26 September 2011

Go Bento - my new lunch delivery service!

Not Pictured: Aduki Beans and Melon
I'm in the middle of piloting a bento lunch delivery service called Go Bento that features healthy, local, vegetarian meals delivered to the desks of hungry office workers all over the city and Brooklyn. This will be week 2. So far, so good!

Here's the menu for this week:
Sauteed Local Eggplant and Broccoli with Sesame, Tamari, and Sambal

Aduki Beans simmered with Ginger

Carrot and Zucchini Salad with Toasted Sunflower Seeds and Cilantro

Brown Rice with Hijiki

Local Melon

This bento is vegan and gluten-free and uses organic and local ingredients.

Order by Tuesday at Noon for Wednesday Lunch Delivery! http://tinyurl.com/bentopilot

15 September 2011

hold on to your muesli!

Though I'm sure many of us are trying to hold on to what's left of summer (I'm personally holding on for dear life), it's hard not to start thinking about the autumn and winter ahead. So for those of you who still have the museli recipe I posted back in March bookmarked but haven't made it yet, I wanted to give you a little nudge and show you how yummy it looks once it's all cooked up.

And even if you aren't into hot cereals, or it's not going to be cool where you are for a good while (hello, Texas!), you can make the no-cook version anytime by mixing the muesli up with almond milk (or other milk of your choosing) or yogurt.

Do yourself a favor and make a big batch of this-- it lasts for months and come that first really cold morning, you'll be glad you have it around.

07 September 2011

the chocolate factory: a tour of mast bros.

One of the perks of my recent stint as a restaurant chef was being neighbors with Mast Brothers Chocolate. Located in the same building, we shared a common hallway where all of our respective staffs would tread to and from offices, kitchens, and tempering rooms. After working in a world where I was primarily working alone, or my main camaraderie came in the fom of  few minutes of chatting with nannies and housekeepers, it was fun to get to know the faces, names, and good vibes behind a local artisan chocolate company I have supported (even if only in spirit) since it was just the two brothers producing luscious bean-to-bar chocolate out of their apartment.  (And meeting the two brothers was akin to meeting celebrities for me, though be proud, I totally kept my cool).

We set up a tour of the chocolate factory for the kitchen staff and any front of house staff who wanted in. So a few of us got to take a peek behind closed doors at Mast Bros. and see where all the magic happens. We saw how the process works from roasting, winnowing, grinding, tempering, and molding-- ending of course in a tasting of several of their beautifully paper-wrapped luscious, not-too-sweet, organic dark chocolate bars. My favorites are the Venezuela Grand Cru 74% (made from a very special cacao bean!), Serrano Pepper (a great heat without being overpowering), and Pecan & Maple (a good mix of my Texas upbringing and Northeastern living).

Even though I am admittedly not a huge chocolate person (gasp!), I always love seeing how things are produced, and I was thrilled to get a view of their relatively small operations before they expand into a huge space a few doors down in the coming months. And let me tell you, these guys are having a blast while they're making this chocolate-- whooping sounds of joy and loud fun music could be heard in the hall almost every day, they have parties in the shop at least once a month, and they have friendly chocolate-related competitions among the staff every month or so. That's my kind of place. And hey, chocolate or otherwise, food always tastes better if you know who grew it, made it, and cared about it from start to finish.

31 August 2011

probars follow up

They sent me these as a thank you for the shout out.

This was fun because I got to try a bunch of new flavors-- but my favorites are still Art's Original, and Superfood Slam, I also now add Whole Berry Blast to that list. Apple Cinnamon Crunch and Cran Lemon Twister are pretty good too.

I love those ProBar people.

25 August 2011

shrink wrapped vegetables

This is a common practice at delis and bodgeas across New York. I see it all the time and I try to laugh while I reason out the logic. I just do not understand*.

In the end I do laugh about it, even though it breaks my heart a little.

*No, I "get it"-- it's "sanitary" and maybe someone feels this keeps these items "fresh", but I don't understand why this is a common practice. It's just so wrong.

23 August 2011

today's lunch bento

Local romaine and purslane salad with dill, black beans, sungold cherry tomatoes, kirby cucumber, toasted pecans, hemp seeds, and Andrew's bee pollen.

22 August 2011

bike riding!

I've tried a lot of new things this year-- many of which took overcoming a certain fear or apprehension. I took an urban beekeeping class, I've been attempting to learn Italian via podcast, I'm training for my first marathon, I tried out a "grown up job", and I got a bike!

