3/25/15

Spring Break Time


I'm taking a little spring break from the blog, from work, from DC, from cooking, from cleaning, from Metro, from laundry, from grocery shopping, etc.

See you all soon! Follow along on instagram!
Enjoy the flowers ;)


3/18/15

Dairy Free Mango & Strawberry Smoothie


Have you read my Monday post about Fennel & Mango Slaw with Pickled Mustard Seeds? What are you waiting for?

The slaw used half of a mango, leaving another half sitting in my refrigerator. All of a sudden, I had a craving for a mango lassi. Unfortunately, I did not have yogurt or a desire to go to the grocery store to buy yogurt. What did I do? I used a can of coconut milk and a few strawberries to make a Dairy Free Mango & Strawberry Smoothie!

Dairy Free Mango & Strawberry Smoothie
Serves 2

Ingredients
1/2 mango, pealed and cubed
5 strawberries, tops removed
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 cup ice
optional: sweetener {honey, agave, etc}


Directions
1. Add all ingredients to a blender. Blend till smooth.
2. Serve with a straw.


This was a refreshing and fruity beverage. Surprisingly it also tasted good after sitting a few days in the refrigerator.

3/16/15

What To Do With Fennel? Fennel Mango Slaw With Pickled Mustard Seeds


Do you ever have random ingredients in your fridge and wonder what to make with them? For example, what would you make with a fennel bulb? You can definitely slice and roast it or sauté it with onions and mix with potatoes to puree into a soup. This past weekend I decided to turn a lonely small fennel bulb into a slaw by adding mango, carrots and a lemony vinaigrette. I've come a long way from making coleslaw at KFC while working there during my high school years ;) This salad is bright, low in calories and tasted incredibly fresh!

I used pickled mustard seeds I received from a class at Blue Duck Tavern. If you don't have pickled mustard seeds, you can use capers or add whole grain mustard.

What To Do With Fennel? Fennel Mango Slaw With Pickled Mustard Seeds
Ingredients for 1
1 small fennel bulb, core removed, thinly sliced
1/2 mango, peeled, sliced
1 carrot, shaved {use a peeler}
for the dressing
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced {or use a microplane}
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons pickled mustard seeds
salt & pepper
garnish
chopped cilantro
fennel tops


Directions
1. Mix together fennel, mango and carrots.
2. Whisk together dressing ingredients and drizzle over the salad. You don't have to use all of the dressing.
3. Garnish with cilantro and fennel tops.


What's your favorite way to use fennel?

3/11/15

What To Do With Cherry Juice: Cherry & Ginger Iced Tea


The winter weather is almost over. Soon it'll be time to switch from hot coffee to iced, from red wine to chilled rose and from hot tea to iced tea. This recipe for Cherry & Ginger Iced Tea can be made with your favorite iced tea and even spiked with a bit of sparkling wine or rum!

I love cherries: both sweet and tart. I love them fresh or made into jams and spread on toast. But this was the first time I tried cherry juice thanks to a few samples I received from Cheribundi, The Cherry People.

"We’re the Cherry People. Every 8 oz. bottle of our original cheribundi cherry juice has over 50 tart cherries in it.  Packed with phytonutrients, it’s commonly called “the tart cherry“ and is a true source of greatness for the body."

I've been drinking cherry juice daily as part of the 7 Day Challenge and although I haven't really noticed a huge change in how I feel, it's been a delicious part of my breakfast or an afternoon pick-me-up.

Over the weekend I combined Cheribundy's cherry juice with ginger syrup, iced tea and a sprig of mint for a refreshing drink...and it's pretty too!
 
What To Do With Cherry Juice: Cherry & Ginger Iced Tea


Cherry & Ginger Iced Tea
Ingredients for 1
1 cup iced tea, whichever flavor you like
1/4 cup cherry juice
ginger syrup to taste {use a store bought one or make your own by simmering fresh ginger in equal amount of sugar and water}
mint sprig
ice


Directions
1. Combined iced tea with cherry juice and sweeten with ginger syrup to taste.
2. Pour over ice and garnish with mint.



