What To Do With Carrot Tops?

Let's say you bought organic carrots that came with beautiful green tops still attached. What shall you do with those tops?

Some people would make pesto out of carrot tops. I added them to a pitcher with tulips: instant flower arrangement!


What's For Dinner Tonight: Mushroom, Spinach & Hot Dog Toasts

Some people believe things happen for a reason. I'm not one of those people. Occasionally, though, I can see how something positive can come out of a negative situation.

One such thing happened over two years ago when I broke my arm and started using Washington's Green Grocer to get fresh produce delivered to my door. My arm has long since healed {knock on wood}, but I've remained a loyal customer of Washington's Green Grocer. It's convenient, delicious, and the customer service is superb.

The photo above shows some of the items I received on Wednesday. One of those tomatoes is already gone.

Last night for dinner I used one of the portobella mushrooms and a few slices of bread from this week's box with spinach I had left from last week's box to make a simple and satisfying dinner.

Mushroom, Spinach & Hot Dog Toasts
Makes 2

drizzle olive oil
1 portobella mushroom, sliced
1 bunch spinach, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
salt & pepper to taste
2 hot dogs, sliced
red pepper flakes
2 slices of toast
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet, add mushrooms and saute for about 5 minutes.
2. Add spinach, garlic cloves, salt & pepper {to taste} and hot dogs and continue to saute until spinach wilts and the hot dogs are cooked through. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.
3. Toast the bread.
4. Top each piece of bread with mushroom/spinach/hot dog mixture, sprinkle with cheese and broil for 3-5 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.

I took this photo at 7pm last night, so don't judge ;) This was a really great meal!


Not Your Bubbe's Matzo Ball Soup: Boxed Matzo Ball Soup With Broccoli, Fennel & Peas

It's Passover! Are you celebrating? I must admit I'm not giving up bread. Or pasta. Or rice. Nothing really. Still, I thought I should do something Passover'ish...and so I bought a boxed mix of matzo balls at my store.

No shame in starting with a boxed mix!

As always, I added a few extra ingredients to the matzo balls themselves and to the broth.

Not Your Bubbe's Matzo Ball Soup: Boxed Matzo Ball Soup With Broccoli, Fennel & Peas

1) When making matzo balls, I added chopped fresh dill and freshly ground black pepper. I did not have any vegetable oil and used sunflower oil instead.

2) To the chicken broth (store-bought), I added a few outside layers of fennel as it simmered.

3) Once the matzo balls simmered for 15 out of 20 required minutes, I added sliced fennel, broccoli florets, and defrosted peas and simmered everything for 5 more minutes.

I'm having a bowl of this soup for lunch!

If you want to make this into a Meatless Monday meal, clearly use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Thanks Dana for catching this!!


TGIF! Cheers To The Weekend: Drink UP ;)

Cheers to Friday and here's to a great weekend! I'm meeting one friend for breakfast on Saturday and another for lunch on Sunday and will also attempt to do some shopping, dancing, and napping.

To stay hydrated, may I suggest you make the above pictured beverage? It was so refreshing and GORGEOUS when I made it earlier this week: fresh pineapple chunks + fresh watermelon chunks + a bit of water: add all to a blender and puree. And if you want to add a bit of booze, who am I to stop you!? :)


Kraut Source: Fermented Cauliflower

Growing up in Russia, my mom canned a variety of vegetables and made preserves, but my dad was typically in charge of making sauerkraut. This wasn't the type of sauerkraut you find in a plastic bag in your deli. His has crunchy texture and often includes  carrots in addition to cabbage. He continues this tradition in Seattle making HUGE buckets of the lovely condiment and would probably make fun of me for trying out Kraut Source.

You see, you don't need Kraut Source to make fermented vegetables, but it definitely makes the entire process neater and easier. I received a Kraut Source kit pictured above to try out in my kitchen. The kit has several parts, but the video tutorials available on line make it easy to assemble and use. Basically, you need a wide mouth jar, vegetables, filtered water, sea salt and the Kraut Source. The Kraut Source keeps the ingredients submerged in the salty water and makes sure there is no mess on your kitchen counters.

