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It’s a little strange to jump right in with a post after over a year of not blogging, but, I’m ripping the band-aid off. Let’s do this!

Thus far, autumn has been chock full of delicious, hearty comfort food. Perhaps it’s the change in season or the change in my own personal scenery, but I’ve felt re-inspired with what I’m creating in the kitchen, and what I’m choosing when I eat out. Here are some of the more delectable and inspired foods I have been cooking, or just straight-up eating, lately:

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While I helped make these cheesy taco cups, the inspiration was all from my boyfriend’s mom, Robin. We made these together for a Mexican themed family party a few weeks ago, and they were a huge hit! To make, layer wonton wrappers, cooked taco beef, crushed tortilla chips, mexican shreeded cheese, and refried beans twice in a cupcake tin. Fill each cup with these layers, then bake until crispy and bubbling. Top with sour cream, cilantro and chives!

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After bookmarking the recipe months ago, I finally made EatLiveRun’s epic babaganoush soup! I’m fairly addicted to babaganoush (the word and the food), so this soup was a no brainer. I definitely did not expect it to be as out-of-this world flavorful and addictive as it was, though – I even went back for thirds! Stir in some grilled chicken for a heartier meal.

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This dish has been a cold-weather staple in our house for over a year now – braised red cabbage with bacon! It’s a bit reminiscent of sauerkraut, which is a fall-winter favorite of mine, but it’s heartier due to the red cabbage and shorter cooking time. The salty – sweet- sour combo of this dish will keep you coming back for more. Inspired by by Kelsey’s Essentials.

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The Apple Crisp pictured above to the right was a throw-together dessert one Friday evening, but it turned out amazingly well. I took three huge honeycrisp apples from the Farmers Market, peeled and sliced them and tossed with some brown sugar and cinnamon. Then, I topped them with a combination of rolled oats, brown and white sugar, butter, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. Baked at 350 for about an hour, it was to-die-for! Just don’t skimp on the butter.

Also, the dish on the left is taco-smothered sweet potatoes – also a quick and easy dinner that is so SO satisfying!

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Roasted Sweet Corn! Can anyone get enough of this in the fall? It’s such a seasonal must. I had this corn a few weeks ago during a pumpkin picking expedition to Harbes Family Farm on Long Island’s north fork. They literally DIPPED each ear in a vat of butter. DIPPED! Enough said.

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Inspired by the new location in NYC, last Friday night I attempted to make Umami burgers based off this recipe from the owner. While the burgers tasted great (helped in large part by the heap of caramelized onions), I think the lack of ratios or measurements for the Umami flavorings hurt me. I under-seasoned, and this wound up tasting like a regular, albeit delicious, burger. Thankfully, the oven-roasted rosemary sweet potato fries more than made up for the lack of oooooh-mami!

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Okay. The waffle pictured above probably deserves it’s own post, a trophy, and a holiday named after it. This was consumed at Queens Comfort, an epic hipster brunch spot on 30th ave in Astoria, on Saturday. It’s called a Caramel Apple and Buttermilk Bacon Waffle, which sort of says it all. Basically, a super fluffy, apple laden waffle topped with caramel syrup and huge chunks of crispy bacon. Be still, my heart.

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Not a great photo, but above is the soup I made monday night when Adam and I were both feeling a cold coming on. Inspired by Iowa Girl Eats, this is Spaghetti (squash) and Meatball soup. I loved that it’s a heartier, more marinara-y (it’s a word) version of tomato soup, but full of Italian turkey meatballs and crisp spaghetti squash. This came together in 30 minutes and hit the spot in curing our sniffles.

Reliving these delicious meals and moments from the past month put a smile on my face, and hopefully it will help you feel re-inspired in the kitchen as it has me!

What fall foods have you been cooking lately?

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Fall is officially here, along with that crisp cool breeze I just can’t get enough of. I’ve been on an everything-autumn kick for the past week or so, and it has no signs of disappearing anytime soon. This includes, of course, sampling all sorts of pumpkin-flavored beers, baking and consuming lots of apple-crumbly goodness, a new pumpkin-yellow purse, and purchasing the mother of all rich fall meals: The CrockPot.

This item has been on my kitchen must-haves list for a while, but simply not having the storage space to stow it always put me off. But finally, this fall, inspired by an un-used Bed Bath and Beyond gift card, I caved and made the purchase. And so far, the pros have far outweighed the cons.

