8/14/18

Peach Upside-Down Cake from Secrets of the Southern Table by Virginia Willis


At the beginning of this year, I decided to make more recipes that will challenge my culinary skills. This past weekend, I did just that when I baked Peach Upside-Down Cake from Secrets of the Southern Table by Virginia Willis

I've been following Virginia Willis on social media for a while, and bought a ticket to a dinner she hosted in DC as soon as I saw it announced. The dinner was part of her book tour for the newly released Secrets of the Southern Table. I received a preview copy of the book from Virginia's publishers, and as soon as I tried the Peach Upside-Down Cake at dinner, I knew I'd have to make it. 

During the dinner I also tried and loved Virginia's shrimp and grits, but the highlight of the night was hearing about the new cookbook and the stories of Southern cuisine. Virginia researched the book for a year and shares stories of farmers, makers and growers, and immigrants who have impacted the food. You'll learn that Southern cuisine is not just okra, shrimp and grits, and fried chicken. The book includes recipes for dishes such as shredded beef arepas, Mexican chocolate pudding, tomato-ginger green beans, and chicken and butterbean paella.

But let's talk about cake for now!

This was my first time making an upside-down cake, and I was nervous. Would it come out as light and flavorful as Virginia's? Will it stick to the cast iron skillet? Will my friend who came over for her belated birthday celebration like it? Well, I had nothing to worry about.




PEACH UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE from SECRETS OF THE SOUTHERN TABLE by VIRGINIA WILLIS. Copyright © 2018 by VIRGINIA WILLIS. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Peach Upside-Down Cake
Serves 10

Southern peaches are something special. The trouble is, you pretty much have to live in the South to understand what the fuss is about, because peaches bought elsewhere are most often picked green and hard before shipping. 

When ag-entrepreneur Stephen Rose moved to Nashville in the summer of 2010, he made a disheartening discovery: No one was selling fresh, flavorful peaches like the kind he’d grown up with in Peach County, Georgia. He had an idea. He and his wife bought a 1964 Jeep truck and started selling big, beautiful, juicy Georgia peaches out of their cab in Nashville. Within five weeks, the city had consumed over ten tons of their brown-bagged peaches. Now the Peach Truck Tour travels through Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania!

Pineapple upside-down cake is a Southern classic and is most often made with canned pineapple.

This version uses fresh peaches and is a vast improvement, in my opinion. You can use all-purpose flour instead of the cake flour, but the results will be a bit heavier and slightly dense.

4 medium peaches (about1½ pounds), unpeeled and cut into⅓-inch-thick wedges
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup cake flour, not self-rising
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
10 tablespoons (½ cup plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
2 large eggs
½ cup sour cream

Bourbon Cream (recipe follows)

1.Heat oven to 350ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. (This step helps with cleanup.)

2.Toss the peaches with the lemon juice in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.

3.Cook ¼ cup of the granulated sugar over medium heat in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for 10 minutes, or until the sugar melts and turns a deep amber color. Remove from the heat. Immediately add 2 tablespoons of the butter and stir vigorously. Arrange the peach wedges in concentric circles over the sugar mixture, overlapping them as needed.

4.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the remaining ¾ cup granulated sugar, ½ cup butter, and vanilla bean seeds on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add the sour cream and beat until blended. With the mixer running on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until blended and stopping to scrape bowl as needed. Spoon the batter over the peaches in the skillet and spread to cover. Place the skillet on the prepared baking sheet.

5.Bake until golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in the skillet on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around edge to loosen.

6.Carefully pour out any excess liquid from the skillet into a measuring cup and set aside. (It’s okay if you don’t have any excess liquid—it all depends on how juicy your fruit is.) Carefully invert the cake onto a serving plate and drizzle with any reserved liquid. Let cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Cut into wedges using a serrated knife. Top with bourbon cream and serve immediately.

Bourbon Cream

Makes about 1 cup

½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon bourbon


1.Combine the cream and bourbon in a large bowl. Refrigerate, along with a whisk, for at least 15 minutes. Once chilled, beat the cream with the chilled whisk until it holds soft peaks, 3 to 5 minutes.



The recipe was incredibly easy to follow and filled my condo with such a sweet aroma. I used only 3 peaches and vanilla extract instead of vanilla bean. The cake had no trouble coming out of the cast iron skillet and had crispy edges, while remaining tender on the inside.

I did not have bourbon and used orange flavored vodka for the topping ;)

The only downsize of this baking project was the mess I left in my kitchen!

