Lamb Stir-Fry with Pomegranate and Yogurt

Lamb Stir-Fry with Pomegranate and Yogurt

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Kale Tabbouleh with Chickpeas and Pomegranate Seeds

My friend Julie recently encouraged me to try a the Kale Tabbouleh recipe she had just posted on her blog Weekend Table. I hadn't felt inspired by kale recently so I gave this recipe a shot to see if I could figure out how to get it back into my weekly menu.

Mission accomplished. This is an awesome recipe! I tweaked it a bit to meet my dietary requirements and to use some of the ingredients I had on hand but stuck to the heart of the recipe.

1. Cook one cup of bulgar, millet, or other small grain. Set aside and cool.
2. In a small bowl, mix 3 tbsp lemon juice, one shallot or half a red onion, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp paprika and a heaping tsp of salt. Whisk in 1/2 cup of olive oil.
3. In a large bowl, combine the grains, 5-6 cups VERY finely chopped kale, 1/3 cup of chopped mint and a cup of chickpeas. Julie added two cups of diced tomatoes and I added a generous handful of pomegranate seeds I had on hand. Both add color and both work very well.

This hearty salad lasts easily for three days in the fridge. Refresh with some olive oil and a splash of lemon juice. Its colors also provides good evidence against Fox News' claims about the War on Christmas.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Slow Cooker Black Beans and Holiday Budgets

A few days ago I analyzed my spending patterns for groceries in November. Gulp. My new diet is not cheap! Fresh cashew milk, lamb, and chia seeds add up quickly and don't leave a lot of room for buying Christmas presents and stocking stuffers.

Luckily I love black beans and so does my family. Xavier, following in his mother's ''wanna-be-latino'' footsteps, chants rice and beans the way most kids say mac n' cheese. The new Smitten Kitchen Cookbook has a simple recipe for black beans in the slow cooker that I have put into rotation about once a week. If you feel like splurging (or are annoyed with the relatives on your holiday list), you can serve this with pickled red onions, avocado, cilantro, etc. but it works well on its own too.

In a large 6-quart slow cooker, combine one chopped onion, 3-5 minced garlic gloves, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon oregano, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 dried chile, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, and 1 lb ( 2 1/4 cups) of dried black beans. Cover with 8-10 cups of broth or water depending on how soupy you like your beans. Cook for about 6 hours on high and then mix in a tablespoon of lime juice.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Is Healthy Pumpkin Pie Worth Making? Yes!

I looked forward to Thanksgiving more this year than I ever have in the past. For months I have been anticipating my mother getting up with Xavier, my mother reading to Xavier, my mother taking long walks with Xavier…you get the drift. But I definitely wasn’t looking forward to the food. Not only am I not a huge fan of the standard offerings but with my wacky new diet, I can’t eat mashed potatoes with butter, gravy thickened with flour and pies full of both.

I contemplated just munching on string beans and plain turkey with a good book and a glass of wine. Instead I opted to join in on the culinary festivities instead with a gluten-free, vegan pumpkin pie. Don’t stop reading! Before you dismiss this recipe altogether, picture a rich crust made of pecans, honey and oats and a creamy pumpkin filling flavored with fresh spices and thickened with a bit of coconut butter.

I followed this recipe almost exactly but replaced the Earth Balance with coconut butter. It really was very good and with the heightened nutritional value, you can justify eating it for breakfast…all weekend!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ottolenghi’s Kofta (Lamb meatballs)

have a bookshelf in every room of my apartment. For anybody that lives in a Manhattan-sized apartment, this is borderline idiotic. I don’t have space for a box of Kleenex, but somehow I justify filling the rooms with stacks of books I will never read again.

The bookshelf in the dining area has a shelf devoted to cookbooks and I try to be ruthless about what books make the cut (even though ironically these are the ones I do read again.) I know I can find most recipes online but I’m 31 going on 91 and I still love making greasy fingerprints on cookbooks. 

Recently I saw the cover of Yotam Ottolenghi’s new cookbook Jerusalem and wanted it immediately. I actually ordered it and then cancelled it when I realized I didn’t have free shipping. Before I decided to simply add another cookbook to my order to qualify for free shipping, I decided to test out his Kofta recipe to make sure this book would be more than just pretty pictures.

