Showing Up Fashionably Late For 2017

HI YOU GUYS! It’s been a long time. But that’s about to change. I’ve got a lot of things to share today.

First things first, let’s address the fact that I haven’t posted since early December. Since my husband is on deployment and I fortunately work from home, I headed back to Massachusetts right before Thanksgiving and just got back to California a few days ago. It was amazing to spend the whole holiday season with my family and friends back on the east coast, but it terms of cooking and blogging, I started slacking.

I got to see so many people while I was home, which resulted in going out to eat quite a bit. Not that I’m complaining. You know when you take a trip to somewhere you once lived and a list of your favorite places to eat automatically surfaces in your mind? Yeah. You do. In my opinion half the fun of travel is the food.

Coming up with new recipes wasn’t a priority while I was home. When it was my turn to prepare a family meal, I made them a lot of my past recipes. I’m not one to experiment when I’m serving a group. It was also really nice to share dishes I’d come up with this past year with my family, who hadn’t tried any of them yet. Shrimp tacos were a success, my ricotta stuffed chicken was an easy weeknight meal and twice baked potatoes made an appearance on Christmas!

I did post a couple times early in my visit, but I quickly realized my priority should be spending time with my loved ones. I would have plenty of time to cook and blog once I left. And eventually, sadly, I left.

I made my 5th cross country drive in two years (!!!), except this was a whole new experience because it was the first time I did it alone. Mona was with me, but she didn’t help with any of the driving. Also a big shout out to my friends Brian & Kelli who wined & dined me in Chicago and let me crash for the night, and to Sarah & Brad in Denver for doing the same thing a couple nights later. It was awesome to have those visits to break up a looooong trip!

Let’s take a moment to look at some road trip food highlights:

I popped in to Melt Bar & Grilled in Cleveland for a little chicken & waffles grilled cheese to go. Needless to say, I’m glad I only ordered a half sandwich, because it was HUGE.

This pizza from Piece Chicago was topped with local Honey Butter Fried Chicken & pimento-buffalo cheese sauce and made all my dreams come true. We also headed to The Revel Room for some adult beverages, as pictured in the feature photo.

I was craving something fresh when I got to Denver, so this pear & brie sandwich with balsamic fig jam & arugula from Bacon Social House hit the spot.

The only fast food worth posting because Popeye’s is the best and I love when they surprise me with a bonus biscuit!

With all the time alone in the car last week, I ended up thinking a lot about the past year. 2016 was a weird year, man. There were extreme highs and extreme lows, and judging from my social media feeds, I don’t seem to be the only one looking forward to a new year. The clearest give & take example from my life is my wedding took place in May, but my husband also had to go overseas a few months later. 2016 was an emotional year.

I have high hopes for 2017, at least personally. (I can’t comment on the state of rest the world.) My husband is coming home, we are going to go on our very belated honeymoon, my family is visiting me in the summer… lots of good things to look forward to. So I spent my car ride planning it all out. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with days worth of self reflection, plans and ideas, just the stuff that has to do with The Picky Gourmet.

I started this blog on January 18th, 2016, almost exactly a year ago, for fun. I figured my friends would like it, and it would keep me motivated to learn more about cooking and food. It’s astonishing how much people have responded to this little project. I can’t thank everyone enough for being so supportive, and I’m happy that what I love to do is enjoyable to so many other people.

The Picky Gourmet may go through some more cosmetic changes over the next few weeks. I’m going to be working on an official logo soon, so that will be coming soon as well. I have also decided to reserve posts to every other Monday. There could be some exceptions, like special holiday posts or things like that, but you can follow The Picky Gourmet on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to keep up to date.

This was definitely a different kind of post for me, but I wanted to start fresh for the new year. The second year of The Picky Gourmet. 2017 feels like the beginning of a new chapter, one that has the potential for a lot of growth and fun, new adventures.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season like I did and that you are all welcoming 2017 in whatever way makes you happy. Check back here in two weeks for a brand new recipe!

Mona & the rainbow that welcomed us back across the California border

Not Your Average Artichoke Dip

Happy Halloween everyone! Today I have my take on a classic, crowd favorite appetizer: spinach & artichoke dip. This would be the perfect thing to bring to a Halloween get-together, or to snack on at home while waiting for trick or treaters. Or you can just bookmark this little recipe for one of the many holiday parties that are right around the corner.

Before I get to it, I wanted to say how randomly this post came about. It was all by chance. I was looking at these greens that were only going to be good for a couple more days, and trying to think of something fun to do. That’s when a jar of artichoke hearts caught my eye. I had bought them a few days ago with the intent of using them elsewhere, but forgot about them.

I scanned the rest of my fridge… yup. I was pretty sure I had everything I needed for dip. I even had tortilla chips that a friend had left behind, because I don’t keep a lot of snacks around. I cook meals, and my friends bring me chips. (And wine. It’s a good deal.)

The stars aligned in my kitchen that day, and thus, my dip was created.

