Wednesday, February 24, 2010

For my dad

So, I made this last week when I was on a health kick but I didn't post it because my dad was on vacation and I couldn't bear the idea of him missing the healthy vegetarian meal I made and coming back to pictures of steak or chicken and dumplings or something.

My dad and I were talking on the phone the other day, and he was telling me about how he cooked up some red quinoa.

Quinoa is one of those super healthy grains that has protein and fiber and stuff that makes vegans sing songs about how eating meat is evil and killing the planet and stuff. I don't know from that, but I know it makes good alternative spaghetti! I figured I'd give it a try.

I saw this recipe online and I had all the ingredients on hand except feta cheese. I gave it a try but I don't really recommend making it without the cheese (unless you're my dad - in that case, go ahead).

Quinoa with Sundried Tomatoes and Feta

1 teaspoon olive oil
8 sundried tomatoes, chopped
2 minced shallots
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cup vegetable broth (or any broth), or water
1 cup dry quinoa
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Feta cheese, as much as you'd like

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the tomatoes, shallots and garlic and sauté for 3-5 minutes until the shallots are soft.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa and cayenne pepper.

Bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. The liquid should be fully absorbed. Stir in the salt, pepper, cilantro and feta(if using) and serve.

It tasted super healthy. I thought that the cayenne pepper made the broth taste kinda weird, but maybe the feta would have balanced it out.

My dad would have totally loved it! If you're into hippie vegetarian food, knock yourself out with this.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Like many New Yorkers, I love brunch. However, unlike many New Yorkers, I have a husband who pretty much refuses to leave the house on the weekends before 2pm on pain of death (barring some work-related crisis). To get him to wake up at a reasonable hour, shower, put clothes on and leave the house (all before eating) would be nothing short of a miracle. So how to have brunch?

Make it at home!

This morning, after flipping through the smitten kitchen website (I love love love that website), I decided to make Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes (and also some bacon). I decided on this recipe for a few reasons: the total cooking time was about ten minutes, I had some sour cream in my fridge and I'm down to about 3 Tbs of butter so I can't bake anything and I've been itching (ITCHING!) to cook.

So here ya go: make your own brunch. It rocks. Plus, whoever lives in the house with you will totally love you (unless you refuse to share).

Note: I halved the recipe because I only had half a cup of sour cream and it fed Zack and me perfectly well. The full recipe is below.

7 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/ 2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream (I used reduced fat sour cream and it was totally fine)
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Maple syrup

Stir the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together in a bowl. Add the sour cream in on top and stir it together. Whisk the eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl (normally I would just dump it all in the same bowl, but I didn't want to screw up the consistency of the batter) and stir them into the sour cream mixture. Don't overmix.

Melt about a tablespoon of butter in your skillet or griddle and pour the batter in, a scant 1/4 cup at a time. Cook for about 2 minutes on the first side, or until bubbles appear all over the surface, flipping them carefully and cooking for about a minute on the other side. Repeat with remaining batter.

Stack up about three of them and put a lot of maple syrup on top. Serve with bacon and watch your husband plotz.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Cookies are pretty much my favorite things ever. I love to make them. I love to eat them. I love the way the house smells when they're in the oven. They rock. So when I see a new cookie recipe (especially one that doesn't take much prep time - I want the baking-to-eating time to be pretty short), I make it.

I saw this recipe on The Amateur Gourmet. I was especially excited by the name "Lucy Alibar." Why, you may ask? She was in my graduating class at the Experimental Theater Wing (that's NYU talk for those of you not in the know). Plus, I think she's peachy keen. She's fun and a heck of a writer. So I thought, I will make Lucy's cookies! And then I will bring them to my friend Bryn's house for her and her husband Paul to eat.

And that's what I did.

Lucy's Salty Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie

1 cup creamy peanut butter (use a commercial brand, "natural" peanut butter won't work here - I used Skippy and it was swell)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 Tbs vanilla extract
a pinch of sea or kosher salt
orange zest (not too much, maybe a tsp or so)

Combine all these things in a bowl!

That sure was easy, wasn't it?

Scoop out batter with an ice cream scoop (or just a spoon) and lay a piece of chocolate across the top. I broke up a Hershey bar and it was great. I also used one piece of fancy chocolate, but I thought the Hershey/Skippy combination was just perfect. Save the fancy chocolate for another day.

Sprinkle a little bit of sea salt across the top of each cookie. I love salt.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Now you've got cookies!

They were creamy and delicious. I loved the hit of orange flavor from the zest. Another fun note - these are gluten free! So if you have a gluten-free friend, make these for them.

