Sunday, March 28, 2010

Thank You, Earl of Sandwich!

I honestly am so tired from work last week that I was too tired to cook anything complicated on this rainy and cold Sunday evening in New York. With the holidays this week, I am preparing to cook for both Easter and Passover. Still, I needed some comfort food tonight without the guilt. I cannot believe I am saying this, but this was one of the *best* grilled cheese sandwiches I *ever* had! I can't believe its a healthy recipe, too! I have made these zucchini chips before and they are a wonderful side dish to any hot or cold sandwich.

I sipped a lovely and local white wine: Local Flavor Chardonnay by Peconic Bay Winery out on the North Fork of Long Island, New York. It was light and crisp and paired perfectly.

Apple and Cheddar Grilled Cheese (courtesy of Weight Watchers Magazine)

2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
8 slices of thick, whole wheat bread
8 slices of 2% milk sharp cheddar cheese (I used Kraft)
1 medium Gala apple, cored and thinly sliced
Cooking spray

1) Combine mustard and mayonnaise in a small bowl. Spread evenly on bread slices. Layer each of 4 bread slices with 1 slice of cheese, 1/4 of apple slices, and 1 slice of cheese. Top with remaining bread slices. Coat both sides of sandwiches with cooking spray.
2) Heat large, nonstick skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Cook sandwiches 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown and cheese has melted.

(Yields 4 sandwiches, 7 points per sandwich)

Zucchini Chips (courtesy of Weight Watchers Magazine)

1/2 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 large zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 egg
Cooking spray

1) Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
2) Place breadcrumbs into a shallow dish. Sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over zucchini slices.
3) Dip zucchini slices into egg and dredge in bread crumbs, pressing firmly to coat. Place zucchini slices on a baking sheet coated with cooking spay.
4) Bake at 475 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown. (I served mine with some light blue cheese dressing - delicious!).

(Yields 4 servings of 7 chips at 1 point each plus extra for dipping)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Labor of Love Lasagna!

My supper club decided that next month's theme will be recipes from Cooking Light Magazine. I started thumbing through recipes already and saw a dish that I wanted to make this week since it looked so good and was easy to freeze. This lasagna was a labor of love, let me tell you! I can't believe I prepared this dish on a weeknight, but it was well worth it.

Three different pots, a casserole dish, multiple bowls, measuring cups, measuring spoons, a garlic press, two different wooden spoons, a large ladle, and a dirty spoon rest are all piled high in my kitchen sink!

I tweaked the recipe originally published by the magazine and was happy with the results! It was light, yet the creamy spinach sauce and browned cheese on top were rich in flavor and made for a guiltless piece of comfort food!

Garden-Style Lasagna (Adapted from Cooking Light)
Olive oil
Cooking spray
2 cups chopped yellow onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chopped zucchini
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
1 box of frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
1 box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 1/2 cups of 1% milk
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
dash of nutmeg
1 tub (16 ounces) of 1% whipped cottage cheese (Friendship brand is best)
2 cups reduced fat shredded Italian blend cheeses (Sargento brand is best)
16 lasagna noodles, cooked and divided

1) Heat oven to 375 degrees and coat lasagna pan using cooking spray
2) Add one tablespoon olive oil to dutch oven on medium heat and cook onions until they are translucent and light brown, 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Spoon mixture into bowl.
3) Add one tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and stir in zucchini. Saute for 8 minutes until it begins to brown; add onion mixture back into dutch oven.
4) Add a teaspoon of olive oil to pan and stir in carrots, sauteing for 8 minutes. Add thawed broccoli. Salt and pepper to taste. Saute for another minute and set aside.
5) In a medium saucepan, place flour in and slowly whisk in milk. Bring do a low boil, constantly whisking for 2 minutes. Add spinach, parmesan cheese, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Keep on low simmer so sauce stays warm.
6) Cook lasagna noodles according to directions minus 2 minutes since they will soften in the oven.
7) Assemble the lasagna: Place noodles on bottom of pan. Spread cottage cheese over the noodles. Add the spinach sauce and then the vegetable mixture. Repeat until you have noodles on top. Add the last of the spinach sauce on top and then place Italian cheese over the sauce.
8) Bake for 20 minutes
9) Place oven on low broil for 2 minutes or until the cheese on top browns nicely.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cooking with Kids!

