Friday, November 29, 2013

2013 In Review: New York, NY

I was able to visit NYC 2 times in 2013 to visit my brother, here are some notes from the places I visited! This was a trip with grown ups. 

Places of Interest
Bethesda Fountain in Central Park
9/11 Memorial Open Daily, 10:00 am - 8:00 pm Cost: Free, visitor passes are required. Reservations made online or by phone carry a $2 nonrefundable service fee per pass. Passes for same-day visits are also available on a first-come, first-served basis. These passes must be obtained in person at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site at 20 Vesey St. You will have to wait in many lines and go through security similar to the airport to get into the memorial. Don't bring any weapons (knives/guns). Going once was enough for me. I think we only saw the memorial for a half hour but waited in line for about an hour.

American Girl Store: My dream come true, I have wanted to go here for years but Santa never brought me. Total chaos, lots of small children running around. But very cool to go and see the dolls and the new displays. Spent about an hour wandering around. 

American Museum of Natural History 10am - 5:45pm / Cost: Free for Military (Blue Star Families > Programs: Military and dependents free/big discounts for certain museums, shows, or events during the summer), $19-$25 for people / Central Park West at 79th St. New York, NY 10024. So many things to see, I think we spent 4-5 hours visiting and looking at the exhibits. I would like to go back a second time to see some of the exhibits again. This would be a fun place to go with kids.

Central Park: Specifically the Bow Bridge and the Bethesda Fountain. The Bethesda Fountain has been in lots of movies including Elf! Lots of places to walk around, listen to people playing music, and people watch. There is a zoo hidden in the park as well. Many hours can be spent here. Bring a ball to play with or a book to read and enjoy the outdoors!

Alice's Tea Cup - Cookies, Scones, and
Fresh Brewed Tea
The Guggenheim Fridays 10:00am - 5:45pm, cost: $22, free with some employee discounts. This is a modern art museum. I simply do not understand modern art. I wouldn't pay to go here. But I also don't care much for art... So take my opinion with a grain of salt. I think we spent an hour here.

The Metropolitan Museum (MET) Friday and Saturday: 9:30am–9:00pm Cost: Suggested $25 Admission includes entrance to The Cloisters museum and gardens 1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street), New York, NY 10028 212-535-7710 We didn't make it to the Cloisters as it was not near any of the places we were. This place was huge! So many cool exhibits. We could easily spend several more hours looking at the exhibits. 

The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) Daily, 10:30am-5:30pm, Fridays 10:00am-8:00pm; Cost: Free for Military and 4:00pm-8:00pm on Fridays (Free Friday Night) 11 West 53 Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, New York, NY 10019. This was a modern art museum. I have no need to go back and I was glad to be able to get in for free. I don't understand the art that they have, but if you enjoy modern art this is a great place for you. I think we spent an hour there.

Smorgasbord - I wasn't sure if this should go under food or place of interest. Don't eat before going! It is an outdoor food court styled flea market in Brooklyn of all sorts of different food trucks that go around the NYC area. This wasn't a place offering samples but you can order a full meal from the vendors that are around the area. 

Peter and the Starcatchers: I love theater! This was an off Broadway production of the show at the New Worlds theater that is now on tour. Show was based off the book series Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. The books are the prequel to the traditional Peter Pan stories.

Keste Pizzeria
Alice's Tea Cup - Yummy specialty teas and fresh baked scones. They also serve sandwiches. You can order tea by the Very popular tea house that now has three locations. Fun atmosphere!
Brooklyn Bagel and Coffee Company - Fresh bagels and lots of cream cheese to pick from, would go back!
Cafe 82 - Delish classy/fresh diner food, has a Gluten Free menu. Small place so it is likely there will be a wait.
Candle 79 - Vegan/Gluten Free restaurant, on the pricier side but ok. 
Five Napkin Burger - Amazing beet based veggie burgers! They also have Gluten Free menu. And they have "regular" meat items and gluten foods.
Keste Pizzeria - Fresh home-style pizza. Gluten Free menu. I'd go back!
Palm Restaurant - Absurdly expensive! You pick a cut of meat and then the table picks a few sides to share. I don't think we will be going back unless we hit the lottery.
The Smith - Went for brunch, mid range prices, fresh food, decent size portions, fun atmosphere and located in a cute historic area.
Smorgaschef - Had brunch here, it is a fancy restaurant with a small seasonal/local menu.
Zabar's - Went for breakfast food, it was good. I would try another place before going back.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Spinach and Ricotta Manicotti

We just bought a basil plant, so we have to make some fresh Italian food! Manicotti was on the list, it is a bit of a pain but makes for a special meal. I'm OK with making lasagne instead for a faster meal.

