10/22/14

My First Smoothie In My New Blendtec: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly


Last month I wrote about a lovely gift the people from Blendtec sent me in the mail. So far I've used my brand new Blendtec to make soup, salsa verde and hummus. Then last weekend I decided to make a smoothie.

If you know me well, you know that I'm not a fan of bananas. Alas, it seems like most smoothies use bananas as the base. I decided to take my chances and not use bananas.

So what happened?

My First Smoothie In My New Blendtec: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Ingredients
2 apples, quartered, core removed
2 oranges, peeled, quartered
3 collard green leaves, stems removed, torn into pieces
1 cup ice
a drizzle of honey

Directions
Add all ingredients to your blender. Blend till smooth.


The Good: Blendtec did an awesome job handling apple skins, orange membranes and the tough collard greens: the smoothie was super smooth :) It also had a gorgeous color.

The Bad: there wasn't enough sweetness to offset the "green" flavor of the collard greens.

The Ugly: I drank one glass and had some leftovers for next day. The leftover smoothie mixture separated while sitting in the refrigerator and was rather unpleasant.

So, help me out! What are YOUR favorite ingredient combinations for smoothies that taste good, are good for you and do not have bananas?

Disclosure: I received this blender from as a gift from Blendtec. All opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this post.

10/20/14

What To Do With Cauliflower? Warm Cauliflower Salad With Radishes & Olives


Cauliflower is one of the most versatile vegetables. You can roast it, boil it, eat it raw, turn it into a soup, or pan fry it. I will share some of the recipes at the bottom of the post, but first, here's a no recipe "recipe" for a warm salad with cauliflower and a few other fun ingredients.

What To Do With Cauliflower? Warm Cauliflower Salad With Radishes & Olives

Ingredients
cauliflower, cut into florets, parboiled in salty water, the sautéed in olive oil
radishes, thinly sliced
kalamata olives, chopped
parsley, chopped
toasted pine nuts
for the dressing
olive oil
minced garlic
salt and pepper
stone ground mustard
lemon juice


Directions
1. On a platter mix together the cauliflower, radishes, olives, pine nuts and parsley.
2. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and pour over the salad.
3. Eat immediately.


How simple is this? SUPER simple! I loved how the crunchy slightly sweet pine nuts contrasted the saltiness of the olives.

If you are not planning on eating the entire salad at once, keep pine nuts and the dressing in their own containers in the refrigerator.

How do you like to prepare cauliflower?

Here are more ideas:

 

10/16/14

Menu MBK: Chef's Table. Russian Menu.


Earlier this week I had a chance to dine at Menu MBK and try this month's chef's table menu that was inspired by Russian cuisine. The meal was graciously covered by the restaurant, but as always all opinions are my own.

I spent the first 13 years of my life in Moscow, Russia where I was born and where both my parents and grandparents cooked food. Russian food. Ukrainian food. Jewish food. Good food.

I still make Russian food at home, and last year featured quite a few recipes in my Russian Recipes Revisited series. Whenever I visit my parents in Seattle, I have a big pot of borsch waiting for me lovingly prepared by my dad.

The menu from the executive chef Frederik de Pue at Menu MBK was based on some of the most popular Russian dishes, but reimagined, decomposed, and modernized. This was not your grandparents' Russian food, but it was equally delicious and lovingly prepared.

Below are some of my favorite courses.


Above is chef Frederik plating his take on Salad Olivie. His version included potato foam!!! And red caviar. And a poached egg. And a pea puree. The dish was beautiful and well thought out, but I'll take the original version of the salad any day.

The second course, borsch, was a play of textures and colors. The white roasted beets were pureed to the smoothest consistency and were contrasted by the crispy potatoes. There was a puddle of pureed red beets in the middle of the bowl and a roasted beet on a skewer. I loved it. I am also very happy the name of the dish was spelled without a t. Here's my version of the soup.


It's hard to believe, but I've only made Beef Stroganoff once. I loved the combination of noodles, mushrooms, beef and a creamy sauce in the recipe my friend Sylvie and I made. Chef Frederik's dish did not disappoint. My favorite component of his dish was the mushroom cappuccino, as the chef called it. It was the essence of mushrooms mixed with cream and it was divine. Sweet and savory. Satisfying. Foamy. I could have drank an entire big bowl of it.


For dessert, there was Tort Kiev: pastry cream, meringue, jam and cassis sorbet. I loved seeing the chef plate every dish, but especially this one. It was pretty without being pretentious. Filling without being overwhelming. I don't remember ever having this dish growing up, instead we had sour cream cake. Both are winners in my opinion.


I loved sitting at the kitchen bar and seeing each plate being plated and explained by the chef. This special menu comes paired with drinks (as an option), but alas those did not do much for me because I'm a light weight. I've much more enjoyed the complimentary champagne that was served before the meal.