8/6/18

Summer Eggplant, Zucchini & Pepper In A Pressure Cooker


Good morning! It's another Monday, and I have another Meatless Monday recipe for you. Don't worry, I eat plenty of meat ;)

Last night I was thinking about how to use summer produce I had in my refrigerator including an eggplant, red pepper, and a zucchini. I considered making ratatouille, but could not be bothered to saute all the vegetables in a skillet. Instead, I decided to literally dice and dump all the vegetables into my pressure cooker and call it a night. The results were awesome!

Summer Eggplant, Zucchini & Pepper In A Pressure Cooker
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
1 large eggplant, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste
drizzle olive oil
1/3 cup chopped parsley, more to garnish

Directions
1. Add all the ingredients into a pressure cooker (other than the garnish parsley). 
2. Using the vegetable option, pressurize for 10 minutes.
3. Release the steam, taste, add more salt if needed. Serve topped with chopped fresh parsley.

My condo smelled so good! You can serve this dish as a side, use it as a base for shakshuka, puree into a soup, or pulse a few times in a food processor to turn into a chunky salsa.

8/2/18

Broccoli Rabe With Hazelnuts & Feta


I don't know about you, but I love the slightly bitter taste of broccoli rabe. To me, it's a grown up version of broccoli, and is so much prettier with thinner stalks and beautiful leaves. Paired with other strong flavors, whether salty, sweet, or spicy, broccoli rabe's bitterness is lessened, and you end up with a quick and easy dish that can be a light meal in itself or a great side.

Broccoli Rabe With Hazelnuts & Feta
Ingredients
olive oil
broccoli rabe
salt
red pepper flakes
hazelnuts
feta, crumbled

Directions
1. Heat a non stick skillet. Drizzle in olive oil. Allow the oil to heat.
2. Add broccoli rabe to the skillet, season with salt and red pepper flakes and quickly saute until the vegetables are tender.
3. Meanwhile, in a different skillet, lightly brown whole hazelnuts in a bit of olive oil and season with salt. Even if your nuts are already toasted, this will wake up their natural flavor a bit more.
4. Plate the broccoli rabe and top with hazelnuts and feta.

You can drizzle this side with a bit of light honey or reduced balsamic vinegar in the end!

This dish is best cooked right before you will serve it. Don't make enough for leftovers as the broccoli rabe will become soggy.

Eat your greens!!

7/30/18

Shishito Peppers With Corn, Feta, Crema & Bourbon Smoked Paprika


This Shishito Peppers With Corn, Feta, Crema & Bourbon Smoked Paprika was inspired by a recipe Washington's Green Grocer posted on their instagram and insta story. 

I changed a few ingredients and absolutely loved it! If you love Mexican corn, you need to make this dish while the corn is fresh and sweet.

Shishito Peppers With Corn, Feta, Crema & Bourbon Smoked Paprika

Ingredients
olive oil
shishito peppers
fresh corn kernels
salt
feta, crumbled
bourbon smoked paprika
Mexican crema (or use a combination of Greek yogurt thinned out with a bit of lime juice)
chiffonade of basil (feel free to use cilantro)

Directions
1. Heat two skillets. Add olive oil. In one skillet add corn kernels and saute until golden. In another skillet, preferably cast iron, blacken shishito peppers.
2. Season corn and shishito peppers with salt and add to a plate.
3. Top with feta, bourbon smoked paprika, a drizzle of Mexican crema, and basil.

The photo looks messy, but I hope you will still try out this combination of flavors. 

7/25/18

Quick & Easy Entertainment: Piquillo & Artichoke Bruschetta


Looking for a quick and easy entertainment idea? Bruschetta fits the bill perfectly.

My friend Allison came over this past Monday for a night of The Bachelorette, and I thought it'd be fun to make bruschetta to go with vinho verde, hummus, brie, and other chips and dips.

You start with toasted sliced bread, add a topping, and dig in.

I usually think of bruschetta topping made with tomatoes, but this time around I picked up a jar of piquillo & artichoke bruschetta from World Market. {Fun fact: I used to work at World Market ages ago part time, and still love shopping there.}

Of course you can easily make this topping yourself by combining chopped piquillo peppers (or roasted red peppers) with chopped marinated artichoke hearts and a bit of olive oil.

Quick & Easy Entertainment Piquillo & Artichoke Bruschetta

Ingredients
baguette, sliced diagonally into 1/4" slices
olive oil
garlic clove, sliced lengthwise
piquillo & artichoke bruschetta topping
fresh basil, sliced

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. Brush each side of sliced baguette with olive oil and bake for 3-6 minutes on each side, depending on how golden brown you want your bread.
3. Rub halved garlic clove onto each slice of toast.
4. Top each slice with piquillo & artichoke bruschetta and basil.

Easy summer entertainment!!

7/23/18

Quick & Easy Vegetarian Summer Meal


Quick & Easy Vegetarian Summer Meal is something you can have for lunch or dinner any day of the week, but especially for Meatless Monday. This combination of ingredients requires almost no cooking.

