Brown Rice Jambalaya

What a season, my peeps! First of all, can we talk about this godawful extended winter/"spring" we're having? One minute it's sunny-ish and pleasant, the next minute it's dark, stormy and downright scary outside. It's like the weather is having an identity crisis! And I don't know about you but it is definitely not contributing to my mood during this busy time of year! 

Like many people, when times are busy and the weather is grey (or just indecisive) I like to turn to cooking. It's all too easy for me to get in a cooking rut and just be too busy to be creative so I'll end up cooking my usuals: turkey burgers, turkey meatballs, and some variety of soup first pop up on that list. Which are all fine and dandy of course, don't get me wrong. But what really makes me happy is when I slow down for a minute in the swirl of a busy season to get creative in the kitchen and cook something new up for you all. Bonus points if it's also comforting and tasty. 

With this recipe that I'm so excited to share with you all I totally went all out with the creativity piece too. Because not only have I never made Jambalaya in my life, but I've never even eaten it! Yep, you heard me. This is truly a Hungry Ali first in every way, shape and form. 

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Skillet Caprese Chicken

Growing up, I was not what one would call a "picky eater." My parents never had to force feed me or urge me to "finish my dinner" (I mean, are you even surprised?) But, like most kids with not fully developed palettes, there were some foods I disliked. Tomatoes were one of those foods. 

I refused to eat tomatoes on sandwiches, salads and even in soups. Yes, I would even eat my BLTs as BLs (those good ol' BLs!) But then, as a I grew older and my taste buds developed into the "sophisticated" ones they are today, I began to enjoy tomatoes in dishes that really accentuated their bright, juicy flavor. 

Tomatoes started not tasting like "tomatoes" as I thought I knew them when they were accentuated with zesty lime and cilantro in pico de gallo, or with sharp balsamic vinegar and lemony basil in bruschetta, or when they turned sweet and jam-like when they were slowly roasted, grilled or sauteed. These types of dishes made me appreciate the tomato in a whole new light! And now I can finally say that I'm a fan of tomatoes. All it took was just preparing them the right way. 

That's why I'm in love with this new weeknight dinner stunner, Skillet Caprese Chicken. I whipped this up the other night on a busy weeknight following an unnecessarily long commute home and grocery store run where all I needed was a quick, healthy and delicious dinner solution when I finally got a chance to take a breather. I had some grape tomatoes that needed to be used up as well as some fresh mozzarella, two ingredients that were just begging to be turned into something Caprese-esque.

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Jerk Chicken

It's a little known fact that I used to work at Red Robin back in my college days. Yup, the good ol' Dirty Bird, as we would call it! So many "fond" memories I have making freckled lemonades, ordering fry fills and singing that beloved happy birthday jingle to angry tourists. Fun times!

In all seriousness, it had its moments and certainly was an awesome way to get me through college. And the best part, no doubt, was that I got to eat those tasty burgers and fries whenever my heart desired. And to this day, I still crave a good Teriyaki Chicken burger!

But my favorite burger there is actually no longer, the Jerk Chicken Burger – jerk chicken, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato and mango mayo on a jalapeno cornmeal bun. It was heaven! RIP Jerk Chicken Burger. It was so beloved that when they discontinued it, my manager was kind enough to give me the leftover jerk seasoning blend that I used countlessly on chicken at home. It was this that made me fall in love with jerk chicken, at least how I thought I knew it. 

Jerk chicken is probably my favorite way to eat chicken ever. It's spicy, sweet and savory all at once which is essentially just a flavor party in your mouth. My love for jerk chicken inspired by this tried and true Red Robin seasoning always made me want to make my own homemade jerk seasoning/marinade. And so I did…only like 6 years later but, who's counting?!

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Migas Breakfast Tacos

It's been almost a year since Cole and I ventured to Austin! I miss the warm, sticky heat (if you've had a winter like we have in Washington, you'll understand), the undercurrent of smoky barbecue smell in the air, the fact that good beer and music were just steps away from our humble abode away from home and most importantly, the outstanding food. If you feel like reliving these tasty adventures as I like to from time to time, you can read about the whole trip right here!