Along with these other fall staples is pumpkin butter. What can I say? I love the stuff. One spoonful of this amber goodness adds the flavor of fall to anything from sweet potatoes to oatmeal to plain old toast. The idea to make homemade pumpkin butter derives simply from the fact that purchasing prepared pumpkin butter will set you back a pretty penny. You could spend $7 or more on a tiny jar of the pre-made stuff, or for the same cost and a few hours of your time, you can make your own pumpkin butter and end up with cups upon cups of the stuff. I’m not kidding. In fact, I’ll be spreading pumpkin butter on everything from now until Christmas, and guess what? Not sorry. It’s just so.good.

Homemade Pumpkin Butter – Makes about 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sugar pumpkin, about 7-8 lbs (available at your local grocery store in the fall), peeled, cored and cubed
  • 1 cup of all-natural 100% juice apple juice or cider
  • 1 cup of packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of ground ginger

You will also need a crock-pot or slow-cooker and a blender.

Method

1. To prepare your sugar pumpkin, begin by turning the pumpkin on its side and carefully removing the stem (use a very sharp knife to make this easier). Then, place the pumpkin right-side up and cut it in half. Using a large spoon, scrape out the seeds and pulp from the core (you can rinse and save the seeds for roasting too).

2. To peel the pumpkin, use either a heavy-duty vegetable peeler or a chefs knife. If using a knife, slowly trim away all orange skin and green pith from top to bottom. Be sure to remove all skin and pith as that won’t taste good in the pumpkin butter.

3. Once all of the skin is removed, cut the pumpkin into 1 inch chunks and toss in the crockpot. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Cook on high for 4 hours, or until the pumpkin is soft and darker in color, stirring occasionally if desired.

4. Once the pumpkin is very soft, remove the cinnamon sticks from the mixture and puree until smooth using an immersion or upright blender. Return to the slow-cooker and continue to cook on low, uncovered for another 30 minutes to thicken slightly.

Enjoy on toast with peanut butter, on muffins, or in oatmeal! Also a great topping for pancakes or filling for cookies!

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Thai Chicken Pizza

Boy, has it been a while. Has anyone else been stuck in a time warp this summer? Somehow it’s already mid-August, and I’m still trying to figure out why I’ve been to the beach ONCE this summer.

Oh, now I remember! The past month has been utterly devoured by a huge life change – moving to a new apartment for the first time in three years. It’s pretty amazing how much stuff a person can accumulate in just a few years, and how that stuff can disappear into a rather small two-bedroom NYC apartment. Trying to fit it all into an even smaller one-bedroom apartment is quite the challenge, and hence my summer has rushed by in a swirl of packing, cleaning, un-packing, cleaning some more, painting, learned how to rewire light fixtures, and oh yes, painting.

In the midst of all this, we’ve found a decent amount of time to cook in our new, even tinier kitchen (though apparently little time to share such cooking adventures). With Whole Foods dangerously situated just around the corner, meal planning has become our new best friend in an effort to eat better and spend less. So far, it’s working out pretty well; we’re spending a bit below our weekly grocery budget, while still enjoying dishes like eggplant parm, oven roasted pork chops with smashed potatoes and “Nini’s Barbeque Sauce,” and one of my favorites, Chicken Paprika. These meals have been shamelessly inhaled during DIY breaks, and taking pictures was a low priority. Last night’s dinner, though, was too good to not share.

Thai Chicken Pizza. This inspiration came from the Tasty Kitchen Blog, by way of HowSweetEats. It was penciled into Tuesday’s dinner slot, and we picked up all the essentials on our grocery run Sunday. But because, however, a Culinary Education still can’t teach me the visual differences between a zucchini and a cucumber (I like to think I was too distracted by the nearby pluot samples), some slight modifications occurred. I think the end result may actually be better with raw cucumber than cooked zucchini; it made it more reminiscent of many Thai dishes, like Bahn Mi, that often have a raw cucumber slaw in the mix.

I knew this was going to be a hit the second I smelled it coming out of the oven. When I took my first bite, I called to Adam, “Oh, you’re going to love this! It’s like Bahn Mi on a pizza!” And sure enough, he did. In fact, only two small slices remain from our whole pie – it was that good!

Best enjoyed after lots of hard DIY work, with an ice-cold glass of Trader Joe’s Coastal Sauv Blanc!