For those of you who think meatballs need breadcrumbs, make these. Believe me - crushed pine nuts taste much better than breadcrumbs and do the job of holding these little guys together perfectly.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Meeting my Hero and Raspberry Ricotta Scones

Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen fame had a book signing event for her new cookbook this past weekend. It's been months since I have cooked any of her recipes since they all include banned ingredients (sniffle), but I still read her blog religiously and fantasize about a time when my life will again include eggs, cream, cheese and warm bread.

Anyways, not being able to cook her recipes wasn't going to stop me from meeting her so I lined up with the rest of her followers to have my cookbook signed.  When it was my turn, I stumbled through an exchange with her about Xavier's birthday cake while flushing deeply. Pretty ridiculous.

The next morning, I made her Raspberry Ricotta scones - one of the few recipes in her book that she had previously written up online.

It includes a long list of banned ingredients - cream, ricotta, flour, butter, etc. and they came out looking and smelling awesome. Xavier and Ryan gobbled them up and I inhaled deeply.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Chickpea Pancakes

Chickpea flour has been life changing over the past month. There are a lot of gluten-free flours out there, but most recipes call for a delicate balance of sorghum, amaranth, arrowroot and millet flour for example. By the time I read the list of ingredients, I have lost all desire to make the recipe. Something about ‘sorghum flour’ does not inspire me…

Chickpea flour, however, is straightforward, comes from a bean I’m very familiar with and tastes great. To make a chickpea flour pancake, you just mix the same amount of flour and water together and then adjust to a consistency you like. I usually do ½ a cup of each. Oil a small pan and then fill the pan entirely with the batter. Cover and let cook for 5 minutes. If you want a crispy pancake, flip it and cook it for a few more minutes.

The first time I ate it drizzled with tahini and honey. Last night I added some cumin and turmeric to the batter, cooked it with some vegetables and topped it with some sriracha. The whole process takes less than 10 minutes and you have a nutritious hearty meal. Without sorghum flour.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pine Nuts

Has anybody ever had undercooked eggplant? As far as I know, it’s the only vegetable that is absolutely disgusting if it’s not cooked to death. Slight crunchy carrots? Delicious. Asparagus that retains its crispness? Awesome. Chewy eggplant? Nasty.

When I saw this recipe in Food and Wine for Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pine Nuts, I was excited but wary.
I loved the idea of using cinnamon, lemon, tamarind and sugar to create a salty sweet balance. However, the idea of piling the lamb on top of the eggplant without hollowing it out terrified me. Undercooked eggplant alert! Therefore I carved out the eggplant and roasted the shell and the chopped up insides separately for 40 minutes ahead of time.  I then mixed the chopped eggplant with the lamb and loaded the ‘eggplant boats’ up and roasted for another 20 minutes until I was absolutely certain it was cooked.

This makes for a hearty dish so I served with an arugula, pomegranate and pecan salad for some color as well as a bit of hummus.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Lentil Soup with Toasted Coconut and Cilantro

Back to back work trips stink for a lot of reasons. I miss my family, my fake exercise classes (Zumba!) and my own home. I also miss cooking and eating the type of foods I enjoy. Because of the nature of my job, eating in the field is divided into two categories: 1) Delicious but often incredibly unhealthy local street food like chicharron, fried yuca or empanadas and 2) overpriced hotel food that is often described as 'international' on the menu and tastes like an industrial-sized kitchen's spin on Olive Garden.

 Despite the total absence of anything green, I usually stick to the street food. However, on certain trips when I'm stuck in meetings or trainings, I don't have a choice but to sit down with everyone else for the buffet lunch. On offer is chicken with sauce, pasta with sauce and boiled-to-death vegetables....with sauce. It's awful.

 I have a few days in NYC between trips this weekend so I immediately turned to my favorite standby: lentil soup.

My first stab at this simple recipe turned out a bit sweet so I'm having it for breakfast. It's awesome though so I think next time around I'll bump up the red pepper flakes and add a bit more curry powder. Don't skip the toasted coconut flakes and cilantro. They make the dish. Now if only I could bring soup as a carry on.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Teff Flour Peanut Butter Cookies

Cookies without sugar, eggs, butter, oil or wheat flour? I was skeptic! So skeptic in fact that I dusted half the batch with sugar as a precaution in case the others weren't edible.

