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Archive for February, 2012

When I first heard of Foodie Pen Pals, I immediately thought back to elementary school. I used to have a pen pal…actually I had TWO, and was always so excited when I would come home from school and have a letter waiting for me. Fast forward to today, and I almost never have a letter in my mailbox. Instead, it’s an e-mail, a facebook message, or a twitter mention that gets me excited. So, after reading about this monthly event on The Lean Green Bean (the brilliant creator behind this food exchange), I instantly sent in my information. What could be better than meeting TWO new fellow food bloggers, and giving AND receiving a box filled with food!

The basic premise is you receive your pen pal pairing via e-mail and then make contact to find out what would be on their food “wish list.” You then send them a box filled with delectable edibles (that costs no more than $15) and await your own box of goodies. And then…reveal day! Right where we are today.

I was so excited to send my package of food gifts to Kalee@Sorey Fitness and even more excited to come home to a large UPS box with my name on it. Diana@The Veggie Next Door sent me such an amazing box filled with a variety of new and old food favorites. It was also so exciting to find her blog and make a new twitter friend…we actually have a lot in common! We both love to cook and try new restaurants, have both traveled to Thailand, and Diana lives in Chicago…a city that I absolutely fell in love in when I visited last year and a city filled with amazing restaurants.

My Foodie Pen Pals Box

What was so nice about this box was the little notes on each of the food items…it added such a nice and personal touch. The kit kat bars were picked up at a China airport, the very interesting tasting mesquite candy was from her boyfriend on a recent business trip, and the tropical lara bar (which is a new to me flavor) is Diana’s favorite flavor.

Banana bread and tropical lara bar

Strawberry and green tea Kit Kat

Pop chips are a favorite snack food in our household and we actually were recently discussing the need to buy a bag of the sweet potato flavor. How perfect we got our own little taste tester…Diana was right, these are addictive! We will definitely be purchasing a larger bag in the future.

This green barley was the most intriguing item in the box. I love barley and had never even heard of this green grain before…needless to say I immediately began thinking of how I can use this new food find and came up with a very tasty green barley salad.

Green barley

Green Barley, Squash, Sweet Potato Salad

1 cup green barley (you could use regular barley, wheat berries, farro, or brown rice)

1/2 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cubed

1 small sweet potato, peeled, cubed

3 carrots, peeled, cubed

1/2 onion, chopped

handful of parsley, chopped

handful of spinach, chopped

1/4 cup pistachios, chopped

1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp honey

salt and pepper to taste

Rinse barley and soak in water for about 30 minutes. Place in a pot with boiling salted water and cook for 45-50 minutes until tender, but make sure it still has a nice chew. Drain and place in a large bowl.

Meanwhile, roast squash, sweet potato, onion at 400 degree in oven with some oil, salt, and pepper until tender. Add to barley with remaining ingredients and toss to combine.

This salad has such a nice mix of salty and sweet flavors and amazing textures. This barley is a lot chewier (in a very good way) than regular barley…more similar to farro or a wheatberry and I would definitely make it again.

Thank you Diana for introducing me to a new favorite grain and for the rest of the food gifts!! (although the sweet potato pop chips might have been a dangerous find!)

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It’s that time again…my monthly vegetarian dinner date with my veggie loving friend (and photographer of this blog post), Julie. It’s always so fun (and stressful!) when the next month rolls around and we begin the e-mails back and forth of where we should go to get our vegetable fill. This month was no contest…when Julie sent me the link for Gobo, a mostly vegan restaurant with Asian flare, I didn’t need to look any further. And once my twitter friends confirmed the deliciousness that was awaiting, this dinner could not come soon enough.

Multigrain bread with roasted sweet potato spread

You can never go wrong with starting a meal with breads and spreads, and while the sweet potato spread was delicious, it seemed a bit out of place with the rest of the menu items and atmosphere at Gobo. We still happily inhaled it while we awaited the rest of our food. And a lot of food was ordered and consumed! Our waitress actually commented that we may have “slightly” over-ordered. I guess she didn’t know who she was dealing with…not a morsel of food was left and the plates were wiped clean!