Spinach Ricotta Manicotti
Makes 10

15 oz ricotta cheese
1 bag baby spinach
1 bag Italian mix cheese
5 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Egg
Salt and Pepper
Jar of sauce
1 box of Manicotti pasta shells

Combine everything except for the sauce and the shells. I put the filling into a zip top bag and then sliced off a corner to pipe the shells.
Layer sauce in the bottom of pan. Fill each shell and place into the pan. Cover with remaining sauce and some cheese.
Bake at 350F for 30-45 minutes. Serve hot!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Presidential Traverse: Mt Madison and Madison Spring Hut

A place where adventures begin!
Yet another wilderness adventure in the beautiful NH White Mountain with Sarah! We decided to target Mt. Madison in the same Presidential Range as Mt Washington. This trip was no less exciting (or spontaneous) than the previous Mt. Washington hike.

As we are both very Type A, there was a lot of coordination to be done before this trip. We had to book the shuttle and reserve our nights in the hut, I had to book plane tickets and get time off from work. Closer to the trip we had to check for all our gear and its condition, test gear if we haven't used it before, plan our routes, get maps, and plan a menu. In case you didn't know, menu is code for peanut butter bagels, trail mix, and protein bars. Luckily, Sarah took care of most of this since I would be flying in and had limited space for gear. She brought her tent, packed all the food, snacks, maps, and other gear.

For our long weekend adventure I flew in late Friday night to Manchester Airport. Then we drove to just outside the White Mountain area where Sarah had already set up our tent. We slept for several hours and left early to the trail head by 7:30am to catch the shuttle by 8am.

On Gulfside Trail.
Yes we matched. What of it?! :)
Once we arrived at the visitor center we checked trail conditions, put on the rest of our gear, and found the shuttle. The shuttle (for a fee) drops you off at several trail heads. We started our hike at the Appalachia trail head.

While it is less than 5 miles to the summit, there is a substantial elevation gain taking you into the Alpine Zone, above the treeline. Madison Spring Hut is at an  elevation of 4,805 feet and the summit is 5,367 feet. So what does this mean? You should be able to run a couple miles to be comfortable on a hike like this at a pace that Sarah hikes :) Joking aside, I should have trained more and I would have been more comfortable on the trail.  It took us under 4 hours to get to the hut.

Madison Spring Hut is one of the lesser used huts due to the location and a more difficult trail. This means there were less crowds, an additional perk of the hut was that it was rebuilt a couple years ago and still new.

One of the few pictures below the treeline

Alpine Warning: The area ahead has the worst
weather in America. Many have died there from
exposure even in the summer. Turn back now
 if the weather is bad.

In the Alpine zone!
After some rock scrambles... we made it to the hut!

Madison Hut!

At the front door
We dropped off our packs at the hut then continued up the rocks to the Mt. Madison summit. By the time we got back to the hut it was time for dinner, sitting outside enjoying the view, and making friends with our fellow hikers!

The croo makes a hot dinner for the hikers this particular night a vegan was making us a turkey dinner! This was her first time alone at the hut and she set off the fire alarm....and no one knew how to turn it off! It was very loud if you were curious. But the turkey was great! After dinner Sarah and I hung out with the croo (all of them had these great mason jar coozies that I know Sarah is planning on making), and chatted. They had made these awesome musical instruments from items that were laying around the hut. This included a banjo/guitar made with strings and a large metal can that previously was used for tomato sauce.

View from the Hut

Our Cozy Beds with this clever tray
thing between the beds

After a solid nights sleep we had a hot breakfast and then wandered around Gulfside trail to see what we could see. We were able to check out the summit for Mt Adams and went part of the way to Mt Jefferson. There are no pictures from the top of Mt Adams either, but this excuse is that there were so many small black flying bugs that were landing on you and flying into your face that we didn't stay long. Overall, the weather was cloudy with patches of sun and bright blue sky. During one of the occasional blue patches we had a great view of Mt. Washington!

