Today’s Reader Guest Post for The Holiday Project:
Nicole and Sheeter from Davis, California
[These two make an awesome team. Sheeter makes the best homemade BBQ sauce and ribs while Nicole bakes up the most delicious treats. It's always so much fun going on food adventures with them!]
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Banh mi (pronounced ‘ben me’ most places [although its southern pronunciation ‘bang me’ is, arguably, way funnier]) literally means bread in Vietnamese. But it’s much more than bread. It’s spicy and sweet, sour and savory, crunchy and chewy … all at once, which is probably why this Southeast Asian sandwich has such a cult-like following. Banh mi shops can be found in virtually any major city like say, San Jose, CA, home to some of the best banh mi outside of Vietnam and, more importantly, Lee’s Sandwiches, the most successful banh mi chain ever. Full disclosure: There may be some bias involved here. San Jose is one of the co-authors’ hometown—and it’s not Sheeter. But if banh mi isn’t within close reach, you can create your own with the right ingredients.It begins with a Vietnamese baguette which, unlike its French counterpart, is individually portioned, made of wheat and/or rice flour, and has a light golden crust. This style of baguette can be found at Asian markets and banh mi shops, but you can also substitute whatever bread you like. It need only be hearty enough to handle all of these fillings:

 

Banh Mi Sandwich

Ingredients:

  • Cilantro
  • Fresh Jalapeno
  • Cucumbers
  • Pickled Carrot and Diakon (Do Chua) – see recipe below
  • Sliced deli meats – Proscuitto, Salame, Ham
  • Liver Pate
  • Soy Sauce

 


Directions:1. Lightly toast a baguette, slice it in half and spread on a layer of liver pate.
2. Add a few slices of deli meat on top of the pate (We are particularly fond of proscuitto).
3. Lay down 2-3 slices of cucumber before adding a handful of Do Chua.
4. Top it off with cilantro, sliced fresh jalapeno and a quick drizzle of soy sauce.

 

 


Variations:
The great thing about Banh Mi is that it is endlessly configurable. We tried a banh mi breakfast sandwich with fried bacon and a sunny-side up fried egg instead of deli meat. It was fantastic!

 

 

Pickled carrot and daikon (Do Chua)
Carrots, shredded, in thin rounds or thin strips
Daikon radish, cut like carrots
Distilled or rice vinegar
Sugar pinch
Salt and pepper pinch

1. Fill cut carrot and daikon into an airtight jar if you plan to keep the do chua for at least a week.
2. Add a pinch of salt, pepper and sugar (depending on desired sweetness) to vinegar. Mix together. The liquid can be diluted with warm water if it the vinegar taste is too overwhelming. 3. 3. Pour the liquid over the carrot and daikon, just enough to cover the vegetables.

As we were assembling these banh mi’s, Sheeter’s roommate Morgan swore repeatedly that he was just going to have ‘a bite’. But after sinking his teeth in one, he held up the sandwich half and asked, “Can I take this?”


We agreed, and concurred that the sandwich was, indeed, as good as Lee’s.

We’re Sheeter and Nicole, and our fanaticism for travel and technology is no secret—but we’re food enthusiasts too! We’re in our last year as undergrads at UC Davis (woo!). Sheeter is studying environmental policy and planning, and putting his transportation specialization to work at Siemens’ Rail Systems Division in Sacramento. But he’d rather be roasting a pig, putting together five variations of carne asada tacos in honor of Cinco de Mayo or making a mean stew. Nicole is studying international relations and art, and back from a quarter in D.C. where she sometimes wrote articles but mostly jumped into piles of fall foliage. She would, likewise, rather be brewing Vietnamese iced coffee or baking up a storm of sweet pies.

Today’s Blogger Guest Post for The Holiday Project:
Camille and Marie from myFudo

[These two ladies have never met but co-manage their blog together. It's wonderful to see how blogging and the internet can bring people together. Below, Camille and Marie talk about their favorite dessert and how they would share it with the other if/when they get to meet in person!]

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The two creators of myFudo, one of the most fun and informative food community sites in the Internet, are great friends who have not yet seen each other in “real” life. If asked what they would do if they did get to meet, these would be their answers:

Camille:

My dear friend Marie and also my partner in myFudo is faced with a dilemma far from anything I’ve ever experienced. She resides a world away from her childhood home. I admire her strength for as I found myself whining about the lack of diverse foods she had to learn a foreign language and adjust to a culture completely outside of anything she had known. It was through sheer luck that Marie and I stumbled upon each other’s individual blogs. We became friends, launched a blog together and still have never met in person. The power of the World Wide Web astounds me for it has shrunk my world and given me a dear friend.

