Meatless Monday: Roasted Eggplant, Chickpea & Tomato Salad Recipe

How often do you bookmark a recipe only to never actually make it? I'm trying really hard to change this habit.

Last year I bought a 3 year subscription to Real Simple: I love paging through this magazine, especially when traveling, learning about new products, reading inspirational quotes and stories, and seeing easy to make recipes. I decided I should actually make one of those recipes!

Real Simple's Roasted Eggplant and Olive Pasta Salad looked like something I'd love especially after I made a few changes. I took out the pasta and added chickpeas and arugula. Instead of oregano I used scallions. I also added whole grain mustard. This is a recipe you can easily customize to your taste buds!

Meatless Monday: Roasted Eggplant, Chickpea & Tomato Salad
Adapted from Real Simple

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 small eggplant diced into 1/2" pieces
15.5 ounce can chickpeas rinsed and drained
1 cup red cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
3 cups arugula
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup halved kalamata olives
1/2 cup feta
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
salt & pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 475F. Drizzle cubed eggplant with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and roast in a single layer for 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool.
2. Meanwhile, combine the rest of the ingredients. 
3. Add cooled roasted eggplant to the salad. Serve.

I loved all the flavors in this salad. If you happen not to be a fan of eggplant, substitute roasted sweet potatoes, cauliflower, peppers or zucchini. This salad keeps well as leftovers and I actually had it for breakfast. It'll also be perfect to take on a summer picnic!

What recipe from a magazine have you tried lately?


Ricotta, Potato & Asparagus Pizza Made With Oxo

My Ricotta, Potato & Asparagus Pizza is pretty easy to make, a fun twist on your typical tomato sauce based pizza, and is great as leftovers for lunch.

My friends at oxo sent me 3 new-to-me products to try and use to make this pizza, but I received no monetary compensation, and as always, all opinions are my own.
  • Non-Stick Pro Pizza Pan features a micro-textured pattern to improve airflow for even baking and rigidity for strength and durability. 
  • Complete Grate & Slice Set includes coarse and medium grating and straight and julienne slicing surfaces. Each can be used over bowls or plates or placed on top of the lid, which doubles as a container for collecting and measuring.
  • 4" Pizza Wheel's clear plastic wheel won't damage non-stick pans, and the slick surface prevents cheese from sticking.

Let's talk about the pizza pan: it has a good weight to it, browns things evenly, and can be easily used for baking cookies, free-form tarts or even roasting potatoes.

I loved the grate & slice set because of the ease of use and because all the components nest into one container!

The pizza wheel worked pretty well, but I did have to apply more pressure than I expected.

Ok, let's talk about the pizza! I need to give thanks to my twin Anna for the ricotta suggestion. The rest of the ingredients/steps were my own ;)

Ricotta, Potato & Asparagus Pizza Made With Oxo
olive oil
1 ball of pizza dough or rolled out dough {I purchased mine from the grocery store}
1 red skinned potato, thinly sliced 
8-10 asparagus spears, sliced lengthwise and then in half
2 ounces dry sausage or salami
1.5 cups ricotta
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup grated Parmesan
10 basil leaves, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 425F.
2. Roll out the pizza dough on a lightly oiled pizza pan and bake for 5-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the pizza. You want to pre-bake it slightly before adding the rest of the ingredients.
3. Meanwhile, simmer potatoes for 5 minutes in salted water, then add asparagus and continue simmering for another 3 minutes. Drain and cool.
4. Spread ricotta on pre-baked pizza dough and season well with salt and pepper.
5. Arrange potatoes, asparagus and sausage in a fun pattern.
6. Bake pizza for 15 minutes.
7. Top the pizza with red onions, drizzle of olive oil and Parmesan cheese and bake for another 10-15 minutes.
8. Top with fresh basil.

Isn't this a pretty pizza? You can completely leave out the sausage if you want to keep it vegetarian.


Travel Tuesday: 30 Hours In Philadelphia.

If you had 30 hours in Philadelphia, what would you do?

I realize that's a random question, but that's exactly what I got to ponder last month after on a whim I decided to whisk myself to Philadelphia to celebrate my birthday.

