Party Food! Cashews with Shallots and Lime (v, gf)

Book club snack time! My book club met last night, so I thought I’d try out a new snack recipe ahead of the holidays. If it worked, great, and if it was bad, we’d have wine to distract us. Win-win!


They were nutty, salty, tangy, savory from the fried shallots, and addictive. Great party food. I apologize for the lack of photos; this was a hands-on recipe [involving hot oil, yikes] and I only have the before and after to share with you. That being said, here’s how to make it!


Adapted from Food & Wine 



original plan included sesame seeds…

  • 1 1/4 lb raw cashews
  • 3 limes, zested and juiced
  • 2 large shallots, sliced thin
  • 1/2 c vegetable oil
  • kosher salt



Place the cashews in a large, wide bowl. Finely zest the three limes, setting the zest aside. Juice the limes and pour the lime juice over the cashews, marinating for one hour.

As these soak, slice each shallot in half lengthwise and finely chop the halved into thin half-moon-shaped slices. In a deep saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat; it will be ready when a shallot dropped in sizzles and immediately starts to cook. Add the shallots to the hot oil and cook, stirring often for about 2 minutes until they’re golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate and leave the heat on.

When the cashews are done soaking, drain and pat them dry. Add them in two batches to the hot oil, cooking and stirring until brown, about 5 minutes per batch. Remove with the same spoon to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to cool and sprinkle with salt, to taste (go heavy, they’re raw so they need lots of flavor). Pour the cooled cashews into a large bowl and mix in the lime zest; top with the fried shallots. All done! Go party!




Thanksgiving No-Knead Peasant Bread (v)

Last weekend, I embarked on what seemed like a simple quest for two Thanksgiving recipes. My little list centered around finding a vegetarian dish that would freeze, travel, and reheat well, and a simple and rustic bread that could rise, bake, and be ready to hit the road within 24 hours.

With all of the options available online, my search quickly morphed into a deep, dark, butternut squash and sage-scented Thanksgiving recipe rabbit hole. As I floated down, past enough Pinterest pins and Food52 entries to make a girl want to skip the holiday entirely, I kept bumping into the same bread recipe, slightly altered each time depending on the chef.

alice 1

the black hole of uncredited bread recipes

Not kidding you, I came across the recipe in some version or another no less than ten times. Its popularity piqued my interest and after some digging, I uncovered the original source.

no knead bread

Sullivan Street Bakery’s gorgeous version

Aha!” I triumphantly thought to no one at all when I found it. The bread is the creation of Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street bakery in Hell’s Kitchen. It was originally published in the NY Times in ’06…. in my beloved Mark Bittman’s column. Circle of life. Had to make it. Bread of destiny. This bread chose me.


Adapted from Sullivan Street Bakery


  • 3 c all purpose flour OR 2.5 cups all purpose and 1/2 cup whole wheatbread11
  • 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 c warm water (not hot)
  • optional additions: orange or lemon zest, fresh herbs, 1/2 c shredded cheese, 1/2 c nuts, 1/2 c dried fruits or berries
  • a cast iron or ovenproof dutch oven with a lid; Lodge makes great ones at great price points

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Party Popcorn! (veg, gf)

Brought this sweet, salty, spicy snack to a punch party last weekend. PunchPartySayWhaaa? Ya. PUNCH PARTY. A party where a very generous, very fun cocktail-minded couple serves several authentic, throw-back, boozy bowls of punch- fancy little punch cups and all.  God love ’em for doing it.


I needed a quick recipe and wanted to use what I had in the cupboards. Hmm, can of pumpkin purée? Not exactly a crowd-pleaser…. Cat food? Better not…… Box of arborio rice? Too crunchy…. AHA! Popcorn kernels! Et voilà- a star was born. A thrifty, 5-minute party snack hit for the ages. The punch party patrons partook with pleasure. Please, prepare your own personal pot (insert When Harry Met Sally paprikash joke below).


Adapted from Cooking Light


  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/4 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 c pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2-1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary


This recipe moves quickly, so set yourself up first. Grab a small saucepan for the glaze and a wide, lidded one for popping the popcorn. Ready a large bowl and a spatula for glazing the popcorn and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper to turn the finished product onto. In the wide pan, heat the tablespoon of canola oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the popcorn kernels and shake the pan around like a madman/woman until all kernels are popped. This will happen fast- about a minute thirty or so.

