Monday, August 31, 2009

Friends + Food = Good Times

This weekend, my friend from high school, Kim, came over for dinner. Now, as you all know, I've been thinking about making bruschetta ever since I saw Julie and Julia. In the movie, Julie, the blogger, sauteed the baguette in a pan FULL of butter, and I could smell the deliciousness through the movie screen!

I tried to recreate that moment in person but unfortunately, it didn't turn out so lovely. First of all, I didn't put nearly enough butter in the pan. I also think that the heat was too low the first time so I cranked it up for the other side and the butter ended up burning a bit, making the other side a bit gray-ish.

It tasted great, though, as butter and bread usually does, so it turned out to be okay. I was sad to learn though that authentic bruschetta doesn't contain onions so the recipe just consisted of two large diced tomatoes, 2 Tablespoons basil, salt, and pepper.


Kim was a good sport and ate even the gray bread. :)

I then made baked zucchini fries using zucchini I bought at the Farmers Markets the other day. The recipe is from Health.com including a few adjustments.

Ingredients:
2 large zucchinis cut into 3 inch sticks
1 egg (you can use egg whites)
1/4 cup skim milk
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs


Directions:


Preheat oven to 425°.

Whisk egg in a shallow bowl and add milk.

Combine Parmesan and seasoned breadcrumbs in a separate bowl.

Dip zucchini sticks into egg mixture, and then roll in breadcrumb mixture.


Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray, and place zucchini on sheet. Bake for 25–30 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 32 fries.



Kim had read my post on my new love of beets so she brought over a fresh beet salad! This is a dish that her mother and/or grandmother used to make and it's a traditional Lithuanian/Polish recipe. (Kim had no idea).



But regardless, it was delicious! Fresh roasted beats, sauteed onions, fresh parsley, and this:

Possibly picked cabbage??? Again, Kim had no idea.

But boy did they taste great with our zucchini fries!


Of course I dipped my fries in ketchup!

Kim even did the dishes despite bringing a dish, wine, AND dessert!


God, I love this woman.



Dessert was homemade by one of Kim's amazing friends, Uriel. This pie had a homemade crust, a layer of caramel, and then chocolate on top. YUMMMMMMM!!!!

Kim also left me the rest of the beet salad and she suggested eating it with a "dressing" made of milk, olive oil, and goat cheese. My milk is now a little suspect so I'll be eating it with goat cheese for lunch tomorrow. I can't wait!

After discussing recipes, though, Kim and I had a huge discussion about the difference between baking and roasting. We wikipedia-ed and read a bunch of cookbooks and couldn't come up with a succinct, clear difference. Thoughts?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Peanut Butter Balls

The other day, Tina from Carrots 'N Cake made no-bake peanut butter cookies so I had to try them out! Of course, I made a few adjustments to make it my own (which usually means adding chocolate, among other tiny changes) and it came out delicious!


Ingredients:


1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 Tablespoon agave nectar
1 Tablespoon shredded coconut
1 Tablespoon chocolate chips


Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.


At this point, I realized something was really wrong and didn't look quite right...


Oh, that's right! I should add chocolate!!!


Because of this adjustment, I remembered to put in a little less agave nectar than Tina.

Roll into bite-sized balls...


(I think we all know which one I ate first...)

And pop it in the fridge!


These are a great semi-healthy snack with no preservatives. I recommend keeping them in the refrigerator at all times and maybe even the freezer for a frozen treat! Unfortunately, they were gone too quickly before I thought of the freezer part.

I think that they would be a great pre-workout snack because of the oats and peanut butter. In fact, most of the things I make lately have included those two ingredients...

I have to say, I love making things with ingredients I already have in the fridge or pantry. So satisfying!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dinner on the Cheap

I get paid once a month so you can imagine by the end of the month, my finances are looking grim. It's nice to see a bit lump of money in the bank when that check deposits but inevitably, I'm seeing two digits by the end of the month :)

This was another meal that was thrown together with ingredients I had on hand. I met my friend Christina the other day and she was saying that because she doesn't eat "sides" all of her food groups need to be in one dish. This was one of those!