Thanks, Lucy! These cookies are great.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Another year, another fancy meal

You totally wish you were my Valentine. If you were my Valentine, you would have gotten this lovely 5 course homemade meal.

I pulled out all the stops. I put down place mats. I even made a tiny candle holder out of a shot glass and orzo.

I'm so inventive. As you saw before, here was the first course - a salad made of avocado, mango, blood orange and strawberries.

It was followed by Angel Hair with homemade Pesto. I love pesto.

Next came lamb rib chops with turnip gratin. See the nice plating? That's from watching a lot of Top Chef.

The turnip gratin had cream, garlic and gruyere cheese. Look how yummy it looks.

Yeah, it's good.

Then we had a cheese course (we're so French).

The cheese was from the Essex Street Market. Very fancy sheep's milk from a local dairy. Love it.

We ended with Panna Cotta with raspberries. I marinated the raspberries in meyer lemon juice and sugar. Panna Cotta was Zack's favorite dessert when we were in Paris, so I thought that would be nice.

He's pretty happy about it.

He brought me fancy chocolates. We were too full to eat them, but it was very nice.

I hope you're having a 3 day weekend! I'm not and neither is Zack. Whoops.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

I wasn't going to say anything. No one is reading the internet today, right? Everyone is off with their Valentine or enjoying their 3 day weekend or moping around because everyone is off being couple-y and you just want to punch them in the face (been there, my friends).

So here's the start to my Valentine's Day meal - a little salad with avocados, blood oranges, mango and strawberry.

And yes, I did cut a piece of avocado into a heart. I am a dork.

Happy Valentine's Day! More food to come.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chocolate. Enough said.

It's a snow day here in New York (which means nothing except that you're out 100 bucks if you're an hourly worker for NYC public schools, like me). So I'm taking the time before my audition at 2pm (which was NOT canceled - thank god I get to trek all the way down to Chelsea in the snow) to tell you about the amazing Portland Chocolate Fest, which I went to with my sister and my mom when I was in (guess where?) Portland.

Here we are at the World Forestry Center. I just love giant trains, don't you?

The Chocolate Festival spanned three giant rooms. The lines were very very long.

Each room had table after table of vendors giving away free tastes and selling their wares. Here's some great examples of chocolate-y amazingness.

One of the things I loved about the festival was the inventive use of ingredients pared with chocolate. A really popular one was bacon (remember how I said Portland loved bacon? Still true).

The maple bacon fudge from the Oregon Zoo Fudge Company was delicious. I brought some back for Zack. They had some other great flavors as well - chocolate raspberry, mint, all your basics.

Bacon kept popping up everywhere.

Another weird ingredient pairing? Blue cheese!

I love mixing chocolate and cheese together. I have the palate of a crazy pregnant woman (does this mean if I ever become pregnant, I'll start craving "normal" things like boxed mac and cheese or tuna fish? Just musing....).

The blue cheese/chocolate combo totally worked for me. It was sharp and creamy and sweet. Love it.

There were also wine tastings and beer tastings (if you were over 21). I saw local chocolate beer on display, so the good wife in me said I had to try some (for Zack, you know. I'm a giver. Drinking beer by myself in Oregon.....that's so wifely).

My sister and my mom were both disturbed by this.

But I liked it. Beer? Good. Chocolate? Good. I was a happy camper.

Alli was a big fan of Brownies from Heaven -giant brownie truffles. Do you see the one cut in half on the left side?

That was the size of a baseball. They had different flavors (coffee, raspberry, etc). I bought one for Alli to take home. She said she'd share it with me (but she totally lied).

We all left with gift bags, full stomachs and smiles (and Alli got a balloon hat as well - I'm not sure why, but she sure liked it).

That's it for Portland, folks! Back to my Astoria kitchen.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Things are very progressive in Portland

So one of the great things about my trip to Portland (besides visiting my sister and mom) was seeing my Titi Esa! Titi Esa is my godmother, but because of various circumstances, I hadn't seen her since I was 14 years old. Her name is Teresa, but I couldn't say that as a child, so my mom had me call her "Titi Esa" (Titi means "aunt" in Spanish). We had all sorts of great trips in New York when I was younger, so it was great to see her again!

My mom had told her about my blog, so I think she'd been reading it a bit. She and her sister had the idea to have a "progressive" dinner party (which is not a liberal minded party, but one where you have each course at a different house!). It sounded like fun to me. Titi Esa and her sister live next door to each other and my mom and I were staying just a few minutes away. I picked dessert as my course, not wanting to have to bother trying to make anything vegetarian. My mom kept saying, "we could just get some fruit and cheese or something," to which I said "Mom! They read my blog! I have to cook something!" Plus, I love to cook. Well, you know.

