11/21/17

Semi Homemade Thanksgiving For One


Here's what: holidays can be hard and lonely for many people. There's almost an added pressure to feel happy and festive and social and joyous. Because you know, social media, and preconceived notions of what holidays should be like, and all the hype.

This Thanksgiving I'm actually whisking myself out of the country on a week long vacation. I'm THANKFUL I'm able to do this physically, logistically, emotionally, and financially. 

In the past, I've spent Thanksgiving with my own family, my pseudo adopted family, friends, and a combination of these groups. This will be the first Thanksgiving I'll be flying solo (figuratively and literally). Still, I wanted a Thanksgiving meal, and I made it. 

Semi homemade. But still really good.

Highlights:
1) Green beans: splurge and buy the French thinner ones. Simply saute with olive oil, adding minced garlic in the last few minutes. Season with salt. Toss in toasted almonds.

2) Mashed potatoes: for the love of everything sacred, make them from scratch. I used a method my friend Mary shared: pressure cook Yukon gold potatoes. Put them through a ricer which saves you the peeling step. Add half & half, olive oil, and salt. 

3) Cranberry sauce: this is as easy as adding fresh cranberries to the pot with freshly squeezed orange juice and a bit of sugar. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the berries pop. Literally, this can be done in 10 minutes. You can add chopped apples, orange zest, or even a bit of adobo sauce for a kick!

I bought a rotisserie chicken, a mix to make stuffing to which I added sauteed mushrooms, onions, and celery; and a roll. Stuffing was beyond mediocre. The store bought gravy was also mediocre. 

Still, all together, this was a great way to feel that Thanksgiving-can-I-take-off-my-pants-and-take-a-nap-now food comma.

I hope you have a good Thanksgiving regardless how, where, and with whom you'll be spending it. Remember, you are worth a great meal, not EVEN IF you are eating it on you own. You are worth it.

I'll leave you with some recipes you may want to add to your menu:

Curried Carrot Ginger Soup

Miso Brussels Sprouts with Dried Cherries & Pine Nuts

Date, Pistachio & Scallion Rice

Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry, Walnut, Orange & Chocolate Tart

Pecan Pie Bars

11/20/17

Mrs. Plum Cake From The Modern Jewish Table Cookbook


Have winter plums? Want a quick and easy dessert that will be approved by both kids and adults? Then you should make Mrs. Plum Cake From The Modern Jewish Table Cookbook.

A few weeks ago, my friend Sylvie invited me to her house for homemade Vietnamese food and asked me to bring dessert. I decided to page through The Modern Jewish Table Cookbook I received as a preview copy and noticed there was a cake with plums. Luckily, I had black plums in my latest Washington's Green Grocer order and needed only a few extra ingredients from the store.



Mrs. Plum Cake From The Modern Jewish Table Cookbook
reprinted with permission

Ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter, softened (plus extra to grease)
1 cup superfine sugar
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups self-rising flour plus extra to flour)
4 ripe plums, sliced {of course remove the pits}
1 tablespoon plum jam (if you can't find plum jam, use a red seedless jam)

NOTES:
1) I decided to double the recipe
2) I did not use the right size of baking dishes and had to bake the cakes twice as long: my own fault! But they still came out great.
3) I used apricot jam from Rigoni di Asiago that I received as samples.



Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 325F.
2. Cream butter and sugar together with a beater. Beat in eggs one at a time.
3. Add yogurt, flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Beat the mixture until smooth.
4. Grease with more butter and flour a 12 x 6 x 2 1/2 inch loaf pan. Pour in the mixture.
5. Decorate with sliced plums over the top of the cake (make sure there are plenty).
6. Bake for approximately 40 minutes.
7. To check if the cake is baked, push a skewer below the plums into the center. It is done when the skewer comes out clean.
8. Remove from oven and leave to cool. Turn the cake out onto a wire rack.
9. Melt the jam in a small saucepan and glaze the top and sides of cake using a pastry brush.



This was such an easy recipe to put together. I used a stand mixer. As you can see, the plums fell into the cake. Maybe it's because I used the wrong sized baking dishes? The taste was still awesome!

I wish I did not leave all the leftovers at Sylvie's ;)

11/16/17

A Sheet Pan with a Plan: One Pan Roasted Sausages With Potatoes, Fennel & Apple Recipe



If you are looking for a quick dinner that requires only a few dishes to wash afterwards, my One Pan Roasted Sausages With Potatoes, Fennel & Apple Recipe will be perfect for you. Once again, I received a few products from my friends at OXO to use in my kitchen and to share my experience with you. As always, all opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this post.