Thai Chicken Pizza – Serves 2 – 4

Barely Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 batch of pizza dough (we used Whole Foods pre-made pizza dough)
  • 1/2 cups Sweet Asian Chili Sauce, plus extra for dipping if desired
  • 1 whole shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 cup cooked chicken breast, thinly sliced
  • 6 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cups chopped peanuts
  • 1/4 cups cucumber, sliced into match sticks
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pizza dough to about a 1/4 inch thick, or however your like the thickness of your crust. Lay dough down on a pizza stone or baking sheet that has been lightly greased with olive oil.
  3. Spread Asian chili sauce on the surface of the dough to create an even coating. Add the sliced shallots and  red chili flakes. Then add the sliced chicken breast and top with the cheese.
  4. Place the pizza in the oven and cook for about 8 to 10, keeping an eye on your crust and toppings so they do not burn. Once the crust is golden around the edges and the cheese is nice and bubbly, remove pizza from the oven.
  5. Top pizza with the sliced cucumber, chopped peanuts, fresh cilantro and basil. Slice and serve with additional chili sauce if desired.

This pizza was perfect! Crunchy crust, slightly spicy but also sweet, which left you coming back, bite after bite, for more. I had a reasonable two slices for dinner, but wound up snacking  on another two over the course of the rest of the night while I read Game of Thrones (book 3, oh my god!).
Also worth mentioning – any left over toppings will make a pretty spectacular thai chicken salad for lunch the next day, if tossed over lettuce. Just mix a bit of the sweet chili sauce with some vinegar for a sweet and spicy dressing!
Enjoy 🙂

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Clearly I’m in a bit of a sconey state of mind! After last weekend’s vanilla-sage scone success, I wanted to whip up another batch of yummy scones to enjoy during our weekly game night. These scones needed to be decidedly chocolate-laced, given that there’s more than one chocoholic among our game night gang! Then I started wondering what magic could happen if one added chocolate chips to lightly browned butter before whisking into frosting, and just knew I had to find out.
 
But since these scones were supposed to be more of a snack than indulgent holiday breakfast treat, I decided to lighten them up. Starting with one of my favorite “light” recipe resource – Skinny Taste – I searched for scone recipes and stumbled upon this one for chocolate chip buttermilk scones. And while the scones looked delicious and the nutrition facts weren’t bad, deep down I really wanted to make these scones as sugar- and white flour-free as possible!
 
Anyone who attempts this “healthified” strain of baking knows that things can easily go awry. While white flour and sugar may not be great for your health, they do tend to have the alchemic properties necessary to produce light, sweet, fluffy, crumbly confections. Simply replacing white flour with whole wheat or grain flours, and replacing sugar with Stevia will not always yield a good result.
 
There are many tricks out there to replace the sugar in sweets, applesauce being one of the most common routes to go. For this recipe I replaced 1/4 cup of the liquid (buttermilk) in the inspiration recipe with unsweetened apple sauce. Then, I reduced the sugar by more than half, knowing the scones would also be getting some sweetness from the chocolate chips and drizzle.
 
 
In terms of replacing the white flour – this is a bit trickier. If you’re going to completely avoid white flour in baking, you’ll have to come to terms with the fact that the texture of your baked goods is just going to be different. All-purpose flour is very light and airy, and with the help of a little yeast or baking powder, it fluffs up quite nicely in the oven. Whole wheat, oat, buckwheat and other whole grain flours are heavier, so you can expect a denser baked good. I personally love this texture – it’s much more hearty and has more complex flavors than just straight up white flour. That being said, it’s most likely not what you’re used to tasting when you bite into a scone or muffin – so I urge you to have an open mind when baking this way.
 
Being the crazy oatmeal lover that I am, I went with a good deal of oat flour in my scones, and ended up using half oat flour, half whole wheat flour. Because I couldn’t find oat flour at Trader Joe’s, I wound up just grinding up some rolled oats in the food processor – a trick my mom used growing up when making us cookies. This works great, and is probably a lot cheaper than buying oat flour! As for the whole wheat, regular whole wheat flour worked out pretty darn well here, but I’d imagine that whole wheat pastry flour might result in an even more fluffy texture, if you have it on hand.
 
With all these hearty, healthy ingredients, you really can’t skimp on the chocolate. Three-quarters of a cup of chocolate chips goes into the batter, and even more gets drizzled on top, which means each bite of scone is loaded with a big mouthful of gooey chocolate. Drizzling the scones with chocolate glaze is preferred to dipping them in this case; it maximizes the chocolate flavor you get in each bite while keeping the amount of glaze on each scone low.
 
