Sunday, July 27, 2014

brown bagging it

Dear Mom,

This is terrible! Its been months since I've posted!  I've been very busy, we've been unpacking since the big move and I got a job!  It all happened surprisingly quickly and I'm still adjusting to the new schedule.  So my new job is at a great firm in midtown Manhattan and is a convenient 10 minute walk from Grand Central.  I love the energy of working in the Big Apple, but the prices are a little expensive, even for lunch.  So I've been brown bagging it.  I've been quite ambitious with it, and I'm trying to make healthy things that I can make in bulk on Sundays so that they last through the week.  My big kick lately is quinoa, which I'm very surprised just came up as a spelling mistake on my machine - my corrective options were Aquino or Joaquin...

Joaquin's Salad

1 cup quinoa
2 cups low-sodium chicken (or veggie) stock

4-5 seeded, chopped plum tomatoes
1 medium cucumber, seeded and chopped (peel too if you like)
1 can chick peas
1/2 cup chopped curly parsley
3/4 cup feta cheese

2 lemons, juiced
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

Cook quinoa according to package directions, usually its a 1:2 ratio of dried quinoa to stock.  Cool cooked quinoa.  Combine quinoa and tomatoes through feta in a large bowl, toss all ingredients together.  In a separate bowl whisk together lemon juice through garlic.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and add to quinoa mixture.  Toss to combine.  Adjust seasoning as required.

This salad has kept in my fridge for 5 days (by then I've usually ate it all).  It will get better if it sits in the fridge overnight.  If it seems a little bland after a night in the fridge add more red wine vinegar and salt and pepper.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Dear Kristin,

The one thing we can always count on in life is change, or as I like to look at it - plot twists!
We're looking forward to coming to see you in your new digs - so many new things to explore! Speaking of exploring, with the price of beef so high, we are exploring new ways to cook chicken. (That was probably one of the worst segues I've come up with yet - sorry!) This recipe is based on one I found in the March 2014 issue of Cooking Light. The original recipe called for using pancetta - as you did in your penne vodka, but finding pancetta too "cosmo" for us, I comfy-fied the recipe a bit by subbing in bacon. This is really quick and easy - makes a great weeknight dinner with some roasted potatoes and a salad.

chicken with peas and bacon

1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into 1" pieces
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 c. chicken stock
2 Tbsp. mascarpone cheese
2 Tbsp. water
2 tsp. all purpose flour
1 c. frozen peas, thawed

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan & swirl to coat. Add garlic & saute for 2 minutes, stirring frequently - be careful not to burn it. Remove garlic from pan. Add bacon to pan and saute until it just begins to crisp - about 4 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon & add to reserved garlic.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Saute in the same skillet (there should be about 2 Tbsp. bacon fat left in the pan) until nicely browned - about 4 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan. De-glaze pan with wine, and cook until wine is almost evaporated (about 3 minutes). Return chicken to the pan. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover the pan and cook for 6-8 minutes or until chicken tests done. Remove chicken from the pan.

Add mascarpone cheese to the pan and whisk until smooth. Make a slurry with the flour and water and add to the pan. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in reserved bacon and garlic and the peas. Heat until peas are heated through. Serve sauce over chicken.

Monday, April 28, 2014


Dear Mom,

I have made those delightful little buns of pleasure before...  Hmmm... That does not sound like something one typically admits in a food blog.  Speaking of delightful buns, did you hear that George Clooney is officially off the market?  It is true, the perpetual bachelor and man of our dreams is engaged.  Oh well, times are a changin'.  I've made quite the significant change in my life as well: the hubs and I moved to a new city! Tarrytown, NY specifically, about 40 minutes north of NYC by train.  I'm quite excited, the hubs got a promotion (so proud of him) and they wanted him back at headquarters so I decided to leave my job and join him (like I really had a choice).

So far, I'm in love with this little town!  It has an adorable little Main Street, USA type "downtown" anchored by a well-reviewed performing arts center.  There are a lot of restaurants, bars and coffee shops for us to check out, and we're surrounded by some really superb parks with lots of trails for us (including little Lola) to explore.  The best part is it is all within walking distance, including the train to the city if we ever get bored of this town.  Our new apartment has a FIVE-BURNER range, which I'm super excited about.  I've only set off the smoke detector twice...  Plus we have outdoor space for grilling and veggie growing.