Heading to some new summits, hut is behind me

Living in the Clouds

We could see Mt. Washington!

We also found a nice perch for snacks and pondering the meaning of life while watching the clouds pass us by. When we were fidgety we left that spot and headed back towards Mt. Madison. On the way we found a pile of rocks we had to climb and so glad we did. It was just a tad off the trail so you couldn't hear the other hikers but the view was a fantastic unobstructed panoramic mountain view.

Could sit here all day and enjoy the view
After a full day of seeing the sights, we went back to the hut for a hot dinner, more friends, and then sleep.

Monday morning we woke up to pouring rain and had an epic scramble to get off the mountain, pick up the tent, and deposit me back at Logan Airport to fly back to Virginia. I felt bad for the people on the plane next to me. Although I certainly wasn't as bad as the man who took off his shoes in the hut...

The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) and the Huts 
The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) is one of the oldest outdoor groups that organizes volunteers to maintain trails, perform training, and publish books/maps/guides. The AMC owns and maintains the 8 huts (or this link) along the Presidential Traverse which coincides with the Appalachia Trail.

For a fee you have a roof, hot meals, running water (no showers or hot water), and a bed (with bedding!). Was it worth it? Yes. Because it also means that we didn't have to hike in bedding, additional meals, tent, extra water, etc. While at first the cost seems very high we saw very quickly how our money was used.

At the beginning of the season bedding and some of the gear is dropped at the huts by helicopter. But for the rest of the year all the food they serve and trash that is left behind is hiked in or out by the people who are working the huts. This means they hike up and down the mountain at least once a week. If they want to visit friends that are also working the huts? They hike to the other huts which are all several miles apart. Crazy right??
Happy hiking!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cheesy Tomato Sauce

You know when you the cooking gods are smiling and you make something really really tasty? Well this pasta sauce was created on one of those lucky cooking days. It is a simple semi-homemade sauce recipe for when you need to make dinner with limited ingredients!

Cheesy Tomato Sauce
makes 4-8 servings

1 lb ground turkey
1 onion, diced
2 big cloves of garlic, minced
1 Thai chili pepper, small mince
3 shakes of Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp dried or freshly chopped basil, oregano
1 jar of pasta sauce (I used tomato basil)/Canned no flavor tomato sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat oil in large frying pan. Saute onion, garlic, and pepper together. Once starting to soften add the meat. Season with the worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Cook meat until done. Add spices and tomato sauce and let it simmer until you are ready to eat. If you want to make it cheesy, stir in the mozzarella until it is combined and melted. Let it simmer for another 10 (ish) minutes then serve over pasta!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mom's Best Banana Bread

I forgot to take a picture, luckily my
godmother sent me a picture of her banana
bread bites! This batch was made
with cashews.
Here is an original family recipe which as been passed down for generations! Well, at least one generation. This is mom's incredible banana bread recipe. The recipe below is even formatted and worded the same as how she sent it to me!

This is a hearty, moist, and dense quick bread which means there is no waiting for dough to rise or needing to proof yeast or do anything funky.  Just mix up ingredients, pour into pans, and bake it!

I also learned that banana bread ships easily if you need to mail it anywhere.

Note #1: What does "Prepared and floured" mean? Prepared and floured pans means spray your pans of choice with non-stick spray, then add a tsp or tbsp of flour into it. Tap the pan until the flour coats the edges, corners, and bottom of the pan. This helps the removal process and you really shouldn't skip this step. 

Note #2: How many cups is 4 bananas? Honestly, I have no idea. I made it with about 2 cups of mashed up bananas which was 3 really big bananas. Be sure to mash them really well otherwise the little banana lumps will burst and create a burned mess on the edges of your muffin pan or bottom of the oven.

Note #3: Double this recipe. Seriously, it is awesome and will be eaten far too quickly.

Possible changes that I have done in the past? Add chocolate chips and swap using walnuts or cashews.

Storing the bread is easy, leave it out on the counter over night to let it cool completely before sealing it up into an air tight container. You can leave it at room temperature. I'm not sure how it will stay fresh for because I've never had it any bread left after 3 days.

