My new favorite assembly line style dinner is shawarma. I found a great quick marinade from Wild Garden at our local Asian market that makes it super easy to prepare, and it even comes in both chicken and beef varieties (we’ve tried them both). Sometimes we have pitas and sometimes flatbread, and I always provide a variety of toppings from vegetables and homemade tzatziki sauce to feta cheese and tahini, so everyone can choose what they’re in the mood for and make their own.
Here’s a look at creations from two different shawarma nights:
I’m really enjoying adding some new international dishes to our menu, and this one is definitely a favorite!
If you’ve watched the 1990s Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, you’ve probably heard of Bobunk, the holiday that Salem the cat erased. Since we don’t know anything about how Bobunk was celebrated (thanks Salem!), we decided to make it a special family holiday that used to be know as Seamus Day. I’m not going to belabor the point, but we realized this year that we weren’t really looking forward to it, and we decided that we should just let it go, and have happy memories of Seamus Days gone by, instead of forcing a celebration and possibly ruining our memories of the holiday.
But we still wanted a holiday. And then it occurred to me (and I really don’t know why it took this long!)…Bobunk should be a celebration of our favorite restaurant, Beast Craft BBQ! And Beast has the added bonus of now having two locations to choose from, (or we can just bring the food home which is what we did on Sunday).
I don’t think we’re going to have a fixed date for this holiday like we did with Seamus Day, although I do like the idea of observing it the weekend after Valentine’s Day as we did this year. I do know that whatever day Bobunk falls on, we’ll continue to have something to look forward to every February!
It’s been a while since I tried something new at Beast Craft BBQ. I don’t actually even know how long the Sweet and Spicy Turkey Melt has been on the menu, but I just noticed it over the weekend, and once I did, I knew I was going to have to try it out sooner or later. As it turns out, it was sooner!
The Sweet and Spicy Turkey Melt of course features a generous serving of Beast’s amazing turkey. But it also has bacon jam (yes, please!), jalapeños, Swiss cheese, and tomato aioli, all on wonderfully delicious (and perfectly toasted!) sourdough bread.
In my experience, when a restaurant claims to have a “sweet and spicy” item, usually one of those two tastes is more prominent, and the other is just a vague suggestion. It’s no surprise to me, though, that Beast strikes the balance just right. There’s a pleasant blast of heat from the jalapeños, but that is tempered by the wonderful flavors of the jam and aioli, which pair together beautifully. Oh, and I had to get a side of Brussels sprouts to go with it (still my favorite, and what I usually order, but at least I’ve tried a few other sides here and there!).
I’d say this is my new favorite, and it was while I was eating it, but let’s face it…pretty much everything at Beast is my favorite, and I’m not even going to bother trying to choose a single top item anymore!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my grocery shopping habits, how they’ve changed over the years, and how they’ve influenced how I cook.
When Ryan and I were first married, our number one priority in buying groceries was sticking to a (small) budget. And really, that continued to be the driving force behind how I planned meals and wrote my shopping list for at least a decade. I shopped sale ads and clipped coupons. I was shopping at our local grocery store chain for the most part during that time, because Walmart Supercenters weren’t a thing in St. Louis back then, but if I could have shopped there, I would have. I did whatever I could to spend as little money as possible.
In recent years, while I still have a grocery budget (who doesn’t?!?), it is bigger, and I have more flexibility in what I can buy and where I shop. I do the bulk of our grocery buying at Walmart (now that we have Walmarts with groceries), because it’s both convenient and helps me save money. But I’ve added in some stores that I visit at least semi-regularly, which has really changed how I cook.
One store that you would have thought I would have shopped at during my more budget-conscious days was Aldi. Apparently, that would have made too much sense. I have to confess, I used to be a snob about Aldi. I thought that they sold items of lower quality. But a few years ago, when a new store opened in our area, I decided to give it a try, and I was pleasantly surprised! Now, it’s my go-to store for cuts of meat that I either can’t easily find other places (lamb, I’m looking at you!), or can’t afford at other stores (like the standing rib roast we had at Christmas and the tenderloin I prepared for Ryan’s birthday).
The other store that we’ve been visiting regularly for the last few years is the Asian market. Actually, “Asian” really doesn’t begin to cover it, because they carry other ethnic food items, as well. But we’ve encountered so many new items, some we’d never even heard of before, and that has really broadened our culinary experiences. Now one of our favorite things to do is just wander through the store for a while, looking for new things to try!
Here’s an example of some of the meals we’ve enjoyed in the last week, all influenced by my current grocery shopping habits. There’s gyros (which I’ve made before, but only after Easter with the lamb leftovers we sometimes have, because that was the one time of year I knew I’d be able to find lamb pre-Aldi!) made with lamb from Aldi and served on pita bread from a local bakery that Pan-Asia stocks. A new recipe of Moroccan lamb tagine (again made with Aldi lamb) appears in the center, prepared with some spices with which I don’t usually cook. And finally, beef shawarma, again served on pita bread from Pan-Asia, and also prepared with a marinade and topped with tahini I found the last time we wandered through the store.
I’m so glad I was both able to branch out and try new stores, and that I was finally able to let go of some (wildly incorrect) preconceived notions about where I shop…we’ve definitely benefited from both!