The product website has a variety of recipes, but I thought I'd make my own concoction of cauliflower, little peppers, garlic and dill.

Because I did not have filtered water, the nice people at Kraut Source recommended I boil regular water and let it cool and then use it. They also have a great Q&A section for different issues that may come up.

Below is my concoction all put together.

I'm not going to give you a recipe, because using little peppers was an awful idea. They turned a very unappealing flavor and texture and went straight to the garbage. Luckily, cauliflower came out well.

I definitely need to try one of the Kraut Source's recipes next!

Disclaimer: I received a Kraut Source kit free of charge but am not being compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.


Sabra's Lemon Twist Hummus With Roasted Fennel & Hazelnuts

Do you ever get home to make dinner and are so ravenous you are almost shaking? That happens to me often, and so I make a quick snack to eat while I'm making dinner. 

Some times it's a piece of cheese, or salsa with chips, or avocado that I eat straight out of its skin. Other times I eat hummus directly from the container with a spoon. For something a bit more fancy, you can make my Sabra's Lemon Twist Hummus With Roasted Fennel & Hazelnuts! This is a sponsored post in my continuing collaboration with Sabra and their new campaign for #UnofficialMeal to drive awareness to using hummus as an in between meals snack. All opinions are my own. 

If you are not a fan of fennel, which was me a few years back, substitute any other roasted vegetable.

Sabra's Lemon Twist Hummus With Roasted Fennel & Hazelnuts
1 fennel bulb, outer layer removed, quartered, cored, and diced
drizzle of olive oil
salt & pepper
1 container Lemon Twist Hummus
1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
pinch red pepper flakes
fennel fronds for garnish
crackers to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 425F.
2. Drizzle the diced fennel with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the fennel in a single layer on a large cookie sheet for 20-25 minutes, shaking the cookie sheet a few times during the process.
3. Spoon the hummus into a shallow platter. Top with the roasted fennel, toasted hazelnuts and red pepper flakes. Garnish with fennel fronds.
4. Serve with crackers.

I'm slightly obsessed with how good this appetizer/snack looks. It is so easy to make and will be great for picnics, friends coming over, or a solo in-between unofficial meal.

Go make a batch and enjoy!

Disclosure: Sabra provided samples and compensation for the recipe development, but all opinions are my own. Make sure to check out other recipes I developed using Sabra products!


Al Fresco Dining In Washington DC: Blue Duck Tavern

TGIF! It finally feels like spring. I'm soaking up as much of this lovely weather as possible before the temperature goes above 70 ;)

If you are like me and are dreading the humid weather that will soon be here and are looking for a great al fresco dining spot this weekend, check out Blue Duck Tavern. This past Wednesday I was invited to attend a media preview of the new menu on the patio of Blue Duck Tavern, and as always it did not disappoint.

Out of the three cocktails in the photograph above, Strawberry Gin was my favorite. This pretty drink was the perfect way to start as strawberry themed dining experience. Strawberries go great with rhubarb, and this cocktail had both.

Continuing the strawberry theme, I tried the Strawberry Salad. One of the fun ingredients in the salad were thinly sliced raw almonds. I actually really liked them: they added a great crunch to the salad, as did the radishes.

If you love buttermilk as much as I do, you will love Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Maine Scallop Crudo. I really liked the presentation and the flavors of this dish. The smoked trout roe was a luxurious touch...fitting of Blue Duck!

If you are looking for a fully cooked appetizer, try Goat Milk Ricotta Gnudi with baby spring vegetables. This dish screamed comfort food and I'd happily eat an entire soup bowl of these lovely pillow creations.

The star of the dinner, for me, was Elysian Fields Rack of Lamb with lemon yogurt and baby spring vegetables. The dish was grilled to order by Executive Chef Franck Loquet with whom I exchanged "where's your accent from?" chit chat. I'm not shy to admit I had seconds of the dish and would have been happy to take a few slices home. It's hard to tell from the photo below, but the lamb was medium rare inside with a crusty outside.