In the end, these turned out delicious! I ate mine warm, right out of the oven, while the chocolate was still melted and oozing. It’s really the only way to go. These are perfect as a healthy scone to bring to brunch, to put out for dessert or tea, or even to keep in the freezer for an on-the-go breakfast (yes, they’re healthy enough for breakfast). So go ahead, give baking with whole grain flours a whirl!
 
 
Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Scones – Makes 12 scones
 
Adapted from Skinny Taste
 
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup cold low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup of oat flour (or rolled oats that have been ground in a food processor)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp COLD unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided into 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup
  • 1 tbsp of room temperature unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp powdered sugar

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 375°.
 
2. Combine the buttermilk, apple sauce, sugar, vanilla and egg in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.3. Combine oat flour, wheat flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and stir with a whisk. Cut in chilled butter with a pastry blender or using two knives until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Fold in the chocolate chips. Fold in the milk mixture, stirring just until moist.4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface (I used all-purpose flour for dusting) knead lightly four times with floured hands (the dough will be sticky). Form dough into 3/4″ thick circle. Using a knife,cut dough into 12 wedges all the way through.
 
5. Spray baking sheet(s) with cooking spray and transfer wedges to baking sheet. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until scones are lightly golden brown on the top and bottom.
 
6. While scones are baking, make the chocolate glaze. Start by placing 1/4 cup of chocolate chips in a small bowl. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to a small saucepan over medium heat. Melt and continue to cook until butter begins to brown. Once butter is brown, immediately pour over bowl of chocolate chips. Allow butter and chocolate to sit for 2 minutes, then add 1/2 tsp powdered sugar and stir well until smooth.
 
7. Once scones have finished baking, remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Using a spoon or a pastry bag with a fine tip, drizzle the chocolate sauce over the scones. I recommend using all of the sauce for the 12 scones – it gives a great flavor!
 
8. Enjoy warm!
 
Nutrition Facts: 201 calories, 10.5 grams of fat, 27 carbs, 3.2 grams of fiber, 12.8 grams of sugar, 4.6 grams of protein

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A few months back, we picked up a couple of scones from the Clinton Street Baking Company for breakfast. Adam has brought some of these scones to a work meeting a few days earlier, and couldn’t stop talking about how fantastic they were. As a fan of any sort of baked good, I was more than happy to be an accomplice to his revisit.

I went with a fairly standard scone that was speckled with some sort of fruit – raspberries, I believe – and it was, sure enough, delicious. But the scone that Adam couldn’t stop talking about was this chive and goat cheese scone. To me, it sounded contrary of what a good scone should be – sweet! – but Clinton Street had never steered me wrong before, so I gave it a nibble.

And boy, was I blown away! The natural crumbly, slightly sweet nature of the scone was amped up by the fragrant earthiness of the chives, and the goat cheese added just a hint of tangy flavor. The overall layers of flavor were off the wall, and I made a mental note to revisit them in the future.

Enter this weekend – Mother’s Day! Since I wasn’t making a homemade brunch for my mom this year (instead, we went out to eat), I wanted to incorporated a bit of that “breakfast in bed” sentiment into my gift to her. Since both of my parents loves scones (you should see them around those Starbucks scones!), I decided that would be my baked good of choice. Then I remembered Clinton Street, and as I mused about herbs, sage popped into my mind. Quickly followed by browned butter. I think you can see where this is going.

A rustic, soft, creamy vanilla scone perfumed with the flavor of fresh sage leaves, topped with a thick, gooey brown butter glaze. Some of my favorite tastes, all wrapped up in one old-fashioned confection. Working with these flavors in a new way as I was, I just needed to set aside one scone as a taste tester – but one bite in, I realized that all the remaining scones were now in danger – these were that good! I’ve said at least three times this weekend that these are the best thing to ever come out of my kitchen – and this may very well be true. Just ask my mom!

Oh yes… and I even got carried away and candied the left over sage leaves as a bit of decoration – a simple step that adds a really lovely, quaint touch to the scones. These scones are perfection with sage and vanilla and lightly browned butter, but the essential recipe can be customized with any of your favorite mix ins. They come together in 10 minutes and take just 10 more to bake, which means they can be on your table for brunch (or dessert) in no time at all.

So really, how can you resist?