I'm happy to report that the extra sugar was totally unnecessary. These bad boys are really good and stay moist and chewy for at least a week..and counting.

The only ingredients you need are peanut butter, teff flour (an Ethiopian grain available widely now), maple syrup, apple sauce and vanilla.

It's a decent amount of maple syrup so I wouldn't say these are like eating carrots sticks but they are healthy enough to have for breakfast in my book.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Slow Cooker Moroccan Lamb Tagine

For the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to fall. I think because dealing with a toddler who won’t wear a hat or sunglasses, acts like sunscreen is liquid acid and is too young to realize it’s cooler in the shade is a bit exhausting. Lazy summer days reading on the beach with a cold beer are behind me….for now.

So I welcomed the first bit of chill in the air. To celebrate, I got down my slow cooker and poked through some Moroccan lamb recipes. I ended up going for one with garbanzo beans, dried apricots and my entire spice cabinet. I didn’t have eggplant on hand but that would have been a good addition. Olives would be good too. I skipped the prunes as they sounded too sweet. I served it with cilantro and toasted almonds over millet.

It was incredibly tasty with a glass of red wine on a fall evening. I know that come February I will despise stews and heavy red wines but for now I’m loving the change!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Spicy Baked Shrimp

Shrimp are off limits these days but it didn’t stop me from whipping up my favorite recipe the other day for Mamita, Amie and Heather.  It’s my “go to” shrimp recipe as it just involves tossing all the ingredients together and popping them in the oven. It’s ideal if you are hosting (that’s code for gossiping and drinking wine with friends) and don’t feel like stir frying or grilling those juicy little critters. Although in this case I think we opted for baking because none of us could figure out the grill. Not exactly feminism at its best.

Combine ½ cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons Cajun or Creole seasoning, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, a pinch of cayenne pepper and a handful of chopped cilantro. Toss with 1 pound of uncooked shelled shrimp and marinate for one hour (if you have time). Cook for 10 minutes in the oven at 450. Serve with French bread to mop up the yumminess. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Coffee with Cardamom and Cinnamon

Flavored coffee reminds me of late night stops at 7 Eleven in college to buy Gatorade and Wows. The sickly sweet smell of hazelnut flavor still makes my stomach turn. Gross.

Do it yourself flavored coffee is a different story. Mix in some fresh spices with the coffee grinds and your standard morning cup of Joe takes on a little kick.  I prefer the cardamom and cinnamon combination – mostly because I love cardamom but can’t figure out enough ways to eat it. If you take your coffee with milk, a small splash of vanilla in the heated milk is delicious too.

Ideally you’ll enjoy this cup of coffee after 7 a.m. Hear that Xavier?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Beluga Lentil Salad with Dandelion Greens and Walnuts

In case you haven’t heard me complain lately, I can’t eat anything anymore! In an effort to kick this autoimmune disease kicking around my gut, my nutritionist has cut out everything from my diet. No more rice with my curries or corn tortillas with my tacos. No more cheese, almonds or strawberries. And no more steak. Agghhh! The list goes on.

Anyways, luckily I still have that ‘love affair with lentils’ I mentioned a few years ago.  Lentils, unlike other legumes, satisfy that meaty craving I get and fill me up in a way most vegetarian meals can’t. Beluga black lentils are also just gorgeous to look at – although admire them before you cook them as they lose their caviar-like sparkle when they hit the pot.

  1.  Cook one cup of rinsed black lentils in big pot of water for 15 minutes and drain.
  2.  Sautee a big helping of cremini mushrooms in olive oil, garlic and shallots until almost cooked. Then toss in a healthy helping of greens such as dandelion or spinach. You can also just throw the greens in raw at the end for a more salad like meal.
  3. Make a mustardy vinaigrette with 2 teaspoons Dijon, 2 tablespoons vinegar and 3 tablespoons olive oil.
  4.  Toss the lentils and mushroom and greens mixture with the vinaigrette. Top with toasted walnuts (and cheese if you are lucky!) Serve with a wedge of lemon. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Roasted Radishes

My friend Theo went to the farmers market the other day and left me with an enormous bushel of radishes. Growing up my mom served them with ice cubes and sea salt as a refreshing snack after the beach. They were always a bit spicy as radishes are but nothing over the top. Theo's radishes, on the other hand, tasted like they were infused with habaneros. In an attempt to not waste food, I tried to eat them anyways but within seconds my mouth was on fire.  