Update 1/11/2015 - I subbed almond milk for regular milk. This didn't change the texture of the bread itself but it did change the crisp of the outside of the bread. Normally banana bread has that almost caramelized crunchy crust. The almond milk gave the bread a softer crust, similar to the inside of the bread. Bananas - I had frozen bananas that were going to start go bad. Peel them before freezing. To use them I let them defrost on the counter then when they were getting soft I pureed them in the food processor.For this try I used both walnuts and chocolate chips. I baked it in a 9x9 glass pan for 35 minutes. Yummy!

Banana Bread Recipe
By My Mother

yields: 3 mini loaves (40-45 minutes) OR18 mini muffins (12 minutes) and 2 mini loaves OR a large loaf (45 minutes)

1 cup sugar (or 1/2 cup white + 1/2 cup brown)
1 stick of butter, soft-room temp
2 eggs
¼ c. sour milk (1/4 c. milk + 1 tsp. vinegar) or buttermilk
2 c. flour*
¼ tsp. salt*
½ tsp. baking soda*
1 tsp. baking powder*
4 ripe bananas – well mashed, approx 2 cups
½ -1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
½ -1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F and prepared pans with oil and flour
Cream sugar and butter
Add eggs and blend well
Add sour milk
Add * ingredients on low in mixer
Add bananas and nuts
Pour batter into prepared pans 2/3 deep
Bake until when you test the cake with a toothpick it comes out clean

Friday, August 16, 2013

Crustless Broccoli and Sun-Dried Tomato Quiche

I was going to contribute to a work brunch! My original plan was to make cinnamon rolls, however I soon realized I had no flour, no vanilla, and no butter. I needed a new plan (and to go grocery shopping!). I also figured a better option would to bring something savory since I knew there would be bagels and other tasty but not as healthy options. Eggs are a great protein hearty meal!

Since I procrastinated, it was late and I didn't have time to run to the store for additional ingredients. I researched many different quiche recipes and combinations and this was the brain child!

I assembled this and cooked it before going into work. It took about 10 minutes to cook the veggies, while they were cooking I made the eggs.  It takes about 40 minutes to cook and I was able to get ready during that time! I transported this to work in a 9x13 glass baking dish lined with towels to keep it warm and so I didn't burn myself.

We ate this too fast for me to remember to take a picture. But try it! You won't regret it!

Here are some quiche tips: you make a quiche with crust, be sure you pre-cook the crust or you might have some soggy not quite cooked bits of dough at the bottom. Or you can put the crust on top which my mother does! This ensures it stays nice and crispy. Bacon is another funny issue, if you bake it in the quiche it gets soggy.

Happy eating!

Crustless Broccoli and Sun-Dried Tomato Quiche
Serves 6-8

7 eggs (used only 3-4 of the yolks)
1/4 cup Ricotta cheese
Approx 1/2 -3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4-1/2 cup milk
1 cup broccoli, chopped
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, rough chopped (seasoned w/ garlic and oregano)
Splash of water
Salt/Pepper to taste
1/4-1/2 tsp dried oregano/basil/thyme

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a pie plate.

Saute the broccoli and tomatoes in the tomato oil with salt and pepper and herbs. Add a splash of water to the frying pan if it seems to dry. Cook until broccoli is tender/firm.

Meanwhile, scramble the eggs and combine in the cheeses and milk.

Pour out the broccoli and tomatoes into pie plate. Pour eggs over the top. Put in oven at 350F for 35-40 minutes. If you cook it at 375F it will be more golden on the top.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

THE No-Rise Pizza Crust

Mozzerella and Parmesean pizza topped
with fresh oregano and basil
Photo credit of Kelcey =)
I found it! I found it! This is the go to no rise pizza crust recipe compared to my previous pizza dough attempt. The basis of this dough is found on all recipes. Combine the ingredients, top with your favorite toppings, and bake! Two exciting aspects of this recipe? Using yeast and using the dough hook on my Kitchen Aid mixer!

According to a few of the reviewers, if you proof the yeast in the water with the sugar before adding it to dry ingredients it will be a thicker chewy crust. If you combine all the dry and then add the wet ingredients the dough will be thinner and crispier.

I have made it two times (so far!).