My original idea was to get out of DC and see if I could make a reservation at Zahav. I've been obsessed with wanting to go to this well renowned Israeli restaurant for several years after falling in love with its food when Michael Solomonov had a Zahav popup in DC. I called. Surprisingly, I was able to make a 5 pm reservation at Zahav. {Tip: don't go by OpenTable. If they say there are no reservations, pick up the phone and call!}

Next came purchasing Amtrak tickets. Then I booked a hotel stay at Club Quarters. Then my good friend Laura said she'll be able to come and meet me for dinner and my friend Kelly agreed to meet me for lunch the following day. 

And then I filled in the rest of the time with food and walking around and a bit of salsa dancing.

Because this was my 5th time in Philadelphia, I've already toured The Reading Terminal Market, The Liberty Bell, ran up {who am I kidding????} walked up the Rocky steps, etc. This trip was going to be about food.

For lunch I went to Oyster House recommended by an older married Jewish man who tried to pick me up on the train. No, I did not take him up on his invitation to join me for dinner, but I'm really glad I listened to his food related recommendation. These Cape Cod oysters were some of the cleanest, plumpest and delicious I've had. I loved the oyster plates hanging on the walls of the restaurant and the entree of mussels with fries. {You can see all the photos on my instagram with #30HrPhillyBdayTrip.}

Then there was the main event: dinner at Zahav. That's my friend Laura on the left. The restaurant offered us sparkling wine to start our meal and gave me a menu with "Happy Birthday Olga" written on it. The meal was great. I think the little salads at the start of the meal were my favorites: beets, fennel, carrots, etc.  

We also shared a few plates of raw lamb, chicken skewers, Turkish hummus and ended the meal with an assortment of dessert. 

I need to say this: the service and the food were solid, but I wasn't blown away. I don't know if my expectations were too high, or family style pop up in DC was a better way to experience the meal than the tapas style in Philadelphia...I don't regret the meal at all, but like I said...I wasn't blown away.

After hanging out at my hotel for a bit I decided to go and burn a few calories salsa dancing at Brasils. Thanks to all the gentlemen for the leads. 

After checking out of the hotel and storing my bag, I went to Rival Bros for caffeine and food. Below is Daily Bread: toasted thick slices of bread slathered with butter and topped with salt and served with blueberry jam. WOW. I must have gained 2 pounds just by looking at the plate ;)

My plan after breakfast was to walk around the city and photograph some of its many murals. On my way to find the murals I discovered Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and am so happy I walked in. Other than its stunning architecture, there were paintings and sculptures by multiple artists: and it was free!

This is one of my favorite murals. I have about 14 others on my instagram feed ;) You can find a map of the murals here and even take a guided walking tour, which was unfortunately unavailable when I was visiting.

And then it was time for lunch with Kelly. Guess what? We chose Michael Solomonov's restaurant again: Rooster Soup Company. Smoked matzo ball soup and meatball sandwich were great. Chatting with Kelly and being treated to lunch by her were greater. The fact that all profits go to Broad Street Ministry was the greatest.

After lunch I did a bit of shopping and more walking around. It was a perfect Spring day. Of course I snapped photos of doors. #ihavethisthingwithdoors 

And then it was time to head back to the Amtrak station and board the train back to DC. How adorable are the swings next to the station? Dear Union Station, please take note.

But wait!! Before getting on the train, I stopped at Michael Solomonov's third restaurant in Philadelphia, Dizengoff, and picked up a bowl of hummus with brisket, a salad and pita. It was divine. This was probably some of the best hummus I've ever had, and let's not even talk about how tender and flavorful the the brisket was. I bet many of the Amtrak passengers hated me :/

In case any of you are wondering, this is not a sponsored post by Michael Solomonov ;) This was a great treat to myself to take a few days off for my birthday and spend time eating, seeing Philadelphia and catching up with friends.


Meatless Monday: Raw Beet & Cucumber Salad

I love salads. Last week I wanted a light dinner before going dancing and noticed two golden beets in my fridge. I decided to slice them using a mandoline and layer them with sliced cucumbers, and shallots on a bed of Boston lettuce. A simple drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice was the dressing. A bit of salt. Some pepper. Ribbons of basil.