If I was able to sit down to coffee with Marie I’d serve her one of my favorite pastries of all time; the napoleon. When I first made a napoleon I bought the puff pastry dough. Eventually, I learned how to make my own puff pastry dough and I loved it better than any store-bought dough I’d ever used. This is the hardest part of making a napoleon. The dough is time consuming work, but well worth it. The pastry cream, I learned, could be flavored in any way you desired. I will always love the traditional vanilla, but I prefer to add a hint of orange to my vanilla pastry cream. And, while chocolate is delicious, I find mocha to be a delightful filling, perfect with an espresso.

As with anything worthwhile, time, patience and hard work are involved. This is true when making napoleons. I hope that through time and with patience the day will come that Marie and I will sit down to talk over coffee and napoleons. I am sure that making the puff pastry for those napoleons will be anything but hard work.

 

Marie:

If someone had told me years ago that I would find true friendship in the Internet, I wouldn’t have believed them. But life is unpredictable, and gave me an unexpected gift in the form of Camille. Although we have never met in real life, I hold her dear to my heart and consider her a friend in every sense of the word.

Managing myFudo together has brought us even closer as we share our love for food. If we were to meet someday, I will offer her my favorite dishes, and it will be a feast full of fun and laughter as if we had always known each other since childhood. For dessert, I will serve her choux cream, those delicious puff pastries that are also known as “cream puff” to Americans, “choux à la crème” to the French, “profiterole”, and “prophiteról” to the Greeks.

These delectable pastries are filled with either pastry cream, whipped cream, or ice cream, and are topped with a caramel glaze or chocolate sauce and dusted with powdered sugar. Profiteroles are smaller versions of the pastry.

 Being a Francophile (French American) I am proud to acknowledge that choux cream has French roots and each choux à la crème is assembled into a pièce montée  to resemble a mountain and is often the centerpiece in a wedding or Christmas. Choux cream are elegant and delectable pastries, and I place much care and time into their creation. They would be fitting gustatory treats for my friend, Camille, as we share our stories.

Today’s Reader Guest Post for The Holiday Project:
Lori from San Diego, California

[Lori and I LOVE to share meals with one another and try to find time to cook together when we can.  She’s so much fun, and I just love it when she’s around. Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas!]

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Hello fellow foodies and readers of Life Tastes Like Food! My name is Lori and I loooove food.  I love to make it, bake it, watch it, talk it, read about it, and I have discovered I also like to write about it! Thank you Stephanie for letting me participate in your Holiday Project and for all the wonderful food memories we have shared!!

So it’s the day after Christmas.  You are exhausted and if you are like me have just spent practically the entirety of the last 2+ weeks in the kitchen baking hundreds of cookies and preparing two huge delicious holiday meals…BUT…the family is still hanging around!!! At this point, you just want to be done!! This could be the meal for you (next year, I guess).  This delectable lasagna can be made a couple of days before and then all that is left is popping it in the oven and in an hour you will have amazed all, with yet another incredible meal that feeds plenty!!! But be warned… it’s a button buster! And of course it can also be made all year round–this folks, is comfort food at its finest!

I have always enjoyed a good lasagna, but this… this is different…. this is one of my favorite meals, period.  The main difference between this and what my mom use to serve up is no Ricotta! Instead this has a creamy, cheesy béchamel layer that puts this lasagna into a whole different kind of good category.  The basis for the recipe came from an Italian (stallion) my friend met at a bar, and of course, they some how started talking about lasagna (typical bar chatter).  He assured her that we have royally screwed up this dish in the states and that the tasteless tub of ricotta belongs no where near a good a lasagna (his words, not mine).  She raved about it so much, that by the end of that day I found myself making lasagna! I was a convert. The other aspect of this lasagna that makes it so good is the Bolognese sauce.  I have searched and searched the web, not to mention recorded just about every food network show with “Bolognese ragu” in the info in hope of finding one that really blew me away.  I have since created a version of many combined ideas (I think taking the best ideas from everyone) and created my own, best thus far Bolognese ragu!