I'm looking forward to returning to Menu MBK and trying out their regular menu and their brunch!

10/14/14

DIY Refrigerator Magnets: Easy Gift Idea For The Cook

Today instead of a recipe I want to share with you a super duper easy and fun diy project that you can make to spruce up your refrigerator or to give as gifts to your friends.

DIY Refrigerator Magnets: Easy Gift Idea For The Cook

When I was in Seattle last month, I found an adorable pin/button at a museum store and bought it immediately. After all, it said More Mayo and you know how much I ♥ mayonnaise!

Then, I found a few other adorable pins/buttons at a little coffee/gift store nearby.

Because I don't wear such pins/buttons, I decided to turn them into magnets once I flew back home to DC.


All you need are pins/buttons, super glue and magnets.

I happened to have a bunch of magnets in the perfect size!!!!

All you do is take out the back metal part of the pin/button and then superglue the magnet right inside. This could not have been easier!



Ta da!


Put these in a cute little bag and give them as a gift, or put them on your refrigerator.


Have you been doing any diy projects lately?

10/10/14

Let's Get Organized! #POPtober with OXO and The Container Store


You guys! I hate cleaning. There, I said it! From time to time, however, I talk myself into cleaning and organizing and feel so much better once those tasks are done.

This month, the lovely people from OXO and The Container Store motivated me to organize my kitchen pantry by sending me these awesome gifts pictured above:

 
Let me clarify that I don't have an actual pantry. My "pantry" is a kitchen cabinet: space is limited and has to be used in a smart way. That's why the POP Container set is so awesome! The containers are square or rectangular and are stackable: no space is wasted. They are clear, so you can see exactly what you have on hand and you only need one hand to open or close them: this would have been oh so very useful back in February when I had a broken arm.
 
before 
 

after


Because I live on my own, I found some of the larger containers not as useful, but I absolutely love the smaller containers.

Because I rarely eat cereal, I used the OXO Cereal Dispensers for coffee, popcorn and chips! The lids make it easy to pour the contents out and because they are air tight, your coffee (etc) will stay fresher longer!



You can visit The Container Store to get your own set of OXO products or even better enter to win a prize pack worth $500, including your choice of OXO Storage & Organization tools (up to $250), as well as a $250 elfa gift card October 13-31!

Here are a few more OXO products I'd love to add to my collection:






Disclosure: I was provided with the set of OXO products as a gift but was not compensated otherwise for writing this post. All opinions are my own.

10/8/14

From The Farmer Review and Celeriac & Sweet Potato Hash with Fried Egg & Tomatillo Salsa


Last month I was approached by a local food delivery service, From The Farmer, to see if I'd be interested in giving them a try for free. My answer wasn't an automatic yes. Why? I had mixed feelings about accepting this generous offer because I have been a happy paying customer of a similar service, Washington Green Grocer, for the last six months. In the end, I decided that there is enough room for multiple food delivery services, and it would not hurt to try something new.

Plus, free is good ;)

Here's how From The Farmer works:
1) sign up on their website
2) choose your order: half bushel (6-8 items), single bushel (8-10 items) or double bushel
3) add extras such as eggs, bread, etc
4) schedule your delivery (you are not signing up for life! you can skip any week you'll be out of town, etc)
5) get ready for a few fun emails

From The Farmer sends a few emails prior to delivery to let you know what's going to be arriving at your door with links to recipes using some of the ingredients. This is your chance to say you don't like a certain item and ask for a double of another one.

All the items that you get delivered are local and seasonal. Alas, they don't come with a hot farmer. I know, nothing in life is perfect.

The delivery happens overnight, so by the time you wake up in the morning, your box will be waiting for you outside of your door and you can promptly put the items in the refrigerator.

I opted for a single bushel with half a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread.

These are some of the items I received last week. LOVED the bread. The eggs had the brightest yellow yolks I've seen in a while. The Roma tomatoes were red through and through, just like the ones I saw in Bakersfield, and both the apples and the Asian pears were sweet and crunchy.

I've yet to use the cauliflower: maybe tonight.


The pack of tomatillos and jalapenos came with a recipe printed directly on it!


Over the weekend I decided to use some of the produce I received from From The Farmer to make Celeriac & Sweet Potato Hash with Fried Egg & Tomatillo Salsa.