Google to the rescue. It turns out you can roast radishes and it mellows their bite dramatically. Toss the radishes in salt, olive oil and herbs (if you have some) and roast them at 450 for 10-15 minutes. Give them a stir every five minutes or so. Roasted they maintain their radishy crunch but taste sweeter. I’m still not sure why we don’t see them like this more often!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Wild Rice Salad with Cherries

Northern Michigan is my favorite place on earth. There isn’t even a close second. I grew up a few minutes from the beach north of Boston so people thought I was nuts to leave in the summer for the Great Lakes.  How wrong they are!

One of the many wonderful things about this part of the country is that it’s where cherries are grown.  When ‘up north,’ we eat cherries everyday. Cherry pie for breakfast signals summer for me.

When I got back to NYC, I was homesick for spicy Vernors, 10 pm sunsets and cherries. I couldn’t do 
much about the first two but luckily (for a small fortune) it’s cherry season in NYC too.

I made Heidi Swanson’s wild rice salad with cherries and it was a hit. It’s no cherry pie but that’s a breakfast thing anyways.

Combine 3 1/2 cups of cooked wild rice, a few handfuls of greens like spinach or arugula and 2/3 cup toasted walnuts. Make  a cherry vinaigrette by combining ½ cup of cherries, ½ cup olive oil and ¼ cup of white wine vinegar. Blend until smooth and season with salt. Dress the salad (you’ll have leftovers) and then toss in one cup of pitted fresh cherries and top with some crumbled goat cheese.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Nut Milk on Your Doorstep? Only in NYC!

There are a lot of dairy substitutes out there these days – rice, coconut, almond, soy, etc. – but very few of the store bought brands taste that great in my mind and many are chalk full of random gunk. O Milk of Brooklyn to the rescue! They deliver fresh almond and cashew milk to your doorstep weeknights between 7-10pm. They charge $5 for delivery but refuse tips since it’s still the owners driving around dropping off your fresh milk. It’s insanely awesome.

I got a few of both delivered and froze some to save on the delivery fee for the next few weeks. Says she who just bought a ticket to London in August. Penny wise, pound foolish. Literally.

The almond milk is fantastic for oatmeal, smoothies, coffee or whatever else you would normally use milk in. The cashew milk is a meal in itself. Delicious!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Avocado Smoothie

It's not as weird as it sounds. Avocados have a seed so they are technically a fruit. And my friend Jessica just had a tomato (seeds!) and cucumber (seeds!) smoothie in Belize. And while we are all used to them as guacamole, they lend themselves well to a bit of sweetness. Have an avocado smoothie for breakfast, and you'll actually survive until lunch without a terrible case of the munchies.

Combine one firm avocado with cold almond milk and about one tablespoon of honey or more if you like sweeter smoothies. Toss in some sunflower seeds or other nuts if you like. I prefer to garnish it with some crunchy caramelized sunflower seeds but that is a bit of extra work.

If you like it, awesome. If you don't, go back to your guac. Zzzzzz!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Crunchy Pork-Kimchi Burgers

I'm hoping I don't get in the habit of deep frying, but if these pork-kimchi burgers are any indication of the potential for frying at home, I think I might at least put frying into the rotation.

I saw this recipe in Food and Wine and figured it would be a great way to use up the kimchi chilling in the back of my fridge. I followed the recipe exactly but substituted Greek yogurt for the know, to be healthy. Ha!

You basically just combine ground pork, kimchi, ginger, garlic and scallions and then make little patties. Cover them with panko and egg and fry them. Wow. And then serve them with greens.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Asparagus and Broccolini Salad: A Cure for the post-BBQ blahs

Whenever I think about cooking in the summer, I picture piles of fresh tomatoes from a garden, crisp corn and cilantro salads and grilled fish with a fruity salsa. In actuality, I spend most summer weekends eating tortilla chips, jarred bodega salsa, hot dogs and too much lukewarm Prosecco. When Monday rolls around, I feel this desperate urge to eat giant healthy salads.  