Pine nut vegetable medley with lettuce wraps

Seitan skewers with green mustard sauce

Braised tofu in black bean sauce with Asian kale

Organic king oyster mushrooms in sizzling basil black bean sauce

I honestly can’t pick a favorite. It was all so unique and flavorful. I think the vegetable rolls were definitely a front runner with amazing textures from the mixed vegetables, crispy noodles, and toasted pine nuts. And the sizzling oyster mushrooms were so meaty…we couldn’t tell them apart from the soy protein in the dish. It would be fun to go back with a larger group because there were so many other amazing sounding items we wanted to try.

So many flavors!

While we were full…there’s always room for dessert, right? Julie, a self-proclaimed ice cream & frozen yogurt expert and soft serve fanatic, told me I HAD to try Emack and Bolio’s, a native Boston ice cream and yogurt shop. Stepping inside, I have never been so overwhelmed with the list of flavors and options…did I want pumpkin ice cream with graham cracker crumble, chocolate and espresso oreo frozen yogurt, or interesting sounding taro root ice cream? And to top it all off…you can get any of their hard ice cream or yogurt flavors changed into soft serve…how brilliant is that??? Seeing as I had NEVER seen this before…I knew I had to go with that combo.

Very excited for my half oreo half peanut butter chocolate soft serve

Wow…soft serve yogurt with actual chunks of delicious peanut butter and oreo right inside. If someone can buy me this amazing machine (and I guess some of E&B’s divine flavors) it would be much appreciated! My birthday is in August, just in case you were planning ahead!

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A bold statement I know! But it really really was…just ask Adam. So simple too, it was hard to believe that it tasted so good when I thought about what I put in it. I used Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend but regular old Israeli Couscous would work just fine.

Israeli Cousous with dried fruit, almonds, and coconut milk

1 1/2 cups TJ’s harvest blend (or couscous)

2 cups light coconut milk

handful of dried apricots and medjool dates, diced

1/2 onion diced

handful almonds, chopped

olive oil, salt and pepper

Saute onion, dried fruit and almonds over medium heat in a little olive oil until tender. Add coconut milk, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Add grain mix, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes until all coconut milk is absorbed.

Words can’t describe how good this tasted! I think it has to do with the melty sweet dried fruit, rich coconut milk, and crunchy almonds. Have you ever tasted something made with coconut milk that was bad?? I think we could have just eaten a giant bowl of this for dinner, but I had already taken out some chicken and bought ingredients for some sort of stir fry dish. I wanted something to compliment the coconuty flavor so I turned to my own blog as inspiration. I had previously made one of our go-to’s, almond butter curry tofu with coconut rice, and thought I could change it up a bit to suit what we had on hand. And a new dish was born!

Chicken, Green Bean, and Mushroom Almond Butter Curry

Sauce

1/4 cup almond butter

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp mirin

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp curry powder

Mix all sauce ingredients together

Stir fry ingredients...ready to go into the wok

Stir-Fry

2 chicken breasts, chopped

about 1 pound of green beans, chopped

1 onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

knob of ginger, minced

1 red pepper, chopped

1 cup bean sprouts

2 packages of enoki mushrooms (the long weird looking ones) Just cut off the bottom and separate

handful of baby spinach

2 tbsp soy sauce

the rest of the can of coconut milk (from the delicious couscous you just made)

Heat oil in a wok over medium high heat and stir fry chicken until brown and almost cooked through. DO NOT OVER COOK! Remove chicken and place in bowl with sauce and mix to coat.