Ingredients:

The rest of my mom's marinarasauce (about 3/4 of the jar was left)
2 zuchinnis
1 eggplant
1 can of pinto beans
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Campanelle pasta
1 Tablespoon of cumin (very key!)
1/2 Tablespoon crushed red pepper




As you can see, there is a red pepper in the above picture but I didn't actually end up using it because once I threw everything in the pan, I realized there was just too much in there. But I did roast it before I aborted mission.

All you do is cut in half and take out all of the seeds.

Put over the burner (medium heat) for about 4 minutes on each side, depending on how charred you want it.


It gets soft and the sweetness of the pepper comes out. Yum! I ended up putting the pasta sauce over these roasted peppers and eating it with a knife and fork the next day.

I found this box in my pantry:


Goodness knows how longs it's been there but because the pasta was so hearty with lots of big ol' chunks of veggies, it was the perfect size for this dish.

I read in one of my magazines that male eggplants tend to have fewer seeds, and are therefore less bitter than female eggplants. To figure out whether it's male or female, look at the indentation at bottom. If it's deep and shaped like a dash, it's a female. If it's shallow and round, it's a male. Wasn't quite sure what this was (I was definitely hoping for a male)

And...



It was! Less seeds! Yay!!!


Directions:

Chop up zucchini and eggplant into bite-sized pieces. Saute zucchini first since they're a bit firmer and then add in eggplant.

Add pasta sauce and beans and season with cumin and red pepper.

When I first threw everything in the pan, I was worried that it wasn't really pasta-y since there seemed to be disproportionate amount of veggies and sauce...


But once I left it simmering about about 25 minutes, the juices from the eggplant and zucchini came out and made it perfect!


Voila!



Easy and simple as usual!!!


Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Okra....nice to see you, again

I used to eat raw okra quite often as a little kid. My mom would cut them in half and put it in a little bowl served with just soy sauce. I never really liked it because it was slimy, the seeds would get stuck in my teeth, and I was also never really fond of soy sauce, to be honest. And because of it's shape, I would always get it stuck in my throat. As I got older, I was able to tolerate it and recently learned to like it even more.

Some of the food blogs I've been reading have sampled different ways of eating (raw, roasted, fried with cornmeal...etc.) so I thought I would give it a try. My favorite blogger, Kath, roasted it and dipped it in ketchup, so I did a little variation of that. I love this girl because she dips a lot of things in ketchup (ie-kale) as do I.

I ended up sprinkling them with kosher salt and garlic powder and toasting them in my toaster oven for a total of 10 minutes. They were still raw enough that I felt like I was getting the nutrients but also firm from the toasting.


And of course, I dipped it in lots o' ketchup!


The open-faced sandwich I ate it with was just whole wheat bread from my mom, a wedge of laughing cow cheese, the last of my pesto (booo) and half of Nicole's avocado!

It was a no-fuss dinner with all of the food groups! I LOVE when that happens!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Salmon Cakes...yum

I usually make at least one big meal on Sundays so that I have lunches for the rest of the week and don't have to worry about packing it in the morning. I am NOT a morning person, as you may know, so anything I can do to save a little time is always a good thing. This week, I made salmon cakes, which are one of my favorite dishes but something I haven't made since I moved to Queens.

I love these not only because they're delicious but also because it's a great way to eat salmon and get all the nutrients without breaking the bank. Why? Because I use this:


For less than two dollars, you just can't go wrong!

Ingredients:
One can of salmon (drained)
Two scallions - chopped
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
3 Tablespoons olive oil

I used Italian bread crumbs because that's all I had but you can certainly use plain ones. Just make sure to season it with a little salt and pepper and if you're feeling adventurous, maybe some cumin or curry!


Directions:

Put salmon in bowl and take out as much of the bones and skin as you can. Now, you totally don't have to do this. The bones and skin are edible (and I have eaten them before) but it makes it a little more challenging to shape the patties when you have bones sticking out and the skin being a bit slippery.

When the salmon comes out of the can, it's usually still in tact (fillet style) so it's pretty easy to take out the bones in one fell swoop.






Add chopped up scallions and bread crumbs to the salmon and mush it with a fork until well incorporated.

Form into 4 patties.

The first few times I made these, I lightly patted them into patties and they fell apart in the pan. The trick is to really squeeze and form the patties so some of the moisture comes out. This way, they'll keep their shape even in the pan. Don't worry if they don't look pretty - it takes practice but I promise, either way, they'll still taste delicious!