Vanilla Sage Scones with Brown Butter Glaze – Makes 8 scones

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Ingredients

For the scones

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of minced fresh sage
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

For the glaze

  • 1 stick (4 ounces) of unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract

For the candied sage leaves

  • Sage leaves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon of water

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and adjust rack to center.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Whisk for a few seconds to combine.

3. Add in cold, cubed butter and using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingers, work quickly to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles course cornmeal with some larger bits (note – if using a food processor, pulse 12 times to combine butter and flour). Add minced sage and toss to combine.

4. Using a rubber spatula, fold in heavy cream and vanilla extract until dough is just combined. Turn out onto a surface and knead by hand for a few seconds until the dough comes together into a sticky ball.

5. Shape the ball into a large disk, about 3/4 of an inch thick. Cut the disk into 8 triangular slices (like a pie). Transfer to a greased baking sheet. Bake until the scones are lightly browned, about 10 – 12 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and cool.

6. While scones cool, make the browned butter glaze. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and cook until it bubbles and just begins to brown. Remove from heat and swirl in hot pot until a golden brown color is achieved. Remove from pan immediately and place in large bowl. Add vanilla extract and sifted powdered sugar to butter, and stir to combine.

7. Once scones have cooled, gently dip the top of each in the brown butter glaze. Allow thirty minutes for glaze to set.

8. To make candied sage leaves, add sage leaves, sugar, and water to a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar begins to boil and large bubbles form. Remove from heat and stir to ensure leaves are fully coated. Transfer leaves to parchment paper and lay flat. Sprinkle with more sugar and allow to harden in the refrigerator. Top each scone with one leaf.

Now I’m left thinking – how good would these be with chocolate chips and a chocolate-brown butter glaze?! Too crazy – or just the right amount of crazy? 🙂
What do you think – do you love scones? Or do you have a different breakfast baked good of choice?

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There’s something about Mother’s Day that makes the meal of brunch take on a more meaningful, magical quality. I have all of these memories from my childhood of waking up super early, while my mom was still asleep (or pretending to be) on Mother’s Day morning to find my dad silently whisking away in the kitchen, whipping pancake batter into perfection while bacon gently sizzled on the stove top. All ready to go on the kitchen table would be a shining tray with perhaps a bowl of berries or cup of orange juice or steaming mug of coffee, depending on the year. Sometimes there was even a special note or a flower. To my childhood self, it all had a sense of mystical beauty to it.

During our earliest years, my dad always made the actual Mother’s Day meal, and my brother and I would be delegated the task of leading the parade up to the bedroom so we could deliver her breakfast in bed with proper fanfare and flourish. Then we’d all snuggle in while she (and we) ate and helped her opened her cards and gifts.

Clearly, as we got older, the prospect of us all eating breakfast together in a double bed lost some of its appeal. But Mother’s Day Brunch has remained an institution, and over most of the past 25 years, we’ve either cooked or taken my mom out for a splendid mother’s day brunch to celebrate.

This year, there are lots of young moms in my family – most of my cousins have several adorable young children, so we’re all going out to a big Mother’s Day brunch at a restaurant so we can all celebrate together. But still, there’s some wistful sense about me that I can’t shake, knowing it will feel a little strange for one of us to not wake up before  mom and cook her a meal all our own.

From what I’ve heard and seen, the tradition of  a home-cooked with lots-of-love breakfast or brunch is something many families join together to do on Mother’s Day morning. With that, here are some of the best breakfast and brunch recipes from the blog that are fit to serve to the most important woman in your life, to show her how much you love her this Mother’s Day!

Sweet Breakfast Eats:

 
Savory Brunch Munches:

Late Lunch Dishes:
Happy Mother’s Day – and Happy Cooking!

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Has it really been a week? Things have been busy around here… For the past week or so, I took a break from coming up with new and delicious recipes to prepare for something that, well, seemed like a good idea at the time! Let’s recap…

I’ve gotten pretty into running since finishing up culinary school earlier this year as a way to fill my newly freed-up weekday evenings (and balance out all the Pistachio-crusted beignets and Cheesy Stuffed Peppers I eat all weekend long). As such, thought it would be a good idea to motivate myself by signing up for an organized race event. After running a 4M in April, a 10K seemed the next logical step, and so I wound up spending most of last week try to run far, and fast, and freaking out that I would trip over my own feet or cramp up and fall over on race day.