How pretty is this iced tea!?

Disclaimer: I received samples of cherry juice but was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

3/9/15

Super Quick Portobella Soba Noodle Soup: Almost Vegetarian


Do you have 25 minutes? Then you can make this Super Quick Portobella Soba Noodle Soup. And if you use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, you will turn this soup into a perfect Meatless Monday lunch or dinner.

I rarely do menu planning: I simply go to the store, see what they have, buy random ingredients and then put them together once I get home. Most often than not I'm quite successful using this strategy. Last week I picked up a package of soba noodles (Japanese buckwheat noodles), a carton of chicken broth and some other things from my grocery store. Then Friday night I combined these ingredients with mushrooms, frozen peas and carrots to make a quick soba noodle soup. The flavors were great and the photo of the soup was quite popular on instagram and so I decided to make the soup again with a few additions: cilantro and lime! This time I did not use carrots, but you can!

Super Quick Portobella Soba Noodle Soup
Serves 2-3

Ingredients
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 portobella caps, sliced
red pepper flakes to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
3 ounces soba noodles
1 cup frozen peas
to taste: soy sauce, lime juice, sriracha
fresh cilantro


Directions
1. Heat olive oil in a soup pot. Add mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes.
2. Add ginger and garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 2 more minutes.
3. Add chicken broth and water, bring to a boil and add soba noodles. Simmer the noodles in the soup for 4 minutes.
4. Add frozen peas and the rest of the ingredients to taste (other than cilantro). Adjust for saltiness, heat and acidity.
5. Serve topped with cilantro.


How easy was that!?

3/4/15

Happy Purim: Recipe For Unorthodox Hamentashen With Fig Jam

Happy Purim! Whether you are a religious Jew, a cultural Jew, or just like sweets, you will love these Unorthodox Hamentashen With Fig Jam.

I've made proper hamentashen in the past, but this year I ended up doing something slightly different.

I was out of jam. I did not feel like making hamentashen dough. THEN I thought why not use the frozen rugelach dough I had from making one of Dorie Greenspan's recipes!? Sure rugelach dough and hamentashen dough aren't the same, but I'm not one to follow the rules all the time ;)

The dough issue was solved, but I was still out of jam. That's when I wondered whether you can make jam from dried figs. Turns out you can! Thank you TheKitchn for a great tutorial.

Click on the video below to hear my voice ;) Did you know I have an accent!?


I used dried black mission figs my parents sent me last year when I broke my arm. I followed the recipe from The Kitchn closely, but used half the sugar and roughly chopped the figs before cooking them. You guys! The aroma was unbelievable. This is such a lovely jam.

I then defrosted and rolled out the rugelach dough. Cut it into circles with an oxo cutter, added a spoon of jam, put a bit of water on the outside edge of the dough and formed each cookie into a triangle shape making sure to squeeze the seams well. To make sure the dough would not spread too much, I froze the cookies for 5 minutes prior to baking them.



I baked these cookies at 350F for 25 minutes. There was no need to oil or butter the cookie sheet because the dough was buttery enough.


How good do they look!?!

Happy Purim!

2/25/15

Can You Make Savory Biscotti? Yes, You Can! Ciao Biscotti Cookbook by Domenica Marchetti


Have you ever heard of savory biscotti?!!?!?  I bet most of you haven't. We are used to biscotti, the double baked cookies, that are usually sweet and contain fun add-ins like chocolate chips, or almonds or cranberries. I've made multiple versions of sweet biscotti and got my mom addicted to them. But then last year I started seeing variations upon variations of biscotti pop up on Domenica Marchetti's instagram and I knew she was up to something fun! In fact, Domenica was working on a new book that is now available and is called Ciao Biscotti: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Celebrating Italy's Favorite Cookie published by Chronicle books.