Half of the items on the plate come from Washington's Green Grocer; the other half come from Trader Joe's. Neither is a paid contributor ;) I love both.

Last night I needed a quick meal with some color and flavor as a counterpart to the gloomy rainy weekend.

1) Corn: husk the corn and wrap it in aluminum foil and then grill it directly on the gas flame turning occasionally.

2) Feta

3) Tomatoes: sliced and sprinkled with kosher salt

4) Eggplant spread: topped with chopped red onions. This Trader Joe's spread is beyond addicting and can be eaten as a side or spread on toast or used in sandwiches or as a dip.

5) Shishito peppers: blistered in a cast iron with a bit of olive oil. Sprinkled with kosher salt and a bit of feta.

Filling. Colorful. Healthy.

7/17/18

Cajun Smoked Salmon Salad Recipe


Love smoked salmon? Looking for something more fun than plain cream cheese to schmear on your bagel? Then you need to try my Cajun Smoked Salmon Salad Recipe.

You want to buy Cajun Flavored Smoked Salmon that comes in one piece instead of sliced smoke salmon. If you can't find Cajun Flavored Smoked Salmon, get regular smoked salmon that comes in a large unsliced piece and add some of this spice mix

Cajun Smoked Salmon Salad Recipe
Ingredients
Cajun Flavor Smoked Salmon, flaked
zest of a lemon
finely chopped Vidalia onion
chopped cilantro
lemon juice to taste
enough mayonnaise to combine

I know...there are no amounts listed. I wasn't planning on blogging about this, but my friend Laura said I should. Trust your gut and add as much or as little of each ingredient as you wish. Combine them all in a bowl.

This salad is incredibly flavorful and yet light. I had it with an everything bagel, tomatoes and cucumbers. 

7/12/18

Vegan Thai Corn, Potato & Zucchini Soup


Are you swimming in the sea of summer corn and zucchini? If the answer is yes, then this Vegan Thai Corn, Potato & Zucchini Soup is perfect for you.

I saw a recipe for Thai-Style Corn Chowder on TheKitchn and adapted it slightly to fit what I had on hand.

First, I used only 2 red skinned potatoes, and added 2 large zucchini. I also used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Finally, I pureed part of the soup to improve the texture.

The one recommendation I'm still figuring out is whether to mince the lemon grass*** or simply bruise it using the back of the knife because I did not like the texture of the minced lemongrass in the soup. You decide!

Vegan Thai Corn, Potato & Zucchini Soup
Adapted from TheKitchn
Serves 4-6
Ingredients
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 red skinned potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
1 Thai chili pepper, finely chopped {do NOT touch your eyes after}
1 3" piece of lemongrass, bruised with the back of the knife to release the flavor
salt to taste
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups fresh corn {if you are making this soup in the winter, use defrosted corn}
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 13.5 to 15 ounce can coconut milk
chopped cilantro
lime wedges

Directions
1. Heat a heavy bottomed soup pot on the stove. Add olive oil and allow it to heat.
2. Add chopped onions and allow to cook until translucent.
3. Add potatoes, chili pepper and lemongrass and saute for 5 minutes.
4. Season with salt. 
5. Add just enough broth to cover the vegetables, bring to a simmer and cook 5 to 8 minutes, covered, until potatoes are tender.
6. Add corn and zucchini and the rest of the broth. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking for a few more minutes.
7. Fish out the lemongrass and discard.
8. Off the heat, add coconut milk.
9. Carefully ladle a few cups of the soup into a blender. Blend until smooth and add back into the soup pot.
10. Serve the soup garnished with cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.

*** Rereading the recipe, I noticed the lemongrass was finely grated, not minced. Oy. Clearly I did not pay enough attention.

7/9/18

Meatless Monday: Summer Burrata Salad With Tomatoes, Peaches & Cherries


Over the weekend I made a Summer Burrata Salad With Tomatoes, Peaches & Cherries, and it was divine!

Burrata is somewhat costly, but is a great splurge from time to time. Usually served with fresh tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil and salt, the salad is a great start to a meal or a light meal in itself. I added a few extra ingredients to make a stunning (if I say so myself) plated salad.


Summer Burrata Salad With Tomatoes, Peaches & Cherries
Ingredients
1 ball burrata
tomatoes (I used kumato, cherry, and golden varieties), sliced or/and quartered
peaches, sliced
Rainier cherries, pitted and halved
pickled corn
basil
chili olive oil
salt  

Directions
1. Tear the burrata ball. Arrange tomatoes, peaches, cherries, and pickled corn in a pleasing pattern.
2. Top with basil.
3. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt.

Here's to more gorgeous summer salads!!

