The Wynn, Las Vegas

I love a good challenge, and a few weeks ago when my friends over at Vegas.com contacted me with just that opportunity, I knew I had to take them up on it!

More recently, the Wynn resort has paired up with renowned vegan chef Tal Ronnen to create dishes catered towards those who have chosen to adopt a vegan-or-vegetarian-based lifestyle. So what does this have to do with little ol’ me, you might ask? I got to pick a dish, any dish on their menu {the vegan/vegetarian menu is available all throughout the Wynn} and put my own twist on it. How fun is that, y’all!?

After hungrily perusing their menu and website, I knew I was going to stick with the one that jumped out at me right off the bat – the ‘Mushroom Risotto’, an offering at the Lake Side restaurant. Rustic and simple, but full of rich and earthy flavors, I knew that it was something I would want to recreate.

Now, all of you already know that risotto, while insanely delicious and enjoyable, is not exactly a “weeknight” friendly dish. While therapeutic and comforting to prepare, it requires a good amount of time and careful watching during the preparation; you can go from perfectly done to overcooked in the blink of an eye. So as I was thinking about how I wanted to change this up, my mind wandered over to the concept of…dumplings! Brilliant!

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By keeping the structure of the sauce {caramelized onions and fresh herbs, lots AND lots of mushrooms} the dish stays true to its roots, but is made a bit simpler for weeknight enjoyment. It takes only a few minutes to assemble, and only requires one dish for cooking! For my dishwashing hubby, that is the ultimate dream.

I also developed a bit more flavor in the base of the stew by caramelizing the onions with a splash of white wine – the bright notes {I used a chardonnay} make the dish lean a bit more towards spring flavors; it also helps you scrape up those wonderful bits of goodness on the bottom of the pan. The dumplings get an herbal punch with fresh thyme and sage, and nutritional yeast pumps it up with a subtle cheesy flavor and a bit of added protein.

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Be sure to check out @Vegas to see what other bloggers have come up with! Enjoy, and happy cooking!

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Mushroom Stew & Herb Dumplings 

You can’t mess with a classic like this dish. Perfectly wonderful served piping hot, right off the stove top. I’ve noted where options can go from vegetarian to vegan; feel free to adapt as you like! 

Ingredients:

5 to 6 cups vegetable stock {amount will vary on how thick the stew becomes when cooking the dumplings}

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried thyme

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup white wine

4 cups assorted seasonal mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and diced

Herb Dumpling Ingredients:

2 cups flour {I used gluten-free}

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter {for a vegan option, a buttery spread can be substituted}

1-1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk {for a vegan option, a nut milk of choice can be used}

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon fresh sage

pepper, to taste

Stew Directions:

In a large sauce pot over medium heat, add in the olive oil. Once hot, add in the onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Saute until golden brown in color, about 10 minutes. Add in the wine, scraping the bottom to loosen up any bits. Stir in the mushrooms, garlic, oregano and thyme. Cook until the mushrooms have softened and darkened in color, about 10 minutes. Pour in the stock; raise the heat and bring to a boil.

Prepare the dumplings while waiting for the stock mixture to boil – in a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, nutritional yeast, baking soda, fresh thyme, fresh sage, and salt. Whisk to combine and then add in the butter, buttermilk and pepper.

Once the stock mixture is boiling, drop the dumpling dough in using two large spoons {like making drop cookies}. Boil until the dumplings are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Ladle into large soup bowls and enjoy!

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lately: family

The hubs and I had the ABSOLUTE best time this past weekend; my mom and dad were in town! Not only was it her birthday weekend, but my sister found out that she matched at her top choice for her residency program :) Needless to say, lots of celebrations were in order. A fabulous dinner out on Friday and home cooking on Saturday, with lots of good cocktails and conversations, flowed the entire time. I’m so blessed to have such a wonderful family unit – here’s a glimpse into some of our tastes and adventures.

-Alicia xoxo 

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fresh italian loaves

Homemade bread absolutely delights me. There’s something so special about the act of rolling out dough, letting it rise, and watching it bake and become beautiful in your oven. The aroma isn’t so bad, either.

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Perhaps it also means so much to me because growing up, my mom was constantly making homemade bread. As I’ve mentioned before, we grew up with a bread maker in our kitchen, one that saw so much action, I think that we went through two or three {at least} before I up and went to college.