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup spinach (packed)
  • 1/4 cup arugula (packed)
  • 12 oz jar artichoke hearts (drained & chopped)
  • 2 roasted jalapenos (diced)*
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 cup cream cheese (room temp)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • salt & pepper to season
  1. Heat oil & garlic in a small skillet over medium low heat. Add the spinach & arugula & sprinkle with a dash of salt & pepper. Saute for 2-3 minutes, tossing often, until greens start to wilt. Strain any liquid you can from the greens.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the sauteed spinach & arugula with the chopped artichoke hearts, diced jalapenos & parmesan. In a separate bowl, mix together the cream cheese, mayo & sour cream with a sprinkle of salt & pepper. Gently fold in the veggie mixture until evenly distributed.
  3. Carefully pour or scoop the dip into an 8″ cast iron skillet. Bake for 20 minutes, uncovered. Sprinkle the mozzarella over the top, then broil on low for 3-5 minutes, or until cheese turns golden brown.

*I roast jalapenos over the open flame on my gas oven until they are blistered & begin to char. You could alternatively roast them in the oven, use them raw, or omit them completely. I like a little extra spice & the pop of texture they add to the dish.

Spinach, arugula, artichokes, jalapeno & cheese mixture

Honestly, this entire recipe is based on having things in my fridge to use up. A lot of people make dip like this with frozen spinach, which is totally fine. I just had fresh spinach on hand. I also had arugula, which has a more peppery flavor, so I figured I’d throw that in too. Frozen spinach is a great shortcut though.

Before cooking… creamy & dreamy

I highly recommend having a small cast iron skillet on hand for things like this. It gets really hot (be careful!) which makes for evenly cooked food that will stay warmer, longer. Plus, it’s a great presentation for dishes like dips, cheese fries, pot pies… aka bar food. They require extra care and cleaning, but I love a cast iron skillet. Definitely a great investment.

I’m writing this as my beloved New England Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills, & it occurs to me that I should have restocked my fridge. This dip would have been awesome for game day, but there will be endless reasons to whip this up again during the next couple months. Let me know if you try this out for one of your next parties!


Recipe Redux: Coconut Curry Chicken

First off, I want to thank everyone who’s reads, follows and support this little blog of mine. I started this to stay motivated to keep cooking and try new recipes. The fact that I now have a rapidly growing social media following and all this amazing feedback from family, friends and strangers alike is un-be-lievable. It’s encouraging and humbling. I’m just so glad you like me, you really like me!

My last post was a milestone: my 50th post! Not bad, since I only started this project last January. Do you remember what my first post was? Well, if you don’t, I’ll give you a hint. It’s in the title. Coconut curry chicken.

I’m trying to start a little weekly ritual of making dinner for some of my girl friends who also had their significant others deploy recently. When I am cooking for other people, I feel like it’s not really the time for experiments. I like to do recipes that are tried and true, but after making them so many times, they tend to change and evolve a bit.

It’s been the better part of a year that I have been working on this blog. It’s not really a surprise that time and experience have improved my cooking, so I want to do some posts where I go back and revamp some of my older recipes, ones that you folks may have missed way back when.

I’m not saying the originals aren’t any good. In the case of the coconut curry chicken, I actually just added onto it, making it a little more complex.

For reference, here is my first blog recipe. I didn’t really talk much back in the old days, huh? I guess I’m getting less shy.

And here is the version 2.0!

Yields about 6 servings.

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • 4 celery stalks, sliced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
  • 3 tsp garam masala*, divided
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 13.5 oz coconut milk
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
  • salt & pepper to season
  1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the shallot and garlic, stirring for about a minute until fragrant. Add onion, celery, carrot and peppers. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly tender.
  2. Add 2 tsp garam masala, curry, cayenne and a dash of salt and pepper to the saucepan and stir for 1 minute until vegetables are well coated. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the coconut milk and tomato paste. Cover and simmer for 2 minutes.
  3. Put the chicken into a slow cooker, and season with remaining tsp of garam masala, and a dash of salt and pepper. Pour the sauce and veggies over the chicken, and cook on low for 4 hours. Serve over rice with an optional garnish of fresh parsley or cilantro.

*If you are having trouble finding garam masala at the store, you can make your own. I have used this recipe when I was in a pinch.

I love to break out my slow cooker when fall rolls in, even though it is still in the high 70’s where I live. I just can’t control my New England roots. No joke, October 1st I was loading all this into the cooker while sipping a hard apple cider, pretending the palm trees were changing colors.

Not the prettiest when it’s cooking, but it smells fantastic

For the record, this recipe does not have a strong coconut flavor. The coconut milk thickens the sauce in place of something like heavy cream and adds a subtle sweetness. Actually, if you took the chicken out of this dish, it would be vegan/vegetarian.

Again, there is nothing wrong with my first post. Consider that the express version. This new take definitely has more prep involved with all the extra vegetables. Try out whichever way works for you! I’m just a sucker for all the great produce still available here in California. I get so happy seeing all the colorful veggies sizzling together in the pan.

It’s the little things

I’m excited to revisit some more recipes with everyone! Time to get back to work, browse through my blog and see what else I can come up with. Hopefully I’ll be back soon with another recipe!