I love cooking with my four year-old nephew! Our culinary repertoire is limited because, well, he is four, but he loves to assist in the kitchen! With my sister, his mommy, he helps out by mixing cookie dough, sprinkling cinnamon on French toast, and whisks eggs for scrambling.

He and I make homemade pizza together and he does most of the work as we sing "That's Amore" by Dino (he knows the words) and flips the pizza dough. In his chef hat and choo-choo train apron, he is quite a talent in the kitchen already. I have my agenda...I would love to see him as a famous chef one day!

Last week I gave him The Toddler Cookbook by Annabel Karmel in order to expand our recipes in the kitchen. I went out and got some new ice pop holders (if you have kids, get these because they have a straw on the bottom which takes care of drips - no mess!) so we could make Tropical Pops. They were basically pina colada pops minus the rum...they were delicious! As you can see from the photo, they were also nephew approved! We made them on Saturday when New York was having gorgeously warm spring weather, so it was the perfect treat. He was a good sous chef and helped measure out and pour ingredients! I think his favorite part was playing with the citrus juicer!

Tropical Pops (Courtesy of The Toddler Cookbook by Annabel Karmel)

1 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple in juices
1/2 cup of coconut milk
1/3 cup of superfine sugar
juice of one lime

Blend all ingredients in a blender and then pour into ice pop molds and place in freezer. Allow pops to freeze for at least six hour but preferably overnight.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Blissful Brunch in NYC

There is nothing quite like brunch in New York City on Sunday. Today was our first spell of spring weather on a weekend, so everyone was out and about. I had the most blissful brunch with my best friend, J.S., on the Lower East Side at a small and sweet spot called Little Giant. I have had amazing meals in my life with family and friends, but the best meals of my life are always with my best friend. Little Giant seemed rather apropos. Though she and I are both around 5 feet in height, we make up for stature in the depths of our friendship.
Sitting in the corner of the petite restaurant, we felt the breeze of the warm day flow into the open windows in front of us. No coffee is served here, just americano, so she had an espresso and I a cappuccino since we are both caffeine addicts. Getting that out of the way, we then looked at the brunch cocktail menu. We toasted to spring this afternoon, she with a perfectly peppery Bloody Mary and I with a perfectly peachy bellini.
Brunch was absolutely delicious and we both finished our entire plates! J.S. ordered Pig in a Poke: Crock of creamy stone ground grits topped with two poached eggs & andouille sausage. I I ordered the Biscuits and Gravy: Buttermilk-chive biscuits, two poached eggs, speck, and roasted garlic herb gravy. I enjoyed my dish immensely and the eggs were cooked perfectly. The speck was delicious and on the lighter side. The biscuits and gravy were, by far, the star of the plate. The biscuit was light and buttery and the gravy was thick with rich garlic notes. I tasted J.S.'s dish and the andouille sausage was spicy and delicious and really paired well with the creaminess of the grits. The prices are extremely reasonable and the service friendly. I would recommend brunch here anytime, and its a great place even if you are from out of town. There is al fresco dining available in the warm months as well!
After a leisurely brunch we walked into Soho and meandered in and out of shops. My heart stopped when I saw the storefront to the Miniature Stuffed Cupcakes baked by Melissa. J.S. said she had them before when they first opened and were giving away free samples. I had to try, despite being on a weight loss regiment! 3 for $3 is not exactly cheap, but popping these in your mouth is a priceless experience.
We had the mint chocolate chip, peanut butter and jelly, and the peanut butter cup!
After more walking and leisurely browsing stores (including Sur La Table), we ended up having a late afternoon refreshment in the winter garden at La Lanterna di Vittorio. Our view included a fountain situated right next to our cafe table. We sipped a lovely rose together and toasted once more to a beautiful day...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Oh Goodness, My Guinness!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

To celebrate the festivities, what could be better than eating Beef and Guinness Stew? I love Guinness and although it is a meal in and of itself, it is also a great ingredient for a meal! For those of you who are Irish, and those of you like me who are honorary Irish folk for the day, enjoy your celebration. I hope it includes lots of soda bread, Guinness, merriment, and luck!

