Thursday, April 30, 2009

I get bored with the same old thing

The other night, I decided I wanted to try something different for dinner. I saw a recipe once for Italian Pot Pie (it was Rachael Ray's - don't judge) and I decided to see if I could recreate it without a recipe. It turned out pretty well!

Chop up an onion, a few carrots and a few stalks of celery. Saute in olive oil over medium heat until soft.

Add some chicken broth (about two cups or half a box) and some ricotta cheese (to make it creamy! I used part skim - health conscious, you know). I also threw in a few tablespoons of flour to help thicken the sauce.

Cook it down for a while and then add some shredded roasted chicken, from a leftover chicken you might have or one of those store bought rotisserie chickens (I love those). Throw in some chopped herbs too - I used basil and parsley (and salt and pepper! Can't forget those).

Add some cherry or grape tomatoes too!

The tomatoes should burst and the liquid should cook down. Then, transfer the whole mixture to a baking dish.

Now here come your new best friends - a ball of mozzarella and a tube of polenta.

I never use precooked polenta like this, but it sure is handy in this dish. Cut them into disks and layer them on top of the baking dish.

Then sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Yum! I'm hungry now.

Put the whole dish in the broiler and melt the cheese and warm the polenta. It should only take about five minutes.

Oh it is so good. Here's a side view after we ate one side away.

It's nice to mix things up sometimes and try new things. I get tired of pasta all the time. This had some great flavor and didn't take too long to make! You should totally try it at home.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sometimes I get a little bit fancy

A while back, I saw a seven year old make chocolate covered candied orange peels at a bake sale and I thought to myself, hey, I could do that. So when it came time to donate concessions for the Arts for All Benefit Cabaret, I decided to make them. "I can't just make cookies or brownies," I thought. "Anyone could make those." I have to be special! I have a reputation to uphold!

And so, chocolate covered candied orange peels were made.

This recipe makes a TON of these things - seriously, I think something like 150 were made. That's probably too many for any normal person, so I'd recommend halving the recipe (at least).

Take six oranges and cut off the ends.

Then cut slivers of peel all around the orange, like this, see?

You want them to be big enough to eat, but not so big that the peel is overwhelming. You can trim them down a bit at this point, but I so did not have the patience for that. My house is now totally overrun with orange peels.

Then place the peels in a pot of boiling water and cook for a few minutes. Then rinse them off and repeat. You do this step for a couple of reasons - one: to try and remove some of the bitterness of the peel and two: to open up the pores of the skin so that they'll soak up the sugar better. We'll get to that step.

Dissolve a cup and a half of sugar into a cup and a half of water (this is called simple syrup). Bring to a simmer and add your peels.

Cover and cook over low heat until the syrup is dissolved, about an hour. Then lay them on a cooling rack to dry.

I left them out to dry for about six hours and when I came home, they were still not dry. I was afraid that I'd ruined them somehow, but I melted a bag and half of bittersweet chocolate chips -

- and carried on anyways. I melted the chocolate in a makeshift double boiler (I boiled some water and put a metal mixing bowl in the water, then put the chocolate in it and stirred until it melted - that's way more confusing than it sounds, believe me). But you can just use the microwave if you want.

Then just dip the peels in chocolate -

- and lay them out on parchment paper to dry.

They came out beautifully and tasted great. The chocolate and orange flavors went very well together and the texture was interesting - the hardened chocolate complimented the gumminess of the orange peels.

I still have a ton of them if you want some. Just let me know.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Those Damn Yankees, Why Can't We Beat 'Em?

This week, I spent upwards of 9 hours at the brand new Yankee Stadium. Before you get all excited for the wrong reasons, I was there for one reason and one reason alone - to see my beloved Oakland Athletics play baseball (which, since I do not spend much time in Oakland anymore, I only get to see about 6 times a year - way down from the glory days of living in Oakland seeing about 25 games a year - but I digress).

Even though I was there solely to see the A's play baseball, one can not ignore the massive amount of food that is now available in the Bronx. I (along with a few helpers - thanks Sarah and Danny!) did my best to sample as much of that food as I possibly could.

Food at ballparks has progressed way beyond hot dogs and beer. The food revolution has been slowly making its way across the country - San Francisco's AT&T park has been serving fancy things like sushi and crabcakes for years. The Oakland Coliseum used to sell the best tofu burgers I've ever eaten (and I've eaten a lot of horrible tofu burgers). Let's take a look at what the New York Yankees have to offer.


See this fancy butcher station? That's quality right there. Lobel's has been a New York institution since 1840 and they do not mess around. They are carving sandwiches TO ORDER. That is serious eating.

This may have been the best steak sandwich I've ever had (not that I'm a connoisseur or anything, but man, I love steak). It was clearly just carved, piping hot and still pink in the middle. There was nothing but meat and bread, with a little tub of horseradish to make your eyes water. The juices were insane, just soaking through the bread and down my chin. This was far and away the best thing I ate at Yankee Stadium. The only downside? It cost $15.