I decided to make Chocolate Pots (one of the first fancy desserts I ever tried to make). The first time I made it, I didn't really know what I was doing and ended up with bits of scrambled egg in my dessert. But I've made it several times since then and now I know how to avoid that.

Also, I didn't have any of my cookbooks. Or my computer. Or the Internet. So, this was not the time to try something new.

These are a snap to make! All you need is time.

2 cups heavy cream
3/4 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, at room temperature, coarsely chopped (you can always use Ghiradelli bittersweet chips - I love those)
4 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons dark rum (or whatever liquor you have hanging about - Bailey's would be good. I tend to use whiskey because I love it)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a medium saucepan, heat the cream until bubbles appear around the edge. Keep watching - my mom looked away for a second and totally missed it.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate and let stand for 1 minute, then stir until smooth.

Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl.

Then whisk in 1/2 cup of the hot chocolate cream. This is called "tempering" the yolks. It makes it so that your eggs won't scramble in your dessert. It's very important. Don't skip this step! I'm sorry I don't have any useful pictures of it. I've only got two hands, you know.

Scrape this mixture into the saucepan and whisk constantly until smooth. Stir in the booze and butter.

Pour the custard into eight 1/2-cup ramekins or espresso cups and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours

The beer isn't ours. I swear.

I topped it with whipped cream (whip your own cream - please. It's so much better) and shaved bits of chocolate. I used a vegetable peeler. My mom thought I was nuts when I asked for it.

They were so good! I'm pretty sure everyone liked them. To end this post (but not my segment on Portland), here's a picture of my sister doing her "model" face.

More soon....

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tacos and hippies and Alli, oh my!

I love Mexican food. I could eat it every single day and be happy (and fat). Growing up on the West Coast, there was no shortage of amazing choices, but here in New York City, it is harder to find (not impossible, by any means). So when I read an article on Serious Eats, I told my sister (Alli) right away "we're going here." "Ok, cool," she said "the food is good, but the portions are small." This did not deter me - in fact, I thought - great, built in restraint so that I don't overindulge on tacos. And off we went to Por Que No? Taqueria.

It had a nice funky interior that my dad (who had previously been to this place) called "hippie Mexican." I thought that was pretty apt.

We started with some freshly made guacamole and chips.

They had several kinds of house-made salsa, ranging from mild to spicy. I thought the spicy had a nice kick, but my mom and sister made faces and loud exclamations to the contrary (wimps).

My sister, a vegetarian since birth, ordered the rice and beans bowl. It was more interesting than the name let on.

Mexican rice, pinto beans, salsa, cheese and guacamole all mixed together and were served with 3 fresh tortillas. Yum!

I had tacos - one pescado (fish - which I never dare to order on the East Coast, but here in Oregon seemed like the fish would be good) and carnitas (shredded pork - always one of my favorites).

They were a little fancy for my taste (I tend to like my tacos unadorned), but all the flavors worked well together. I especially liked the pineapple with the fish.

Overall, it was a happy experience. Look at my sister smile!

She's so adorable. I want to visit her again and eat more tacos.

More Portland soon!

Monday, February 1, 2010

The west coast beckoned.....

So I didn't blog for a week. But I have a good excuse! I went off to Portland (Oregon, not Maine) to visit my sister at Lewis and Clark college. My mom came along as well and we all had a great time. I'm starting us off slow, but know that this trip ends at a Chocolate Festival. Rock it.

First stop on the Portland tour: Voodoo Doughnut!

This place came highly recommended by my good friend and former roommate Josh. His exact words: OH! Voodoo Donut!!! (he spelled it wrong. But I still love him) And so off we went.

There were literally a tower of doughnuts to choose from.

What I love the most about Portland is the hippie greenie crunchy vibe mixed in with tons and tons of bacon. Seriously. There was bacon everywhere we went. You'll see as we go on. But here?

Yeah, that's bacon ON A DOUGHNUT. Awesome. I totally ate it. My mom and sister tried not to vomit. I'm sure my dad is horrified. But it was amazing. Salty and sweet, with maple frosting.....gotta love it.

Don't worry, if you're not bacon friendly, there are plenty of choices.

Note the vegan options! Those crazy Oregonians. Also note the spirited names of doughnuts such as Cock N' Balls, Tex-ass and Old Dirty Bastard.

It was a nice start to the trip. Here we are, smiling and happy.

More Portland to come!