Rustic Ratatouille

Every once in awhile I get in a side dish rut. I usually have my proteins on lock down, but the side dishes are the real hard part! This past summer when the weather would be too hot for cooking, it was all too easy to whip out our favorite bagged salad to toss together with a side of grilled chicken or steak and call it good. But now that it's winter and we actually need to fire up the oven, things get a little challenging! 

I kid I kid. It's really not hard whatsoever to throw together an easy side dish. The problem, though, is not difficulty; it's inspiration! 

My go-tos are usually Blasted Broccoli or Roasted Garlic Green Beans. Essentially any vegetable that's roasted. You simply cannot go wrong! But lately I've been feeling the urge to fill up my plate with vegetables a different way. 

That's when I was reminded of the ever-so classic ratatouille method. I remember when I had ratatouille for the first time, actually. I was in London studying abroad for the summer and staying with a host family; a single mom and her daughter. The mom loved the cook and especially loved to cook meals that were healthy, thrifty and hearty. Essentially, she was my kind of woman. 

She whipped up ratatouille one night with some sort of protein that I cannot remember at all, which tells you everything right there. Ratatouille is so comforting, so memorable, that you hardly need anything else at all to go with it. It's really the star of the show! 


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Grilled Chile Lime Wings

So a funny thing happened last week. I'll fill you in on my sneaky plan which is to post recipes to entice and delight you fine people. Last when when I posted about these wings, I knew my plan had worked – my brother texted me immediately after the post went up and said he was inspired to make wings. Go me!

But my post and photos for those scrumptious wings not only enticed my followers, it straight up sparked my chicken wing craving all over again. So it wasn't long before Cole and I were scrapping our previously arranged dinner plans, hitting the store and prepping for another Football spread of wings to nom on. 

My sneaky plan had backfired! In the best way possible. 

So we ended up making wings again, inspired from my very own blog. Go figure! This time, we grilled them which was a definite first. And I have to say, I'm hooked! The grill gets the wings not only super crispy as any good wing should be, but they become smoky and charred from a low and slow cooking process. Instead of a typical wet sauce, we went the dry rub route. Lots of chili powder, cayenne, garlic powder and paprika rubbed on these bad boys made for a smoky, spicy wing that was all too delectable. Topped off with a fresh squeeze of fresh lime juice, they're just asking to be snacked on for a good football game. 


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Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup

You guys. I'm so excited to share this one with you. It is a good one. Hold on to your butts!

It's no surprise that I'm giddy with excitement pretty much every day since fall started AKA cozy season (this is the best descriptor for it, can we all agree?) Just tuck me on in with some slippers, a blanket and a Bath and Body Works candle lit and I am set!

I'm fully aware that I'm sounding like a broken record at this point, but it just makes me THAT happy. So don't kill my vibe!!

So of course I've been whipping up my tried and true soup recipes every chance I get and also experimenting with some new ones. Which brings me to why we're all here today. You guys, my latest soup creation is going to blow. Your. Mind. 


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Classic Buffalo Wings with Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce

We all know I'm a huge fan of fall. But truthfully, my favorite part isn't the weather and the chance to be cozy pretty much 24/7. No no. Fall means football! And football is love. 

And it means football pretty much every day of the week (Tuesdays and Wednesdays are a little sad around here, I'll admit). Monday night football, Thursday night football, Friday and Saturday night college football, get at me! 

But the real star of the show, as football fans know well is Sunday. Sunday means yoga pants all day, Red Zone starting at 10am, Seahawks game and good ol' Sunday Night Football. It's a day I look forward to all week long for obvious reasons. 

Watching football and tracking my Fantasy Football teams would probably be exciting enough. But to really make Sundays a celebration of their own, I like to plan perfect, lazy Sunday football snacking foods. And what could be more iconic of a football snacking food than wings? 


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Sweet Heat Barbecue Pizza

Oh hello! It's been a minute! I don't know if you all have noticed, but I've been kinda of MIA from the blog lately. Life is good but boy is it BUSY! I started a new job about a month ago (Go Redhawks!), I've been traveling left and right and there have been weddings just about every weekend, so cooking/writing hasn't necessarily been a priority. Sad face. 

But you know what has been a real friend of mine in these busy times? Leftovers. Oh, sweet leftovers. You are a true godsend. Talk about an instant pick-me-up!

