Project Food Blog Round 3: Champagne Luxury on a PBR Budget

Yesterday night I hosted a luxury dinner party for challenge 3 of Project Food Blog. Let’s just say that the theme of the night wound up being, “four guests, crazy honey”.

When I read the prompt for challenge 3 I was initially worried. “Throw a luxury dinner party?” I thought, “how can I do that when most of my friends don’t even have dining room tables?” I have maintained on this blog that just because you are a student and short on cash, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a fabulous party! Personally, I think there are two keys to this: 1) use ingredients you already have and 2) use a few, really special ingredients in simple dishes. I did both last night and I think I accomplished my mission.

I decided to throw the party at my friends Catie and Emily’s house because I have a midterm on Monday and it looks like a Wills and Trusts bomb went off in my apartment. Unless dozens of pages of tiny family trees with dollar amounts next to them is your idea of luxury I knew it just wouldn’t work. Plus, Catie and Emily have a big, open concept kitchen which allows for plenty of chef to guest interaction. The kitchen is the heart of every home and I love cooking surrounded by friends. Catie’s long time friend Jackie also attended.

My favorite part of dinner parties is cooking with everyone, sharing stories and laughing. We had to start with wine of course!

Once the vino is poured the party really starts rocken’.

One of my pieces of advice if your on a budget but want to host a luxe dinner party is to use what you already have plenty of. I happen to have a ton of honey leftover from making baklava last week so I incorporated it into every course. Honey was used liberally in the creation of this meal.

Explaining the importance of using what you got

As you might have gleaned from the title of my blog I am a bit of a Barefoot Contessa fan. I love Ina because everything in her world is always fabulous and even challenging dishes are so easy and simple to make. All I want to do is move to the Hamptons and eat leftovers with Jeffrey.

I always take study breaks when Barefoot is on and yesterday was no exception. While watching I decided I had to make a cheese appetizer she was featuring: Baked Brie with Honey and Pecans. I served it with farmers market fresh honey crisp apple slices. I made this first so my guests could enjoy it with wine while I prepped the rest of the meal.

Another Barefoot classic was the entree: Tagliarelle with Truffle Butter.

This dish is amazing because it has very few ingredients and you might actually have some of them lying around the house. One thing that won’t be lying around your house if you are a twenty something graduate student is truffle butter. Lucky for me, it was on sale at Whole Food this week! Even I can afford $7 for “the finest truffle butter in the world”.

Can you believe my friends had never tried truffle butter?

This dish cooks in a matter of a few minutes.

While the pasta was being prepared I honey roasted some fall vegetables. This is a simple recipe that utilizes honey, because I have an excess of it, and some great farmers market finds including the first butternut squash of the season, carrots, parsnips, and walnuts.


If you read my blog you know I’m a sucker for roasted veggies. This is a sweet twist on your typical roasted veggie.

And then, dinner was ready.

Tagliarelle with Truffle Butter

and Honey Roasted Fall Vegetables


Dinner is served!

Who says you can’t have a luxurious meal and sit on the floor? I think we proved them wrong last night!

And then it was time for dessert… Vanilla Ice Cream with Drizzled Honey and Raspberries.

Simply delicious.

I am so glad I have made it this far in Project Food Blog and was able to serve this fantastic dinner party to these fabulous ladies! I was able to combine simple and special ingredients with the ingredients I already had to craft a tasty dinner for everyone. The best part of any dinner party is getting together with old and new friends, swapping stories and laughing. We had a wonderful, food coma inducing time. Thanks for being a part of it!

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Project Food Blog Round 2- The Classics

When I read the prompt for round 2 of Project Food Blog I knew exactly which culture I wanted to draw from…

It had to be Turkey! I traveled to Turkey last summer and fell in love with the country. From Istanbul to Ephesus, I loved everything about Turkey. I saw ancient ruins, beautiful mosques, and went wild in the Spice Market.