Not to say that the rest of the food sucked or anything - here's some more options for your dining pleasure.

Garlic Fries:

The second best thing I ate at Yankee Stadium. These have been a staple in Oakland for years, and I was very happy to see them make their way across the country. They were just like I remembered them - warm fries, little bits of real garlic - yum.

Mike's Deli:

Another New York classic, they've been serving the Bronx for over 50 years. Their eggplant parm sandwich (shown above) has been highly lauded - I did not get the best of the bunch though. The man at the counter warned me that the bread was kind of hard and so he threw in some free zeppole (fried dough) to make up for it.

Unfortunately, the bread really was unpleasantly hard in places. The eggplant was good, but overly breaded for my taste. The zeppole were nothing special - unless you count that they were over 2000 calories (seriously - all the calorie counts are printed). Sarah and I made a go at eating them -

- until a drunken Yankees fan knocked them over without apologizing. I think he did it on purpose.

Noodle Bowls:

Just what it sounds like - a bowl filled with noodles, broth, veggies and your choice of meat.

Danny decided not to blow an entire day's worth of calories on one meal and opted for the noodle bowl. It was surprisingly good, though as Danny pointed out, "You can smell the MSG." Still, they're a nice lighter option.

And thus, my two days of eating at Yankee Stadium came to a close. I'm excited to check out Citi Field next - I hear the food is great and the A's can't lose there (at least not this year).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Come Watch Me Sing

Do you sit at home thinking, gee, if only I could hear Lena sing AND
make a tax deductible donation to a charity that helps underprivileged
kids at the same time? Well this is your lucky day. Come and support
Arts for All (one of the awesome organizations I work for) by watching
me sing "Breathe" from In the Heights and "A Summer in Ohio" from The
Last Five Years.

All the info is below......(and hey, if you don't live in the area,
but still want to donate money to our organization, well that's good
too - see below!)


Arts for All, Inc. is a non-profit arts outreach organization serving
in-need children in the greater New York City area. Since 2003, Arts
for All, Inc. has led professional artists of all disciplines to share
moments of joy and creation with disadvantaged youth.

This year, we are relying on you to support our mission, by coming to
a cabaret of songs and true stories of the inspiration that brought
art into the lives of our performing artists when they were children.
We need you in the audience, to help us continue to bring that kind of
inspiration to the children we serve!

Please join Arts for All, Inc. at the renowned Flea Theater, located
at 41 White Street, between Broadway and Church Street, on Sunday,
April 26th, and Monday, April 27th, at 7:00pm, to benefit New York’s
in-need youth.

*Appears courtesy of the Actors’ Equity Association

Production Team

Sunday, April 26th and Monday, April 27th


The Flea Theater
41 White Street
Between Broadway and Church

A, C, E, N, R, Q, W, 6, J, M, Z to Canal Street or the 1 to Franklin Street.

Suggested tax-deductible donations will be credited on our website as follows:

$25 - $49 - Stagehand
$50 - $74 - Artist
$75 - $99 - Director
$100 and up – Producer

ADVANCE BY EMAIL: For more information, call
212-591-6108 or visit

Monday, April 20, 2009

French Toast for One

Yesterday morning, The Amateur Gourmet inspired me. I woke up and thought, hmm, I'd like to have breakfast, but I'm bored with shredded wheat. What could I make for myself that would be different and give me lots of energy for hockey? The answer? French Toast.

My dad used to make me French Toast when I was a kid. He'd use whole wheat bread and non-fat milk and probably no butter or sugar or anything that would add fat or sugar (or you know, flavor). But old habits die hard, so I adapted The Amateur Gourmet recipe to make something a little more Moy-Borgen (and artery) friendly.

French Toast for One

1 egg
1/6 cup skim milk (it's a weird amount - I'm quartering a recipe - sort of - you can just add a splash and be happy)
a little bit of maple syrup (I stopped measuring. Quartering got silly)
a little bit of vanilla
a sprinkle of salt
2 pieces of whole wheat bread (the kind you'd make a sandwich with)
1 Tbs butter

1. Mix together the egg, milk, maple syrup, vanilla and salt. Soak the bread in it.

2. Melt the butter over medium high heat. Drop the soaked bread in the pan and let it sit for about 30 seconds or until it's brown on one side.

3. Flip it and let the other side get brown. Now you're done! Wasn't that easy? I sprinkled a little bit of powdered sugar on the top and drizzled some syrup. You could also use honey instead of syrup or add some butter on top...or whipped cream....or mascarpone cheese....but that wouldn't help the healthy side of things much. It sure would taste good though.