I've been nervous for a long while about having a bike in the city, and have also resisted because I truly do like walking around, but when I got a steady job in my neighborhood, the mile walk wasn't bad, but sometimes after 10-12 hours in the kitchen I just wanted to be home already. A few years back I did make a shallow attempt to get a bike, but had a hard time finding a used one that fit my small just-shy-of-5-feet self and wasn't really interested in spending much money to get one built for me.

I love my bike! After contacting John, the guy behind GreatUsedBikes.com, he set me up with an awesome vintage cruiser and even put the baskets on the back per my request. The bike has given me a sense of freedom and opportunity I haven't felt in a long while, and I've even hooked up with other bike-having friends for exploratory bike rides around Brooklyn and Queens (I haven't ventured into Manhattan yet), and even did a [slightly spirit-crushing] ride to the Rockaways (36 miles round trip on not-entirely-safe roadways). Even being able to get around my own and neighboring 'hoods has been a wonderful asset-- I like how small and accessible it can make this city feel.

It's been an entirely liberating experience, and such a joy to recapture the freedom I had as a kid riding around my neighborhood. I'm still get a little jittery every time I go out, but I have my helmet, my bell, and my lights, so most importantly, I'm also having fun every time.

16 August 2011

new job. over.

So the ones of people who make up my avid readers may have noticed my absence from about April until about now. My last words were about this new job I got as the chef at a new restaurant/cafe in my neighborhood, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 

The Modca Cobb -- one of my favorite menu items!
After working doctor-type hours (10-14 hours a day, 6-7 days a week), the project is over. In mid-July, the owners made a decision to close the kitchen (not at all to do with the food) and that was that. I created a delicious menu of healthy, organic, and locally sourced foods and between that, hiring and training staff, and just trying to create a flow I indeed wore myself out.

It was an exhausting few months, and I'm happy to have had this experience and consider the whole thing an experiment in having a truly full-time job for kind of the first time. And now I'm looking forward to moving on to something new. Maybe something entirely new-- as that just seems to be what I'm up to this year. I wasn't always working in food, you know? It might be nice to see what other of my talents and skills have been laying in wait... 

11 August 2011

recipe: slow roasted tomatillo poblano salsa

This salsa uses fresh, in-season ingredients and is quite simple to make, though you will need a food processor or blender. This also freezes well so you can heat things up well into the winter. Tomatillos have a nice tart, citrusy taste reminiscent of lime.

Slow Roasted Tomatillo Poblano Salsa
Makes 2-3 cups

1lb. tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1/2 lb. poblano peppers (add a couple of jalepenos or a serrano if you want it spicier)
peeled cloves from 2 heads of garlic
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 425º and prepare a baking sheet with a piece of parchment or non-stick spray. Wrap the garlic cloves in a piece of foil and place in the corner of the baking sheet. Spread the whole peppers on the rest of the tray and roast for about 30-40 minutes or until the peppers are browned and tender-- you may turn them over once during the roasting time. Remove from the oven and allow to cool enough so that you can handle them.

In the meantime, bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add in the tomatillos, return to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook for about 7-10 minutes, or just until the tomatillos begin to split their skins. Drain and set aside to cool.

Remove the stems from the peppers-- you should be able to pull them straight out, some of the seeds will come out as well. Leaving the rest of the seeds is fine. Combine the tomatillos, garlic, de-stemmed peppers, and salt into the blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add water to preferred consistency. Check for seasoning and adjust as needed.

Use as a sauce for enchiladas, taco sauce,  for dipping, or anything you like salsa on.

26 April 2011

new job.

It's pretty fair to say that I've been a bit swamped lately. I took on a position as the chef at Modca, a new cafe in my neighborhood (Williamsburg, Brooklyn) and it's put me under a bit of a rock the past few weeks.

From creating various dishes and courses for the owners to try over the course of a week to planning and executing a 4-day tasting event open to the public to just finishing my 4th day of breakfast and lunch service, I'm trying hard everyday to keep it together.

Thankfully, on that respect, I've been working 14-17 hour days (combination of kitchen time and computer/admin time) without more than one day off since starting and so I've had lots of time to try to "keep it together." So far so good.

I'm excited for this new venture-- it's been a pretty wild ride so far, and I don't always know what I'm doing or what will happen next, but that's really so much part of the fun. Every once in awhile, I enjoy surprising myself-- so that when I wake up in the morning, hung over from lack of sleep, with fresh burns on my forearms, not being certain what day it is, and asking myself what the hell I've done-- it makes me laugh to myself and say "I have no idea."

12 April 2011

recipe: indian spiced lentils with spinach and coconut milk

Lentils! I've been rediscovering this under-appreciated nutritional powerhouse as of late. Second only to soybeans in amount of protein per serving (18g per cup of cooked lentils), they're also crazy rich in fiber, help stabilize the blood sugar, and are a great plant-based source of iron. Read more about lentils!