Shake, shake, shake until the popping slows down. Remove the pan from heat and dump into the large bowl. On to the glaze! Add all remaining ingredients to the small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium, stirring constantly. Boil for about a minute, then remove from heat to cool for another minute.

Pour the glaze over the popcorn in the large bowl and toss to coat with the spatula. It will be hot, so watch those delicate digits! When the popcorn is coated, spread it out onto the parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and let cool. Break up any large clumps and serve! Try not to eat the whole dish before your guests arrive…


Cut to tomorrow (ooh! time travel)!: I highly suggest nursing your next-day case of the zings with a jazz brunch, a proper bloody Mary, and a trip to your local art museum. Worked for me, but it was also 63 degrees outside- in December. Just the way I like it!


Aformentioned WHMS joke, as promised. Oh, Nora.

Snack Du Jour: goop’s Chai Gingerbread Detox Shake (gf, veg)

A genius post-Thanksgiving damage control shake in a facepalm seasonal flavor combo.

Adapted from goop, herself.

chai 4

sneaking in my pot of rosemary as a backdrop


Ingredients:chai 1

  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • 1-2 small scoops vanilla whey protein, optional
  • 2 cups hot, brewed chai rooibos tea OR 1 cup brewed tea if not using protein
  • 1/2 cup almond milk if not using protein

Mix dry ingredients in a blender bottle. Shake them up. Add the hot tea and almond butter and shake again. Add almond milk, if using, and shake again. Et voilà. Since I’m so proud of my rosemary, which survived an entire season in my care, please enjoy this gratuitous photo:

chai 5


Momofuku’s Pork Buns

Buns. Bao. Pillowy, chewy, savory steamed buns stuffed with decadent pork belly, spicy sriracha, and bright, contrasting cucumber. Chef David Chang, the Korean-American, French-trained creator of legendary New York noodle bar and ramen heaven, Momofuku, rocketed pork buns into their sweet-salty limelight when he added his often imitated version to the Momofuku menu in 2004. Chang’s Momofuku is largely credited for the ramen craze and his signature pork buns have been equally influential.


say this ten times fast in front of your mother

I like David Chang. He’s smart and talented and somehow an “everyman” but incredibly special at the same time. His Instagram makes my mouth water and he designed the Momofuku logo in part as a tribute to Eat a Peach. Which makes him fine by me. There are homages to Chang’s tasty buns (heh, heh, heh) everywhere, even in anti-coastal St. Louis, so the pork bun trend is established and legit. Let’s make some, mmkay?!

If you have time to marinate, roast, and chill the pork and to make the buns, which rise three times, they’re simple. You just need time. Eh, maybe quite a bit of time. Allow for a few hours of rising and prep time for the buns and a possible overnight marinating and chilling of the pork. These are more of an appetizer when made with pork belly since it’s so rich, so you can either be hardcore like the Cruses and eat these as a straight-up meal (I ain’t never scared), substitute a leaner cut of pork, or serve as an app. Glaze and grill tofu or stuff with kimchi and cucumbers for a vegan version.


Adpated from David Chang’s Momofuku Cookbook and Food 52

Makes 25 buns

Vanity Fair on the yin and yang of David Chang: His achievements notwithstanding, he is constantly haunted by feelings that he is out of his depth, even in the kitchen. He ascribes this to han, a uniquely Korean form of angst that manifests itself as both a resigned acceptance that life is difficult and a grim determination to struggle through this difficulty.


For the pork and quick-pickled cucumbers:

  • 4lbs pork belly
  • 6 tbsp + 1 tbsp sugar
  • 6 tbsp kosher + 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cucumbers, cut into 1/8 inch slices

For the buns:

  • 2 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder, rounded
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/6 cup rendered pork fat, from the pork belly, at room temp
  • canola oil, for brushing
  • hoisin sauce
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • sriracha, for serving
  • prepared kimchi, for serving


For the pork belly: mix the 6 tbsp salt and 6 tbsp sugar and rub all over the pork. Place the pork in a 9 x 13 dish or a roasting pan and cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. When the pork is cured, pour off any liquid from the baking dish and heat your oven to a blazing 450. Roast the pork for one hour, uncovered, basting halfway through. Lower the oven temp to 250 and roast the pork for an additional 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the pork to a plate to cool and pour off some rendered fat to reserve for the bun dough (mmm. pork fat). Wrap with foil or plastic wrap and chill the pork until it’s cool enough to cut- we cooked the pork the day before we made the buns to allow for ample roasting and chilling time, which I highly recommend. Once chilled, the pork will slice and dice nicely. When you’re ready to eat, slice the pork into 2″ x 1/2″ slices and warm in a pan on the stove or microwave.