This was the easiest non-cereal breakfast ever. It was delicious and warm and syrupy. It took all of 10 minutes (at the most. Maybe just five). You could totally do this yourself. And you should.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A nice day

Today, the thermometer climbed to a whopping 70 degrees in New York City, and so (at least it seemed) everyone took to the streets. And I mean everyone. It was the first nice Saturday in as long as I can remember, so Meredith and I set off to have a picnic in Central Park....

...along with about 50,000 other people. Can you believe that? It looks like something exciting is happening, like a massive concert or a protest or something. But it's just a nice day. Meredith and I made a little spread, courtesy of Whole Foods.

We've got some goat cheese, sourdough bread, sugar snap peas, a blood orange, fruit salad and roasted tomatoes. Man, those were good tomatoes. They were packed in olive oil and had some herbs marinating with them. I wish I still had some. I hope there are more nice days in my future! I am so done with winter. Cross your fingers. I'm leaving you with a smile from Meredith, for good luck.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

No soup dumplings here

Last Friday, Zack, Ana, Sarah and I went to see God of Carnage. Sarah and I got there early to pick up tickets and then went to pick a place for dinner. We've gotten tired of our usual places, so we decided to try a place I read about in the New York Times last summer, but never managed to go to: Szechuan Gourmet. It's known for its spicy and authentic food, plus it's not super expensive. Off we went.

Sarah and I had to wait a bit for Zack and Ana to arrive so we ordered some small plates - Sliced Pork Belly with chilli garlic soy:

Hand Shredded Chicken with chili sesame vinaigrette and Spicy Cucumber Salad:

When we ordered these dishes, the old man by the door leaned over and said "Ah, good choice." This gave us some confidence. They were all good. The cucumbers had a nice bite to them and I liked the sauce on the chicken - it was almost like peanut sauce. The pork was great too - nice and spicy. None of these are for the faint of heart. Zack ate a bite of cucumber and coughed for about five minutes. It was cute.

We moved on to Camphor Tea Smoked Duck.

I love duck. I'll order duck almost any time it's on a menu and this did not disappoint. The skin was crispy and the meat was tender. I'm normally not a huge fan of smoked things, but this gave the meat a good bunch of flavor. We finished up with some vegetable noodles.

They were good, but not super impressive. I mean, they're just noodles. Overall though, the meal was good. I would go back and order more things. The menu is super long and it has frogs on it. I'm so ordering frogs some day.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Another Passover Post

If I was really clever, I'd have set it up so that people could have made these for their sedars....but oh well.

Zack and I went to a sedar this weekend in Boston and had some great homemade matzo ball soup. When I got back to New York, I thought, "I bet I could do that." As someone who used to think that matzo balls came from a Manichevitz jar, this was quite the interesting challenge.

It turned out to be a snap. You could totally do this at home.

Matzo Balls!
2 Tbs fat, room temperature (I used duck fat, because I had it in the fridge. Chicken fat would be traditional. Or you can use vegetable oil)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup matzo meal
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs seltzer (to keep it light)

1. Mix together the fat, eggs, matzo meal and salt.

2. Mix in the seltzer. It will bubble and be awesome. When everything is a uniform consistency, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, boil some water.

3. Scoop out the mixture with a teaspoon into the boiling water. Try to make eight balls about an inch in diameter (they will GREATLY expand).

4. Cover and cook for 30-40 minutes.

That's all there is to it! At this point, you could save them in a Tupperware for a later date. Or you can make soup, or heat up a can or do whatever you want, and then add the matzo balls to the soup while it's heating up. All you have to do at this point is heat them through.

Here's one of mine is my homemade (but greatly shortcut-ed) soup.

It was really good - I mean, you could heat up some chicken broth and put the matzo ball in it and it would be good. But if you make some quick soup with a lot of vegetables, you'll feel better about eating giant balls of carbs.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I like relatives and avocados

Last week, my uncle Steve and my aunts Ana, Terry and Maria all came over for dinner. I made my tortilla soup (since I got it from Terry in the first place) and some guacamole. I am a huge fan of guacamole. I used to complain that I couldn't get any good avocados on the East Coast, but that was before there was a Trader Joe's! I love Trader Joe's. Sure, they have to fly avocados in from Mexico, but you know what? They don't grow avocados in New York and I am a California girl at heart. I am not about to go the rest of my life not eating avocados.

Anyways, making guacamole is super easy. All you do is take some avocados and put them in a bowl.

Mash them up good with a potato masher or a fork or something. Then chop up some yummy things, like red onion, tomatoes, garlic, jalapeno peppers....what ever you want. If you like big chunks, chop them big. If you like smaller chunks, chop them smaller. You get it. Just don't add too much stuff - you want the avocado to be the star of the show. Add them into the mash.

Stir it all up again and season it with salt and pepper. Some people like to add cumin. But I'm not a huge fan. Squeeze some lime juice on top.

Everyone will like it! See, they're smiling.

Everyone is happy.

Ana wouldn't let me take a picture of her. But that's okay. You can just imagine her there.