7/5/18

Healthy Eating: Zucchini, Tomato & Cod Recipe


This Zucchini, Tomato & Cod Recipe is super quick, satisfying, healthy, and reheats well. I wasn't planning on blogging about it, but after tasting my creation, I wanted to share it with you.

If you have had one too many burgers or hot dogs yesterday at the 4th of July get together, or are drowning in the number of zucchini from your garden, or don't eat meat on Fridays, or just want something that feels light, make this dish!

Zucchini, Tomato & Cod Recipe
Serves 4

Ingredients
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/4" slices
3 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/4" slices
1/2 large Vidalia onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 14.5 ounce cans of diced tomatoes (I use Muir Glen: not sponsored. I really like them and order them by the case on Amazon.)
1-2 pinches red pepper flakes
4 cod filets (or use halibut or tilapia or even shrimp)
fresh basil

Directions
1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add zucchini, summer squash, onions, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and saute until the vegetables are tender.
2. Add diced tomatoes and their juices and red pepper flakes and bring to a low simmer.
3. Submerge cod in the zucchini/summer squash/tomato stew and simmer, covered, until the fish is cooked through. This may take 5-15 minutes depending on the size of the fish: check the fish with a fork to make sure it is cooked through.
4. Serve topped with fresh basil.

NOTES:
1. I used defrosted cod. It worked really well.
2. You can use sliced peppers into the stew in step #1.
3. Olives or capers would be a great addition to this dish.

7/2/18

Meatless Monday: Tomato Sourdough Toast! Taste Of Summer



In the words of Oprah, I LOVE BREAD!!! During the Summer months, I love the simplicity of tomato sandwiches. Mine usually include toasted bread, mayonnaise, tomato, and salt.

When your recipe has only a few ingredients, you need to make sure to use the best ones. This Tomato Sourdough Toast comes from my visit to Penn Quarter Farmers Market last Thursday where I bought a gorgeous ripe tomato from Toigo Orchards and half a loaf of sourdough from Seylou. {Thank god I only bought half of the loaf: I've been eating it daily and my scale is not happy about it. My taste buds, however, are rather pleased by this crusty bread with tender inside!}

For the rest of the ingredients, I used mayonnaise, thinly sliced red onions, Kosher salt, and baby basil. 


Tomato Sourdough Toast
1) Toast sliced bread and allow to cool
2) Smother the toast with mayonnaise
3) Add a layer of thinly sliced red onion and a layer of thick slices of tomatoes
4) Sprinkle with Kosher salt
5) Top with baby basil

PS What do you think of my new background? I took an old wood table I haven't used in ages and distressed it with a hammer, a few nails, and then stained it!

6/28/18

Beef & Kimchi Korean Stew With Potatoes & Zucchini: How To Host A Korean Feast At Home

This past Sunday my friends Jenn and Cat came over to hang out and cook (and of course eat) Korean food in my condo. It was SO much fun.

If you love Korean food, but are intimidated by cooking it at home, I have the perfect plan of action for you.

You want to keep the menu pretty simple and buy a few things already prepared.

1) Buy banchan and dessert: Jenn brought kimchi, seaweed salad, kimchi cucumbers, fried anchovies, and seasoned sesame leaves. For dessert (which we actually snacked on while cooking), we had rice balls filled with sesame seeds. I've never had these sweets and really liked them!

2) For the main course I chose a kimchi and beef stew made in a pressure cooker! More on it below.

3) While the main course was in the pressure cooker, we whipped up simple scallion and shrimp pancakes. Luckily, Cat was more than happy to cook them (I get a bit scared of hot sizzling oil).

4) To drink, have iced tea and rose on hand!


My entire condo smelled like oil, but it was so worth it! The pancakes were crispy on the edges and took only a few minutes to cook. For the dipping sauce, we combined soy sauce and rice wine vinegar with a bit of Korean chili flakes.


Beef & Kimchi Korean Stew With Potatoes & Zucchini: How To Host A Korean Feast At Home
Serves 6
Adapted from Two Sleevers

In my version of the stew, we used fresh mushrooms instead of dried, and added peppers, potatoes and zucchini. If you can't find Korean peppers and zucchini, use regular ones. Cat bought produce from an Asian market and that's how they were labeled there.

Ingredients
2 cups kimchi
1 pound stew beef cubes
1 small onion, chopped
8 ounces sliced shitake mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ginger powder (I did not have fresh ginger)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Korean chili powder
1 tablespoon gochujang
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 cups water
4 Korean peppers, sliced (or use 1 green bell pepper)
2 Russet potatoes, peeled, cubed
3 Korean zucchini, cut into large dice
1 cup diced firm tofu
rice to serve
scallions, chopped

Directions
1. Put all the ingredients (other than potatoes, zucchini, tofu, rice, and scallions) into a pressure cooker. Set for 15 minutes.
2. Release the pressure. Add potatoes. Set for 5 more minutes.
3. Release the pressure. Add zucchini. Set for 3 minutes.
4. Release the pressure. Add tofu. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
5. Serve the stew over rice garnished with scallions.