For the cucumbers: slice the cucumbers into 1/8″ thick rounds. I decoratively peeled mine with a zester because I’m fancy. Toss with 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp kosher salt. Let sit for 10 minutes, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use. So easy! Look at you, you’ve pickled something! So capable, you are.

For the buns: Add the yeast and 3/4 cup warm water to a the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the flour, sugar, dry milk powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and rendered fat. Turn the mixer on its lowest setting (I used “stir”) and let dough mix for 8 minutes, until it climbs the hook and forms a ball. Lightly oil a large mixing bowl and plop the dough ball in it; cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm area to rise until doubled in size. What with it finally feeling like summer, feel free to place the bowl on a windowsill for extra cozy home points.

When the dough has doubled, punch it down with the back of your hand to expel most of the air. On a clean surface- I always use a large cutting board to work with dough, makes cleanup easier- form the dough into a ball or log. Divide into 5 equal pieces and roll those into logs. Cut each logs into 5 pieces the size of ping-pong balls. Use your knife to mark off the cutting areas before you slice. I made a double batch of dough, so these are double-batch photos:

Roll the ping pongs of dough into balls and place onto a baking sheet. Cover the sheet loosely with plastic wrap and allow the balls to rise 30 minutes. While these are rising, cut out 25 4″ squares of parchment paper to steam the buns on and slice the scallions. Refrigerate sliced scallions until ready to use.

When 30 minutes has passed and the balls of dough have puffed up a bit, use a rolling pin to roll each ball into a 4″ oval. Brush each oval lightly with oil, place on a square of parchment paper, and fold in half by folding a bun over itself onto a chopstick and sliding the chopstick out. Guess what? They have to rise again. PLace the squares of parchment back on the baking sheet or maybe across a counter, making sure not to let the buns touch. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise 30-45 more minutes. You’re almost there! We’re almost steaming!

And now…. we steam! Which means we eat soon! Set up a bamboo steamer (or other flat steamer) on a wok or over a large saucepan filled with about an inch of water, and bring the water to a boil. Place a few buns, parchment paper included, on the steamer, making sure not to overcrowd or allow the dough to touch. Cover and steam for 10 minutes per batch, removing buns to a platter as you go.

If you haven’t done so already, slice and heat the pork belly. Stuff 2-3 pieces of pork belly into each bun, topping with cucumbers, scallions, and 1 tsp hoisin sauce. Pass kimchi and sriracha and revel in your trendy culinary accomplishment!

Have Yourself a Healthy Little Christmas

Happy holidays! I hope everyone reading this is stuffed to the gills with pie and ham and eggnog and booze and sugar cookies. That’s a good way to be. Dave and I have between three and four family Christmases to attend each year and the highlight is always the food. This, for our crazy Cruse appetites, means two dinner plates each and a dessert plate, at every meal. WHOA. Hey, we love life! What can I say? A delicious practice, gorging ourselves, but fleeting and not without serious après-holiday plumping effects.


This year, Dave’s mama suggested a healthy Christmas Eve feast- novel idea! I assume some responsible families, somewhere (somewhere very far away from us, out of sight and mind) have been doing this for generations, but it was definitely a twist in our holiday routine. The menu included mashed sweet potatoes, Oaxacan eggplant spread, shrimp cocktail, quinoa salad, grilled salmon, and roasted pork tenderloin. Not a stick of butter in sight, and the meal was a huge hit! I’ve included all recipes below. What did you make? Does your family steer from the norm and go healthy during the holidays?

dinnah is served!

dinnah is served!


salmonGrilled Salmon with Herb Rub: just posted this Allez! recipe last week! Such an easy crowd pleaser.