While Cole and I miss the barbecue like crazy, because there's no sign of any barbecue anywhere near as good as the barbecue we had in Austin up here, there's one thing we've talked about pretty consistently since we left that we just wish we had at our finger tips: Breakfast tacos. 

It's a little known fact, but Seattle is not keen on the breakfast taco. Breakfast burritos for sure, but there's basically no sign of breakfast taco life out there! This fact really upsets me, you guys. Because breakfast tacos are like a more approachable, more delicious version of a breakfast burrito. Grab one or two for a light and portable breakfast and enjoy to your heart's content with their infinite topping combinations. What could be better than that? 

In Austin, we got our breakfast taco fix on at many places, but the most memorable destination was hands down, Veracruz All Natural. Two of the five mornings we spent in Austin we walked just a few blocks down to a gravel parking lot with a white school bus as the breakfast taco making hub. Their signature breakfast taco was the migas breakfast taco – scrambled eggs with crushed up tortilla chips, served in a corn tortilla with an obscene amount of Monterey jack cheese, pico de gallo and fresh avocado slices. They were so good, we knew upon first bite that we had to make more than one visit while in Austin, and so good that we just had to try to recreate them at home to get our migas breakfast taco fix!

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Shrimp Penne Alla Vodka

Even though I know it's coming, it's like clockwork every year and it hits me like a big, unwelcome slap to the face: daylight savings. 

It's just an hour. One hour! And yet it's this one hour that throws me and everyone else I've ever known into a disheveled frenzy for at least a week. This whole daylight savings business is a sham!

If you're with me and feeling the daylight savings hangover, you're in need of something quick and easy to throw together for what is sure to be a nutty week. And maybe something that will also help cure your end of winter blues and get you in the spring spirit? I have just the dish for you! 

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Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

I'm much more of a savory breakfast person – eggs benedict, biscuits and gravy and a good hash –  but when the mood strikes I am full on down for the pancakes. The best pancakes I've had recently, and perhaps ever, are from The Blackbird in Spokane. 

We visit Spokane a few times a year to see my favorite little brother and his girlfriend, Chelsie. Oh, and eat and drink some delicious things to our heart's content! And there's always a new restaurant and/or brewery that's popping up that they want us to try, whether it's a ceviche bar slash taproom, record shop slash dive bar or a Hawaiian fusion hole-in-the-wall. But the one place we make a stop for every time, no matter what, is at The Blackbird, and it's because of their showstopping brunch and sourdough ricotta pancakes.

These pancakes were an actual game changer for me when it comes to pancakes. Because I lean on the savory side of all things breakfast and brunch, it's very rare when I decide to opt for a pancake let alone fall madly in love with it. But these pancakes, creamy and rich yet light and pillow-like, turned me into a full on pancakes-for-brunch type of girl. 

So even though we can't make it to Blackbird every weekend (as much as we'd like to), we try our hardest to keep our pancake game strong at home. As an ode to the love of my life that is The Blackbird's sourdough ricotta pancakes, Cole and I whipped up these runner-up-as-the-love -my-life pancakes, Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, and they seriously rocked my world!

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Sundried Tomato and Pesto Turkey Burgers

Wingapo, friends! It has been a hot minute, yet again, and the whirlwind that is life has taken over. But now that things are finally settling down at the day job and just with other life happenings in general, I'm excited to get back to regularly cooking and posting! 

One of the reasons why I find it so hard to regularly update the blog during busy periods of work and life is finding the energy to produce original content, let alone find the energy to sit down and write something creative and original, is rather hard when all you feel like doing is coming home and ordering Postmates after a long day. As I've come to find out, there's a reason why some of the great food bloggers out there do food blogging for a living! It takes some serious time, thought and energy to think of new and original recipes, test them, perfect them, take gorgeous pictures of them and write a relevant and compelling post about them all in frequent fashion so that you can start to build a following. 