Talk about comfort food!!! The stew wasn't overly spicy, but had so much flavor from the kimchi and the vegetables and the beef. I added a bit of kimchi and kimchi juice to my portion before eating it. The addition of potatoes was so good: who doesn't like meat and potatoes!?

The stew makes about 6 portions and is great for leftovers!


This rose is so refreshing, has a pretty label, and is under $10!


Here's to more cooking adventures with friends!

6/22/18

Weekend Inspiration: Flower Power


Weekend is almost here! I want to remind you once again to treat yourself to some flowers! Find your own sunshine!

Earlier this week I bought a miniature sunflower plant at Whole Foods for only $2.99!! That's cheaper than a fancy coffee, will last longer, and will bring you so much joy. Plus, no calories ;)

6/18/18

Meatless Monday: Cold Borsch


What is better on a hot summer day than cold soup? Of course I can think of a few things, but a bowl of Cold Borsch is not only beautiful, low calorie, and satisfying, but is also nutritious, can be made a few days ahead, and is quite versatile.

I wrote about making Cold Borsch a while back, but made a variation on that recipe yesterday in honor of my dad because he's the king of borsch!


I started the night before by cooking peeled and diced beets in plenty of salted water. I separately cooked a few diced potatoes in salted water.

Once the vegetables and the liquids were cool, I drained the potatoes and added them to the cooked beets and the beet liquid.

The next day, I added Greek Yogurt, diced cucumbers, diced red onion, and plenty of chopped dill to the soup. 

I used Greek yogurt instead of buttermilk, because I already had it in my refrigerator. If you use buttermilk, you'll probably have plenty of leftovers. Don't worry: I have plenty of recipes for you that include buttermilk. Everything from appetizers, to main courses, to dessert!

You can also add hard boiled eggs, radishes, other herbs such as basil, and wilted spinach!

6/13/18

Quick & Easy Ground Lamb With Zucchini & Corn


I'm back from vacation in Seattle with a Quick & Easy Ground Lamb With Zucchini & Corn Recipe. My friends from Superior Farms challenged me to create a quick healthy weeknight dinner recipe using ground lamb and provided a stipend for ingredients.

Given that the temperatures are rising and the summer produce is starting to show up, I wanted to make a recipe that took minutes to make and featured some of my favorite summer produce: corn and tomatoes!

Quick & Easy Ground Lamb With Zucchini & Corn
Serves 4

Ingredients
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound ground lamb
1 large zucchini, diced
kernels from 2 ears of corn
salt & pepper to taste
4 whole wheat pita (the ones I found had 130 calories each)
1/3 cup crumbled feta
1/3 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped dill
hot sauce to taste

Directions
1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add ground lamb and saute on medium heat for 5 minutes.
2. Pour out most of the fat.
3. Add zucchini and corn, season with salt and pepper, and saute for 15 minutes.
4. Toast pitas (in the oven or directly on the gas flame or in a cast iron skillet).
5. Serve a quarter of lamb mixture topped with a quarter of feta, tomatoes and dill, drizzled with as much of hot sauce as you like.
6. This can be eaten with the cut up pita OR you can cut the pita in half and make pita pockets.

This dish had a lot of flavor but did not feel heavy. You can serve this mixture on a bed of salad greens or on top of cubed and roasted sweet potato or use it to make stuffed peppers.

5/21/18

Vegan Eggplant, Chickpea & Tomato With Israeli Cous Cous Meal Prep


Let me tell you about a vegan dish that's full of flavor, color, nutrients, and is perfect for meal prep for the week.

Vegan Eggplant, Chickpea & Tomato With Israeli Cous Cous Meal Prep

Ingredients for 4-6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil, more if needed
1 medium sized Italian eggplant, diced into 1/4" pieces
1 small onion, diced
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans chickpeas, drained {I used home cooked chickpeas}
1/3 cup halved Kalamata olives
salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
2 cups cooked Israeli cous cous
fresh basil

Directions
1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add eggplant and onions and saute on medium heat until the eggplant is tender. Add more oil if needed.
2. Add canned tomatoes and their juices, chickpeas, and olives. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, and bring the mixture to a hard simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Add cooked cous cous. Mix to combine.
4. Serve topped with fresh basil. 

5/16/18

Summer Chicken Soup. Meal Prep In A Pressure Cooker.