Recently I tried an Asparagus and Broccolini salad that managed to zap away my memories of cheap BBQ snacks. You can use broccoli and almonds instead of broccolini and pine nuts and skip the parmesan for a cheaper version or to use up what you have lying around.

Since there is no lettuce, it makes for good leftovers so you can feel smugly healthy on Tuesday too!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lemon Gnocchi with Spinach and Peas

Every time I cook with cream, I swear to myself that I will cook with it more than I do. It's just plain awesome. I know, I know...fat content, calories, blah blah blah. But every once in a while I encourage you to go for it. I met a man this weekend whose most famous quote is "Have you every just enjoyed a big glass of cream?" If there are people doing that, you can handle a few tablespoons.

One of my favorite spring recipes is Lemon Gnocchi with Spinach and Peas.

 It's a simple recipe that works with fresh or frozen peas. Simmer one cup of peas with 1/2 cup of cream, a dash of red pepper flakes, and chopped garlic until they are cooked. Add 3 cups of spinach and stir  until they wilt. Take the pan off the heat and add zest from one lemon and a few teaspoons of lemon juice. Toss with Parmesan cheese and a bit of water from the cooked gnocchi.

The best part of cooking with cream is you are bound to have leftovers for indulgent cups of coffee, whipped cream with strawberries or a cream based soup. Or you could just drink it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Carmelized Tofu on a Brussel Sprout Slaw

Sounds weird, right? So does the Foie Gras Fluffernutter sandwich I mentioned a few weeks ago and that was amazing! I wasn’t up for trying to replicate that over-the-top sandwich, but I have had a craving for salty sweet ever since.

Ironically, this vegetarian tofu recipe hits the same notes. Start by sautéing tofu in a bit of peanut oil. Once it browns up a bit, add two minced garlic cloves and a healthy handful of nuts. After a few minutes, toss in about 3 tablespoons of sugar and stir until it’s dissolved. Remove from heat and mix in some chopped cilantro.

Add a bit more oil to the pan and sauté half a pound of finely sliced brussel sprouts. Once they start to brown nicely, remove and top with the tofu mixture. Sprinkle with salt. Voilà. It’s practically a Foie Gras Fluffernutter sandwich.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Chia Seed Pudding with Sunflower Seeds and Berries

I can’t count the number of times that somebody has told me I should eat more omega-3 and that I should make sure Xavier gets a lot in his diet. This is not news to me but it’s easier said than done for somebody who can smell salmon from a mile away. I actually tried to give Xavier sardines when he was a baby in hopes that he would learn to like them from an early age and avoid my fate of gagging every time I see them. However, he’s my son so he gagged too. Good boy.

I had pretty much given up on omega-3 when along came chia seeds. Chia, more famously known in its Chia Pet form, is packed with these fatty acids, along with fiber, protein and other nutrients. It’s ant-inflammatory and stabilizes blood sugar levels by slowing down the rate at which carbohydrates are digested. It’s my new hero.

Chia seeds can be turned into a great warm breakfast cereal. Heat up 1.5 cups of almond, soy, coconut or regular milk until hot but not boiling. Stir in 4 tablespoons of chia seeds and let it sit for 5 minutes. It will turn into a jelly-like porridge. I realize this sounds gross but once you toss in some toasted sunflower seeds, a drizzle of honey, berries and ideally a spoon of coconut butter, this super food turns into a really awesome breakfast.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Palak Paneer

When Carolyn and I traveled around India a million years ago, we were temporarily vegetarians. Rumor had it that sticking to vegetables decreased your chances of Delhi Belly. The experiment failed. However, if there is one country to be a vegetarian in, it’s India. One of my favorite dishes was Palak Paneer. It’s mellow and comforting in the same way lasagna is. I finally got around to making it and now have one more vegetarian dish firmly in the rotation. Cut 12 ounces of paneer into ½ inch cubes and brown in a tablespoon of butter. Sautee two chopped onions until they are soft. Add 3 chopped garlic cloves, one tablespoon of grated ginger, a generous pinch of turmeric and one tablespoon of a spice mixture made up of the following: cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, cardamom, and cloves. If you have at least 3 of those, it will be tasty. Cook for a few minutes and then add 1 ½ pounds of spinach. Frozen spinach actually works great in this recipe but if you use fresh spinach, chop it very finely. Once the spinach is wilted, add something creamy. Some recipes call for yogurt, milk or buttermilk. I happened to have a bit of cream cheese and some milk so I added a bit of both. Toss in the paneer and squeeze a fresh lemon over it. Serve with rice.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Deviled Eggs a la Spotted Pig