Add olive oil to the pan and put on medium high heat. Once the oil heats up, add all four patties. Cook about 3-4 minutes on each side until they get a nice color on them. The salmon is already cooked so you don't have to worry about getting sick from eating raw salmon or anything. The cooking is really to hold it's shape and give it a good color and crisp.


I like things to be cooked really well because I love the crunch. I love brownie corners, burnt chicken...etc. So yours doesn't have to be as dark as mine if you don't like things that crispy. However, the inside was still lovely and soft.




I eat mine with brown rice and greens without any extra seasoning but you can eat them however you'd like. If you put a little curry into the salmon, you can season it with soy sauce or if you put Italian breadcrumbs in it, you can add some mayo and eat it like a crabcake! Or like a burger...

No matter how you eat it, it'll taste yummy, I'm sure.

Bon appetit!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Big Day, Big Breakfast

This weekend was my be-majorly-productive-weekend so I was super busy Saturday and Sunday. I spent Saturday afternoon and night working on things in my apartment (and life) that have been majorly neglected in the last.....month or so. I cleaned, filed papers, caught up on my New York Times (provided by the best brother in the world), cleaned out my closet, re-assessed finances for the year...etc. You may think it's a bummer of a Saturday night, but for this OCD girl, it was heaven on earth!

Sunday was designated for errands outside the apartment. I planned on going to church, buying materials for Sonoko's wedding album, and going to the library to do a practice GRE test. I knew I would be busy busy from 10:00am to at least 3:00pm so I wanted to have a hearty breakfast since I wasn't sure when I would be able to eat.

For the first time ever, I made homemade oatmeal! Beth had tried making this a while ago and told me that she did NOT enjoy it, so I was prepared to be a bit disappointed/disgusted.


I started out with 1/3 cup of rolled oats, 1/3 cup plain soymilk, 1/3 cup of water, and 1 Tbsp of ground flax. I mixed it in a saucepan until all of the liquid was absorbed.

Then, I added my toppings. I knew the oatmeal itself wouldn't taste like anything, so the toppings were key. I added 1/4 cup blueberries, 1 teaspoon of shredded coconut, 1/4 of one of the peanut butter brownie from the movies, and 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter.

WHOA.

Here's a macro shot of the oatmeal, which you can't see under all of my toppings:


Oh my gosh, it was yummy! Thanks to the add-ins, of course. The peanut butter melted in my spoon which made it easy to distribute. Every bite was delicious! It was basically like eating dessert but better because while you get all of the sweetness and sampling of lovely flavors, most of it was oatmeal, so it's healthy!

It's a shame that it was a rather hot morning because I didn't fully enjoy the experience but it was still a lovely breakfast. It also kept me full for about 4 and a half hours, which I think is AMAZING! Even more amazing is that I had all of the ingredients in my pantry so it was easy to throw together and quite economical.

I will say, though, that the oatmeal takes on a bit of a gummy texture but with the toppings, you could hardly taste it iwith all of the good stuff on top. I would even eat it with a runny egg and sausage mixed in... Ooooo...or maybe even cheese! Because of its blandness, you can add anything to it - be is sweet or savory.

The only down side was that it took about 12 minutes for all of the liquid to absorb so you're going to have to wake up a little early if you want to enjoy it. I know what my go-to breakfast will be for big days. My hope is that in the winter I'll be able to enjoy it more because (fingers crossed!) I'll have more time in the morning since I'll be living closer to work.

Give it a try!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Julie and Julia

On Friday night, I finally went to go see Julie and Julia! It's taken me and Eli this long to coordinate our schedules for a free night but I refused to see it without her. :)

Eli had made a delicious salad to-go for our movie date. We bought olive bread at Food Emporium (which is ridiculously overpriced) and sat down to a lovely meal. The salad was DELICIOUS!!! It had green beans, beats, and grape tomatoes - all from the farmer's market, I believe. With it, we had creamy goat cheese and a spritz of lime juice. Yum!!! Eli - you must send me the recipe!


Emily tried to introduce me to beets but the couple times I tried it, it was kinda mushy and sweet, which freaked me out. Eli's beets were firmer and while it was still sweet, not overpoweringly sweet. The lime juice also off-set the sweetness so it was just the perfect combination!