Celeriac & Sweet Potato Hash with Fried Egg & Tomatillo Salsa
Serves 2

Ingredients
1 celeriac root, peeled, diced
2 white sweet potatoes, peeled, diced
olive oil
salt & pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
3 tomatillos, skin removed
1 jalapeno
1/2 lime, juiced {not from From the Farmer}
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, plus more for garnish {not from From the Farmer}
2 eggs, fried
1 Roma tomato, diced
tortilla chips to serve {not from From the Farmer}


Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 425. Drizzle diced celeriac root and sweet potatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and paprika. Roast in a single layer on a cookie sheet for 20 minutes.
2. Increase the temperature of the oven to 475 and continue to roast the vegetables for 10-20 more minutes. Keep in mind that celeriac cubes will remain a bit crunchy.
3. Meanwhile, char the tomatillos and jalapeno directly on the gas flame. If you don't have a gas stove, you can broil them.
4. Removed the seeds from the jalapeno. Puree charred tomatillos and jalapeno with lime juice, parsley, and season with salt. I added some water to this mixture, which made the salsa watery and wasn't necessary.
5. Serve roasted celeriac root and white sweet potatoes topped with a fried egg and fresh parsley with a side of fresh tomatoes, tomatillo salsa and tortilla chips.


This was a great weekend late breakfast! I had leftover roasted vegetables and tomatillo salsa that were great as toppings/dressing for a salad.

How great did that runny yolk look???

Thank you From The Farmer for a bushel of produce!! I look forward to seeing what comes in two weeks. I loved the freshness of the produce and friendly customer service.

Disclosure: I am receiving a total of two free orders from From The Farmer. I was not compensated for this post or the recipe. All opinions are my own.

10/6/14

What To Do With Acorn Squash: Twice Baked Acorn Squash with Roasted Garlic Sabra Salsa


Fall is finally here! I spent the weekend in pajamas catching up with my TV shows, wishing I had a fireplace, or a warm body close by, finally unpacking from my trip to Seattle and doing 3 loads of laundry. I also went to see Gone Girl, which I highly recommend, and of course cooked a couple of things.

One of the recipes I made was this Twice Baked Acorn Squash with Roasted Garlic Sabra Salsa. This is a third recipe I've created for Sabra using their line of salsa products. You can read all about my awesome trip to Bakersfield sponsored by Sabra and the first two recipes I created: Sabra Salsa Burger with Peaches, Avocado & Sriracha Mayo and Sweet & Spicy Shrimp with Sabra's Mango Peach Salsa, Pineapples and Scallions Over Orzo.

Make sure to check out Sabra's special website for their salsa line where you can find videos of farmers singing to tomatoes, coupons, sweepstakes and recipes.

I also want to give a huge shout out to my friend Heather, the creator of Spiceologist, who has teamed up with Sabra and shared with me a block of her gorgeous spices! Not only does this block look gorgeous, the spices smell incredible! I've used a few spices in my regular cooking already, and for this recipe I used Heather's zaatar. {Hopefully one day I'll meet Heather in person!}



What To Do With Acorn Squash: Twice Baked Acorn Squash with Roasted Garlic Sabra Salsa
Ingredients
1 acorn squash, halved, seeds removed
olive oil
salt & pepper
2-3 teaspoons zaatar
1/2 cup Sabra's roasted garlic salsa
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
3 tablespoons chopped parsley, divided
chips to serve

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Drizzle acorn squash halves with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and zaatar. Roast the squash cut side up for about 30 minutes or until tender.


3. Allow the squash to cool slightly and carefully remove the flesh using a spoon keeping the outer shell intact.
4. In a bowl, mash the acorn squash insides and add the salsa, 3/4 cups of cheddar cheese and 2 tablespoons parsley. Add more salt and pepper if needed.


5. Turn the oven down to 375. Add the acorn squash mixture back into the shell (you can use one of the halves or both or even simply use a baking dish), top with remaining cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.
6. Top with parsley and serve with chips or toasted sliced bread or as a side dish.


I really liked how this dish turned out, and it's pretty healthy...other than the cheese :)


Disclosure: Sabra compensated me for recipe development. All opinions are my own.

10/3/14

Sabra Hummus House in DC


Guess what? There's a new house in DC: a SABRA house!

What's a Sabra Hummus House you may ask? It's a fun and gorgeous new place to eat in the Georgetown neighborhood of DC brought to you for a limited time by the people who make hummus, salsa, guacamole, tzatziki and other fun concoctions.

Because this is a pop up restaurant and not a permanent space (yet!?), you have got to hurry up and make sure to visit the Sabra Hummus House for lunch or dinner from now until October 26th.

On Tuesday I was invited by the Sabra team to check out some of the items on the menu at the Sabra House and below are my favorites:
 
Global tostada: crisp corn tortillas layered with hummus, guacamole, cilantro lime slaw, pico de gallo and queso fresco. These were crisp, fresh and perfect two-bite appetizers. How fun will these be at a party?
 

East Meets West sample of hummus: edamame, crystallized ginger & sesame oil; salty roasted pepitas & pumpkin seeds; 2Armadilos crispy rosemary roasted chickpeas & preserved lemon.

When I saw the combination of edamame and crystallized ginger on the menu, I was confused. I could not figure out what that would taste like. Well, it tasted awesome. So definitely try it! A bit of sweetness, a bit of spice and the great bite from the edamame.