Leftovers and me are real tight.  Yes, they are a real time saver, but it's really the fun we have together when I get to transform them into a new meal completely that makes us so close. For example, a few weeks back I made these sensational slow cooker carnitas (they are UHmazing. Also a real time saver for those busy weeks!) And while I love those succulent carnitas so much, one can only eat so many tacos, am I right? 

So it's a great thing that slightly spicy, savory pulled pork can switch on over to just about any other flavor profile when you want to shake things up. Sandwiches, pastas, hashes, you name it! But I have to say my favorite pulled pork leftover rendition is when its topped on a homemade pizza. 


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Portland Feastin’

Look at that face. Look at it. That's the face of pure, unadulterated bliss after consuming a sensational bite of food. If that doesn't set the stage for my epic recap of my weekend spent at Portland Feast, I don't know what will! 

For those that missed my grand announcement slash blog post last week, Portland Feast is an annual four-day food festival that I had the utter pleasure of embarking on last weekend. For four blissful days I was in my complete happy place. I mean, I didn't even know what my happy place was before Feast! We're talking adult Disneyland, only Disneyland is copious amount of food and alcohol without stroller city or "It's a Small World." To call it a "food festival" isn't even doing it justice. It's so much more than that! 

To recap though, my best friend and I, who also happens to share my love for food (and drink!) had been planning our Feast adventure for quite some time. We were motivated to go for a few reasons: 1) we wanted to eat and drink obscene amounts of food and alcohol with zero judgment 2) Seattle, as great of a food city it is, has nothing remotely like Feast. No, Bite of Seattle doesn't count. Not even close. And 3) we wanted to have an excuse to get out of town for a girls' trip. Obviously! 

I can't wait to share all the delicious deets with you. But first, I wanna just sum it up. So what does make Feast stand out so much? What makes it "the best food festival in the country?" Here are a few of my takeaways of what made it truly one of the best (and tastiest) things I've ever experienced: 

  • It's 21 and over. That's right, your duck confit BLT and basil gin smash can be enjoyed sans screaming children! 
  • Star power! For those of you who adore Top Chef and all of those other foodie shows, you get to rub elbows with some of the greats, like Hugh Acheson, Chris Cosentino, Nina Compton and Andy Ricker, to name just a few. 
  • The sheer quality of the chefs, artisans, distilleries, breweries and wineries is remarkable. Being in close proximity to them is great and all but the best part? You get to eat their food. Refer back to picture of me on the right to give you a visual of what that feels like, or rather what that tastes like! 
  • It's not just about quality, but quantity! We tried to keep a running tally of all the bites we consumed per event. And some "bites" are truly sample size, while others are a few biters that involve a fork and knife. On average, I'd say 15 bites and a handful of beverages were consumed at each event, and that was only just scratching the surface of what was offered. One person can only make so much room!

But to really paint the full picture of why it was one of the best experiences I've had, I just have to dive right in and give you the Feast play-by-play. You ready? Buckle in, foodie friends!! 


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Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup

Welcome back to our regularly scheduled program of fall soup making! When it's fall, there's really only one soup that comes to mind as a long-time family favorite. A soup that I can cozy on up to time and time again. And that soup, my friends, is Taco Soup. 

Taco Soup was the soup that graced our dinner table growing up at least once a week, especially during fall. When the weeks got too crazy and hectic with football and band practice (yep, I was a band nerd), homework, PTA meetings, and more, this soup was here to save the day. Not only was it always a cinch for my mom to throw it together in the morning in the slow cooker to have waiting for us at the end of a long day, but it was always extremely satisfying and delicious. 

The soup itself really isn't all the groundbreaking. In fact, you might think it's a bit odd that practically of the ingredients come from a can! Rest assured, when all of the ingredients marry together and simmer away all day, they turn into a perfect medley of Tex Mex flavors perfect for a cozy fall meal. Probably my favorite part of this recipe is actually the addition of a ranch dressing seasoning packet. This might sound strange, but if you really think about it, you're just adding bright, zesty flavors like garlic and onion to really give your standard soup some pizazz. I also took a new twist on our classic taco soup recipe with my rendition below. Instead of using ground beef or turkey as the protein which you would brown in advance (you can certainly do this as well), I just added boneless skinless chicken breasts uncooked in the crockpot for them to slowly cook. The result is super tender shredded chicken which I think pairs quite nicely with the beans, corn and zesty, tomato-based broth. 

The other amazing part about this soup? It's perfect for fun topping additions! Top it with sour cream, shredded cheese of your liking and/or tortilla chips. Once you eat a bowl of this hearty, super satisfying soup, you're going to be hooked. 