I love roasted vegetables with any protein: beef, chicken, or pork. This time I used Italian sausages with apples {very seasonal!}, fennel, onion, and potatoes. Everything cooks in 30 minutes and you have very little mess to clean. Be ready for your home to smell delicious!

A few key notes about the oxo products I used:

By placing the sausages onto the silicone roasting racks, you make sure that they don't sit in the fat. Instead, the fat seeps into your vegetables and flavors them! The best thing about these roasting racks is that they will never ever rust!! I bet I can use one of them in my pressure cooker as well.

The non stick jelly roll pan has enough of a lip to hold everything in the pan, allows for even heat distribution, and is incredibly easy to clean. Plus, just like other oxo baking pans I've used in the past, it has a great weight to it and will not bend.

One Pan Roasted Sausages With Potatoes, Fennel & Apple Recipe

Ingredients
5 Italian sausages, at room temperature
1 large apple, or 2 medium ones, cut into 8 pieces {of course remove the core}
1 large fennel bulb, cut into 8 wedges
1 large onion, peeled, cut into 8 wedges
2 cups nibbles potatoes {if you can't find these tiny potatoes, cube regular potatoes into bite size pieces}
olive oil
salt & pepper
whole grain mustard
hard cider


Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 425F.
2. Place silicone roasting racks directly onto the non stick jelly roll pan. Place the sausages on top of the roasting racks.
3. Place the apple, fennel, onion, and potatoes onto the jelly roll pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss with your hands to make sure all the vegetables (and the apple) are coated with olive oil.
4. Roast for 30 minutes, turning everything 180 degrees half way through the process.
5. If you wish to get crunchier texture, broil the meal for a few minutes at the end.
6. Serve with whole grain mustard and hard cider. 


What's your favorite one pan meal??

11/13/17

Meatless Monday: Vegan Laksa With Zucchini, Peppers & Mushrooms With Goya


What if I told you that by buying a can of Goya Coconut Milk or Cream of Coconut you can help feed America?

I've paired up with Meatless Monday Bloggers and Can Do campaign to let you know that when you buy a can of Goya Coconut Milk or Cream of Coconut this November and December, Goya will donate at least 600,000 pounds of food to those in need! Will you participate?


I hope you do! And I have a fabulous recipe for you for Vegan Laksa With Zucchini, Peppers & Mushrooms Soup. This recipe is my adaptation of a recipe for Squash Laksa Soup from Jamie Oliver.

Disclaimer: I received a few Goya products, but am otherwise not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.


Vegan Laksa With Zucchini, Peppers & Mushrooms Soup
Ingredients

2-3 red chillies, seeds removed
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 inch-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled
stems from 1 bunch of cilantro {reserve the leaves for garnish}
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 limes, zested and juiced {more for garnish}
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can coconut milk
4 cups vegetable broth
1 large zucchini, spiralized
2 portobella mushroom caps, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced

Directions
1. In a food processor make a puree from the chillies, garlic, ginger, cilantro stems, sesame oil, zest and juice of 2 limes, and soy sauce.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot and pour in the puree, aka laksa paste. Allow it to cook for a minute.
3. Add in coconut milk and vegetable broth and simmer for 15 minutes. NOTE: If the mixture separates, use an immersion blender to very carefully smooth out the broth.
4. Add in zucchini, mushrooms, and peppers. Simmer until the vegetables are tender.
5. Serve topped with cilantro leaves and an extra wedge of lime.


This was the first time I've ever had laksa soup and I'm utterly in love with it. The flavors are so vibrant! You can make this soup with any other vegetables you like or add tofu. If you don't observe Meatless Monday, feel free to add cooked shrimp or chicken.

I'll leave you with a visual process of how I adapt recipes ;)


11/1/17

Lamb Lollipops With Adobo Cranberry Sauce: Get Read For Thanksgiving



And so it's November. November is the month of my dad's and brother's birthdays and what would have been my grandmother's birthday. It's also the month of one of the most delicious holidays: Thanksgiving! I'll be overseas for Thanksgiving this year, but wanted to share a Thanksgiving related recipe with you I made in collaboration with Superior Farms. They sent me a gift card to cover the ingredients and challenged me to create a recipe using lamb that could make it onto your Thanksgiving table.

Immediately I thought about using lamb lollipops. These are fun to eat and can be served as an appetizer, a snack, or the main course. The cranberry sauce I created has a bit of sweetness and some heat, and can be served not only with the lamb, but also with the turkey, or even on toast with peanut butter!