Let's talk about soup: I love it. Whether it's a bowl of cold summer borsch or a steaming bowl of split pea soup, soup provides nourishment, is great for leftovers, and can be eaten for any meal of the day. Yes, I occasionally eat soup for breakfast.

Over the weekend, I made a version of Pinch of Yum's Instant Pot Summer Soup and am so happy with the results. 

Let me tell you about this Summer Chicken Soup


The base of the recipe is a combination of chicken broth and crushed tomatoes. I used crushed tomatoes with basil to increase the flavor.

There's no need to saute carrots and celery before adding them to the pressure cooker. To make things easier, I did not even peel the carrots.

You can use whichever spices you like the most. In addition to onion powder and salt, I seasoned the soup generously with sumac, which intensified the deep red color of the soup.

I did not have farro, so used brown rice.

As far as the chicken goes, I actually used 2 large chicken breasts with the bones. They were less expensive and provided even more flavor to the soup. Plus, you shred the chicken and can easily discard the bones before serving the soup.

Originally I thought about using frozen corn, but am so glad I ended up incorporating fresh corn because it added a nice texture to the soup.

I topped my bowl of Summer Chicken Soup with strained yogurt, fresh cilantro and Parmesan.

Note that the brown rice (or whichever grain you use) will expand in the soup as it sits in the refrigerator. Not to worry: add a bit more chicken broth when reheating the soup.

Tell me what's the latest soup you ate!

5/14/18

Meatless Monday: Three Bean Salad & Breasts: The Owner's Manual


Oh hi! It's another Monday.

A few weeks ago my friends from Meatless Monday offered to send me a copy of Dr. Kristi Funk's Breasts: The Owner's Manual book and another one to give away to my readers.

Readers...are you out there? I'm hosting a giveaway on my instagram only, so head over there for a chance to win the book!

I've not read the book yet, but one of the things Kristi advocates is reducing meat, and so over the weekend I made Kristi's Three Beans Walk Into A Salad...recipe and will be having leftovers for lunch. This recipe is incredibly easy, can be customized with addition of other ingredients you like, and will be perfect for a picnic!

Reprinted with permission from Dr. Kristi Funk and Chrissy Roth, Certified Plant-Based Nutritionist

Three Beans Walk into a Salad… 
Serves 6
Ingredients:

  • 1 can black beans (rinsed well)
  • 1 can kidney beans (rinsed well)
  • 1 can chickpeas (rinsed well, save chickpea liquid)
  • 1 avocado cut into half inch cubes
  • 2 Persian cucumbers chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano (preferred) or 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 to 3 T of red wine vinegar
  • 1-2 T chickpea liquid
  • Salt and pepper to taste
 
Directions:
Combine beans, veggies and avocado and toss gently. Add oregano, then toss, add chickpea liquid, then red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

Tip: Chill the beans before making this if you are planning to eat it right away. Or you can make it (minus the avocado), chill for an hour, then add the avocado right before serving.


NOTES: I added one diced yellow pepper, a quarter of a chopped onion, and fresh basil. I chose not to add oregano because it's not my favorite.

I was surprised I did not miss having olive oil in this salad.

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of the book, but am not compensated for this post.

5/7/18

Skinnytaste Easy Bagels With Everything But The Bagel


How about an everything bagel for breakfast? Guess what? You can make your own!

Yesterday my friends Sylvie and Jazmin came over for brunch (with Sylvie's adorable daughter), and I decided to finally make Gina's (aka Skinnytaste) Easy Bagels after seeing them on her instagram countless times.

I admit I was a bit scared. What if they would not turn out well? Oh, I remembered, I had wholewheat bread with seeds and nuts in the freezer: I could use that instead.

No need! The bagel dough, consisting of flour, Greek yogurt, baking powder, and salt, came together super easy. I doubled the recipe and made 8 bagels.

Unlike Gina, I used full fat Greek yogurt in the dough and a whole egg to make the egg wash. I egg-washed the bagels only on the top and sprinkled them generously with Trader Joe's Everything But The Bagel. The bagels took longer to bake than the recipe suggested, but rose nicely and smelled and looked incredible!

I highly recommend halving and toasting the bagels before slathering each half with scallion cream cheese, and adding layers of smoked salmon, cucumbers and tomatoes.

These were much lighter and delicate than the bagels you'd find in your grocery store or coffee shop. They were also smaller, but perfectly sized for not feeling stuffed.



Brunch menu:
bagels with scallion cream cheese, smoked salmon, cucumbers and tomatoes

roasted red skinned potatoes and onions

Jazmin's salad with peppers, goat cheese, red onion, avocado, and a dreamy balsamic and lime dressing

Sylvie's rose and watermelon (which we did not have time to eat, and I'm very happy to have kept)



5/2/18

Chicken Salad With Mango, Cucumber & Radishes


Looking for a fun way to use leftover chicken breasts? Don't want to turn on your stove? Well, then you must make my Chicken Salad With Mango, Cucumber & Radishes.