The first time I added to the dough 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 1 heaping tsp garlic powder, and 1 tsp of dried herbs. I also used 2 cups white flour and 1 cup whole wheat. I proofed the yeast prior to mixing it into the dry ingredients but did not let the dough rise. I cooked it for 20 minutes at 350F. This was a soft and doughy pizza crust recipe.

The second time I prepared the dough following the recipe below (no herbs/garlic/cheese, and all white flour) and cooked it for 20 minutes at 420F, I liked the slightly crispy dough better when cooked at the higher temperature.

Next time I will try 450F and see how that comes out. I also would like to try this on a pizza stone/tray to see if that will help the bottom crisp up better too.

Very easy to double the recipe, make bread sticks out of, or add herbs too.

Happy eating!

Update 4/16/2014: Preheat oven to 500F with cast iron griddle. Cook pizza on the pan for 10-15 minutes. When I cook over 500 the smoke detector goes off.

Recipe Idea: Pulled Pork Pizza using the North Carolina Influenced Pulled Pork. Roll out dough. Cover dough with a thin layer of olive oil and minced garlic. Add a layer of sliced red onion, pulled pork, cheese, fresh cilantro, and a drizzle of bbq sauce.

THE No-Rise Pizza Crust
makes one medium size pizza

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast

In a small bowl combine warm water and yeast. Let this sit together for a few minutes. Meanwhile combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add oil. Add water/yeast mix. Roll out then use your toppings of choice!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Authentically Based Ma Po Tofu

Wow its good to be back! I have been caught up with so much summertime that I haven't had time to work much on sharing my tasty recipes! I also have a broken laptop screen so I'm chained to a desk and spare monitor which makes it a little less convenient for writing. But I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and here is a little taste of home!

While most people claim their recipe is authentic, this Ma Po Tofu recipe comes right from the lips of one of my aunts. She cooks as authentic as they come, in fact, she often has to make her food less spicy for my poor Americanized taste buds!

This stir fry dish can be chopped, cooked, and on the table in 30 minutes or less. Make sure you chop everything up before starting to cook!

Some differences: She uses soft tofu, I used firm since I couldn't find soft. Soft tofu has a very different texture and will fall apart easily if you don't stir gently. Personally, I like soft tofu better then extra firm. She also uses ground pork while I used ground turkey. I have no real reason for that, I just tend to use ground turkey as my meat of choice.

The measurements for the "sauce" type ingredients are estimated, I just pour into the meat and guess each time.  You may have never used sesame oil, I highly recommend it, you will never be able to stir fry again without it!

I add broccoli or green beans, but that isn't very authentic.

Happy eating!

Ma Po Tofu
serves 4

1 lb Ground turkey or pork
1 big clove Garlic, minced
1 - 2 tbsp Garlic Chili sauce
1 - 2 tbsp Soy Sauce
1 tsp Sesame oil
Combine 1/4 cup water, 1 tbsp corn starch
2 tbsp each minced Cilantro, sliced green onions

Cook the meat until almost done. Add garlic, hot sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and combine. Cook about 2 minutes.
Add broccoli, cook until just about tender.
Add tofu and carefully stir.
Add water/corn starch mix and stir until thickened.
Top with Cilantro and green onion. Serve hot and over rice.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

2013 In Review: Williamsburg, VA

Trip to Williamsburg, VA in July with 2 grown ups and 2 kids (ages 5 and 8). 

The Williamsburg Outlet are in the area as well as other shops. There are plenty of places to eat and, if camping isn't for you, there are many hotels/lodges of varying prices in the area.

Anvil Campground in a tent: this place was very close to the railroad tracks. These aren't little trains going by either, these were huge commercial trains that were 2-5 minutes long that ran several times a day including a couple times at night. But would we stay there again? Yes. For the price and location it was great. There was a pool and a playground, running water and hot showers. There was a camp office store, fire wood, and a place to do laundry if needed. Just bring ear plugs for the trains.