No need to even use a fork: pick up the vegetable disks with your fingers! Imagine all the energy you'll use to chew ;)

Meatless Monday: Raw Beet & Cucumber Salad
Boston lettuce leaves
golden beets, scrubbed well, sliced into thin disks
English cucumber, thinly sliced
shallot, thinly sliced
olive oil
lemon juice
salt & pepper
basil leaves, cut into ribbons {chiffonade}

1. Layer Boston leaves on a plate. 
2. Make an appealing design with beet and cucumber slices.
3. Scatter shallot slices.
4. Drizzle your creation with olive oil and fresh lemon juice.
5. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Top with basil.

This salad is pretty. It's perfect for Meatless Monday. It's vegan. It's raw. It's whole30 approved. Best thing? It's really refreshing and delicious.


Passover, Easter Or Mother's Day Menu: Easy Spring Entertaining With Lamb

Whether you are looking for a Passover, Easter Or Mother's Day menu, I have you covered with my Garlic & Za'atar Roasted Leg of Lamb with Harissa Potatoes, Za'atar Carrots and Peas with Shallots and Basil. Entertaining at home doesn't have to be stressful or complicated.

Last week I received a bone-in leg of lamb from Superior Farms and a challenge of creating an easy Spring menu. I decided to invite a few friends over for Sunday lunch and began a mental list of ideas for what to do with the lamb. I thought about using my pressure cooker, but settled on roasting the lamb using the method from Martha Stewart. Martha would not disappoint, right? RIGHT!

For the 3.5 pound bone-in leg of lamb:
1 day before your meal, combine 6 minced garlic cloves with 2 tablespoons za'atar, 2 teaspoons salt and 3 tablespoons olive oil and rub all over the lamb. Cover in aluminum foil and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Every time I opened the refrigerator, the garlic aroma hit me in the face. It was magnificent.

The day of the lunch, make sure to take out the lamb out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature before starting the roasting process. Count backwards!

1. Preheat the oven to 425F.
2. Set a leg of lamb on 3 thick slices of onion in an oiled baking dish. Or you can use a roasting rack.
3. After 20 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 350F and insert a thermometer into the lamb without touching the bone. I used one of those thermometers that has a cord that comes out of the oven and is connected to the device that allows you to set the goal temperature.
4. Roast the lamb until the internal temperature reaches 130F {about 50 minutes}, then broil for 5 minutes.
5. Allow the lamb to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.

This was a great way to cook a leg of lamb. It was tender and juicy and not overcooked. Next time I think I'll take out the lamb when it has reached 120 or 125 degrees for a more rare result. Note: leftover lamb is great thinly sliced on a salad or a sandwich. Don't reheat it.

For the vegetables
Simmer halved small potatoes and whole carrots until tender while the lamb is in the oven. Brush potatoes with harissa and olive oil mixture. Brush carrots with za'atar and olive oil mixture. Season with salt {I forgot this part}. Once the lamb is out of the oven and resting, roast the vegetables in a single layer at 450F for about 20 minutes.

Saute thinly sliced shallot in a bit of olive oil, add defrosted peas, heat through and add fresh lemon juice, lemon zest and basil right before serving.

The whole menu came together perfectly!

Have your friends bring dessert and rose and you'll be all set.

Don't forget the flowers.

What are your suggestions for easy entertainment?

Disclosure: I received leg of lamb as a present from Superior Farms but no other compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.


Meatless Monday: Watermelon, Asparagus & Feta Salad

I love a sweet, juicy watermelon for snack or dessert, but also love mixing it into salads. A few weeks ago I was bored out of my mind and made a whimsical salad from watermelon cubes, blanched asparagus, feta and red onions. Drizzle the arranged salad with chili olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt.

Of course you can also mix all of the ingredients together, but why not play with your food?


Spring Cleaning With OXO Containers: Organize Your Pantry & Clean Your Home

Do you dread Spring cleaning? Join the club. I'm not a fan of cleaning, but I do like organizing. Thanks to 3 products from OXO, cleaning and organizing your kitchen, and your home in general, can be less painful and even a bit of fun.

I've been in a relationship {ha!} with OXO for years and was happy to receive a few gifts from them. I wasn't paid for this post and all opinions are my own. Trust me, I've spent plenty of my own $$ to support this company :)

First up, 10-Piece POP Container Set. This is my second set.  I fell in love with these containers a few years ago and have purchased additional individual containers to store everything from panko crumbs to brown sugar. 