OaxacanOaxacan Eggplant Spread: adapted from Gourmet magazine. Char eggplants and poblanos, peel, chop, and combine with white onion, cilantro, lime, and the kicker-  a habanero! Divine. This was the underdog Big Deal dish of the evening. We made it one before, in the summer- it’s really good with ice cold beer. Serve with corn tortillas or tortilla chips.




potatoesMashed Sweet Potatoes: clean, roughly chop, and boil 3-4 large sweet potatoes until tender (do not skin). Drain, return to pot, and mash with 1/2-3/4 c orange juice, 2-3 tbsp margarine, 1 tsp cinnamon, and a pinch of kosher salt. Taste and add more OJ/margarine/cinnamon/salt to taste.




quinoaQuinoa Salad with Avocado, Black Beans, Corn, and Tomatoes: adapted from MindBodyGreen. Cook and cool 1 cup quinoa according to package directions. When cool, add a whisked vinaigrette of the juice of a lime, 2 tbsp olive oil, and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Add a handful chopped cilantro, 1 cup corn, a rinsed can of black beans, 10-12 halved cherry tomatoes, and a diced avocado. Adjust seasoning to taste.



tenderloinPork Tenderloin: we roasted a pre-seasoned pork tenderloin from the store, but here’s an Allez! rosemary pork tenderloin recipe from February, 2012.




Shrimp Cocktail: who has two thumbs and forgot a close-up? This girl! But no biggie- just buy shrimp and serve with cocktail sauce. BOOM.

I hope the holidays were wonderful for you and that 2014 is full of joy and success. And, as always, thank you for reading!


Merry Christmas!




Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes with Chopped Almond Syrup (Best. Weekend. EVER., pt. deux) (v)

The morning before I made the  delicious migas, we worked up big appetites with a nice long swim at the Y, which consisted a slow and steady swim for me, with glimpses out of the corner of my goggles of Dave passing me back and forth for a solid hour, like something out of shark week. He was going so fast, I thought he was going to swim up and body slam me or thrown me in the air like an orca with a baby seal. Didn’t happen (WHEW… chalk one up for team seal).


Anyway, we swam a lot and were hongray when we got back. What to make? Uh, how about every breakfast item we could name? There was a “you bought healthy bacon?” debacle recently (grounds, so the menu definitely included full-fat, old-school bacon, scrambled eggs, and biscuits along with the pumpkin pancakes (which are pretty healthy). Here’s what I came up with, and this recipe includes a basic homemade pancake mix you can keep on hand*:



  • 1 recipe whole wheat oatmeal pancake mix: 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup ground oatmeal, 1 tbsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 can Libby’s pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup soy or skim milk
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar-free syrup
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • canola oil


Mix everything in a bowl. Woo hoo! Easy peasy. Everything except canola oil, of course, but you didn’t do that, did you? You knew better. I knew you would! Add milk in third-cup increments, blending well each time.

first side…

Heat a nonstick skillet just under medium heat and add 1 tbsp canola oil per batch of pancakes. These do best when the batter’s a bit thin and the skillet is hot- the pumpkin is so dense it impedes the cooking process with a lower heat or thicker batter. Using a 1/3 c measuring cup as your guide, scoop three servings of batter into the hot pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes on the first side, or until bubbles form in the batter and the edges appear set. Flip and cook the other side another 2 minutes, then remove to a paper-towel lined plate.


Pour the syrup of your choice and the chopped almonds into a microwave-safe creamer or small pitcher for serving. Microwave for 45 seconds and serve with the pancakes. These are mm-mm good, especially with real bacon.

*First, a note on the pancake mix. I keep this pre-mixed in a canister at home, about 4 batches worth. It’s really great to have on the weekends. To make pancakes from the dry mix recipe above (which was inspired by this FitSugar recipe), scoop 1-2 cups mix into a bowl, add an egg, 1 tablespoon of something sweet (honey’s a good option), and a cup of milk or more, depending on your taste. Some variations we’ve enjoyed: replace part of the mix with a scoop of vanilla protein powder, add berries, peanut butter, nuts, strawberries, or bananas. Good stuff!

