Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour.  Plate the chili in a bowl and top with sour cream, Fritos, and cheese!  ENJOY!





Fresh Peach Mojitos

I have been a bad blogger.  Things have (thankfully) really started to pick up in my life, but unfortunately that means less time for cooking and blogging.  Working two internships, going to summer school, celebrating 21st birthdays, and preparing for my sorority’s upcoming recruitment has made things a little crazy.  While I am glad that I am busy (summer was getting a littttleeee boring), I am sad because I don’t have all that much time to devote to cooking all the awesome recipes I have lurking in the corners of my mind.

Therefore, when I do cook I need to put together things that are quick and don’t require a lot of attention.  I love making drinks (I’m taking a mixology class later this month with my friend Austen!), and they are definitely the quickest and easiest thing to make.  Plus, who doesn’t love a good cocktail?  This girl sure does.

yes please.

As I’ve mentioned before, there is a restaurant in Davis called Bistro 33 that has AWESOME mojitos, my favorite flavor of which is peach.  They use peach flavored rum there, but I decided to switch it up by using some peaches from the farmers market and making my own peach puree.  These drinks came out so delicious (kind of a dangerous thing!), and Andrew and I enjoyed them with our BBQ pizza.

Fresh Peach Mojitos  

Serves 1 

  • 1 peach (make as much peach puree as you want – I pureed three peaches and it was enough for about….five drinks)
  • juice of one lime
  • a few cubes of ice
  • 1 – 1 1/2 shots of white rum
  • handful of mint leaves
  • club soda
The most time intensive thing about this is the peach puree, but it is worth it.  Chop up your peaches into small cubes, then toss in the food processor.  Pulse until well blended, and then strain the mixture through a sieve.  If you are a texture freak like me and think that fruit chunks are the unthinkable, repeat this process a couple of times.  Take your the ice cubes, lime juice, and mint leaves, and muddle them with a rubber spatula until they are combined.  Add in the shot of rum, the peach puree, and enough club soda to balance out the flavor.  Still well, and enjoy!  


Grilling Pizza! BBQ, Garbanzo, Caramelized Onion and Gouda Pizza

A tragic oven problem turned into a very happy and delicious dinner last night.  I originally told Andrew I’d make a homemade pizza for dinner, but after I had prepared all the ingredients, rolled out the dough, and preheated the oven something bad happened.  Smoke started pouring out of the oven, filling the kitchen with smoke.  I had no idea what was wrong with my oven (still don’t actually), but obviously I had to do be creative.  I had already rolled out the dough, so we had to use it.  My mind immediately went to the grill at my apartment complexes pool. I had always wanted to try grilling pizza, but was a little intimidated by it (I know absolutely nothing about grilling, and I have an irrational fear of fire), but I had no other option this time.

i am so scared of fire, i've never even lit a match (seriously)

Thankfully Andrew was around to man the grill. I kind of let him take over, but grilling the pizza was surprisingly easy as far as I could tell and the flavor was AMAZING.  There was a moment of panic when we thought the dough was slipping through the cracks and sticking to the grate, but as soon as the pizza crisped up it was easy to remove from the grill.  The trick here is to grill BOTH sides of the pizza, not just one.

grill master

I definitely plan on trying to (make Andrew) grill pizza again.

posing with the pizza (and my mojito)

On to the flavor of this pizza.  IT WAS SO GOOD.  The combination of ingredients sounds pretty weird but ummmm it was the best thing ever.  I usually like some kind of meat on my pizza, but I did not miss it at all this time.  The gouda (goat gouda, actually) went perfectly with the tangy BBQ sauce, and the garbanzo beans were a great stand in for chicken.  Don’t even get me started on the caramelized onions – a little labor intensive, but so worth the flavor punch.

Grilled BBQ, Garbanzo, Caramelized Onion, and Gouda Pizza

Recipe adapted almost exactly from here

Serves 2, generously

  • pizza dough – either homemade, or store bought.  I used TJ’s pizza dough, but halved it because there would only be two of us
  • flour, for dusting
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • a few pinches of sugar
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed
  • BBQ sauce of your choice
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1 cup goat gouda cheese, grated
Start with the onions.  Cut an onion in half and then into slices,  and throw in a large pan of the heated olive oil and butter.

i will tell you a secret - i used two small onions and these cooked down A LOT

Cook the onions over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 45 minutes.  About 10 minutes into the cooking time, add in the sugar and stir to coat the onions.  The onions will reduce significantly, so use more than you think you will need.  Cook until the onions are nice and brown and caramely, and then set aside. This was my first time making caramelized onions, so they were slightly burnt, but still amazing.


While your onions caramelize, roll out your pizza dough on a floured surface, keeping it somewhat thick (it will be easier to transfer to the grill this way).  We put the pizza on a cookie sheet to transport it to the grill.  Assemble your other ingredients as well, putting them in bowls that will make it easy to access them when you are at the grill.  Carry them to the grill and set up camp.

the goods

You’ll notice the pizza has bbq sauce on it already.  Don’t do that.  Leave your pizza naked, save for a brush of olive oil, when you put it on the grill.  Heat up your grill, and when it is ready, transfer the pizza to the grill.  This is probably the hardest part about the whole process, especially if you are a poor college student without a pizza stone.  AKA me.  Grill the first side until it is nice and crispy underneath, then flip it, add the toppings to the grilled side.


Grill the pizza until the the second side is nice and crisp, and the topping is nice and bubbly.  Remove from the grill, and enjoy.  Sure, this pizza is a little bit of indulgence, but it is so, so good.

not the prettiest pizza, but certainly the tastiest