If you aren't the adventurous type, you can get a classic hummus trio which includes olive oil, zatar spice and pine nuts; warm chickpeas & tahini; and garlic & lemon juice as the toppings.

{Sorry for the poor photos: the intimate light of the upstairs room made for great atmosphere but dark photos.}


I also really liked the two vegetable platters: one had pickled radishes, beets and pickles, and the other had the sweetest tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers and red peppers.

I cannot wait to come back and check out hummus Panini and the Green & Grains Salad drizzled with hummus vinaigrette.

And, not only will you like the food, but you'll feel good knowing that Sabra is donating $25,000 to the National FFA Scholarship Program to support agricultural education!

10/1/14

I'm No Longer a Brisket Virgin: Sara Moulton's Brisket Recipe


Guess what!? I'm no longer a virgin!!!! Brisket-cooking virgin that is ;)

Ok, I thought we all could use a bit of humor on this Wednesday.

Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) was last week and I celebrated by making a quesadilla with apples, honey, sharp cheddar and grainy mustard. It was fantastic. Later that week I decided to make a brisket, which is a typical dish to serve for Rosh Hashana: better late than never. This was the first time I've ever made a brisket, a fact that many of my friends found surprising.

What can I say? I'm full of surprises.

I used this recipe by Sara Moulton but eliminated the steps that involved flour and garlic.

Also, because I have very little patience, I ate the brisket with its sauce and horseradish sauce as soon as it was ready instead of waiting for the next day.

This was a success! Photos and some thoughts are below.

Who knew brisket was so expensive???


First, I seared the brisket seasoned with salt and pepper on both sides.


Then, I sautéed sliced onions in a bit of fat remaining from the brisket and a drizzle of olive oil until the onions were soft and caramelized. I added a bit of tomato paste, red wine and chicken broth to make a sauce. The sauce was flavored with dry thyme and a bay leaf.

The brisket went back into the pan.


After braising for 3 hours in the oven and filling my condo with an INCREDIBLE aroma, this is what I had:


The meat was beyond tender. The sauce made from horseradish, mayonnaise and a few other ingredients was fantastic. I used parsley instead of chives.


I'm so glad I tried this recipe. Thank you Sara!

9/29/14

Roasted Fennel & Apple Soup and Blendtec Review


I ♥ gifts. Small gifts, large gifts, just-because gifts. I was thrilled when the lovely people from Blendtec decided to send me one of their machines so that I can play with it in my kitchen. The only two things I asked for were these: 1) it must fit in between my kitchen counter and upper cabinet 2) I love kitchen appliances in red.

My wishes were granted!

I flew back home from visiting my family in Seattle and there was a big red box waiting for me.


How pretty is this machine? The base is shiny red and I LOVE the touch display. The model I received is Designer 625 Blender and "features everything you need to create healthy smoothies, snacks, and meals in a matter of seconds—and it looks great doing it. With a next generation illuminated touch interface, preprogrammed cycles of our most popular blends, this is one blender you won’t want to hide in the cabinets."

At first I was surprised that the blades weren't sharp at all. I wasn't sure how these blunt blades would be able to do the job, but turns out the blades are made these way on purpose! They are supposed to be blunt for safety, yet they are incredibly efficient because of their thickness and strength. Plus, if you happen to accidently touch them with your finger, no blood. {DON'T stick your hands into the blender!}

So far I've only used my new toy once, but I was happy with how powerful it was. It's easy to use, clean, and it really does look gorgeous in the kitchen. I can't wait to experiment more, but for now I'll share with you a recipe I created for Roasted Fennel & Apple Soup.

 
Roasted Fennel & Apple Soup
Ingredients
1 fennel bulb, core removed, cut into wedges
1 onion, peeled, cut into wedges
1 apple, cored, cut into wedges
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 cup vegetable broth
 
toppings
fennel throngs
apple, diced
 
Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees,
2. Coat fennel, onion and apple wedges with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast these wedges on a cookie sheet in a single layer for about 35 minutes, or until tender.
3. Transfer the roasted wedges to the Blendtec, add vegetable broth and puree until smooth.
4. Adjust the seasoning and serve in soup bowls drizzled with olive oil and topped with fennel throngs and diced apple.
 



The soup is incredibly rich despite having very little fat. And it's vegan!!! What's not to like? At first the flavor was very peppery, but as the soup sat in my refrigerator, the flavors became milder. In fact, I had a bowl of this soup COLD today for breakfast. It'd be a fun appetizer or first course for a party: you can even serve it in shot glasses.


I look forward to trying out other functionality of Blendtec such as chopping, making smoothies, kneading dough, juicing and dry grinding (making flour!!!).

Thank you so much Blendtec!!!

Disclosure: I received this blender from as a gift from Blendtec. All opinions are my own. I was not paid for this recipe or a review.