Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

I love a good happy hour. I mean, what's not to like? It's an "hour" of the day that's devoted to eating delicious appies while drinking adult beverages and enjoying good company so, yeah, it's kind of my favorite thing to do! But even though happy hour typically means more affordable prices, sometimes it's hard to justify going out for happy hour, especially if you have an appetite for tasty appetizers and adult beverages like I do. 

Which is why I find myself these days embracing and, quite honestly, preferring the "home happy hour." Let me just name all the ways the "home happy hour" wins the happy hour game: 

  1. Sweats and slippers are involved.
  2. Forget uncomfortable bar stools or those uncomfortable metal chairs, you can enjoy your appies and beverage while lounging on your own couch.
  3. Say "bubyeeee" to noisy, overcrowded restaurants and "hello, lover" to your warm, cozy home.
  4. Your bank account will thank you. Trust me. 
  5. You get the joy and satisfaction of entertaining your friends by putting that Pinterest-y bar cart to use (for once) and showing off your cooking skills.

So now that we're clear on the home happy hour totally winning on many levels, it's time to bring your A-game with an appetizer that is easy to make, completely affordable and downright delicious. Introducing the star of your next home happy hour menu, prosciutto wrapped asparagus. 

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Winter Minestrone

Well, folks, we've reached that time of year in the Pacific Northwest when life seems perpetually dark, gray and damp. Translation: it's winter and I'm realizing that it's going to take a lot of little pick-me-ups to get me through this dreary season. I'm breaking out all the candles, cozy socks, spicy tea and cuddling my pug as often as I can to cure my winter blues. Oh, and just one more thing: soups, baby, soups!

While I could probably eat soup year round (and, let's face it, I do), there is truly no better time to enjoy soups than winter. Which is why I'm just tickled I discovered this latest recipe that I will truly be making and enjoying all season long, Winter Minestrone. 

Inspired by Her Royal Highness, Ina Garten, this recipe does not shy away from the fact that it should be made and enjoyed in these wintery months. Taking a spin on a classic Italian minestrone, this winter version features seasonal butternut squash and spinach to make for one hearty, stick-to-your ribs bowl of soup. But what really sets this winter minestrone recipe apart are the knockout flavor boosters like smoky pancetta, dry white wine and store bought pesto for that extra herbacious kick. It's one of those perfect bowls of soup that's best enjoyed with a crusty piece of garlic bread for dipping along with an Ali pour of red wine and a pug on your lap (ideally). 

So go ahead, lean into the cozy with this most satisfying, heartwarming soup. 

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My Favorite Recipes of 2017

Holy cow, is 2017 really almost over?! I mean, it's been an interesting year, to say the least, what with politics (good riddance), news, the weather and entertainment. But hey, 2017 has also had its shining moments like, um, hello, we got a pug! And we moved into a a house with a backyard in our favorite Seattle neighborhood! 2017, you have been interesting, but you have also been a pretty darn good year. 

It also goes without saying that 2017 has been a pretty delicious year. In reflecting on the last year in the life of Hungry Ali, I have to say I was rather impressed with myself for the tasty variety of recipes I've whipped up these last 12 months. Which is why I felt ever so inclined to do a recipe roundup of my favorite and tastiest recipes of 2017 to send you into 2018 in delicious fashion. 

So with that, enjoy this tasty little roundup and cheers to you and an equally delicious 2018! 

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Kale Caesar Salad

Friday night dinners at Casa Davidson circa the mid-2000s were a blur. Be it a football or basketball game night where everyone fended for themselves, a Papa Murphy's pizza or a Costco lasagna type of night, times were a busy and moving quite literally a mile a minute. 

Even in the busiest of times with an ever-changing Friday dinner menu, there was always one constant: Caesar salad. We ate Caesar salads in the Davidson household so often, my mom bought Caesar fixins – croutons, Parm, romaine and dressing – in bulk from Costco. Cheesy, tangy and full of crunchy croutons, it was consistently a delicious and quick side dish to throw on the dinner table that always put a smile on our face. 