I whipped this up as quick weeknight meal. I love lentils because they are quick to cook from their dry state (about 20 minutes) during which time I can usually get the rest of my dinner prepped and ready-- not to mention that they do not contain sulfur like other legumes, so, as Rebecca Wood puts it in The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, "produce very little wind"-- and, that's always nice isn't it?

For this, I started with dry lentils and had them cooking in a pot while I chopped and prepped everything else. My lentils weren't completely cooked when I added them to the rest of the mix, but I just let the whole thing simmer a little longer while I washed dishes.  This is a great make-ahead dish as it tastes even better the next day or two. This also freezes well and actually tastes really good at room temperature-- so bring it for lunch!

Spinach and Lentil Curry
1 tablespoon coconut or canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots (from about 2 medium)
1 cup cooked brown lentils (from 1/2 cup dry)
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
whisper of nutmeg
14 oz crushed or diced canned tomato
1/2 14 oz. can light coconut milk (reserve the rest in the fridge or freezer for another use)
3 to 4 cups frozen spinach
1/2 to 1 cup water (based on your consistency preference)
salt and pepper
chopped cilantro, for serving

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sweat the onions and carrot for about five minutes, turning down the heat if they are getting brown. Add in the spices and cook for another minute, then add the lentils and cook for another minute. Add in all of the remaining ingredients, except for the salt, pepper, and cilantro. Turn the heat up to high, bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20-30 minutes until heated through, adding more water if you like Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve as a stew or over brown rice, millet, or quinoa. Top with cilantro.

11 April 2011

product placement: cayuga organics jacob's cattle beans

Full disclosure? I hadn't gotten these particular beans before, but have had a greenmarket crush on Cayuga Pure Organics since they first started appearing at the Union Square market I think early last year or later on in 2009. I have bought some black turtle beans and a few flours from them, but I've really been crushing on some of their more unique heirloom beans. So even though I've been scrimping lately, I finally splurged because my dry bean selection at home was getting low, and I found a $20 bill in my pocket on market day!

These cattle beans were hard to resist-- I mean, just look at them! Who wouldn't want to eat a bean that pretty? They almost tripled in size-- I love big beans and I cannot lie-- and had a soft and rich texture that I adore. I just cooked them with a little salt, and even though I did overcook them slightly, they didn't fall apart and held up nicely in every application I put them through during the week (salads, warm bean and veggie mixes, etc.).

Cayuga Pure Organics is based in Ithaca, NY and grows and sells farmer milled grains and flours, dry beans, and some delicious, hearty bread at greenmarkets throughout NYC and a few stores around the city in addition to growing organic feed for upstate livestock. Next CPO purchase? The beautiful orca or calypso beans, if they're still around!

Cayuga Pure Organics Website
Note: I did not receive any compensation or product from Cayuga Pure Organics for this review.

07 April 2011

bento of the day: dill-walnut-arame beet salad; millet-quinoa with cattle beans, kale, carrots, and tomato; avocado and lime

Bentos for two, made for me and my friend Mia for a workday picnic in Brooklyn on a warm spring day! She brought along some sparkling water and strawberries to round out the meal.

Beet Salad with Lemon, Dill, Arame, and Walnuts; Millet-Quinoa with Sauteed Kale, Carrots, and Cattle Beans topped with crushed fire roasted tomatoes; Sliced Avocado; Lime Wedges

05 April 2011

recipe: beet salad with lemon, dill, walnuts, and arame

This simple recipe is a great opportunity to incorporate seaweed into your diet. Arame, a milder version of hijiki, is one of the least strong of the seaweeds and very easy to use making it a great option for seaweed novices! What's so great about seaweed? It's a great source of naturally occurring iron, calcium, iodine, and trace minerals and micro-nutrients and arame is also sometimes used to help combat high blood pressure.

Beet Salad with Lemon, Dill, Walnuts, and Arame
Serves 2-4

2 cups roasted beets, cut into small cubes (about 1/2")
1/2 lemon zested
juice of 1/2 lemon (1-2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (walnut oil would be lovely here as well)
2 tablespoons rehydrated arame*
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (parsley or cilantro would be nice substitutes)
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted

Mix it all together, season with salt and pepper to taste. Delicious.

*Rehydrating arame: Take one big pinch of dried arame, soaked in small amount of cold water for 10 minutes. Drain and squeeze excess moisture from arame, and it's now ready to use.