I was excited to receive a preview copy of this adorable cookbook. Before sharing recipes for both sweet and savory biscotti, Domenica goes over the equipment you'll need, provides explanations of most often used techniques such as prepping the nuts, toasting seeds, measuring flour and melting chocolate, and gives a quick overview of metric scale. In fact, each recipe includes measurements in both metric scale (grams, etc) as well as imperial (ounces, etc).

The recipes in the book range from classics such as orange & pistachio and chocolate chunk with cherries to more unusual combinations such as crispy pancetta and smoky gouda! There are also non-biscotti recipes for hazelnut butter rings, hazelnut meringues, and Nutella sandwich cookies. The recipes are accompanied by quirky photos and fun illustrations.

Because I've never had a savory version of biscotti in my life, I thought I should start with that!


Mountain Gorgonzola and Walnut Biscotti
Copied from the book with permission from the publisher

No doubt you’ll laugh when I tell you that the inspiration for these biscotti came from that buffet table classic—the holiday cheese ball. But I also have no doubt that after one bite, you’ll be won over. Crispy, buttery, and rich with tangy blue cheese flavor, these biscotti are perfect for a holiday gathering.  

Makes about 36 biscotti

1 tbsp vegetable oil for coating a baking sheet
2 cups/255 g unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup/55 g finely chopped walnuts
5 oz/140 g mountain gorgonzola (also known as gorgonzola piccante), crumbled
4 tbsp/55 g unsalted butter, cut into ½-in/12-mm pieces, at cool room temperature
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Lightly coat an 11-in by 17-in/28-cm by 43-cm rimmed baking sheet with the oil.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper and walnuts in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix briefly on low speed. Add the Gorgonzola in pieces and mix briefly to combine. Add the butter in pieces and mix on medium-low speed until the mixture looks like damp sand. Pour in the eggs and mix on medium speed until a soft, slightly sticky dough has formed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a disk. Divide it in half. Lightly moisten your hands with water and gently roll one portion of dough into a rough oval. Place it lengthwise on one half of the baking sheet and use your hands and fingers to stretch and pat the dough into a log about 2 1/2 in/6 cm wide and 12 in/30 cm long. Shape the second piece of dough in the same way, moistening your hands as necessary. Press down on the logs to flatten them out a bit and make the tops even. 

Bake the logs for 25 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and just set—they should be springy to the touch and there should be cracks on the surface. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack. Gently slide an offset spatula under each log to loosen it from the baking sheet. Let the logs cool for 5 minutes, then transfer them to the rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 300 F/150 C. 

Transfer the cooled logs to a cutting board and, using a Santoku knife or a serrated bread knife, cut them on the diagonal into 1/3-in-/8-mm-thick slices. Arrange the slices, cut-side up, on the baking sheet (in batches if necessary) and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake for another 15 minutes, or until they are crisp and golden. Transfer the slices to a rack to cool completely. The biscotti will keep for up to 10 days in an airtight container stored at room temperature.
 
on the left: ready for the first bake; on the right: after the first bake


sliced and ready for the second bake

all done

My condo smelled amazing while I was baking the biscotti! This was definitely a lesson in patience because you not only have to bake these cookies twice, but you have to let them cool in between. But guess what? The wait was definitely worth it! These biscotti turned out buttery, cheesy and salty. In fact, if I make them again, I would reduce the amount of added salt (the cheese was salty enough).

I baked my biscotti longer than the recipe asked for. Do not expect the same dry and crumbly texture as the one you are used to in sweet biscotti. These came out more crumbly and buttery.

A few tips: I chopped my walnuts roughly instead of finely and used two fish spatulas to transfer the logs instead of an offset spatula (because I did not have one).

I served these with tomato soup and also had them with salad and as a snack wrapped in salami ;)

I cannot wait to try other recipes in Domenica's book!

What's your favorite biscotti?

Disclosure: I was provided with a preview copy of the book by the publisher but was not compensated by this post. All opinions are my own.