Having it as frequently as I did growing up, it's easy to understand why I have such an affinity for it now. While I must admit I'm still partial to the classic verson of Caesar using bottled (yes, bottled – *gasp* !) dressing, my love for Caesar salad is pure and true, loving any and all variations of the classic salad. Whether it's served with charred romaine, adorned with whole fresh anchovies on top (my fav) or in its classic form with a lemon wedge on the side, I am a diehard Caesar salad lover. 

While it's a huge departure from my guilty pleasure bottled dressing favorite, lately I've been really feeling Caesar salads made with meaty, bitter kale. There's just something about an extra zesty, anchovy and garlic forward dressing that can really stand up to a sturdy green like kale. Which is why I decided it was about time to put my good ol' bottled Caesar on the bench just this once and take a stab at a homemade kale Caesar salad. 

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Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Goat Cheese Cream Sauce

If you're like me and are obsessed with fall, you know it's more than just a season. It's about the sights, the smells, the sounds and, most importantly, the flavors that truly make the season complete. And to me, fall is just not complete without butternut squash. I still remember to this day the first time I ever tasted and fell in love with butternut squash. Before it was even cool, guys! Let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we? 

It was the early 2000s. My brother and dad were completely consumed with their new toy, Xbox, and this little gamed called Halo. We're talking consumed to the point where it involved all-nighters and many cans of Mountain Dew to tend to the obsession. What were my mom and I to do? Go on a classic mother/daughter date, of course! And let me tell you, my mom and I had the right formula for a perfect girls' night down: shopping + dinner + movies at home.

One of the earliest instances I can think of where we escaped the video game madness at Casa Davidson was when we took a trip to a little Olympia bistro that is no longer (sadly) for their infamous butternut squash ravioli. 

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Freezer Spinach Feta Wraps

Shoot guys, life is busy. Like seriously busy. Do you remember growing up hearing every single "grown-up" go on and on and on about being so dang busy all the time? And your little kid self was like, "What does being busy mean? I want to be busy!" Well, lo and behold, now that I am a full-fledged adult, the wrath of being busy has, too, hit me. Between work, being a pug parent, having a social life and maintaining a side hustle, life is just a constant stream of being busy!

I must confess that when life is this busy, it's hard to be perfect and have (at least all) of your shit together. Even with the best intent of trying to meal plan and prep during the week, some things inevitably fall through the cracks and, before you know it, I'm paying $5 for a Starbucks spinach feta wrap. 

Even though I'm thankful to have such easy meal solutions at my fingertips, I'm not too keen on having to resort to buying meals out when I know if I just squeezed in a bit of prep time ahead I could have myself something equally delicious at a fraction of the cost. So on this edition of meal prep wonders, I take on The Man with my own version of Starbs' spinach feta wraps. And let me tell you guys, they're not only way cheaper and more convienent, but they are way more delicious, if I do say so myself! 

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Green Beans with Hazelnut Gremolata

Green beans are a veggie I have been behind since day one, even if the first memories I have of eating green beans were in canned form! Call me a green bean purist, but I shudder when I think that there was a time in my life when I would eat and even enjoy canned green beans. Maybe it was just the fact that I was a little kid or simply a product of the 90s where eating canned/processed foods were more acceptable, but I believe I recall wee little Ali actually enjoying the taste of those salty, mushy green beans. Yuck! I guess I'll forgive my adolescent self for a bad judgment call just this once…

Even though I take a hard pass on canned green bean these days, green beans, like real green beans, are still to this day one of my favorite veggies. Ever since I started to cook for myself in college, I would have them in stock on the reg. From blanching them and sauteeing them to charred perfection with jammy balsamic and a touch of cayenne for a sweet, tangy and spicy side to roasting them with olive oil and finishing them off with grated garlic for an intense garlic flavor, they're not only the most versatile side dish, they're one of the easiest veggies to make. Oh, and they're just plain tasty. 