It was one of my first “big” purchases as an adult, for my very own kitchen. I wanted to carry on that tradition that my mom started – homemade doughs and rolls, fresh loaves so tall you have to slightly tear off the top from the machine. It definitely holds a special place in my heart, and one I can’t wait to share with my children someday. For now, the hubs and I delight in constant bread rotation.

The recipe today is one that is practically a staple in our kitchen; if there’s not one in the bread box, there’s a loaf in the freezer, yearning to be thawed and toasted for the next meal. These Italian loaves are so, so simple; a few simple ingredients come together to form a bread that is so light and airy on the inside, but perfectly golden and crisp on the outside, it’s impossible to resist…especially out of the oven. We especially love it served warm, with some herbed olive oil on the side for dipping. It makes wonderful sandwiches; can be transformed into croutons for breakfast casseroles and bread puddings or, if you’re like us…you dig right in when it’s hot out of the oven.

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Fresh Italian Loaves {yields two large loaves}

Perfectly simple to prepare; all ingredients process together in the bread machine. A simple roll and rise is all it takes for fresh bread to be produced from your oven in no time! I’ll note here that you can also find great success using half whole wheat flour; the results will be nuttier and a bit heartier, perfect for pairing with rich soups and stews.

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups water

1 tsp. honey

3/4 tsp. kosher salt

3-1/2 cups bread flour

2-1/2 tsp. yeast

1 heaping tbsp. vital wheat gluten, optional

To Prepare:

Add the ingredients into your bread machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The dough cycle on mine lasts about an hour and fifty minutes, with the option to add additional time if I’m going to be running in and out of the house, doing errands, etc. Don’t feel the need to check on the dough as it processes! – the heat will be lost and you run the chance of compromising the integrity of the dough.

As the cycle comes to a close, prepare your baking sheet by sprinkling it with cornmeal. This results in a crisp bottom; feel free to use as much {or as little} as you’d like.

Once the dough is ready, turn out onto a floured rolling surface. Divide into two discs; place on aside. Begin with the first disc by rolling out into a rectangle, roughly 12″-14″ wide x 8″-10″deep. Starting at the long edge closest to you, “jelly roll” the rectangle; that is, roll it on top of itself {it will be like making a cinnamon roll}. Seal the edges and seam by pinching tightly with your fingers. Place directly onto the prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Repeat with the other disc.

Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise 50 minutes in a warm location.

About 20 minutes before the rising stage is complete, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Once the rising stage is complete, slash the top of each loaf 5 or 6 times with a sharp knife, and brush lightly with cold water. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes and then lower the temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, keeping a close watch. The bread should should hollow when tapped, and be a beautiful golden brown.

Serve with any of your favorite spreads – I love using my compound butter!

bread will keep fresh on the counter, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 days. Freeze any remaining by wrapping in foil.

st. patty’s day ideas!

Top o’ the morning, all!

With St. Patrick’s Day {and its collaborative foodie celebration} right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite recipes with y’all – both from a food & cocktail perspective. Some of them gear towards traditional, while some others are a bit of a…twist…but regardless, they are are equally delicious! I’d love to know – how do you like to celebrate this holiday,  if at all?

For the Table:

Boxty

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Smoky Cheese and Potato Soup

Smoky Cheese & Potato Soup

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Beef, Mushroom, and Onion Tart

Beef, Onion & Mushroom Tart

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Mussels in Irish Cider

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Apple & Bramble Cake with Bushmill’s Custard

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Irish Cream Bundt Cake

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For the Bar:

How to Make an Irish Martini - Steve Brown Photography / Photolibrary / Getty Images

Irish Martini

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Sweet Hospitality Group's Irish Farmhouse Cocktail - Photo Courtesy: © Sweet Hospitality Group

Irish Farmhouse

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Irish Coffee

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Blarney Stone

Blarney Stone

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Time for a Drink: the Emerald

The Emerald

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Milk Punch

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Slainte, everyone!

thirsty thursday: come on, spring!

…the snow is melting! 

…daylight savings time, in all its glory, has made its return.

…multiple days with comfortable temperatures are more & more common.

Y’all, spring is so close! I woke up this morning, threw on my workout gear and headed out the door. While it’s now much darker outside {I mean, I leave at 5:15am…call me crazy, I know} but I swear that it just smelled ::fresh:: outside. Maybe it’s just my senses being hypersensitive and sick of winter, but I can feel it – the dawn of spring is upon us!