Ingredients:

  • Lasagna noodles; 1 box
  • Mozzarella; sliced 1 lbs plus some (add as much as you’d like)
  • Fresh basil

Bolognese

  • Olive Oil (to coat the bottom of the pan)
  • Onion (yellow or brown); chopped 1-1.5 cups
  • Carrots; chopped 1-1.5 cups (although found in many Bolognese recipes many people still look skeptical when I tell them I put carrots in my red sauce, but trust me it balances the acid from all the tomato with a very subtle cooked carrot sweetness)
  • Garlic; minced 5-6 cloves although I have been known to use a whole bulb (I love garlic!)
  • Sausage; combination sweet and hot Italian 2 lbs
  • Mushrooms; 24 oz. (optional)
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • dried Italian seasoning or combination or your preference of dried herbs 1 Tbs
  • red wine; 4 cups (usually I just completely submerge the contents of the pot)
  • canned tomatoes; 6 cups (I usually use a combination of crushed, cubed, and tomato sauce)
  • fresh herbs and 1-2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste (salt as you go!)

Béchamel (courtesy of Mario Batali)

  • Butter; 5 Tbs
  • All-purpose flour; 4 Tbs
  • Whole milk; 4 cups
  • Grated parmesan cheese; ½-3/4 cup
  • Nutmeg (freshly grated!!); ½ tsp or to taste
  • Salt if necessary (make sure you taste, often the parmesan is salty enough!)

Preparing the Lasagna

This lasagna is definitely a labor of love, but well worth it! Always make the Bolognese first because that should cook as long as possible! I usually start early in the day and just let this simmer until I am ready to use it, or I even make it the day before and at night I just let it sit covered on the stove top (off) until assembly time!

Ingredients for the Bolognese

I am a firm believer that everything is better with garlic and onion. However, I am extremely sensitive to onion when chopping and these onion goggles, although they may disqualify me from any sexy chef competition, have saved me from a good cry or two.  Previously I had been caught wearing my lab goggles in the kitchen, and as my room mate who ran to grab the camera will tell you, those were much much less flattering.  Oh, and did I mention Paula Dean owns a snazzy pair of hot pink ones?!

For the Bolognese, coat the bottom of a dutch oven with good quality olive oil.  Once the oil is hot add the carrots and the onions.  Cook until just soft and beginning to brown.  Make a well in the middle of the dutch oven and add the garlic.  You want the garlic to get direct heat to really release its flavor and oil.  Heat = flavor. We will use this technique for everything up until the wine.

The all important well.

Let these cook until they almost make a paste, 10- 15 minutes.   We don’t need chunks of vegetable in this lasagna we need flavors, and those brown bits off the bottom of the dutch oven are flavor gold!

You will truly be amazed by how all these veggies cook down to so little!

Make another well and add the sausage, breaking it up in to little bits. Cook through. Make another well and add the mushrooms until just tender.  I usually salt and add dried Italian seasoning through out this process.  Form your last well and with the sausage juices and oil that forms in the middle, almost fry the tomato paste, this will add depth of flavor and mellow out the strong acidity.  Stir to coat the entire contents of the pot with the tomato paste. Then add the dry red wine making sure to save at least enough for you to enjoy a glass while cooking! And as Alton Brown has engrained into my head “never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink!”). I usually add enough wine to just cover everything, but you can add more or less.  Let simmer until the wine has been reduced to half, stirring occasionally so the bottom does not burn.

Now it is time for the canned tomatoes.  Add tomatoes, fresh and dry herbs, bay leaves, and salt.  Let simmer for at least 1 hour, but the longer the better.

About 2 hours before dinnertime is when I start preparing everything else.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the lasagna noodles and make sure to undercook them.  While the lasagna sits and bakes we want the noodles to have room to absorb some of the extra liquid from the Bolognese sauce.  This also ensures firm but tender noodles in the final product. While the water is heating, prepare the béchamel.

You will need two sauce pans.  Heat the milk in one sauce pan, and never look away! Dairy can go from calm to rapid- overflowing- huge mess- boil over disaster in seconds.  In the other sauce pan, prepare the roux by melting the butter and whisking in the flour continuously until it becomes a golden sandy color.

Then slowly add in the heated milk one ladle full at a time, whisking continuously.  Bring this mixture just to a simmer and then whisk for another 10 minutes.  Add the parmesan cheese and freshly grated nutmeg and salt if necessary.  At some point during this process, hopefully your water for the noodles came to a boil and you added the noodles and drained them. If not, no worries and do it now.

Congratulations, at this point all there is only assembly and cooking!