The photo above is before I added mayonnaise. Of course if you don't love mayonnaise, you can leave it out and use olive oil and lemon juice instead or maybe yogurt, but I LOVE mayo and use it all the time.

Chicken Salad With Mango, Cucumber & Radishes
Ingredients for 1-2 servings 

1 cooked chicken breast, cubed
1 mango, peeled, and diced
1 Persian cucumber, diced
3 radishes, diced
1 avocado, diced
salt & pepper to taste
mayonnaise (as much or as little as you want)

Directions
1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. 

4/30/18

Meatless Monday: Whole Roasted Cauliflower With Dukkah & Parsley


Happy Meatless Monday! Over the weekend I made Whole Roasted Cauliflower With Dukkah & Parsley using a recipe I learned from Vered Guttman

I've tried roasting a whole cauliflower before and was disappointed with the results. Turns out, I was missing a key step: you need to cook the cauliflower before roasting it!

At the event I attended at Sixth & I last week, Vered demonstrated how to cook the cauliflower in salted water with turmeric until it's tender before letting it cool and only then drizzling it with olive oil and roasting it at 400F for about 30 minutes!


Game changer!

I used a yellow cauliflower from Washington's Green Grocer, making the final product super yellow ;)

Also, I'm now obsessed with dukkah! It's a combination of herbs, spices, and nuts. This particular one has toasted hazelnuts, coriander seeds and cumin, to name a few, and is great with roasted vegetables, yogurt, or avocado toast!

4/27/18

Weekend Inspirations: Ranunculus


TGIF! Yesterday after work I picked up a bunch of ranunculus at a farmers market to beautify my weekend. I highly recommend you do the same!

4/24/18

Guide To A Girls' Weekend In LA: Travel Tuesday

Guide To A Girls' Weekend In LA: Travel Tuesday

It's been almost a month since I flew to Los Angeles to spend a long weekend celebrating my birthday (our birthday?) with my twin sister Anna and our friend Kate, whose birthday is just two days prior to ours.

We've traveled together before to Austin and Mexico City and approached this trip in a similar manner: 

1) pick an area to stay
2) book an airbnb
3) make a list of restaurants
4) make a list of cultural sites
5) come up with a hashtag for the trip (#TresAmigasLA)
6) text each other what to pack
7) enjoy

Thanks to my friend Mary, we booked an airbnb in the Echo Park neighborhood and absolutely loved it. Cute little house, tons of cacti, quiet, yet walking distance to many restaurants and not too expensive Uber or Lyft ride away from other points of interest.

Yes, after some back and forth, we decided not to rent a car and had no regrets about it.

Now on to food! Overall, 90% of the meals were absolutely fabulous. In no particular order, below are some of the highlights. 

SQIRL
Luckily my friend Esi got to Sqirl earlier than us and stood in line! This is such a cute, fast moving, delicious smelling place. You'll have a hard time deciding what to get, but cannot go wrong with  their famous Crispy Rice Salad with a side of bacon. I could eat this daily!


When traveling, it's fun to find places that weren't originally on your list, and even more fun when your travel companions are happy to get a random meal in because the food/drinks sound awesome. That's exactly what happened when we walked by SAWYER and saw that they had a $14 happy hour special for half a dozen oysters and a glass of rose! We ordered three of the specials and a few other dishes and enjoyed the stunning restaurant with high ceilings, beautiful flower arrangements, and a bathroom the size of my kitchen.


Another fun thing to do while traveling is setting up play dates with friends living in that city. One of Anna's friends came over for Rose and watermelon in the backyard of our airbnb and gave us two stellar recommendations for Venice Beach area: GJUSTA and DUNE

Below is my breakfast from Gjusta which consisted of toast, the juiciest tomatoes, soft boiled eggs, smoked white fish, labneh, pickled onions, capers, cucumbers, and radishes. It was so good, I tried recreating it at home. 


In Dune, I ordered sabich sandwich: fried eggplant in a pita with pickled vegetables, another egg, tahini dressing and shoestring potatoes. I felt transported to Israel.


Kate saw Chrissy Teigen's tweet about NIGHT & MARKET and we loved the creative food in this super loud, colorful, hectic, and party-for-your-taste-buds restaurant. We went to Song because it was closer to our airbnb. Below is their crispy rice dish. Dreamy!


In other-than-food things not to miss:
The Broad: get your free tickets in advance
The Getty: go for the art, or simply stroll through its gorgeous flower filled garden
Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House: take the tour
Art Deco Architectural Tour




Cannot wait for our next trip!!