Places of Interest
Walk thru bird exhibit at Bush Gardens
Busch Garden - If you are in the military and have dependents you get free tickets! If not, like me, it is about $80. We were there on 4th of July so they had IllumiNights live performances and fireworks at the close of the day. During the day we we were able to go to many live performances, music shows, and animal exhibits. There was a water park the kids were able to go to and the lines for the rides were very short which was great. We spent the whole day there but staggered the performances throughout the day. Bring water bottles and you can fill them up at all the water fountains in the park. Busch Garden is open from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m..
Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg - is the nations largest living history museum and one of my favorite places. Start at the Regional Visitor Center where, with a paid ticket, you can park for free and take a shuttle to the Historic Areas. It is a short walk to the historic sights if you'd prefer to walk. The visitor center also has an orientation video and has maps/schedule of events for the day. If you don't have tickets yet you'll be there anyways. 
One day was enough for the kids but Anthony and I went back again later in the year without them. There are many different trades (weavers, dress makers, tailors, silversmith, several types of wood working professions, apothecary, gun smiths, armory, etc) houses that you will be able to find something of interest! One of the activities they have for the kids is RevQuest; See the Revolutionary City through the eyes of an undercover agent. You have clues and questions to ask the staff to find out the answers! Open Daily, 9-5; Single day tickets - adult (13+) 41.95; child (6-12) $20.95; VA Resident Pass

Historic Jamestowne - This is the site of the first permanent English settlement in America and it is an active archaeological dig site. With the 2 kids this was a solid day of activities (below). At the visitor center there are activities for the kids which we did toward the end of the day. We were there for about 5 hours. Open daily 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission: $14.00 for adults (16+); children (<16) Free (with NPS pass, $5/person); VA Resident Annual Special pass.The Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium - the story of Jane and the survival of Jamestown during the “starving time”. The museum is open from 9:30-5:30. The exhibit only took about 30 minutes to go through. It wasn't gruesome or explicit so it is ok for kids to see, but they weren't very interested and it was not a hands-on museum. 
In the Trenches Tour - $32; This was an awesome tour done by the archaeologist Dr William Kelso. You are walking through the active dig site and he describes in great detail how the dig was started, the thesis for why they picked that location and where they think they will find more artifacts. We were able to watch the archaeologists actively unearth horse remains and listen to a specialist come and speak to the workers about what they had found.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Savory Roasted Vegetables

Tis the season of summer bounty! Yay fresh veggies!! This will take about an hour to prepare and cook. The most time consuming part of this recipe is chopping up all of the vegetables.

Roasting veggies can be done in big batches with little effort and can be stored for a week. They can be served hot or cold, as a side dish or part of the main meal. I have served the veggies over rice or in a homemade tortilla flat bread. But also in a sandwich with hummus, on a pizza or in a quesadilla!

You can use whatever veggies looked good at the market, were on sale, or you had extra laying around! I used oregano because I like that herb, but you could also use parsley, thyme, basil, etc.  Also, the amount of oil will change based upon how many veggies you are cooking and need to cover.

PS Someday I will invest in a better camera beside my phone and I will work on my presentation skills! I swear this was tasty and I will be making it again!

Roasted Veggies
Serves 3 (as a main dish)
1 zucchini, circle slices
1 med eggplant, sliced into sticks, salted and let sit in a strainer for 30 minutes, rinsed
~1/2 cup Carrots, sliced into sticks
1/2 red pepper, sliced
1/2 orange pepper, sliced
~1 cups chopped broccoli, large chopped
1/4 lg onion, large dice or sliced

1/4-1/2 cup Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
1/4 tsp Oregano (optional)
1/4 tsp Red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine olive oil, salt & pepper to taste, oregano, red pepper flakes (optional).

Toss veggies in olive oil. Spread onto a cookie sheet in one layer.  Use more than one sheet if necessary. Roast in oven at 425F for 20-35 minutes. They should start to get a little crispy but not burning.

If you want the veggies to be softer and are at the amount of "crisp" that you want, continue to cook at 350F.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tangy Asian Meatballs (Baked not Fried)

This is a great no stove top recipe. I was looking for slow cooker recipes, however many recipes need less then 6 hours, but more then 4 which is not ideal for a work day. So I took the meatball recipe from  here and baked it instead of 3-5 hours on low in the slow cooker.

After combining all the ingredients I thought the meat mixture was a little wet (i.e. not like cookie dough)... so I called my Dad! He said that meatballs are supposed to look like that and it would be fine once they are cooked. He was right! So if your meatballs don't quite look right, they might cook up just fine! He also recommends lining the baking dish with tin foil. This makes for a fast clean up and prevents all the sauces from baking into the dish and never coming off the pan.