There is no better way to use up old Easter eggs than making deviled eggs. They are also a great dinner party snack if you have more time than cash on your hands. The Spotted Pig makes a damn good deviled egg so I followed their recipe.

Place 12 eggs in single layer in a saucepan. Cover with cold water, bring water to a simmer, shut off the heat and let them stand for ten minutes. Peel under cool running water. And don’t get a paper cut from the shell. Ow!

Combine egg yolks, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon mayo or yogurt, 1 tablespoon Dijon, 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar and one teaspoon malt vinegar in a food processor. Blend until smooth adding more oil if necessary. Season with salt.

Transfer mixture to a plastic Ziploc and cut a small hole in the corner. Fill the empty egg whites with the puree and try to make dramatic tails! Sprinkle with salt, red chili flakes, chives or something else with color.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chicken with Green Olives and Preserved Lemons

A few months ago, Rupal took Denise and I to Kalustyan's in Murray Hill for the first time. She was shocked that we had never been there as it's definitely a 'kid in a candy store' type situation for anyone who likes to cook. We spent over an hour wandering around and debating pressing questions like "Should I buy fresh or dried fenugreek?" and "Do I splurge on fresh curry leaves?" (The answers are fresh and yes.)

I finally emerged onto Lexington Avenue with bags full of paneer, preserved lemons, dried Persian limes, spicy lime chutney, and a dozen varieties of rice and lentils. Then came the hard part. What do I make with all this? I decided to start with the preserved lemons as they seemed the most perishable. I tried Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Green Olives. I accidentally drank the white wine the recipe calls for the night before so I just used broth. It's a simple recipe that lends a lot of flavor to chicken breasts.

Next on my list is a recipe with Persian limes. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Brisket Breakfast Tacos

Ryan and I tend to eat dinner around 9:30pm at which point I’m so starving that my blood sugars have plummeted and I can barely speak. I arrive home from work at 6:30 but then I launch into Xavier's frantic dinner-bath-bed time routine. I emerge from his room at 7:30 (practically ready to go to bed myself) and finally unpack the dirty lunch dishes from my purse, hang up my coat, blah blah blah. Fascinating stuff I realize. Anyways, by the time I re-energize (read: have a glass of wine) and Ryan gets home from class, it’s after 8 and time to start chopping.

Enter the slow cooker. I bought one a few weeks ago with the idea that at least a few times a week I could come home to dinner already made. I’m fairly suspicious of anything beyond brisket and beef stew that needs to cook that long but I’m open to suggestions if any of you have them. My first experiment was the Southwestern Pulled Brisket from Smitten Kitchen.

I served the brisket on blue tortillas with grated cheese, yogurt, cilantro and red onions. It was good. However, after marinating it over night, I reduced the sauce as Smitten Kitchen suggests and served it up as breakfast tacos with scrambled eggs. It was awesome. Unfortunately this means that if I want to make awesome brisket, I need to plan two days ahead. Is making dinner EVER easy??!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Red Grapes

It’s basically summer outdoors today but we all KNOW that we have a few more cold days ahead of us before we can whip out the flip-flops and the Forever 31 sun dresses for good. Before starting to fantasize about sweet summer corn and fresh tomato salads, make a few more cold weather comfort dishes. You’ll miss them by mid-July so indulge now.

I recently followed a recipe that was described to me as small bites of Thanksgiving. You’ll know what I mean when you roast brussel sprouts with red grapes. It’s a perfect savory sweet combination that uses the same herbs as a roast chicken. Voila…the perfect side dish.