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I turned that thought over and over in my head all day, smiling each time I thought about the crisp air, fresh flowers, and green grass. Almost gone are the days of comforting dishes and drinks; let’s clear our bar {& table} to make way for the sweet and savory offerings that this glorious season has to offer! The hubs and I have been compiling a list of fun cocktails and spirits to test run in the next weeks; I wanted to share the list today, in honor of ‘thirsty thursday’ so that you might find inspiration as well! Please share in the comments if you try, or have tried, any of these concoctions – I’d love to hear what you think.

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

shepherd’s pie

St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, and what better way to celebrate than with a delicious and hearty meal?

Shepherd’s Pie has long been a favorite in our household; it’s easy to prepare, utilizes common ingredients most of us have on hand, and can be stretched to feed anywhere from a few people to an entire army. I love sitting down to a piping hot serving after a long day at work; the aromas are so therapeutic, and seeing the steam wafting from the bowl just brings about the most soothing feeling.

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When I decided to make this, I decided to veer slightly from tradition, but still maintain the integrity of the dish. After all, you can only adjust a recipe so much before it takes on an entirely new face, no? So rather than go all crazy and try to tweak every little aspect, I picked the common denominators – the ground meat and the usual mashed potatoes – and decided to just play around with those.

The result? Lean ground turkey and mashed cauliflower!

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This take is full of flavor, texture, and…it just makes you feel good. In my humble opinion, that is the best kind of dinner – fresh, simple, and leaves you feeling good; maybe wanting more, or…maybe just reach for a Guinness and call it a night. Your call!

Slainte!

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Shepherd’s Pie {adapted from Epicurious}

What better way to ring in the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day than with a traditional dish? Quintessential in our household, this will satisfy the pickiest of palettes. The best part? – it’s healthy and good for you!

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. ground meat {I used a 93% lean ground turkey – but feel free to use ground beef, ground lamb, etc.}

1 to 1-1/2 cups tomato sauce

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1 Tbsp. dried parsley

1 to 1-1/2 cups frozen peas, cooked and cooled slightly

mashed cauliflower {here’s my version!}

salt and pepper, to taste

optional: grated cheese of your choice for topping 

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a glass baking dish {8″x 8″ or 9″x 9″} with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Alternatively, like I did, you could use two individual baking dishes.

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil, then add the onion, carrot, garlic and meat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain the fat and then add the tomato sauce, tomato paste and herbs. Simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.

In the baking dish{es}, layer in the meat mixture, then the cooked peas, and finally top with the meat mixture. Garnish as you like with cheese.

Bake until golden brown and bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes.

garlic parmesan wings

I’ve been so, so excited to share this recipe with y’all.

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One look and you’re in love, am I right? At least, that was how the hubs and I felt after devouring this meal for dinner.

These are a fun twist on my wings I made awhile back – they’re certainly a staple in our household; a quick and easy dinner to throw together during the week, full of flavor, and significantly healthier that traditional wings that are deep fried {so gloriously wonderful, but so naughty at the same time}. But for this particular recipe, we’re combining the Italian staples of Parmesan cheese and garlic but jazzing it up with loads of dried herbs, and two types of tangy mustard {!}. Is your mouth watering yet?

This batch of wings pack a flavor punch like no other. I am such a huge fan of explosive flavors, and these do not disappoint. As mentioned, we get that distinctive garlicky flavor from {almost} too much garlic, nutty undertones from Parmesan cheese, and more herbal notes than your taste buds will know what to do with. Both mustard types that I used – a classic, spicy Dijon and a sweet Honey Champagne – pair perfectly together, but you can easily sub in whatever your preference is. Baked until crispy and falling of the bone, the only thing that can take these one more notch above perfection is some dipping sauce on the side.

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Baked Garlic Parmesan Wings {adapted from Steamy Kitchen}

Ingredients:

2-1/2 lbs. chicken wings {I like to use the large ones}

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried rosemary

2 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. onion powder

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for baking

1/4 cup mustard {I used a combination of Dijon and Champagne mustard}

salt & pepper, to taste

non-stick cooking spray

serving accompaniments: hot sauce, homemade blue cheese dressing, celery, carrots – whatever you like! 

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray liberally with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the herbs and grated cheese. Mix in the mustard, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss the wings in the sauce, making sure to ensure a generous coating. Line up the wings on the prepared baking sheet, and drizzle any remaining sauce on top. Sprinkle with additional grated cheese.

Bake 45-60 minutes, or until juices run clear and internal temperature has reached 165 degrees. Serve with your favorite dipping sauces.