I made a few changes, I used ground turkey instead of ground pork and I omitted the plum sauce since I didn't have any in the house. I was worried the ground turkey would be dry, but I didn't miss using pork (or a mix of meats) at all! These were very moist and flavorful.

If you use fresh ginger, you can peel the rest of the piece of ginger and freeze it in a zip lock bag. When you are ready to use it you can grate what you need and then store it back in the freezer.

Panko breadcrumbs are bigger flakes of breadcrumbs. You can use whatever plain breadcrumbs you have on hand.

I would make these again and freeze a few to see how they and I can pre-make them.  

PS It is easy to grow fresh scallions too. When you buy scallions from the grocery store, cut them down to just above the white part with the roots. Plunk it in about a half inch to an inch of water and keep place it in a semi sunny to sunny location. They should start growing in days!

Lil meatballs waiting to be cooked

Tangy Asian Meatballs (Baked not Fried)
Makes approx 18 golf ball sized meatballs
1 pound ground turkey
1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
3 scallions, white and light-green parts, chopped
1 large egg
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 9x13 glass baking dish with tin foil.

Combine turkey, breadcrumbs, scallions, egg, soy sauce, ginger and garlic in a large bowl; mix until just combined – don’t over mix! The meat will look wet and not meatball like yet. Scoop into 1-inch balls and place onto the lined baking dish.

In a small bowl, whisk together barbecue sauce and hoisin sauce; put a spoonful over each meatball using up all the sauce.

Bake for 20-35 minutes, depending on the size of the meatball. They are done when the inside is no longer pink!

Served with rice and some roasted garlic carrots.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Cilantro and Garlic Lemon Pasta

You may have seen my previous post for Garlic Lemon Egg Pasta, and since then I have made this several times. We are trying to use up a big bundle of fresh cilantro - so you will see lots of cilantro in the next few posts! 

The cilantro adds a nice flavor and lightens up this pasta dish

Happy eating!

Cilantro and Garlic Lemon Pasta

makes 2-3 servings

1/2 box of pasta noodles
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 cup white or red onion
5 cloves of garlic, smashed in the press
a few dashes of Salt and Pepper
1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
Lemon (1/3 cup lemon juice)
1/2 to 3/4 cup Cilantr, chopped
3 eggs (3 egg whites, 2 yolks), "beaten in preparation for scrambling" 
1/2 bag of baby Spinach

Cook pasta according to directions. Once the pasta is cooked, drain but reserve about a cup or two of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a pan on medium. Add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Once onion is translucent lower pan to med low and add in eggs, cilantro, and lemon juice. Stir and let the eggs get to a soft scramble stage. Feel free to add in a small bit of butter at this point too. This should get wet puffy egg mixture. Add in spinach and wilt for a minute, it will continue to cook down once you add the pasta. Combine with pasta and add in a little pasta water to thin out the sauce.
Combine with pasta and add the pasta water a little at a time until the sauce is the consistency you want.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Yellow Cupcakes and a Classic Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting

The last two cupcakes...
Birthday Party! I made some yellow cupcakes and a chocolate butter cream frosting.

The cupcakes were dense, similar to a pound cake. I would use that for a short cake type of cupcake, but not for a frosted type cake... Because these cupcakes were so dense they did not rise a lot, so fill them 3/4 of the way.

However, since I made coffee cake with the sour cream, I think that I mixed the sour cream in too soon/over mixed the batter. The coffee cake was very light and fluffy, so I feel that the cupcakes should have been as well. Anyone want to be a taster for me for my next batch?

The chocolate butter cream was delish! However make sure the butter is softened and been at room temperature for at least an hour. Otherwise the butter pieces will stay chunky and the frosting won't be as smooth.

Perfect Yellow Cupcakes
(adapted from Can You Stay for Dinner )
makes 12 regular size cupcakes or 24 mini + 3 regular

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup sour cream
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12 cup standard sized cupcake tin with paper liners.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a standing electric mixer. Add butter, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix until smooth and no clumps of flour are visible.

Evenly divide the batter among the cups in your prepared pan. Bake until cupcake tops are pale gold and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the pan carefully and let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting
Adapted from
Makes 3 cups
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or ½ pound), softened (but not melted!) 
3 - 3 1/2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon almond extract
4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
Cream butter for a few minutes in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Turn off the mixer.