2/23/15

Meatless Monday: Warm Lentil Salad With Avocado & Goat Cheese


After starting my Sunday with a big slice of peaches and cream cake, I thought I should make something a bit more nutritious for lunch. I had a large container of green lentils and some random ingredients in my refrigerator and put them all together to make Warm Lentil Salad with Avocado & Goat Cheese. Make this dish for Meatless Monday lunch or dinner today!

Meatless Monday: Warm Lentil Salad with Avocado & Goat Cheese
Serves 4

Ingredients
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 small red onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
salt & pepper to taste
2 cups green lentils
water (see directions below)
juice of 1/2 lemon (less or more depending on your taste)
1 avocado, diced (less or more depending on your taste)
1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled (less or more depending on your taste)


Directions
1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or a pot. Add onions and carrots, season with salt and pepper and sauté for 10 minutes.
2. Add lentils and mix them with onions and carrots. Add enough water to cover everything by about half an inch. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a medium simmer, cover, and cook 30-40 minutes until the lentils are tender.
3. You may still have some water left in the skillet: don't worry about it and simply strain the lentils with onions and carrots.
4. Adjust the seasoning and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Serve topped with avocado and goat cheese.


This is a filling salad. You could serve it as is or topped with a poached egg!


What's your favorite recipe with green lentils?

2/18/15

Cherry & Peach Oatmeal Muffins AND A Few Confessions


How is it going? Were you snowed in? Are you still snowed in? Here in DC we got only a little bit of snow, but the government closed on Tuesday, so I was a happy camper.

Today I want to share with you Cherry & Peach Oatmeal Muffins AND A Few Confessions. What do confessions have to do with these muffins? Well a few things.

1) A while back I threw away a metal muffin pan because I was too lazy to clean it. Not even kidding.

2) I bought a huge canister of oats with the best intentions of making oatmeal, but the oats container has been sitting in my cabinet for over a month...so I decided to use it to make muffins instead.

Oh, and I purchased a new muffin pan ;)


These Cherry & Peach Oatmeal Muffins  are based on these Blueberry & Raspberry Oatmeal Muffins.

In this latest variation I used defrosted cherries and peaches and substituted vanilla extract for almond extract. I also used zest of an entire orange, but somehow the citrus flavor did not really come through.

Cherry & Peach Oatmeal Muffins
Makes 12

Ingredients
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups oatmeal, quick or regular
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
zest of one orange
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup frozen cherries, defrosted and chopped (don't use any of the juice)
1/2 frozen peaches, defrosted and chopped

topping
1/4 cup oatmeal
2 tablespoons sugar

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400F. Line muffin tins with paper cups.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3. In a separate bowl mix together milk, egg, oil, orange zest and almond extract.
4. Incorporate wet ingredients into the dry ones, but be careful not to over mix.
5. Carefully blend in cherries and peaches.
6. Divide the mixture amongst 12 muffin tins, filling them 2/3 of the way. These will not become the gigantic muffins you see in Costco or Starbucks, not that there is anything wrong with it. Just wanted to let you know!
7. In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup oatmeal with 2 tablespoons of sugar and sprinkle on each muffin.
8. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.


Ta da!!



2/12/15

Easy DIY: How To Make Marble Candles



Today I'm going to share with you a super quick and adorable DIY project. It has nothing to do with cooking or food, but this is my blog, so I get to do whatever I want ;)

Remember my post on decorating a pumpkin using nail polish? Well, this How To Make Marble Candles project uses the same technique.

1) Start with plain candles. I've had these candles for probably a decade. I never lite them because they are on a candle holder that is on my wall (see a photo above).


2) Find a bucket that is large enough to hold enough warm water and to have enough extra space to dunk in your candles. I used an Ikea planter because I did not care that its insides would get messy.

3) Add a few drops of nail polish into the warm water inside of the bucket and using a toothpick swirl the drops around. You can use several colors if you wish.


4) Dunk in your candle. You can dunk just half of it, or a third, or the whole thing: it's completely up to you!

5) Let the candles dry completely. If you aren't entirely happy with the look, you can repeat the above steps.

 

These turned out so adorable! I love that the nail polish adds a bit of color to my room.