Beef and Guinness Stew (Courtesy of The Gourmet Slow Cooker Cookbook by Lynn Alley)
3/4 cup of flour
2 1/2 pounds very lean stewing beef, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 large yellow onions, quartered
2 sprigs of thyme
2 cups of Guinness stout or other very dark, hearty beer
1 teaspoon salt

Place flour in a re-sealable plastic bag and add the beef, shaking to coat completely.

Heat a large saute pan on high heat and add the oil. In batches if necessary, add the beef and cook until brown on all sides. Using tongs, transfer to paper towel to drain.

Place the beef, carrots, potatoes, onions, and thyme in the slow cooker and pour the beer on top. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours (until the meat is very tender). Season with salt.

Enjoy stew with a pint of Guinness!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

K-Town's Cuisine!

West and East 32nd Street just past 5th Avenue in both directions in NYC is known as "K-Town" to us locals, short for Koreatown. The row is a long conglomerate of the best Korean restaurants, take-out places, boutiques, and karaoke bars! One favorite restaurant I have been to several times now is BCD Tofu House. The name is misleading because there are plenty of delectable meat options, and they even serve the deadly puffer fish in a cold soup form! The tofu here is supreme and you can order it in many different textures and tastes...the best way to enjoy it though here is in the hot soup pots. Although I have had the soup pots, tonight's dinner with a friend had me craving yet another favorite Korean dish of mine: bibimbop.
The meal starts with ponchon (complimentary appetizers) which include kimchee, pickles, and a whole deep fried crocker fish with a dipping sauce. The kimchee here is quite good and has the perfect balance of spice. My favorite korean appetizer is the pickled daikon radishes.
My friend and I both ordered the bibimbap in the hot stone with ground beef, cucumber, radishes, bean spouts, zucchini, sea aster (a plant), egg, and a delicious sweet chili paste to mix in. The best way to enjoy it is to mix all the ingredients in with chopsticks but not to scrape the bottom of the hot stone. The rice at the bottom cooks and forms an amazing crispy cake by the time you are done with the rest of the bowl.

As I walked back to Penn Station after the meal, I had to stop into Koryodang bakery. It is a well know Korean bakery that has shops in the city and Queens. The bakery is set up like any other Asian bakery, with plenty of room to sit and enjoy teas and sweets for those who have time to relax. For others who don't, big trays and tongs are there for you to pick your breads and pastries and head to the register.
I treated myself to a slice of sponge cake with apricot filling. Sponge cake is one of my favorite types of cakes, and I only get it when at an Asian bakery since I feel it is prepared best with all of the fillings like honey and fruit.

If you are in New York City, it is worth having a meal in K-town, especially at these two eateries! Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

You Say Potato

I admit I have a preference in the pecking order of potatoes.

Mashed potatoes are first, followed by latkes, with roasted potatoes and scalloped potatoes tying for third. After that I like baked potatoes and my least favorite form of Solanum tuberosum is the french fry (though I admit a good steak frites is wonderful from time to time at a bon bistro). I could easily enjoy sweet potatoes in any of the aforementioned forms, and am eyeing a scalloped sweet potato recipe with apples that I am wanting to try before the weather gets to warm and the only potatoes I am making will be chopped up into a salad.

The red potatoes at the supermarket looked inviting to me, so I grabbed a bag and came home and looked up some ideas for the scarlet spuds. I found a great recipe from Bon Appetit, tweaked it a little, and the result was probably the best roasted potatoes I have ever had. The onions tasted like candy...sweet and caramelized. The potatoes were perfectly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. This would pair well with any rich chicken or beef dish.

Once you read the recipe list, its pretty clear what ingredient made this dish shine. As my friend Lime says, onion soup mix makes everything taste better!

Roasted Onions and Potatoes (adapted from Bon Appetit)

2 pounds of red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges
2 yellow onions, cut into chunks
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons of butter, melted
1 envelope of onion soup mix
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
freshly ground black pepper to taste


-Preheat oven to 450 degrees
-Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and toss to coat onions and potatoes
- Spread out on a baking sheet
- Bake until potatoes are crisp and golden brown and , stirring occassionally, about 30-35 minutes
- Sprinkle with pepper to taste