Lamb Lollipops With Adobo Cranberry Sauce
Makes 5 (easy to double or triple!)

Ingredients
olive oil
5 lamb lollipops (ask your butcher for a lamb rack in the French style and cut it into individual pieces)
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 cups fresh cranberries
juice of 1 blood orange
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons (or more to taste) adobo sauce from chiles in adobo can

Directions
1. Preheat the broiler.
2. Heat a cast iron skillet. Add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the skillet and allow to heat.
3. Season lamb lollipops with salt and smear with mustard on both sides. 
4. Sear the lamb in the oil for 2-3 minutes on each side and then broil until it's golden brown and the mustard starts to sizzle.
5. Meanwhile, make the cranberry sauce by adding cranberries, orange juice, sugar, and adobo sauce to a small pot, bringing the mixture to a boil and then simmering  the sauce for about 5 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to crush the berries.
6. Serve the lamb lollipops topped with the cranberry sauce. Be careful because the bones will be really hot! 



NOTE: there will be fat and mustard left in the skillet which I highly advise you to use to fry some cubed parboiled potatoes!! Don't waste the goodness ;)

Have a wonderful November!

10/30/17

Meatless Monday: Pickled Beet & Egg Salad On Avocado Toast Recipe



Beet lovers, this Pickled Beet & Egg Salad On Avocado Toast will have your taste buds doing a happy dance. 

I'm not sure why it took me so long to combine pickled beets in a salad with eggs since growing up in Russia, there were multiple dishes in which roasted beets were combined with hard boiled eggs and mayonnaise. The taste was great, the vibrant color was even better.

If you think beets taste like dirt, you need to reconsider. Roast a few beets or buy them pickled in a jar and give them another chance.

My twin has posted several photos of hard boiled eggs pickled in the liquid from pickled beets and turned them into a salad. I decided to go one step further and add pickled beets into the salad!

First, you cook the eggs as you normally do. For me, that means covering eggs with cold water in a small pot, bringing it to a boil, turning the heat off, and letting the eggs sit covered in the pot for 10 minutes. Cool, peel, and dunk into the liquid from pickled beets. Refrigerate.

I found the texture of the eggs change quite a bit and become firmer and almost unpleasant. The color was gorgeous, but even after several days in the pickling liquid, the flavor didn't really permeate the egg. 


Instead, I suggest you use regular hard boiled eggs, and then add pickled beets. You'll get the same great color, but better texture.

Pickled Beet & Egg Salad On Avocado Toast Recipe

1 hard boiled egg, peeled, chopped
1-2 pickled beets, depending on size, chopped
mayonnaise, the more the better
whole wheat toast
avocado, sliced

1. Combine chopped eggs and beets with mayonnaise.
2. Top the toast with sliced avocado and beet/egg salad.
3. Serve with coffee.


By the way, the very first photograph in this post shows my avocado tree!! How pretty is it? Have you tried growing one? It's a super long process which has tested my patience several times. The tree will never produce actual fruit, but I love the green leaves!

10/26/17

The Tale Of Two Burgers in DC: Duke's Grocery and DBGB



Do you ever have a craving for a burger but don't want something that's a simple patty on a bun with ketchup and a few slices of pickles for $3 or some extravagant concoction that's served on a silver platter and will cost you $40? Well, I have two candidates that will satisfy your taste buds and not cost you an arm and a leg. 

First, featured above, is Proper Burger from Duke's Grocery. It's made from Angus beef with melted Gouda, dill pickles, charred red onion, Thai sweet chili, rocket (arugula!), and garlic aioli on a ciabatta for $12. You can add a fried egg, but it's not necessarily. 

I like my burgers medium rare. This was a juicy, delicious mess in the best way possible. The only negative thing was that it did not come with fries. AND I could not order fries because Duke's Grocery doesn't have a fryer. Why??? I ordered elote instead. My friend Emily shared her pickled vegetables with me which were a great counterpart to the rich burger.

The burger below is from DBGB. The Frenchie is made with a 7 ounce beef patty, pork belly, arugula, tomato-onion compote, and morbier cheese on a potato bun and comes with fries for $19. If you are ordering this burger for brunch, like I did, get the Bloody Mary on the side and then make sure you have time for a nap.


Where are some of your favorite places to get a burger? How do you like yours cooked?