Chicken browning

Nice and coated in rich almond butter curry sauce

Heat a little more oil in your wok and add onion, ginger, garlic, red pepper, and green beans. Cook until tender. Then add your bean sprouts, mushrooms, a handful of spinach, soy sauce, and the remaining coconut milk. Stir to combine. Add chicken and mix until everything is nice and coated in your sauce and chicken is hot and all vegetables are tender.

A very full wok!

This is a great dish to use up whatever vegetables you have lying around in your fridge. Really…anything would work here. Throw in some carrots, broccoli, bok choy, zucchini…the possibilities are endless! A quick and easy weeknight meal!

Dinner is served!

In some blog news…You can now subscribe to my blog and receive e-mail updates whenever I post…so sign up and never miss a new recipe or restaurant review! Happy Friday!

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Don’t you love long weekends?? I know I do! And you know what makes them even better? Having your very good friends visit from Toronto and showing them all the wonderful food this city has to offer! Of course, I did show them more than just the amazing food…you must walk when you are with me to ensure you are adequately hungry for your next meal. We took a lovely stroll along The Highline and The Brooklyn Bridge, and Adam and I acted as tour guides through our very own walking tour of Carroll Gardens, Cobble HillBoerum Hill, and Park Slope.

Walking the Brooklyn Bridge

But let’s be serious here…I was obviously most excited to catch up over brunch, dinner, and everything in between. Starting things off with a raw and vegan dinner at Pure Food and Wine. Probably not what you were expecting but this food wasn’t what I was expecting either. It was so much more than just raw vegetables, nuts, and seeds. And seeing as I was sharing this meal with a special friend…we went all out and ordered LOTS of special food! Favorite of this meal, and a contender for favorite bite of the entire trip, the philly maki rolls.

Pistachio stuffed portobello with pomegranate dressing

Philly maki with avocado, cashew cheese, carrots, lettuce, and a delicious dipping sauce (Wish I knew what was in it!)

Zucchini and local heirloom tomato lasagna with basil pistachio pesto, sun-dried tomato marinara, and macadamia pumpkin seed ricotta

Pear ravioli with smoked long pepper mousse and preserved lemon, truffle honey, and almonds

Pumpkin cheesecake with brown ale ice cream, pecan brittle, and brown ale caramel...one of the best desserts I've had EVER!

Chocolate mint sundae with thin mint cookies, chocolate ice cream, mint ice cream, and whipped cream and chocolate sauce...never knew a vegan raw sundae could taste so good!

I know…a raw food appetizer could win for favorite bite of this indulgent weekend of eats? Yes my friends…this place blasts any myths or other bad raw food experiences you may have had in the past. Just one bite of their ice cream will change your mind about raw vegan ice cream forever (if you even knew that existed!). Oh, and all the hype I had heard about the lasagna before going for dinner definitely holds true. The sauces were so flavorful and rich and married so well with the freshness of the raw zucchini and tomato. Definitely a special occasion restaurant and definitely worthy of the splurge!

The next evening we were ready for some cooked food and ventured to the UWS for my first Greek dining experience in this city (Crazy, right??) Enter, Kefi…a surprisingly affordable restaurant among the dining options in the UWS. Well…hopefully Kefi won’t figure out that they could definitely be charging at least double what they do for the quality of their food. Dining with a large group of close friends means lots of sharing…

Kefi salad: shredded lettuce, fennel, tomatoes, olives, and feta

Crispy cod with garlic potatoes and tomato

Grilled octopus with bean salad

Second contender for the best bite of the weekend was  the most tender octopus accompanied by a chickpea salad that I was trying desperately to use my bread to sop up every last bit of oily goodness.

Grilled branzino with potatoes, olives, and tomatoes

Grilled tuna with tomatoes, cauliflower, and olives

One flaw…if we’re being picky…my tuna was slightly overcooked. But I can forgive Kefi this one time…I guess I will just have to go back and let them make it up to me! A mere 12 hours later our group was back together for brunch at Cookshop in Chelsea. Perfect fuel for a walk across The Highline (as I learned from my visit only a few weeks prior).