POP Containers: Stackable and space-efficient, POP Containers are designed for modular use, so you can organize in any number of height combinations to fit your countertop and pantry. Push-button mechanism creates an airtight seal with just one touch. Corners are shaped for pouring.

I've used this set to streamline my pantry cabinet and also store a few cleaning items such as dish sponges and laundry detergent thingies

One of the things I like the most about this set is how versatile it is. You don't have to use any particular container for a specific ingredient. Finish eating all those almonds? Refill the container with pistachios or sunflower seeds. You get to mix and match and rearrange to your heart's desire. You can see everything you have and know when it's time to refill your staples. 

Moving on. I make coffee in my French Press almost daily but really hate cleaning the metal parts. I usually rinse them and hope for the best. Boy, did I see the difference in cleanliness once I used Kitchen Appliance Cleaning Set. You can see how much cleaner the photo on the right is. 

Kitchen Appliance Cleaning Set: This versatile, compact Kitchen Appliance Cleaning Set features durable nylon brushes and scrapers that can get into your kitchen fixtures and appliances' tight spaces and get unsightly buildup out of them. Tools snap together into clip for storage.

And finally Microfiber Under Appliance Duster. One of the only cleaning tasks I don't mind is vacuuming. I vacuum everything from the rug in my bedroom to hardwood floors throughout my living room and dining room to tiled floors in my bathroom and kitchen. But I've never really thought about all the gross mess that is underneath the refrigerator and oven: you can't really get to that mess with a vacuum cleaner, but you can with this skinny long duster! Luckily I did not find any dead bugs.

Microfiber Under Appliance Duster: Our Slim Duster features a long, flat profile to go where other dusters don't: around and underneath appliances and cabinets. The long, fluffy fibers conform to uneven surfaces to capture dust bunnies. To clean the head, simply unsnap it and wash in cold water, then dry without heat.

So there you go: 3 tools to organize and clean your home. Go get that Spring cleaning done!


Meatless Monday: Vegan Eggplant, Red Onion & Crispy Kale Stacks

Are you looking for a fast Meatless Monday lunch or dinner that uses random produce in your refrigerator? I have a versatile recipe for you: Vegan Eggplant, Red Onion & Crispy Kale Stacks.

I know it may seem like I eat a lot of vegetarian meals, which is not really the case, but I do like vegetables and tend to prepare them in simple ways that have a wow factor at the same time.

Friday night before going salsa dancing I wanted to make a quick healthy dinner because I knew the weekend will include a few meals out with boozy beverages.

I had a random eggplant from my Washington's Green Grocer delivery and kale that have seen better days. I've been trying hard not to waste food, and decided to use the two ingredients as inspiration for the meal.

Meatless Monday: Vegan Eggplant, Red Onion & Crispy Kale Stacks
olive oil
eggplant, sliced into 1/4" planks
salt and pepper
red onion, sliced into 1/4" disks
kale leaves, sliced into ribbons
marinara sauce

1. Grill, broil or saute eggplant and onion (separately) brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. I used a panini maker to grill my vegetables.
2. In a hot cast iron skillet heat a bit of olive oil and saute kale until crispy. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Heat marinara sauce.
4. Stack your ingredients: eggplant, red onion, marinara and crispy kale. Repeat.

How is this recipe versatile?
1) You can make individual stacks or lasagna.
2) Don't like eggplant? Use zucchini or red peppers.
3) For a non-vegan option, add cheese: feta, mozzarella or goat cheese!
4) Try rolling the eggplant with the other ingredients inside instead of stacking them.



Weekend Inspiration: Flower Power


Meatless Monday: Fennel & Gigante Beans Robust Salad

I believe in lettuce-free salads. Yes, occasionally I use Romaine or Boston lettuce (or arugula and spinach), but usually my salads rely on other ingredients as their base. In this case, I used fennel and Gigante beans with a few fun additions to make a robust salad that can stand on its own as a meal.

Meatless Monday: Fennel & Gigante Beans Robust Salad
fennel, thinly sliced
Gigante beans {or any other white beans you like}
hearts of Palm, thinly sliced
radishes, thinly sliced
olive oil
Meyer lemon juice
salt & pepper

1. Mix together the first five ingredients. 
2. Dress the salad with Meyer lemon juice and olive oil, and season with salt & pepper.

This is the perfect salad for Meatless Monday and first day of Spring. I can't wait until it's tomato season though!!