In a deep 9×13 pan add a thin layer of the Bolognese sauce, then a layer of noodles (3-4 noodles will fit in each layer depending on your pan size, don’t overlap too much).   On top of the noodles add the béchamel, the mozzarella, Bolognese, and fresh basil respectively. Repeat until you run out of room! For the top layer cover all exposed noodles with Bolognese and then top heavily with mozzarella. Sprinkle heavily with dried herbs.

Let this set for 10-20 minutes as time allows, because I know at this point you are probably starving. (I always make a roll up to eat right then with an extra noodle and the two sauces to hold me over). Cover with foil and bake in a 375 degree over for 50 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling up between the noodles.  Uncover and broil until the top layer of cheese is a perfect golden brown. Let set again for 10 minutes covered. Serve and enjoy!!!!!

Do you need a last minute Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or New Year’s appetizer? Fear not, I’ve got your back. This is an instant hit at any party. And each bite screams holidays!

Crunched for time? Replaced the homemade mulled wine cranberry sauce with store bought sauce or a nice raspberry preserve. It will still taste excellent. Although I must say the mulled wine sauce is top notch.

We all deserve to eat some nice cheese and drink some good wine around this time of year. Really, ANY time of year in my book is an excellent time for fancy cheese and wine–but this dish is special. Promise.

Head over to Simply Scrumptious to read my guest post and to get the recipe!

Merry Christmas Eve, Friends! :)

Oh, and if you haven’t “liked” Life Tastes Like Food on Facebook yet, you should! If I reach 200 fans before the new year, I will host a giveaway!  Go, go! :)

Today’s Blogger Guest Post for The Holiday Project:
Yasmeen from Wandering Spice

[Yasmeen is such a sweetheart. I wrote a post for her blog not too long ago. These cookies seem just perfect for some holiday baking. Yum! Oh, and the boyfriend she talks about in the post? He’s her fiancee now! Congrats, Yasmeen! So happy for you!]

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Hi there, dear readers of Life Tastes Like Food! I’m Yasmeen – food lover, recipe writer and photographer at Wandering Spice.

First, a big thanks to Stephanie for sharing her beautiful space with me. I was thrilled to accept her offer to participate in The Holiday Project. What a fun way to get to know other readers, bloggers and food enthusiasts, and learn a bit more about your holiday traditions!

When I heard about the theme, I knew almost instantly what I’d make – Speculaas, a Dutch spice cookie. It’s a treat rich with a history of its own, and one that bears a special significance to me. You see, my sister, her husband and their gorgeous boy live in Holland, and I was lucky enough to be there when my nephew was born and through his first year. I also met and fell in love with my boyfriend (the Australian Man) while living in Amsterdam. Naturally, Holland and my memories there have a special place in my heart. So do cookies. A match made in heaven, I’d say.

Though available year-round now, speculaas are traditionally eaten at the start of Het Sint Nicolaasfeest (St Nicholas Festival) on 5th December in Holland. They’re generously spiced with a warm blend of aromatics – including white pepper – then pressed into ornate cookie molds, making addictively crisp and decorative wafers.

I often joke that I like putting a Middle Eastern ‘stamp’ on things, by adding Arabic flair to Western dishes. I can safely say I’ve taken that pun to a whole new level with my speculaas. Since I didn’t have a Dutch cookie mold, I used a traditional Arabic maamoul (date and semolina cookies) mold instead. Not quite conventional, but definitely festive.

The result? I used whole wheat flour, which made an ever-so-slightly chewier cookie, perfect for dipping in a piping hot cappuccino. And the taste? Each bite, a mile closer to my loved ones and unforgettable memories, and yet one step into a new holiday baking tradition in my new Australian home.

SPECULAAS: DUTCH SPICED BISCUITS

Adapted from Feast magazine; makes 12 large cookies

Provisions:
1 2/3 cup flour (250g – I used whole wheat)
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp white pepper
150g cold unsalted butter, cut in small cubes
2 tbsp ice water

Method:
Process flour, baking powder, sugar, spices and butter in a food processor until the mixture makes a coarse meal. Add the ice water and process until the mixture just comes together, 5-10 seconds (it will still be crumby). Turn out onto your work surface. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes or until cold and firm.

Preheat oven to 170C / 325 F. Line a baking sheet with nonstick paper. Roll the dough into golf-ball sized spheres one at a time and press into the cookie mold. If not using cookie mold, you can press them into circles and leave as-is, or decorate with a fork – no worries! Turn the cookies out onto the baking sheet.

Refrigerate once more for 20 minutes to help the cookies retain their shape (they will still flatten a bit when baking). Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack, and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

 


Audio pairing: The XX, “You’ve Got the Love” Remix

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