Out of several desserts, I chose Strawberry and Rhubarb Shortcake: perfect way to end a lovely dinner. First, I love the presentation. Second, I love that it wasn't a huge portion. This dessert was prepared by Pastry Chef David Collier and was refreshing and not overly sweet.

Thank you to Heather Freeman for the invitation! As always, all opinions are my own.


My First Time Using Electrical Pressure Cooker: Rice And Chicken With Vegetables

A few weeks ago I was offered to test an electrical pressure cooker by Power Pressure Cooker XL. I was a bit hesitant: do I need another appliance? Would I use it?

Although I've never had a pressure cooker, my mom used hers a lot when we lived in Russia (decades ago). Most of my friends who commented on my FB asking whether I should try a pressure cooker said YES, and so I followed their advice.

The box arrived and sat by my door for a few days. I then took the electrical pressure cooker out of the box and it sat on my dining room table for a few more days. Finally, this Sunday I decided enough was enough and I should just choose a recipe from the booklet included and see what happens.

I'll be honest with you: I was scared. I hoped that I would not injure myself while testing out this appliance ;)

I chose Rice and Chicken with Vegetables recipe, but made a few changes. The ingredients are below. I liked that I could brown the vegetables with ginger and garlic and chicken directly in the Power Pressure Cooker XL. I then added rice and chicken broth and was ready to use the pressure cooker to cook my meal.

EXCEPT....I did not read the directions carefully enough before starting this process and it took me a few tries before I figured out how to close the lid correctly and what to do with the valve. Once I figured that out, everything went smoothly and the meal was done in six minutes!

Because my kitchen isn't huge, I put the electrical pressure cooker on my dining room table ;)

Rice And Chicken With Vegetables
Adapted from Power Cooking the quick and easy way by Power Pressure Cooker XL
Ingredients for 4 portions

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts, cubed
salt & pepper to taste
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 cup broccoli florets
1 red pepper, diced
6 ounce bag frozen snow peas {or use peas or corn or green beans}
1 cup basmatti rice
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
3 green onions, sliced
black sesame seeds
soy sauce

1. Place the inner pot in the Power Cooker. Add oil and press CHICKEN/MEAT button. Season with salt and pepper and saute for a few minutes.
2. Add garlic, ginger, broccoli and red pepper and saute for a few more minutes.
3. Add frozen snow peas, rice and chicken broth. Close the lid and switch the pressure valve to closed.
4. Press the WARM/CANCEL button.
5. Press the RICE/RISOTTO button.
6. Once the timer reaches 0, your meal is done and the machine will switch to KEEP WARM. Switch the pressure valve to open {I used a wooden spoon for this!}. Once the steam is released, open the lid and you are ready to eat.
7. Garnish the final product with green onions, black sesame seeds and a few splashes of soy sauce.

video #1: one pot meal

A video posted by @mangotomato on

video #2: let the pressure out!

A video posted by @mangotomato on

And here's the final product: I added scallions and black sesame seeds and a bit of soy sauce to enhance the flavor. The rice was cooked through and not overdone. The chicken (I used skinless and boneless chicken breasts) was tender and not dry. There was enough food for dinner, a few leftover lunches and an extra portion to freeze.

The whole process wasn't as scary as I thought it'd be. I clearly need to experiment more. There is an option to use the Power Pressure XL to can! And there is also a slow cook option.

Let me know what YOU like to make in your pressure cooker.

Disclaimer: I was provided with the Power Pressure Cooker XL for free. All opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this post.


Super Easy Cracker Recipe From TheKitchn: Green Za'atar Crackers

Happy Monday!!!

I did something I've never done before over the weekend: I made crackers! Guess what? It was incredibly easy. You don't even need a food processor for this project.

I used the recipe from TheKitchn and it worked out great.

You start with flour, water, sugar, salt and oil. Mix it all together. Roll it out. Add spices of your choosing (I used green za'atar), cut, make little holes with a fork and bake. 

That's it! How simple, inexpensive and delicious!?

Think of all the different shapes and flavor combinations you can make from one basic recipe!

before baking

after baking

All done!