More than anything, I loved the food! Lets be real, any culture where it is encouraged to eat cheese for breakfast is fantastic. I ate tons of eggplant, hummus, thick yogurt, cucumbers, lamb, beef, cheese, nuts, olives, and of course baklava!

After returning from Turkey I missed the food, but never attempted to recreate it myself. Well, the time has come and I decided to make baklava!

What I love about baklava is that there are so many ways to customize it to your tastes. I decided to make pistachio, walnuts, and walnuts with dates because the only thing I miss more than baklava are Turkish delights. The ingredients for this recipe are almost all local. The only ingredients that aren’t local are the sugar, nutmeg, and the phyllo dough. Yesterday morning I went to the Santa Monica Organic Farmer’s Market to pick up my ingredients and then I set off to making baklava!

To save money I bought whole walnuts and then chopped them myself.

After consulting with the honey man at the farmers market I decided to use orange blossom honey in my baklava.

Delicious honey syrup!

Mid way through construction…

and all together:

Delicious, mouth watering, and sticky sweet.

Yes, I ate all three. I have no self control when it comes to phyllo, nuts, sugar and honey.

Are you convinced that you have to make this right now?

Baklava

Sauce:

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup orange blossom honey

1 tablespoon lemon juice (from the lemon)

1/2 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of grated nutmeg

Baklava

3 cups of chopped nuts (I used 2 cups walnuts, 1 cup pistachio)

1/4 cup sugar (divided between the nuts)

1 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon (again, divided between the nuts)

8 oz. phyllo dough

3/4 cup melted butter

1 small hand full of dates, chopped, make sure there are no pits

For the sauce

Combine the water and the sugar and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 mins. After 15 mins take off the heat and combine honey, nutmeg, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Return to medium heat and cook for 5 mins, stirring throughout. Take off the heat and cool completely to room temperature. Set aside.

For baklava:

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the chopped nuts with the sugar and the cinnamon. Stir and set aside.

Melt the butter. Unroll the phyllo dough. Be careful! Keep the dough covered with damp towels at all times or it will dry out! I used a casserole dish that is the same size as the phyllo dough. If yours isn’t the same size you will want to cut it down. Lay a layer of phyllo dough in the dish and brush the melted butter on the sheet. I used by fingers, it was like finger painting with butter!  Repeat this 4 times alternating butter and phyllo. Then, layer half of the nuts and dates as you wish! Continue layering the phyllo with the melted butter for two more layers. After adding two more layers of butter and phyllo add the second half of the dates and nuts. Top with four more layers of butter and phyllo dough. Make sure that you generously apply butter to the top layer of the phyllo dough.

Cut into slices with a serrated knife. You must do this before cooking because you will be unable to cut it afterwords. Bake for 30 mins.

Once the baklava is done baking take it out of the oven and pour the cooled syrup over the baklava. Let the baklava cool completely.

Enjoy and afiyet olsun!

Ready, Set, Blog! Project Food Blog Challange 1

Welcome to Left Coast Contessa! My name is Katherine. I’m a 23 year old law student cultivating a healthy lifestyle and exploring Los Angeles.

The first challenge for Project Food Blog, a blogging competition hosted by Foodbuzz, is to introduce my blog and describe what defines me as a blogger. This has made me to think, who am I as a blogger?

Well, my food philosophy is simple: I love delicious, delectable indulgences crafted from clean, local ingredients.

I enjoy sipping cocktails,

putting together pizzas,

indulging in dessert,

reviewing restaurants,

exploring my surroundings,

all while studying for my law degree.

Food blogging is my escape from everyday.

I enjoy cooking with luxurious ingredients but I live on a federally funded student loan budget.

I believe in wine


and cupcakes like I believe in voting: early and often.

I am your average 23 year old student. I like to make special, extravagant recipes while accommodating my student budget. I don’t have a lot of time or money, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be special or that it has to be frozen.

Vote for me starting September 20th!