31 March 2011

recipe: frittata with sundried tomato, broccoli, and chard

In need of a simple, but filling dinner for two, I turned to the ever-helpful egg. I love a frittata, because unlike it's cousin the quiche, it requires no rich ingredients except for the egg itself-- quiche is often perceived as being healthy, though I don't know why, loaded as it is with cream/half-and-half/whole milk and cheese. Frittata is great because you can put pretty much whatever bits of vegetable you have on hand. This one was made with sundried tomatoes, broccoli, and chard simply because that's what I had available. And on their own it wasn't really enough to make a meal for two, eggs brought them all together. I served it with a wild-brown rice blend, chopped avocado, and spicy carrot salad.

Easy Sundried Tomato, Broccoli, and Chard Frittata
Serves 2-3

1/4 cup sundried tomatoes (soft, or rehydrated), sliced thin
1 heaping cup frozen broccoli
2 handfuls choped chard, spinach, or kale
5 eggs
1/4 cup of milk, milk substitute or water
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch freshly ground black pepper

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a medium sized non-stick or well seasoned cast-iron pan over medium high heat.  Toss in the tomatoes, broccoli, and greens (add some chili flakes and a pinch of salt and pepper, if you feel so inclined), and sautee, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is no longer frozen and the greens are wilted. Meanwhile, in a bowl beat the eggs with the milk or water, oil, salt, and pepper. When the veggies are cooked, lower the heat to medium, spray a little cooking oil on the inside sides of the pan so your eggs don't stick. Then, pour in the egg mixture, and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Then, cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and cook for abouther 10 minutes. Continue a few minutes longer if the eggs aren't fully cooked on the top. Cut into desired sized pieces, and serve. Voila!

29 March 2011

recipe: spicy cumin seed and lime carrot salad

I came up with this carrot salad in my head shortly upon waking up a couple of weeks ago, hoping to make it soon. I usually have carrots around, but rarely more than 3 or 4 at any given moment. I didn't make it to the farmer's market last week, but was in dire need of groceries and impulsively picked up a 5 pound bag of organic carrots (at a great price!) with the knowledge that carrot salad time was near! And it didn't disappoint.

spicy cumin seed and lime carrot salad
Makes 6 to 8 servings

1.5 tablespoons olive or canola oil
generous 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds (or, substitute with ground cumin, using slightly less)
pinch red chili flakes
1.5 lbs carrots (about 6 medium), grated
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon agave or honey (optional)
1/4 cup chopped pumpkin seeds, toasted*2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine the oil and cumin seeds in a small pan over medium high heat, warming the oil for 2 minutes or so-- until the cumin seeds start to swim around and sizzle. Quickly turn off the heat and remove the pan to a different (cool) burner. Add in the chili flakes. [Note: if using ground cumin, heat the oil on its own and add cumin in with chili flakes.]

While you wait for the oil to cool, combine the carrots, lime juice and zest, and agave or honey if using. Add salt and pepper to your liking. Once the oil is no longer piping hot, combine it with the carrot mixture, test again for seasoning and then mix in the pumpkin seeds. Garnish with cilantro.

This will keep well in the fridge for a few days, and just gets tastier!

Note: If you have a food processor with a grating disc, it makes very quick work grating the carrots! But using a box grater is easy, too.

*Toasting Pumpkin Seeds: Put the chopped seeds in a small skillet and heat over medium high for about 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan often, until they puff up, start to brown slightly, and start to smell delicious. Turn the heat down if things are moving too fast! Remove them from the heat and transfer to a bowl immediately.

24 March 2011

recipe: root vegetable pot pie

Every few months I make a list of things I'm want to cook. Usually these are more project-based meals or just something I haven't attempted before. Because I do the majority of my cooking very impulsively and without any recipes, when I have to think and plan out my meals, it heightens the whole experience. So here we are, my first pot pie.

I opted for the one big dish approach, with no crust on the bottom. I was planning to make a herbed pie dough for the top, but basically wound up making an herbed biscuit-like top instead (because I was feeling lazy and didn't want to take the time to refrigerate the dough before rolling it out). Sweet and smooth and savory, pot pie hits the comfort food spot right on the money. Plus, I made so much that I was able to freeze several individual portions that I'm sure I'll be glad to have as the cool weather persists a bit longer.