Passover Or Spring Dessert: Layered Meringue Cake With Mascarpone & Strawberry Filling

A few weeks ago I was watching The Chew and saw Pati Jinich make a Meringue Cake with mascarpone filling and strawberries. The cake looked beautiful and relatively easy to make, and I decided to bring it to my friend Laetitia's house for Easter brunch.

I'm not going to retype the recipe here, because I followed Pati's instructions with only a few minor changes:

1) I made mini meringue rounds (18 total) instead of 3 large ones
2) I did not mix strawberries into the mascarpone cream: instead, I mixed the berries with a bit of sugar and layered them on top of the mascarpone cream
3) Finally, I used reduced balsamic vinegar to drizzle on top of the cakes and then a bit of fresh basil as a garnish

Passover Or Spring Dessert: Layered Meringue Cake With Mascarpone & Strawberry Filling

I highly  recommend you make the meringues the night before. They aren't hard to make, but require a long time in a low oven. So why rush?

How gorgeous are these peaks? Pati used a bit of lime juice in her meringues and then added cornstarch at the very end. Apparently some Jews aren't into using cornstarch during Passover, and I've heard you can use potato starch instead.

The meringues stay pure white and are not overly sweet. They look like little clouds!

How gorgeous are these? The filling is a simple combination of mascarpone, whipping cream and vanilla. No need to add sugar!

This was such a success! I brought the dessert in parts and assembled it at Laetitia's right before serving.

Have a great weekend!


Perfect Vegetarian Side Dish: Rice With Peas, Pistachios & Dill

When it comes to sides, more often than not I choose potatoes. Occasionally, however, another carb strikes my fancy. That's exactly what happened when I saw a recipe for Persian Dill Rice on In My Bowl. After all, dill is one of my favorite herbs: perhaps it has to do something with my Russian upbringing.

When I looked at the recipe, I knew I was going to change at least a few things in it.
1) Instead of frozen lima beans I used frozen peas
2) There was no way I was going to cook dill: I added it at the very end
3) I did not soak rice for an hour because I did not plan that far ahead
4) I used less oil
5) I added pistachios and lemon zest as a garnish

Perfect Vegetarian Side Dish: Rice With Peas, Pistachios & Dill
Ingredients for ~ 4 servings
2 cups basmatti rice, rinsed
3 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cups frozen peas
1/2 teaspoon saffron, soaked in 1 tablespoon hot water
salt & pepper to taste
zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup chopped pistachios, or more
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill, or more

1. In a pot, add rice and water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer covered for about 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked and all the water has evaporated.
2. After 10 minutes of cooking the rice, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and saute frozen peas seasoned with salt and pepper for about 8 minutes or until they are no longer frozen.
3. Once the rice is cooked, add the remaining olive oil into it and fluff it with a fork.
4. In a large bowl, combine the rice, the sauteed peas and the saffron with its water.
5. Season with salt and pepper and serve topped with lemon zest, pistachios and dill.

What a beautiful side dish!! You can do something similar with roasted asparagus. Leftovers are great as a base of a cold rice salad: add tomatoes, olives and grilled shrimp and you have a full meal.


What To Do With Ground Beef: Beefed Up Shakshouka


Are you ready for the weekend? I am! I love to make a slightly decadent breakfast on the weekend, and last Saturday (or was it Sunday?) I made what I'm calling a Beefed Up Shakshouka. You know how much I love shakshouka (or shakshuka)...there are as many ways to spell the name of this dish as there are ways to make it.

I usually poach eggs in a mixture of canned tomatoes and sauteed onions, but this time around I decided to use leftover ground beef to make a more substantial dish.

Beefed Up Shakshouka
drizzle of olive oil
1/2 pound ground beef
1/4 small red onion, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
14.5 ounces fire roasted tomatoes
1 roasted pepper, diced
2-4 eggs
fresh dill

1. Heat olive oil in a deep skillet. Add ground beef and onions, season with salt and pepper and saute until the ground beef is cooked through.
2. Add tomatoes and red pepper and bring to a simmer.
3. Gently add eggs into the mixture {nestle them!} and simmer covered until the done-ness level you prefer. I like my eggs runny!
4. Serve topped with feta and fresh dill and plenty of toast!

Have a good weekend!