Of course, we can't forget dessert! We saved these for the movies since we figured it would make us hungry.


The movie was super cute and Meryl Streep was PHENOMENAL! First of all, I would like to say, that I was immensely happy to see that the first meal Julie made in the movie was a chocolate cream pie. Hers had a homemade crust though, which lead to a conversation between me and Eli about how I should just try once to make a homemade crust for that pie. I usually don't because chocolate cream pie, as you know, is really quick and easy to make, so it's usually the dessert I make when there's a time-crunch. I just grab all the ingredients in the supermarket and after about 15 minutes, I pop it into the fridge and it's ready to go in the morning. I do make a homemade crust for my key lime pie, though, since it requires baking so I've already carved out ample time to make a crust from scratch. Anyway, I digress...

Back to the movie...


I kept forgetting that Meryl Streep actually WASN'T Julia Child. I was more interested in her story than Julie, the blogger, since I didn't know anything about her life. She had a lovely, supportive husband who worked for the US Government and as a result, they traveled the world together. I actually always thought she was French but this movie helped explain why I thought so. I wish they included how she got her tv show but that's just too much of a time span to fit into a movie, I suppose.

I found Julie a little annoying, actually, and couldn't wait until Meryl was back on the screen. Her story didn't really go anywhere because there just isn't much to it. She has no direction in life so she starts a cooking blog, and then she "finds herself." That's really about it. Her story line also goes into her marriage but it wasn't compelling enough for me to be that interested in it.

The movie made me really crave bruschetta on crusty bread sauteed in butter though, and I have been thinking about it ever since. Perhaps I will make it this week! I've never seen a baguette sauteed in a pan before but now I have to try it!

All-in-all I definitely recommend it. It's HILARIOUS and quite touching.

Afterwards, Eli and I walked to Columbus Circle and chatted for about an hour and a half. We of course took pictures to document it. :)

The setting for the first picture was not quite right but it turned out to be kind cool.



Eli also told me that for my birthday, she bought us a class on Wine Tasting 101. I'm sooooooo excited! I am so spoiled by her but as she says, "if you're good to mama, mama's good to you." (Sugar mama, that is)

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fallen Off the (Budgeting) Wagon

This morning, I thought I would give Amazing Grass another chance (remember my gray smoothie?). Tina from Carrots 'n Cake, another one of my favorite blogs, suggested mixing it with iced coffee and soy milk instead of heavy smoothies. Genius! She emailed me suggesting that I make it 3/4 coffee and 1/4 soy milk so that I could replicate her drink! I think the key thing was to mix it with something with an already strong taste (coffee) and using the chocolate wheat grass.


Soooooooo much better than my gray smoothie! It was much smoother (ironic, huh?!) and tasted delicious!


Now, as predicted, as I am no longer doing my spending fast and am not hardcore budgeting like I did last month, I've been slipping with the spending. Today, my ex-coworker, Emily, came to the Columbia area for lunch so I just had to splurge. I had originally planned on taking her to Max SoHa but she actually went yesterday. What are the chances?!

So I decided to take Emily to Campo - a recent discovery. My current co-worker actually introduced me to this wonderful restaurant. She kept claiming how great it was but I was a tried-and-true Deluxe fan. I finally gave in a few weeks ago and while I was a little on the fence at first, this week totally changed my mind!

Katy and I actually went to Campo two days ago because I just wasn't feeling the lunch I had brought. I had a Cobb salad that had so many great ingredients in it!


Love that there was hearts of palm in it!


I was at least 7 bites in before I remembered to take a picture but you get the idea.

Today, though, I ordered a salmon sandwich with basil pesto and olive tapenade. Oh.My.Gosh! HEAVENLY!!!!!



Again, I was a little over-zealous so I had two huge bites before I remembered to snap a pic. There was surprisingly a good amount of salmon in the sandwich (at LEAST 1/4 lbs) and it also had sauteed spinach with raw red onion in it to give it extra flavor. The bread was also delicious and everything together was superb. I think this is one of the best sandwiches I've had in my life! Yummers!

And the fries! They were parmesan fries with truffle oil. SOOOOOOOO good! Possibly the best fries I've ever had.