And while I'll give myself a little credit for doing this when I have the time to (there are only so many hours in a day!), my food blogging method goes a little bit more like this:

  1. Craves food;
  2. Looks up recipe for food for inspiration on how to put own spin on said food;
  3. Cooks food. 60% of the time it turns out photo worthy and attempts cool, instagram-y photo of food;
  4. If photo is sufficient, attempts to write witty and relevant post in a timely manner (50/50 it takes 2 weeks or 2 hours before something comes to me!)

So yes, it's a little bit more "shotgun style", my blogging approach, or at least for the moment! But at the very least, now you know that the food you see on my blog is authentically the food I crave, enjoy cooking and enjoy telling stories about. 

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Marshmallow Brownies

We all know I'm not one for baking, but sometimes the occasion just calls for it! Be it for the Super Bowl, Valentine's Day or just because you feel like baking and eating something sweet, sometimes a girl's just gotta bake. 

Whenever I do feel like baking I don't try to get too fancy and I go back to the classics I grew up with. Like banana bread or these mini cheesecakes! So the last time I felt like baking I wanted to whip up another classic: one of my favorite sweet treats, Marshmallow Brownies. 

It's funny, I've eaten these dozens of times throughout my whole life and it never once occured to me that they're not technically brownies. Sure, they're chewy and fudgy and decadent as ever, but they actually resemble a blondie more than a brownie. It only took 27 years and making these for my too-smart-for-his-own-good boyfriend, Cole only for him to point this pretty obvious fact out to me to realize it. Go figure!

Neverthless, whether they're brownies or blondies, who really cares? This recipe combines the best of both worlds, and then some. The batter actually starts with melted butterscotch chips and butter (uh, yeah) which creates for a sticky, rich base. And because this is dessert and you should only just go all out, you then add a healthy dose of chocolate chips, marshmallows (obviously) and walnuts for crunch. When they come out of the oven they're golden brown and smell like heaven. So you can only imagine just how glorious they taste!

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Kale Pesto

I knew Cole's favorite food was pesto even before we started dating. I received a not-so anonymous tip that his favorite food was pesto and that, if I wanted to impress him, all I had to do was make him pesto pasta. "That's it?" I thought. "I got this in the bag!"

Not so fast. Before I could even start making a shopping list I was highly encouraged to text Cole's mom for her pesto recipe because apparently he would eat no other pesto recipe. I quickly learned why. See, I don't call Cole's version of "pesto", pesto, even. I call it garlic tapenade. Yes, the pesto has a resemblance of your average basil pesto but with no less than three times more garlic than your average pesto recipe. 

Every time I've ever attempted to make "Cole's pesto" I've always been instructed to do just one thing: add more garlic. This past Christmas, in fact, we made it together and added, I kid you not, 7 cloves of garlic. When we did a taste test and I was sure that we had hit the right garlic: parmesan: basil: pine nut ratio, Cole looked at me, shook his head and said these words verbatim, "It needs more garlic. It needs to assault me with garlic."

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My Game Day Favorites!

It's Super Bowl Sunday! Sorry, my b, NFL, it's the "big game." Sure, I'm bummed my Seahawks aren't playing in the big dance this year. But in a way it's nice to not have your team playing with everything on the line. Do you know how many near heart attacks I had this past season from watching the Seahawks play?? We're talking years taken off my life! It's too much stress for one person to handle from just a game.

So even if my team doesn't play, I'm still a fan of Super Bowl Sunday. It's the one day of the year that's devoted to watching football, cheesy commercials and eating copious amounts of game day food. And since I'm a fan of any "holiday" that has its own lineup of food, I wanted to post a roundup of all my favorite Hungry Ali recipes that are just perfect for game day!

P.S. You'll notice a theme here with my game-day favs: big flavors, lots of spice, smoke and cheesiness wherever possible!

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