4/23/18

Meatless Monday: Asparagus, Broccoli & Chevre Frittata Adapted From Ellie Krieger


Spring is finally in the air! Why not make a frittata to celebrate? I adapted Ellie Krieger's recipe by using dill instead of chives, adding broccoli, using more chevre (goat cheese) and topping the final dish with tomatoes.

This frittta is easy to make, can be served hot or at room temperature, and makes for great leftovers.

Plus, the title is fun: ABC (Asparagus, Broccoli, Chevre)!


Meatless Monday: Asparagus, Broccoli & Chevre Frittata Adapted From Ellie Krieger
Adapted from Ellie Krieger's recipe on Washington Post 

Ingredients for 4
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch asparagus, thick ends discarded, the rest cut into 1" pieces
1 head broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces
1 leek, white and light green parts only, chopped and washed well
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
7 large eggs
1/4 cup milk (use whatever fat % you like)
salt & pepper to taste
4 ounces chevre (goat cheese) broken into big pieces
1/4 cup chopped dill
2 tomatoes, sliced

Directions
1. Heat olive oil in an oven proof pan. Add asparagus, broccoli, and leeks and saute for 8 minutes on medium heat. Stir in parsley.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with milk, salt and pepper and pour over the vegetables.
3. Cook frittata over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. You want the eggs to set around the edges but not in the center of the frittata.
4. While the eggs are cooking, preheat the broiler and position the oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the top.
5. Arrange chevre chunks on top of the frittata and broil for 2 to 3 minutes. Don't burn!
6. Top the finished frittata with dill and tomato slices.

4/19/18

What To Do With Skinless Boneless Chicken Breasts: Cajun Rub


Do you wonder what to do with skinless boneless chicken breasts? If you, like me, just can't get yourself to eat the supposedly more flavorful and definitely less expensive chicken thighs, and instead buy skinless boneless chicken breasts and then fear ending up with dry as rubber protein, I have an incredibly easy, juicy, and flavorful recipe for you.

Yesterday I twitted for suggestions on quick and easy recipe ideas to make with chicken breasts, and the Watermelon Board people gave me a great idea for Cajun chicken! I did not have the ingredients to make the watermelon salsa, but absolutely loved how the Cajun spice mix worked out.

What To Do With Skinless Boneless Chicken Breasts: Cajun Rub
Slightly adapted from Watermelon Board

Ingredients

1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons bourbon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon salt
3 skinless boneless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon canola oil

Directions
1. In a small bowl combine the first 7 ingredients. Save half of the spice mix for later and pour the other half into a shallow dish.
2. Coat chicken breasts with the Cajun rub on both sides.
3. Heat oil in a nonstick pan and saute chicken breast for 5 minutes on each side. Cover the pan and cook chicken breasts on medium heat until they reach 165F degrees. Depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts, it could take 5 to 15 minutes.

SO much flavor. The chicken breasts were juicy and perfectly tender on the inside. You can use them as the main course or mix into salads. I served mine on a bed of white bean puree with radishes, feta, white onion and basil. Sort of random, but it worked.

4/16/18

Boozy Strawberry Shortcake With Thyme & Black Pepper


Need a quick and easy dessert you can make in advance? I present Boozy Strawberry Shortcake With Thyme & Black Pepper. I used the recipe for the biscuit part from Food Network, but spiked up the strawberry mixture with rose and added thyme and black pepper for a modern and savory touch.

If you aren't as adventures as I am when it comes to dessert, stick to the original strawberries + sugar mixture.

Boozy Strawberry Shortcake With Thyme & Black Pepper
Adapted from Food Network

Ingredients
For the biscuit part
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons sugar in the raw

For the strawberry mixture
3 cups strawberries, diced
2 cups rose, or more as needed
4 sprigs thyme, leaves only
black pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt. 
3. Add heavy cream and mix to combine. The mixture will look a bit clumpy. Don't worry.
4. Add the mixture into an ungreased 8" baking pan, sprinkle with sugar in the raw, and bake for 25 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, macerate the strawberries in rose and thyme for about 20 minutes.
6. Strain the strawberries (drink the wine) and add black pepper to taste.
7. Once the biscuit part is baked, take it out of the oven and allow to cool on a cookie rack. Cut out round shapes using a biscuit cutter and layer a mixture of strawberries and freshly whipped heavy cream.


I really liked how easy this recipe was. If you have a large sweet tooth, you will want to increase the amount of sugar and make sweetened whipped cream, but as I mentioned earlier, I enjoyed the savory feel of this dessert.

If you want to make this dessert in advance, keep all of its components separately and toast the sliced biscuit before serving.