Heat the oven to 375. On a large rimed baking sheet, toss 1 ½ pounds of trimmed, halved brussel sprouts and1 lb of seedless red grapes with two cloves of sliced garlic, chopped tarragon and thyme and olive oil. Roast about 40 minutes or until browned. And then pray summer gets here soon!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Roasted Honey Mustard Chicken with Tarragon

Roasting a chicken has always intimidated me. I know it sounds like such a simple undertaking but I had images of tying the wings and legs up in some complicated fashion, removing guts from its cavity and buying an overpriced roasting pan at Williams and Sonoma. Admittedly my motivation was low too since it’s cheaper to buy a rotisserie chicken in this city than a pint of beer.

Anyways, roasting a chicken might be the easiest and most rewarding meal you can cook. Yes. The local Peruvian restaurant chickens are good and cheap but they are also full of salt and have often been spinning in circles for days if not weeks.

If you buy a whole chicken, all you have to do is check to see if the cavity is empty or has a little packet of goodies in there. If it does, remove it and save if you are up for gravy. Fill the cavity with onions, lemons, garlic and herbs. Place the chicken in any sort of roasting pan that you have and then slide your fingers between the skin and the chicken. This is creepy. You then want to put some sort of paste between the skin and the meat. I chose a mixture of 3 tbsps honey, 2 tbsp mustard, chopped tarragon, lemon juice and salt. Rub the chicken with olive oil (also sort of creepy for some reason) and then roast at 350 for 2 hours.

Honestly, there is nothing more satisfying that a roast chicken. And if you aren’t Zuzana, you’ll think your whole house smells wonderful in a matter of minutes.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Breakfast Quinoa with Nuts and Berries

For the next few weeks, I can’t eat gluten or corn, which throws a big wrench in the cereal-eating contest I hold with myself every morning. I also can’t eat dairy, eggs or soy so therefore omelettes, toast, yogurt, pancakes and baked goods are also off the table. On weekdays, a giant café con leche and a bowl of cereal is what motivate me to lift my head off the pillow so this news was fairly devastating.

After sulking for a few hours and mourning the loss of Cheerios, I did a bit of research and acknowledged somewhat reluctantly that even healthy cereals are mass-produced, often high in sugar and lacking in nutrients. This week I substituted my cereal for a breakfast quinoa with nuts and berries.

Bring one cup of quinoa to a boil with one cup of almond milk and one cup water. Let it simmer for 15 minutes covered and then stand for another few minutes. Mix in toasted nuts, berries and add a bit of honey or maple syrup. Feel self-righteous for eating such a nutrient-packed breakfast. And then if you can, go right back to eating store bought cereal!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Seriously Legit Chili

I came home the other night to find Ryan in the kitchen surrounded by beef bones, ground spices and simmering beans. He looked dazed and mumbled something to me about only having 4.5 hours left before the chili was ready. It was after midnight.

Inspired by a serious eats blog, Ryan had set out to make the best chili ever. He ground his own spices, braised short ribs and cut up the beef, simmered heirloom beans, and crushed dried Mexican chiles from the local bodega. For an extra kick, he added chocolate, espresso and whiskey. The list of intricate steps goes on. This was seriously homemade chili from start to finish. I could taste the depth in the smoky richness of every bite of meat and each plump firm bean spoke of the hours that Ryan had spent in the kitchen. This was damn good chili!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Millet Muffins with Lemon and Honey

I have a hard time purchasing cookbooks these days. It seems like a waste of money since so much is available online. However I have been coveting Rupal’s copy of Heidi Swanson’s new cookbook Super Natural Every Day and those recipes aren’t available online. When I received another copy of A Snowy Day for Xavier for Christmas, I didn’t hesitate to return it and purchase the new cookbook for myself. (What? Xavier has a lot of books!)

I plan on cooking my way through this awesome cookbook one meal at a time. The idea behind it is that all the recipes are for weekdays and should take minimal time and effort but still be healthy and delicious. Ideal. Yesterday I started with the Millet Muffins. If you can make muffins before work with a toddler clinging to your leg, it’s a good recipe.

I hadn’t baked with millet before and I didn’t know what to expect. The millet makes these muffins crunchy and the yogurt and honey keep them moist. Serve them warm with more honey and butter.

Makes a dozen muffins

2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup raw millet
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup barely melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup honey
Grated zest and 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the top third of the oven. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan or line with paper liners.