Poached eggs with sauteed spinach, caramelized onions, goat cheese, and sourdough toast

Grilled cheese with cabot cheddar, candied pecans, honey crisp apples, arugula, whole grain mustard, and baby greens

This return visit confirmed this restaurant as my favorite brunch spot. Good food, good service, good atmosphere, and GREAT coffee. With a Jesse Tyler Ferguson spotting, what more could you ask for?? The 5 hour walking tour worked up our appetite for our final meal at Pulino’s, where lots more sharing of food ensued. I had heard some mixed reviews about this Keith Mcnally (of Baltzahar, Morandi, and Pastis fame) Italian restaurant, but it seemed perfect for a large group and was conveniently close to an ice cream shop you may have heard of oh…once or twice here.

Eggplant parm

Burrata pizza with olives and oregano

Fluke crudo: thinly sliced fluke with chili, tangerine, and citrus zest

Whole roasted branzino

Oven roasted octopus with potatoes, celery, and olives

I would definitely say this is solid Italian food. They’re not doing anything that will knock your socks off but the pizza was good with a nice thin crust and rich sauce, the crudo was fresh, and the eggplant parm was definitely something I would return for. Everyone seemed to enjoy their meals…a definite crowd pleaser. And it was good enough for one Top Chef judge…my favorite celebrity spotting yet!

There may have also been some hot chocolate consumed, some milk shakes, cereal milk ice cream and compost cookies devoured, and some salty pimps and waffle cone goodness inhaled. I mean…what would life be without dessert shared among very good friends?

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I’m sure you all know by now but just in case you don’t…I love to cook! I love planning our weekly dinner menu, searching for and trying new recipes, grocery shopping for the ingredients, and prepping dinner after a long day. Sitting down with Adam to the fruits of my labor is such a relaxing and rewarding experience. Adam, I’m pretty sure would say, likes to eat my cooking. And he’s pretty good at it too! But most of you probably don’t know…he can also cook up a pretty good meal when he puts his mind to it. In fact, he is definitely the resident omelette maker in our house. He also makes a mean tofu stir fry. So, for the special love day, he told me to sit back and relax with my feet up while he put together a very special meal that was perfect for me!

Grapes coated in goat cheese and rolled in chopped pistachios...yup, there's a grape inside that ball of cheesy goodness

Roasted halibut topped with gremolata, roasted sweet potatoes, onion and peppers, and sauted swiss chard, mushrooms, and broccoli

He searched and searched and found the perfect recipe and when I walked in the door the other night…the kitchen smelled amazing! And the food…well just look at that plate he put together. I think he’s now a bit concerned that he landed himself on regular dinner duty! Sorry no recipe…it’s Chef Adam’s secret!

Switching topics completely….you may have noticed that I haven’t really mentioned running on this blog since the marathon. I have indeed continued with running and am actually in training for the NYC Half Marathon. While I love a good solo long rung, what makes running even more fun (and makes a 13.5 mile run go by much faster) is running with other friends who are willing to meet you for a run in central park when it’s snowy, rainy and cold. And I did just that this past weekend! The best part (other than running with my friends while they achieved their longest distance ever) was the brunch waiting for us at the end. We had reservations at Maialino and upon walking in, we realized we were slightly out of place among the trendy and beautiful people in our sweaty and wet spandex pants and fleece tops. After our meals were brought to our table…we were totally distracted by the amazing looking food and dug right in and forgot about just how “lovely” we must have looked!

Ricotta pancakes with fresh ricotta and cranberry compote...sorry for the blurry blackberry photo

I’ve had peach and hazelnut pancakes, lemon cornmeal pancakes, and ricotta blueberry pancakes…I think these may just “take the cake.” Now it could be because I had just finished a long run and was absolutely famished, or…it could be they tasted so good from the creamy ricotta, light and fluffy texture, hint of lemon, and cranberry topping. Either way…these are definitely a good choice when you get that pancake craving. Have a great weekend everyone!