10/23/17

Meatless Monday: Veestro Plant Based Meals


It's Monday! I had a weekend of yoga, burgers, Bloody Mary, ballet, and shrimp and grits. It's all about balance, right?

I also had a chance to try out plant based meals prepared and shipped to me by Veestro on behalf of Meatless Monday. The meals were sent free of charge, but I'm not compensated in any way for sharing my thoughts with you.


Okay, not that that is out of the way, let's talk about the fact that we all know that we need to consume more vegetables and fruit. I will not tell you to cut out all animal products, because that's not what I do. Instead, I try to have meals that are balanced and some that are completely plant based. After all, eating less meat is good for our health and our planet, and stretches our budget and creativity when it comes to creating recipes.

Veestro sent me the meals frozen with clear directions on how to prepare them. Some required to be simply defrosted in the refrigerator over night, while others had stove top or oven heating directions.

Overall, I liked all the dishes I tried and found them easy to reheat, satisfying, and something that I'd consider recreating in my own kitchen.

The Red Curry with Tofu pictured above was probably my favorite because of the flavorful sauce and surprisingly pleasing tofu texture despite it being defrosted. I recommend topping the dish with fresh cilantro before serving.

Below is Beluga Lentil Braise with kale, peas, and quinoa. I wish it had more lentils than the other ingredients because of its name, but liked the contrast of creamy sauce with the crunchy vegetables.


The Oatmeal Breakfast Pie was big enough for two breakfasts. The texture reminded me of a souffle, and I was happily surprised this pie wasn't too sweet. I had it with Greek yogurt, sliced apples and a bit of ginger syrup drizzled on top. This also reheated great in a microwave the next day.


The Roasted Beet and Kale Salad in my opinion could have used the most work. I don't know about you, but defrosted kale is not my idea of the best salad. I recommend you actually saute the kale and also toast the walnuts before making it into a salad. I did like the dressing that came with it. The Johnny Appleseed juice was just as refreshing and bright as its color.


These meals weren't complicated in their flavor combinations and would be something I'd keep in my freezer for those nights/days I don't feel like cooking. They were easy to make and did not leave me feeling hungry a few minutes later.

What are you eating this Meatless Monday?

10/10/17

Recipe: How To Make Kale Chips


Is the kale craze still going strong? I think so. I do like kale in salads and soups, but I think my favorite kale preparation is chips!

You can buy kale chips, but they are cheaper and better to make at home because you can control the amount of salt and the types of flavors/spices you may want to use.

Last week I strolled through Whole Foods and saw that purple (aka red) kale was on sale for $1! I picked up a bunch and brought it home, where it sat in the refrigerator for a week. Finally, yesterday, I turned that bunch of kale into kale chips.

How to make kale chips

1. Preheat the oven to 300F.
2. Remove and discard the thick stems from the kale leaves.
3. Tear the leaves into large pieces and wash them well.
4. Make sure to dry the leaves very well using a salad spinner, a kitchen towel, or paper towels.
5. In a large bowl drizzle kale leaves with olive oil and season with salt. You want enough oil to lightly coat the leaves, but not to soak them. Start with a small amount of oil and then increase as needed.
6. Put the kale leaves onto a cookie sheet in a single layer and roast for 20 to 25 minutes tossing the leaves every 5 minutes.
7. Once the kale leaves are crispy and have turned into chips, take them out of the oven and sprinkle with additional spices: I used sumac.
8. Allow the chips to cool down slightly and consume immediately

This is before photo. The one above is the after.


10/3/17

How To Cook Salmon: Quick & Easy Salmon In 5 Minutes


Are you interested in eating more seafood and increasing the amount of good fats in your diet? Are you intimidated by cooking salmon? Well, I am here to solve all of these issues for you.

I've been splurging on Whole Foods Atlantic salmon filets for weeks. They are $4.99 per portion and make for a quick and healthy lunch or dinner.

I like my salmon cooked all the way through (unless it's inside a sushi roll, in which case, make it completely rare!). I've found the quickest and easiest way to prepare a salmon filet is as follows:

1) heat a skillet with a bit of olive oil in it
2) put the salmon filet skin side down and season the fish with salt and pepper
3) after 1-2 minutes of searing the skin, add a few splashes of white wine, water, or chicken broth to the skillet (be careful not to splash yourself), and simmer the fish with the lid on for 3-5 minutes depending no how thick the filet is and how cooked through you want your final product to be
4) serve salmon, after removing the skin, on a bed of arugula dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper, and cut up vegetables of your choice (avocado, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, etc).

How do YOU like to cook salmon?