Whisk together the flour, millet, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, butter, honey, and lemon zest and juice until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until the flour is just incorporated. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the muffin tops are browned and just barely beginning to crack.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

North African Fish Stew

Cooking for friends brings me a lot of pleasure. I research recipes, shop for fun ingredients and think about what I want to drink with the meal. I start imagining the house filled with friends, clinking wine glasses and the aromas of some masterfully prepared meal. In reality, I often find myself running back and forth between the computer where the recipe is and the kitchen where something is burning (usually nuts) and catching bits and pieces of conversation.

Easy one pot meals avoid this phenomenon to a certain extent and I rate a recipe highly if it tastes great, but also allows me to chatter away. This week I made a North African Fish Stew that I cut out of a recent Food and Wine. It came together very easily and I never once had to ask Deirdre or Amie to repeat their gossip!

The recipe calls for the Moroccan spice blend ras el hanout so I just combined nutmeg, ground ginger, all spice cinnamon and a few other spices that were hanging around. The sautéed raisins crisp up with the cashews for a delicious salty sweet combination that pairs nicely with the mild fish and couscous. The only downside to fish recipes is I don’t do fish leftovers so it’s meant a lot of cereal for lunch this week!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Baked Oatmeal with Almonds, Bananas and Strawberries

I woke up Saturday morning and literally leapt out of bed, threw on 44 layers of clothes and ran across the street and bought the only missing ingredient in the recipe doing circles in my head. Bananas. Every once in a while a recipe gets stuck in my mind and when I decide I want to make it, I don’t really want to eat anything else.

If you are like me, you want to like oatmeal. I have ancient relatives (Great Great Uncle Stan) who swear it’s what kept them alive. I find it unsatisfying though, especially 20 minutes after I have eaten it. It’s a tease. I feel full and then soon thereafter I could eat eggs benedict. There was something about baked oatmeal that sounded heartier – more like a meal and less like a cereal.

I followed Heidi Swanson’s recipe that is only in her cookbook but has been discussed online on various blogs.

You can play with the fruit and nut combination, but I recommend sticking to the bananas on the bottom since it ensures that the oatmeal comes off the pan easily. You can adjust the butter and sugar to match your dedication to your new years resolution. Don’t ask.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Kale chips as the next stocking stuffer? Not quite..but close!

Many people talk about how delicious kale chips are and how even their kids will eat them. I always thought these people were slightly delusional or had never had a real salt and vinegar potato chip. I have now joined the ranks of the roasted kale chips fanatics. These things are really good!

Ryan has whipped up a few batches in the past week to balance out our diet of stocking stuffer chocolate. He tosses the fresh kale with salt and olive oil and bakes them on a cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes at 350. They melt in your mouth...especially given Ryan’s definition of ‘tossing them in olive oil.’ They are so suspiciously good that I wonder if baking them somehow zaps the healthiness out of them. I’m not going to research that. Instead I’m going to congratulate myself for eating kale chips and - I mean instead of - chocolate.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Sticky Date and Ginger Cookies

Xavier was 8 weeks old last New Year’s Eve and I spent most of the evening curled up in a sobbing ball! I vaguely recall planning the NYE menu, but I didn’t stay awake to eat it. This year we left the little bugger behind with his grandparents and headed up to LA to enjoy a night off with friends. We opted to cook dinner at Dan's house and in an effort to reign in our growing list of recipe possibilities, we choose a theme for the night. Ginger.

It started since we wanted to make the ginger shrimp we had in Senegal. From there it was easy to move on to avocado salad with ginger carrot dressing and homemade pork and ginger pot stickers. The obvious choice for dessert was gingerbread but we had stumbled upon some Coachella dates at the farmers market, and I was determined to incorporate them. I googled date and ginger and came up with a bunch of sites about dating redheads in the UK. However, buried among those links was a recipe for Sticky Ginger and Date cookies.

To be honest, I was not expecting much. The blog itself is irritating and written by a woman with way too much time on her hands in my opinion. Don’t read her entry on how all gifts should be thoughtful, personalized and homemade or look at the pictures of her perfectly dressed children going to the Nutcracker. But do make this recipe. Use high quality, gooey delicious dates and fresh ginger. Serve with ice cream and a fresh date on the side. Happy 2012!