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, as much as I like dining out and trying new restaurants, there is something to be said for a nice, relaxing dinner at home. And over the past couple weeks, we’ve been able to enjoy this both away and at home. We were lucky enough to garner an invitation to our friends for dinner one cold Saturday night…why lucky you might ask? Well, besides the fact that they are wonderful, fun, foodie friends, we also walked into their house greeted by these images below.

Homemade white honey bread

Homemade fresh pasta...waiting to be boiled

Needless to say, Adam and I knew we were in for a very special evening. The theme…mushrooms! Starting with the most delicious and mushroomy (in the best way possible) soup. Perfect for homemade bread dipping! Followed by pasta and homemade pie and ice cream for dessert. A wonderful night. Maybe if we all ask, we can get the recipe for that amazing soup?

Mushroom soup topped with creme fraiche

Homemade pasta with wild mushrooms, vermouth, roasted garlic, kale, and parm.

Homemade lemon meringue pie

Homemade strawberry ice cream with balsamic reduction

Dinner party #2 at our humble abode began with a lovely bottle of white wine, courtesy of our food loving friends. This wine went fantastically with the carrot miso soup we started things off with. It was a hit at a previous party and went over very well again. So easy and so flavorful.

Carrot miso soup topped with sesame oil

The main course was a tofu dish I think could convert any tofu hater out there. Marinated, panko breaded and pan-fried, and served with a roasted red pepper walnut sauce…if this was chicken I know you’d all be drooling!

Pressing the tofu to drain the water

Breaded tofu waiting to be fried

I only made minor changes to this recipe….I used balsamic vinegar in place of the white wine and used dried herbs in place of fresh (because that was what I had on hand).

Pan frying the tofu...who wouldn't like that?!?

Panko tofu topped with roasted red pepper walnut sauce

This sauce would also be delicious as a dip or sandwich spread. Along with roasted brussels sprouts (little did I know, these were my guests fave veg), I made one of my favorite grain salad recipes. Delicious as a vegetarian main, side for any protein, and good packed lunch…it is so beautiful, colorful, and delectable.

Colorful Quinoa Salad (Adapted from The Food Processor Bible by Norene Gilletz)

1 cup quinoa

2 1/2 cups vegetable broth

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

handful parsley, finely chopped

1 red pepper, diced

1-2 zucchini, diced

1 red onion, diced

1 cup apricots, diced

1/2 cup dried cranberries, diced

1/2 cup raisins, diced

1/2 cup prunes, diced

1/3 cup lemon juice

3 tbsp orange juice

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 tbsp water

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp curry powder

3 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

Bring broth and quinoa to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Let cool and then add chickpeas, parsley, red pepper, zucchini, onion, and dried fruit. Mix together remaining ingredients and pour over quinoa and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

This makes ALOT so be prepared to have some quinoa lunches in your future! No dinner party is complete without dessert and being inspired by my friends delicious strawberry ice cream, I decided to break out my ice cream maker yet again and try out a David Lebovitz recipe from a cookbook my foodie soul-mate gifted to me.

Pistachio apricot ice cream topped with chopped pistachios

Pistachio and Dried Apricot Ice Cream (Adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop)

3/4 cup dried apricots, quartered

2/4 cup white wine

2/3 cup sugar

1 cup 2% milk

1 cup half and half

few drops lemon juice

1/2 cup chopped pistachios

Simmer the apricots and white wine for about 5 minutes and let stand for an hour. Mix together all ingredients except pistachios and blend in food processor until smooth. Freeze according to ice cream makers instruction, adding the pistachios in the last couple minutes.

I think that homemade ice cream is one of those deceivingly difficult and impressive desserts…but really is so easy to do. And honestly, with all the fresh and natural ingredients, tastes so much better than the usual Turkey Hill or Eddy’s that somehow always seems to find a way into my shopping cart and freezer…don’t know how that happens??