While I love my go-to green bean cooking methods, I'm always looking for new ways to make my favorite veg. A recent trip to a Seattle foodie destination, Flint Creek Cattle Co. inspired me to try experimenting with gremolata to add a new level of flavor and complexity to your standard roasted veggies. Gremolata, since you might wonder, is a fresh, rustic, chopped herb condiment typically made with garlic, parsley and lemon zest. My version adds rich, crunchy hazelnuts for a simple yet decadent topping that'll give your green beans new life. Fresh, zesty and vibrant, they're a full departure from any canned variety. 

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Zuppa Toscana

Hey friends! It's time for a pupdate (pup + update = pupdate!) I've always considered myself a homebody, but ever since we adopted Neville, our sweet pug, the homebody in me has really come out to play. My days pretty much consist of waking up, cuddling the pup for as long as humanly possible before I roll out of bed and pout while I get ready. I go to work and catch myself having thoughts about Neville throughout the day because, of course, he is now my computer screensaver, phone background and office art so obviously I am going to think about him 24/7. "Is he taking a nap? Is he hungry? Does he like it here? Is texting with your dog a thing?" These are actual thoughts that have crossed my mind you guys, no big…

I reach the end of the eight hour work day and what do I do? Go out for happy hour? Go shopping? Engage in any other form of extroverting and/or socializing? No, silly! I go home to my long-lost love bug and cuddle the literal poop out of him the rest of the night. Case closed. 

So yes, one might consider my life to be pretty "uneventful" lately. But you know what? I absolutely love it. This homebody wouldn't have it any other way! 

Along with a cute pup, a homebody's best friend is a big bowl of soup. Hands down. Because if I virtually make plans to not have plans, 9 times out of 10 I'm going to plan on whipping up the best, quick-and-easy, delicious dinner I know how to make: soup. Plus, when it's chilly and grey like it has been this fall, there is quite possibly nothing better than warming up to a comforting bowl of soup!

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Easy Stovetop Mac and Cheese

I'm a firm believer that comfort food is better than a hug. Whenever I'm feeling down, in need of a pick-me-up or just need to "lean in" to the dark, grey weather, my mind goes to comfort food for an emotional hug. That's a thing, right? Ok, cool. 

If you ask me, there's no other food in the world that screams comfort food quite like mac and cheese. And I'm not even a mac and cheese snob – I am down for any and all varieties of cheesy noods. Be it the classic, guilty pleasure Kraft variety, Annie's white cheddar shells or even the super guilty pleasure Velveeta shells, I'm always in for cheesy, ooey, gooey goodness. But what hits the spot even more than the boxed variety, even if they are supes tasty and easy if you're feeling lazy, is making your own stovetop version from scratch. 

Just hearing the words "from scratch" might make this sound rather daunting, I know. But I'm here to assure you that there is probably no easier task than making an impressive homemade mac and cheese. If you can boil water and add milk, butter and contents of a sauce packet to some noodles, then you're pretty much capable of making heavenly, scratch-made mac and cheese. 

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Sunflower Crunch Chopped Salad

Salad fatigue (noun) | The general feeling of extreme tiredness due to overconsuming of salads. 

Are you a victim of salad fatigue? Are you or someone you know excessively tired of eating the same, boring, old salad day after day? Do you feel like dying every time you take a bite of said salad to the point where you feel like you never want to see a leafy green ever, ever again? Salad fatigue is a serious condition and is something that millions suffer from on a daily basis. 

Hungry Ali is here to help. You see, the cure to your boring salads that are causing you serious fatigue isn't another sad salad that you feel like you could weap into. It's a salad that's full of flavor, texture and, let's be honest some cheese and creamy, delicious ranch. Because cheese and ranch, in my opinion, are a salad's best friend. 

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