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New Yorker Sandwiches

You guys!! I'm giddy with excitement. Today is the day I've been waiting for for a very long time. Me and my best friend are setting off on the ultimate food lovers' weekend and getaway. We're headed to Portland Feast! If you're not familiar with Feast, it's a four day, all-inclusive eating and drinking extravaganza with themed events featuring local and nationally acclaimed chefs. Think Top Chef x10. It's been noted as one of the best food festivals in the nation. So naturally, as a food fanatic, this was something that needed to be checked off the bucket list STAT. 

We purchased the tickets and made the plans close to a year ago and the day is finally here! Stay tuned for an epic recap of my weekend on the blog in the next week or so. For now, I thought it completely appropriate to share one of my favorite recipes in honor of the first event we are attending tonight. Get this – we are attending the Sandwich Invitational. The Sandwich Invitational !!!!!!

My ode to the Sandwich Invitational is the New Yorker (New Yawkah) sandwich. What's a New Yorker sandwich? Growing up my mom would take me grocery shopping with her which, at the time, I thought was a chore. Fast forward 20 years and now I know why I love grocery shopping so much! What made our grocery shopping trips so fun in the end was we either made a point of grabbing a bite to eat while we were out shopping as a little reward. The iconic lunch we would share together on our little shopping jaunts was a New Yorker sandwhich we would get in the Top Foods deli. Sadly, they stopped making them in a deli a loooong time ago, but our love for New Yorkers never faded and we would pay tribute to our favorite sandwich by making them at home. 


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Nectarine Raspberry Crisp

Ok, so I might've jumped the gun a teensy bit on this whole "let's get ready for fall" bit. Sure, I went on a Bath and Body Works candle haul ($12.50 candles happening right now, everyone!! Get at it!!) and I made my first pot of delicious, comforting soup, but this summer weather is definitely here for at least a bit longer. So I guess I should enjoy it while it lasts…

To say goodbye to summer in these last few sweet weeks, I have to pay tribute to some of its best offerings: fresh berries and seasonal fruit. Some of my favorites happen to be nectarines and raspberries. To me there's no better fruit than a super ripe, sweet yet tangy nectarine. And fresh raspberries? Who doesn't love those sweet little morsels! 

While I'm not a baker, crisps and crumbles are totally my thing, so I knew this was the vehicle for ripe nectarines and raspberries. Why? They're super easy to make for such an impressive, delicious dessert and there's tons of room for forgiveness. Forget being exact! Preciseness is for squares. 

But seriously, this crisp recipe is super simple and would pair quite nicely with practically any summer fruit, so pick your favs! My favorite component has to be the pecan bits to give that extra added crunch and texture. They don't call it a crisp for nothing! 

I think you're going to rather enjoy this sweet, slightly salty crisp. And while I said I was going to take a chill pill from this whole fall thing, I think this dessert will help you achieve the best of both worlds by enjoying the last of summer's sweet bounty while you snuggle on in to a freshly baked dessert. Rather sneaky of me, I know. Enjoy, folks! 


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Chicken and Dumplings

Fall is in the air!!!! I cannot tell you how excited this makes me. Sure, I know I sound like every basic PNW girl right now but my love for fall in Washington is true and pure. There's really nothing I love more than when the rain starts pouring, the air turns crisp and cool and the leaves start falling. But it's more than just this weather I love! It's how it's perfectly acceptable to lounge around in your yoga pants all weekend, wear fuzzy socks, sip on tea, eat heartwarming soups and burn those Bath and Body Works candles like there's no tomorrow. All these reasons and more is why I am madly in love with you, fall!! 

And since I'm in love with the season that's upon us, I not even ashamed to admit that I bolted at the opportunity to make my first pot of fall soup on that first chilly, rainy evening. Move over, grilled corn on the cob and burgers, it's time for soup to take the stage! 

I'm going to fill you in on a little not-so-secret of mine too. I love soups so much and think they're absolutely one of the most perfect dishes of all time, that I'm committed to making at least one pot a week. This is hardly even a stretch at all since I could easily do this in my sleep, but with a goal like this, I just can't wait to roll out all my old favorites and new recipes for Hungry Ali this season. 

Tell me you're as excited as I am!!!!

Ok, I need to tone it down a notch or ten. 

My first batch of soup for fall 2016 had to be a real knockout, and oh was it. I went with a classic, heartwarming, comfort-food-in-a-bowl favorite: chicken and dumplings! 


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