Two fun dinners with four very fun friends! Oh, I almost forgot….Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!

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Can you believe that I’ve never made stuffed peppers before?! Crazy, right? Actually…now that I think about it, I’ve only ever even eaten them once. It was at a work potluck and one of my co-workers made a delicious rice and scallop stuffed pepper. But other than that…nada! After eating the leftover bulgur salad for three days in a row, I decided in order to avoid tossing it, it needed to be morphed into a completely new dish. Don’t get me wrong…it was delicious as is and you should have all made it by now! But after three days, this girl needs some variety!

Tempeh and Bulgur Stuffed Peppers

2 red peppers, top sliced off and ribs and seeds scraped out

1 red pepper, chopped

handful of mushrooms, chopped

1 package tempeh, crumbled

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 stalk celery, chopped

handful of spinach, chopped

2 tbsp white wine

1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tbsp nutritional yeast (this is like vegan parm cheese…adds a real richness and nice flavor)

1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes

1 bay leaf

1 tsp dried basil

1-1 1/2 cup cooked bulgur (I used the leftover bulgur salad so it had lots of flavor added already but you could choose plain bulgur or really any rice or other grain you like)

Preheat oven to 350 and place whole peppers in baking dish sprayed with cooking spray and bake for about 20 minutes until slightly softened.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add some oil. Saute onion, celery, red pepper, garlic, and mushrooms until soft. Add tempeh, wine, soy sauce, oregano and salt and pepper. Cook until no liquid remains. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Mix with bulgur and yeast and stir to combine. Divide among the peppers…really mound it in! You might have some stuffing leftover but that’s okay…it’s delicious on its own too! Place peppers in baking dish and pour tomatoes around it. Mix in basil and bay leaf to tomatoes and bake covered for about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes.

I also enjoyed some comfort food recently in the form of a giant bowl of noodles soup. I’ve been to Momofuku to try their bowl of lovely ramen noodles and delicious broth and decided it was time to compare them to the ever popular Ippudo. We arrived at Ippudo, mere blocks from it’s noodle rival,  just before 6 and were welcomed with screaming and shouting from the staff. My friend and I had been to Momofuku together so it seemed fitting we would enjoy ramen again together and then do a fair comparison. While we were seated right away, literally 10 minutes later there was a crowd at the door and an hour wait. Definitely a popular after work spot!

Hirata bun with chicken: buns filled with chicken and spicy bun sauce

Comparison #1: Buns: Momofuku shrimp buns vs. Ippudu chicken buns (I know, not exactly even steven but we felt like chicken). We both agreed we enjoyed the actual doughy and soft bun at Ippudo but found the shrimp filling at Momofuku to be superior. So maybe #1 goes to Momofuku? Now…the main event…the noodles.

Akamura Modern: "Tonkusu" noodle soup topped with miso paste, pork chasu, cabbage, kikurage, scallions, fragarant garlic oil, and seasoned salted boiled egg

Comparison #2: Noodle bowls: This is where we both agreed Ippudo wins. Momofuku was good…but this broth was so rich, creamy, and had that “umami” flavor from the miso paste. The second best thing about this bowl was the egg. So flavorful, not soft, not hard…just right! We both couldn’t get over this perfectly cooked and seasoned egg.

With bellies full of porky miso broth, my friend told me she had never been to Big Gay Ice Cream before. Well…we nearly sprinted to the shop and I informed her, being her first time, she must try the salty pimp. I think my favorite thing is watching a Big Gay virgin take their first bite of this salty, sweet, and creamy cone…it really is perfection.

Vanilla soft serve topped with homemade Brooklyn Brewery Malt Syrup

I went with a new creation by one of the very friendly staff. This malty syrup drizzled over their fantastic soft serve was a hit. These guys can really do no wrong in my eyes. Any other noodles/ramen shops I should add to my list to make it a fair fight?

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