New Orleans-Style Red Beans & Rice (gf)

Well, I hope y’all laissez-ed les bon temps roulez this week!! With the second largest Mardi Gras parade in the country going on right here in St. Louis, we couldn’t let the weekend pass by without cooking something festive. I guess the cooler option would have been to actually go to the Mardi Gras parade, but we have grown too old and boring for that. Saturday mornings are for workouts, not binge drinking with strangers in the cold! Funny how quickly the partying tables turn from FUN to EXHAUSTING as you get older… oh, and if you’re reading this and can still stay up past 11 p.m., and Mardi Gras sounds fun to you, I am equally jealous of and annoyed by your fun-loving attitude.

a preview, so that mouths may water

We probably would have been too lame to cook up a Mardi Gras meal ourselves, but we lucked out when our endlessly hospitable friends the Donnellys- Brice and Jenny, hosts-with-the-mosts- invited us over for a Cajun/Creole-themed Mardi Gras dinner. Brice is chef extraordinaire and cocktail expert and Jenny reigns as baker supreme, so we knew the dinner would be delicious, well planned, and FUN. The Donnellys create the cherished and dying atmosphere of warm conversation in their home. When we come over for dinner, there is no TV blaring to greet us, but laughter in the kitchen and an old record spinning next an antique glass bookcase in the living room. My kind of welcome.

Brice writes an incredibly informative (and hilariously titled) blog: Amuse Douche, a cocktail, cooking, eating, and etc. page. He’s incredibly informed on all subjects- here’s a photo depicting some of the reasons he and his wife are folks to trust on wine and cocktails (forgive my iphone camera for being an iphone camera):

Brice and Jenny were making crab cakes on creamed corn and king cake, so I offered to bring the red beans as a side. I hope you enjoy making and eating this dish as much as we did!


adapted from Emeril Lagasse (BAM!)


  • 2-3 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  •  1 tsp salt, possibly more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 oz smoked sausage, cut into discs and then half-discs
  • 2 smoked ham hocks (about a pound)
  • 1 pound dried red beans, rinsed, sorted, and soaked overnight
  • 3 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 10 cups water, may need more
  • cooked white rice


Important: sort through your red beans for any bits to discard, rinse, and soak overnight!! If you don’t have time to do so, soak for at least four hours and increase cooking time by an hour and a half.

soak me, Seymour

Dice your onion, celery, and bell pepper. Trivia question for you: what is that trio called in Creole cooking? The holy trinity! Dice your holy trinity, genuflect, heat vegetable oil over medium heat and add veggies. Cook for 5 minutes, until soft and opaque.

they will smell delicious, from chopping to cooking

After the trinity has cooked for those 5, add bay leaves, ham hocks, sausage, and spices (but not the garlic). A note on ham hocks: they look creepy and sound hard to find, but you can get them at any grocery store with a meat department. Look for smoked instead of fresh- the object here is to add deep flavor, and fresh hocks wouldn’t do that. Cook this mixture 5 minutes more. It will look like this:

At this point, add water, beans, and garlic. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a medium-low simmer. The original recipe said to cook at this step on medium, but that was too hot. Cooking slightly longer, at a lower temperature will do the dish big favors here. Cook at this step for 2 hours, or 2 hours 45 minutes if you did a four-hour bean soak. Watch this pot and stir it if needed! With that long of a cooking time, you’ll be tempted to set it and forget it, but these beans will burn.

After your slow-cooking time has passed and your house smells like NOLA, mash half of the beans against the side of your pot with a slotted spoon. Cook for an additional hour to hour and a half; you may need to add more water here. Emeril’s version advised that the beans should be “soupy, but not watery,” which is a good benchmark. Cook your white rice during the last 30 minutes of your beans’ cooking time. I used a Dominican-style recipe that never disappoints. I am a white rice FIEND, and this method will always yield tender and delicious results.

When time is up, remove the ham hocks and bay leaves. The ham hocks will look like something from a horror movie:

skeksis from The Dark Crystal?

But your smooth and velvety red beans and rice will look like this!!

At Brice and Jenny’s, Dave and I watched as they whipped up huge, fresh crab cakes, improvised a tasty creamed corn, and baked not one, but TWO versions of king cake. Two more friends joined us, wine was poured, and a great evening was had by all. It wasn’t as debaucherous as it would have been five years ago (shoot, three years ago), but was loose and happy nonetheless. Here’s Brice douchily amusing the crowd as he prepped the main course, and the main course floating by:

cookin and talkin

such lucky folks are we

Again, check his blog for recipes and tips. He posted an entry about the same dinner, so read here for another perspective. Red beans a rice are a classic and simple dish every cook should have up the sleeve- let me know how you like my spin, or what spins you make! Bon apetit!