In separate bowl combine powdered sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl. Turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the dry ingredients do not blow everywhere) until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the butter.

Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes.

Note: If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add a little more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional milk 1 tablespoon at a time.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chicken Piccata

Are you ready for some restaurant style chicken piccata? In less than 30 minutes couldn't believe that I made!  I read a bunch of recipes to determine how I would go about creating this dish.  I looked at Giada de Laurentiis's recipe and this blog.  

This tasted just like from the restaurant and was very straightforward to make.  This will be added to the regular meal rotations, as these are regularly stocked ingredients.

I tried to butterfly the chicken breast, but it wouldn't cut evenly. We had several smaller pieces that I tried to make flatter, but I didn't really understand what I was doing... Next time I will be patient and cut the chicken right. The flour parmesean breading was tasty and was nicely golden once I added in more oil. Before I added more oil the chicken was cooking but not getting any color or looking very moist.

I wanted to have some sort of green vegetable in the dish so I tossed in some arugula leaves at the very end so it would wilt.  This part took maybe 2-3 minutes as leafy greens can overcook very quickly.

I was reviewing recipes and they recommend using either a white wine sauce or chicken broth for making the lemon sauce.  Originally, I was going to use the chicken stock, but at the last minute, I went for the white wine sauce.  It was a great choice!

orig from 5/30/2013
updated 4/3/2015

Chicken Piccata
Serves 2

~2 cups dried pasta
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup flour
Fresh cracked pepper
4 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth
3 Tbsp lemon juice (or a w hole lemon if you want)
1/4 cup brined capers


Start to boil the water for the pasta. Cook pasta according to directions.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat.
Cut the chicken breast halves horizontally. Pound flat or butterfly them to about 1/4-inch thickness. 
Mix together the flour, pepper, and grated Parmesan. 
Dredge chicken pieces in the flour mixture, until well coated.
Add the chicken pieces, brown well on each side, about 3 - 5 minutes per side, depending on thickness. Remove the chicken from the pan and reserve to a plate. 

Add the white wine, lemon juice, and capers to the frying pan used for the chicken. 
Reduce the sauce, generally I let it cook until the pasta is done.
Melt in the butter, wilt arugula/spinach. 
Add the drained pasta to the sauce. Plate the pasta and add chicken on the top!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Spicy Cashew Stir Fry (Chicken, Tofu, or Tempeh)

Basic stir fry and not as spicy as I had hoped. Stir fry is a great way to use up lots of left over ingredients and will also cook really fast.

Next time I would include extra spice such as a Thai chili pepper. I also marinated tempeh in soy sauce while I was chopping the veggies. I put the Tempeh in the frying pan with the last 5-10 minutes to heat up and cook through. Firm tofu would have also been a good substitute as well.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Homemade Ice Cream!

Summery ice cream recipes to try! We have a Cuisinart Ice Cream maker which will make ice cream in about 20 minutes.

We have tried different types of milk (coconut, almond, etc), but you really can't compare to the creaminess that heavy cream will bring to the ice cream. The other types of milk will create an icy ice cream.

You can use either heavy cream or whipping cream. Whipping cream is a bit lighter and creates a fluffier texture. You can also use less cream when using whipping cream.

2 cups of milk + heavy cream yields 2 pretty large sized servings for 2 adults. The ice cream is also richer than you would get at most ice cream places.

Combine ingredients then put into the ice cream maker for 20 minutes or until thickened to the right consistency.
Espresso Ice Cream
2 shots espresso
1 cup 1% milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 sugar (Stevia)

- Combine all ingredients and chill for about an hour

Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup 1% milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
A smidge under 1/4 cup sugar (Stevia)
1/4 - 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)
1 - 2 graham crackers (broken up, optional)

- This one reminds me of a Peanut Butter Ice Cream Pie!

Graham Central Station (adapted from Bruster's Ice Cream)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup 1% milk
1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar (Stevia)
1/4 light brown sugar
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (pulse in food processor)
1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks / chocolate chips

Strawberry Ice Cream
1 cup 1% milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups Strawberries, pureed/chopped small
1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar (Stevia)