Well, all that chit-chat about my new life has made me hungry!  For my first returning NY resident recipe I'm presenting you with a simple Penne Vodka.  With all the running around the hubs and I have been doing unpacking and prepping the place I needed something simple and satisfying.

penne vodka

8 slices pancetta, thinly deli sliced and chopped
extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup yellow or sweet onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup vodka
1 jar marinara sauce (any pasta sauce you like, preferably not too chunky)
crushed red pepper
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream.
12 oz. dried penne
salt and pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat a deep skillet over medium-high heat, add about 2 tsp. of extra virgin olive oil and pancetta.  Cook over heat until crispy, remove with slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain.  In the same pan, add extra olive oil if needed and onion and garlic.  Cook over medium-high heat until slightly browned.  Lower the heat and add vodka, scraping up any browned bits.  Bring mixture to a simmer and allow the vodka to reduce by half.  Add the jarred marinara and stir in, warm sauce and add crushed red pepper to taste, lower heat to medium-low.

When the pasta is done, remove directly from water to sauce mixture, stir and continue to heat over medium-low heat.  Using a sieve or strainer, submerge the frozen peas in the boiling pasta water for 5 minutes or until defrosted and slightly done (you don't want mushy peas).  Add to sauce and pasta mixture.  Stir in cream, season to taste.  Serve with pancetta sprinkled on top.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

warm buns

dear Kristin,

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” —James Beard

Nothing warms my soul (and believe me, it needs warming on these sub-zero days) than a basket of warm yeasty rolls straight from the oven. No matter how satisfying the meal, I always feel a little cheated if there are no rolls or bread offered. Oh, and as for those fancy-shmancy restaurants who offer "bread service", doling out one dinner roll at a time? They leave me feeling like Charles Dickens' "Oliver", pleading "Please sir, can I have more?". Just leave the basket, I beg you. You'll save a lot of repeat trips to my table!

You will remember these rolls; in fact, I know that you have made them yourself. I think we first discovered them at a chain steakhouse restaurant, although I can't remember which one at this point (so many have come and gone!). A little bit sweet, and nice and light, they make a wonderful dinner roll. But wait, there is more! They are also absolutely wonderful slightly warmed with butter and jam for breakfast. In fact, I can see these little gems fitting in well with breakfast, elevensies, lunch, brunch, supper, tea, dinner...... And, if that is not enough, warm some in the oven just before you leave for work in the morning and put them in your pockets - Edible Hand-warmers!!

sour cream dinner rolls (bread machine)

1/4 c. water
1/4 c. sour cream
1/4 c. butter cut into tiny pieces
1 egg
2 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 pkg. rapid rise yeast

Place ingredients in bread machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. Process on dough cycle. (In my machine this is about 1 1/2 hours). Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead dough 4 to 5 times.

Shape dough into 16 rounds and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Cover & let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled.

Bake at 375 F. for 10-12 minutes.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

healthy cake

Dear Mom,

Speaking of healthy desserts, how about some good old fashioned carrot cake?  I think this is the original healthy dessert, it features vegetables as the main ingredient!  What's more healthy than getting a good dose of beta-carotene, vitamin A and fiber?  All in cake form?  This recipe has pineapple and pecans in it too, so we will just be topping those other healthy items with some heart-healthy nut oils and immune-boosting vitamin C!  Don't forget the calcium in the cream cheese frosting.  All in all, this is a very healthy cake, so why not have two servings? 

This cake is pretty easy to put together, you could do cupcakes too if you want individual portions, just decrease the baking time to about 15-20 minutes. 

carrot cake

1-1/2 cups AP flour
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
1/3 cup chopped pecans
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 tbsp. veggie oil
2 large eggs
2 cups grated carrot
1-1/2 cups canned, crushed pineapple, drained
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large bowl whisk together flour, sugar, coconut, pecans, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Whisk together oil and eggs in a separate bowl.  Add the oil and egg mixture, carrot and pineapple into the flour mixture, stir until combined.  Pour the batter into a 13" x 9" baking pan coated with cooking spray.  Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

cream cheese frosting

2 tbsp. softened unsalted butter
1 8-oz block of cream cheese, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup sweetened, shredded coconut

With an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese, vanilla and butter until well blended.  Slowly add the powdered sugar beating constantly.  Spread onto the cooled cake.  Toast the coconut.  I use my toaster oven to do this, just spread the coconut out on a small baking sheet and put it in the toaster oven, watching it very closely as it has a tendency to burn quickly.  As parts of the coconut gets browned, stir it and re-spread it out on the baking sheet.  (You could easily follow the same procedure in a regular oven.)

Sprinkle the top of the cake with the toasted coconut.