We never did get around to making and decorating cut-out cookies this year (I think we’ll make that a Valentine’s Day activity!), but I thought it would be fun to take a look back at all of the holiday baking we did do, from Thanksgiving Eve through Epiphany.
16 Dozen Cookies (four different kinds):
11 Pies (a total of eight varieties):
Bûche de Noël:
Apple-Cranberry Bread Pudding:
Lussekattes for Santa Lucia Day:
Even without the cut-out cookies, this may have been the busiest year of baking yet…it was delicious fun!
I am a huge fan of the Food Network. I’ll watch just about anything they broadcast, but one of my very favorite shows is Guy’s Grocery Games (or, Triple G, if you will). Aside from the fact that Guy Fieri is super entertaining, they judges he has on are some of my favorite Food Network personalities, and the games are so ridiculous they’re amazing, it’s also about as close to my favorite part of the old Supermarket Sweep as you can get…because if you win, you get to run with a cart through a grocery store, and who wouldn’t love to do that? (Also, really excited about Supermarket Sweep being rebooted with Leslie Jones as the host, but that’s a topic for another time.)
Anyway, I always enjoy watching Triple G. Actually, one of my favorite things about recently changing our Hulu subscription from a basic package to Hulu + Live TV is that more episodes are available in the archive, and I can watch new episodes live. I didn’t realize just how important that little detail would be until today, however. Why? Because I learned that David Sandusky, of Beast Craft BBQ fame, is going to be competing on the September 11 episode! I’m already a huge fan of Beast (obviously), as well as the new Beast Butcher and Block, so getting to see this episode is going to be a total thrill, and I can yell “I know him!” at the TV while I’m watching.
Anyway, if you’re curious about the creative mind behind my favorite BBQ restaurant, I highly recommend you tune in tomorrow…I know I’m going to! Meanwhile, I’ll be over here hoping that maybe this will lead to Guy Fieri coming to Beast to film an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Not that I’ve filled out the online recommendation form and/or tweeted at Guy more than once or anything. I’m just saying.
I promised a closer look at the foods we tried making at home for our Rick Steves’ Europe themed summer school. This was probably the most specialized cooking we’ve ever done for a school unit, and not only did we get to try a lot of new things (plus a few old favorites), we also learned some new cooking techniques and got to use some new kitchen tools!
Our first European meal featured French dishes. We started with a cheese course, the star of which was a famous French cheese, camembert:
We enjoyed boeuf bourguignon and French bread for dinner, and Crème Brûlée for dessert. The main course was delicious, but took a lot of time and effort to make. The dessert, which I assumed would be a challenge, was super easy, and possibly the most delicious thing I made this summer!
For our (European) Christmas in July, we tried two recipes from the Rick Steves’ European Christmas book: Gimmelwald fondue and Norwegian Julekake. Both were excellent, and not too much trouble to make.
I looked forward to making a Spanish dinner of paella all summer, and it was delicious, and quite spicy! The dessert of flan was good, but a total pain to make.
Ladybug begged me to make chicken paprikash for Hungarian night, and it was also delicious. I really liked that instead of using sour cream like I expected, the recipe called for heavy cream plus white wine vinegar. For a side dish, I made nokedli (pretty much just our standard spaetzle). For dessert, I made a chocolate cake called Rigó Jancsi, and it was amazing…the star of the recipe was the chocolate mousse filling.
Our British dinner was a simple (but tasty!) one of bangers and mash, plus a lemon-berry trifle for dessert.
For our “Taste of Italy” I made mushroom risotto for dinner, and Panna Cotta with fresh berries for dessert. The Panna Cotta was sweetened (and flavored) with honey, which was a pleasant surprise.
We almost didn’t have a German meal, but while watching our very last episode of Rick Steves’ Europe for the summer, we saw him eating Black Forest cherry torte, and the children reminded me how much they like it when I make that dessert, so I decided to go full German and make rouladen, spaetzle, and sauerkraut, too.
Our final meal took us away from Europe and into the Middle East, because there are a few episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe that also step into that region. We tried Shakshouka (made with a new-to-us ingredient, harissa paste), plus pita bread and pomegranate juice, and it was also delicious!
The vast majority of these recipes were new to us, and there was nothing that was a total flop (although the flan was temperamental, it came close!). Some things were more work than I would do on a regular basis (the boeuf bourguignon and the rouladen), but some were easier than I was expecting (the Crème Brûlée and Shakshouka). I know for sure that we’ll be making many of these recipes again in the future!
Last month when we went to the new Beast Craft BBQ location in St. Louis, Beast Butcher and Block, I was excited to see the #beercheesesteak on the menu, because it’s something I’ve been wanting to try for a long time! Aren’t I lucky that it’s something that has now shown up at both locations?
So here’s the deal. Chopped brisket (which of course, I already knew I loved), tallow, beer cheese, and onions. On that amazing bread Beast uses. And I got some of Beast’s delicious fries to go with it. Perfect dinner. Melt-in-your-mouth perfection. And I didn’t really understand how tasty tallow is before Beast. Actually, I’m not sure I’ve really ever had tallow prior to Beast!
Every time I try something new at Beast (no matter the location…I love that I can say that now!), I figure that’s it, there’s just no way they can top that. They always do, though, and I am constantly waiting to see what they come up with next! And now that they’re on both sides of the river, if you’re in the St. Louis metro, you have no excuse not to taste just what that might be for yourself!