Race day was Sunday. Thankfully none of those things happened. The race went relatively well, though I think that’s due in large part to the amazing group of runners that were running 10Ks, half-marathons, and marathons alongside me for the RxR Long Island Marathon. This completely inspirational group of people kept me motivated, excited, and having a blast throughout the entire six-point-two miles – especially the seventy-one year old man who beat me by over a minute! He ran ahead of me for most of the race and every time I looked up to see the back of his tee-shirt, which read, “I’m old and slow – get over it!” I couldn’t help but laugh. It was truly a great experience!

In addition to thousands of other runners and hilarious old men, these cheesy chicken enchiladas are also to thank for fueling Sunday’s success. My parents and I whipped these up, along with a refreshing, limey bowl of guacamole, homemade white flour tortilla chips (these beat out every other chip I’ve ever had!) and a light corn salad. It was a Cinco de Mayo meal to go down in history – so delicious, especially with a cerveza served along side – but then, I learned last summer how amazing these enchiladas are. You’ve gotta try them out!

So, as usual, it takes me a while to get to my point. My point is this – even though I’ve been running instead of recipe developing, I’ve still been doing a heck of a lot of cooking (and not just enchiladas)! Except this time, I’ve been relying on my Google Reader – my link to the food blogosphere – to find the best tasting recipes around. And two of them in particular were just two good NOT to share – so here they are!

First up is this incredibly luscious, slightly spicy, extremely exotic Thai Chicken Curry recipe from Saveur magazine. The recipe comes from the Las Vegas restaurant Lotus of Siam, which many consider to make the very best Thai food in the entire U.S. At home, I make Thai red curry dishes at least once a week (blame it on my coconut milk addiction) because they can be light in fat and calories while still packing huge flavor, and are easy to make with whatever veggies and protein you have on hand.

I was completely surprised, though, that this restaurant-caliber curry recipe was so easy to make! In fact, the simmering-broth method actually proved to be easier than how I have been making curries for weeks now. By simmering the coconut milk and curry paste together, the broth thickens and the flavors meld, giving you a rich, spoon-coating sauce for the chicken and vegetables. Full disclosure: I used Thai Kitchen’s red curry paste instead of Panang curry, as the recipe suggests (I couldn’t find it), and added in some red bell peppers, but the dish still came out beautifully. We served it along with a Spicy Thai Brown Rice Pilaf (recipe to come). Even if the idea of making Thai Curry seems overwhelming to you, I encourage you to give this recipe a shot. It’s straightforward and relatively foolproof – a great way to segue into Thai cooking!

The second fantastic recipe I wanted to share is this Lightened Up Vegan Sundried Tomato Basil Pesto from Angela over at Oh She Glows. Holy freaking yum! This popped up in my GReader yesterday morning, and even though I hadn’t even made it to lunch yet, I immediately started drooling and scribbled down the ingredients on a post-it to pick up after work. Adam and I were planning to have a date-night dinner and this seemed like the perfect dish (the boy loves his pesto)!

Well, this recipe did not disappoint. Not only did the pesto come together in a flash – five minutes! – but the flavors and consistency were dead on. This has all the basil, garlicky goodness of a traditional pesto, but with an excellent added tang and sweetness from the sundried tomatoes. The walnuts are a creative and well-matched spin on pesto’s traditional pine nuts, and with a few sprinkles of nutritional yeast, you definitely won’t miss the parmesan cheese. It also goes quite well with a glass (or two) of Pinot Grigio, I might add.

Pesto is actually one sauce I usually steer clear of since it can often be loaded with extra fat and calories from cheese, nuts and oil – but this pesto was light and super packed with flavor, meaning a little goes a long way! Angela’s recipe made about 3/4 of a cup (as stated on her blog), and I found this to be about six servings – two tablespoons was more than enough per serving of pasta. We tossed the pesto-pasta with some roasted asparagus, sauteed mushrooms and spinach, and pan-roasted chicken breast – what a delicious dinner. Thanks Angela for the awesome recipe!

One more thing I wanted to mention. For those in the NYC area, there’s a great food festival coming up weekend after next (May 19th – 20th) called The Great Googamooga (crazy name, I know)! This food / music / art festival is going to be held in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, and will feature over 70 food vendors, beer, wine, and music, as well as prominent chefs, artists, and food personalities who will be doing demos, giving talks, and meeting fans. I believe Googamooga is still giving out the occasional free tickets and tickets are also available to buy. I’ll be attending and blogging about Googamooga – hope to see you all there!

Well, that’s all for now! Stay tuned for some more great recipes coming up this weekend…

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