It was obviously humongous so I saved half of it for dinner tonight and it was actually even better a few hours later because the salmon and bread really absorbed the tapenade and the flavors were even more enhanced. I MUST replicate this sandwich on my own. I think I'll probably dream about it tonight, in fact....

This really pains me to say, but I think that I like Campo better than Deluxe. I know, I know, who am I?! I mean, Deluxe will always have a place in my heart since I went there almost every week with my friends during my senior year of college, but Campo really impressed me!

I would link Campo but unfortunately their website seems to not be working. But it's on the Upper West Side at 113th and Broadway, so if you're in the area, definitely check it out!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lazy Dinner

My friend Erica came over to hang out tonight and unfortunately, it was just one of those days where I didn't have the energy to be really creative. I was also too lazy to make a list and go food shopping so I just made do with what I already had in the fridge/pantry.

And by pantry, I mean my cupboard. Hey, what do you expect from city living?!

Tonight's dinner was Annie's Mac and Cheese, made with skim milk, and into it, I added a can of tuna, a tablespoon of ketchup, and a sprinkling of pepper. I got this recipe from a cookbook my sister gave me in college called Munchies which is a cook book of really easy recipes for people who do not cook. This was back when I refused to cook and was extremely terrible at it. Macaroni and cheese was all my culinary skills could handle.

In any case, the original recipe calls for a teaspoon or two of hot sauce but I didn't have any so I left it out. I will say, though, the hot sauce really adds a lot of dimension to this dish. I had some broccoli I made the other night so I added that for some nutrition. All in all, hands-on cooking time was about...oh...three minutes?



I really love Annie's Mac and Cheese because not only is it organic and natural but the cheesy sauce isn't too heavy but still delicious. Also because I got these on sale at Whole Foods a couple months ago and it was 3 for $5. I kid you not!

Today was also refined sugar day so Katy, my co-worker, and I went to God Box for some sugary sweetness. God Box is actually the cafeteria at The Inter Church Center right across the street from where I work. It's great because it's pretty cheap and who doesn't love cafeterias?! I mean, you have everything right there in front of you. The choices! Oh my! They call it the God Box because it's where many different religious organizations have their offices and they give your lunch (or breakfast!) in a little box. It's great! One of the best kept secrets of the Upper West Side. Well...not anymore, I guess.

After staring at all of my choices for a while, I picked a carrot cake.


This was NOT good.

Not very tasty and certainly not good for me. It had a terrible chemical taste and while it wasn't too sweet, it tasted really artificial. Of course, I finished it, don't get me wrong, but I didn't feel good about it and it definitely did not make my tummy feel good AT ALL. I think that next week we're going to have to go back to Nussbaum or find another place to get our refined sugar. At least it was cheap, though!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tofu Parm Redux

I have to tell you - I spent ALL DAY thinking about how good my dinner was last night! Perhaps this is why I was so unproductive at work...

The only downside to my dinner last night was that I got hungry after just two hours. While I definitely felt full immediately after consumption, it obviously didn't last very long. I wanted to have the same flavors as last night I knew that I would need something more substantial, especially after a visit to the gym. Solution?

Add two eggs!

The extra ingredients will not only keep me full longer but it'll give me protein to repair my muscles after a hard workout.

I also added some garlic stems that my mom had given me on Sunday. She had made a stir-fry with them plus turkey that was really tasty. Once home, I told her that I was going to eat the green beans for dinner and she told me that what I had eaten was actually garlic stems. Goes to show how sophisticated my palate it. Ah well!

Here they are:



You can see how I was slightly confused. I'm not really sure what kind of nutrition it has but if it's part of a garlic, it has to be good. It isn't as strong as the bulb but you still taste the garlic flavor. It's also a bit tough but maybe that's because I keep thinking they're green beans...

Anyway, I added about a 1/4 cup of fresh mozzarella, 1/3 cup diced tofu, and 1/3 cup of garlic stems.



I definitely put too much filling in it and it overflowed! Top it with marinara sauce and some pesto and you've got a tofu parm omelet!



This tasted pretty good but not as good as my Tofu Parmesan from last night. I think there may have been too many flavors going on. Or maybe because yesterday's parm was much more ascetically pleasing...

I'm sure my Japanese ancestors would be horrified at the way I'm eating my tofu.

But if you're new to tofu, I would definitely suggest pairing it with stronger flavors to ease into it.