Root Vegetable Pot Pie with Sage and Thyme Cornmeal Biscuit Topping
Makes about 8-10 servings

For the Filling
Note: All of your vegetables should be about the same size when cut-- about 1/2" cubes.
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
2 small onions, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium celeriac (1 lb), peeled and diced
3 small parsnips, peeled and diced
2 small turnips, peeled and diced
4-6 small potatoes (1/2 lb), diced
1 sweet potato (1/2 lb), peeled and diced
1 tablespoon herbes de provence
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1/2 tablespoon fresh)
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 to 3 1/2 cups almond milk (or any other milk or non-dairy substitute)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Olive Oil and Fresh Herb Cornmeal Biscuit Topping
2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cold water

Preheat the oven to 375º.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and sweat together until they begin to soften, about 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in remaining vegetables and herbs, cooking for another 3-5 minutes, until the herbs are well distributed and the vegetables are beginning to soften. Stir in the flour for 1 minute, then add the almond milk, mixing well to dissolve the flour. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low. Simmer the mixture for about 15 minutes, or until all of the veggies are tender, adding a bit more milk or water if you'd like more sauce. Test for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, make your biscuit topping. In a food processor or in a bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, chopped herbs, salt and pepper. Mix in the olive oil and water until well combined.

Pour the cooked vegetable mixture into a 9"x13" baking dish and top with evenly spaced spoonfuls of the biscuit dough. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the crust is cooked and golden and the dish is bubbling. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before serving. Goes great with a fresh green salad on the side.

23 March 2011

video awesome: julia child makes an omelette: "how about dinner in half a minute?"

I watched this video a week or so ago as part of a post on Saveur.com about mesmerizing food videos. While I might not call this video "mesmerizing", it did inspire me enough to try it out, even though I am traditionally not a huge fan of French omelettes (or omelettes in general for that matter). I made myself a Julia-inspired omelette to go along with some leftover salad for a quick supper the other night and it totally worked! The key of course, in addition to the non-stick pan, is the fat. Plenty of fat. I used a tablespoon of coconut oil instead of the butter. My pan wasn't hot enough to begin with, I think, so it took more like 1 and a half minutes to cook, but that was my bad. The result was delicious soft, soft eggs lightly scented of coconut (eggs and coconut oil are a seemingly unlikely pair, but they go together gorgeously). Fresh, farm eggs are best and the fat of choice is again key here-- butter, coconut oil, or another full flavored fat will add a lot of dimension to this simple dish, so don't hold back too much!

22 March 2011

recipe: very veggie soup

I make this soup quite regularly for one of my clients, and with the help and flavor punch of some awesome vegan bouillon, it is so simple, quick, and tasty.

Very Veggie Soup
Makes 8-10 Servings

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2-3 leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced
3-4 medium carrots, sliced into 1/4" pieces
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 small bulb fennel, quartered and sliced (reserve fronds)
2 small parsnips, sliced into 1/4" pieces
1 whole clove garlic, peeled
3-4 quarts water (depending on how brothy you like it)
2 cubes rapunzel sea salt and herb bouillon (optional)
15 crimini or button mushrooms, sliced
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/4" thick quarter-moons (can substitute green beans, chopped spinach or other greens)
chopped fresh soft herbs like parsley, basil, or dill (optional) 
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Stir in the leeks, carrots, celery, fennel, parsnips, and garlic and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 5-7 minutes. If the vegetables are starting to brown, turn the heat down slightly.

Add the water and bouillon, and turn the heat to high. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, stir the soup. Allow the soup to simmer for about 10 minutes, and taste, adding salt and pepper if needed. By this time, your veggies should be soft, but not overcooked. Remove the soup from the heat and mix in your mushrooms, zucchini, and herbs. They will cook with the residual heat from the soup. Ready to serve after 5 minutes.

Note: Make extra! This soup freezes well.

21 March 2011

product placement: rapunzel vegetable bouillon

I don't really recall how I found this. I can just seem myself in the soup/stock section of Whole Foods, on my tip-toes reaching for a box of this to look at the label and see what it's all about and being pleased with the ingredient list, tossing it in the cart.

However it wound up in my hands, I am grateful because Rapunzel Vegetable Bouillon is a soup-saver. Or, maybe more appropriately, a soup-maker-- especially the Sea Salt and Herbs flavor, which is my favorite 'cause it's pretty rockin'. As if out of one of those cheesy infomercials I love, this stuff turns a few random vegetables into a pretty impressive bowl of delish.

Similar in concept to, but much better than, your average greasy, bright yellow bouillon cube, their cubes are not overly oily, and have a nice, well-rounded mellow flavor-- which is not what I get out of vegetable stock in a box. Not to mention that I don't love the idea of buying stock in a box or can-- all of that weight had to be shipped from somewhere, and if I can't just get a little bit if that's all I need. Bouillon cubes don't go bad, don't splash all over your shirt, and don't weigh down your bag you have to schlep home on the subway. Plus, you can cut them if you need to, and they take up so little space-- very important in a New York kitchen.

I usually use half of what is recommended on the box, as I just want it to add some depth to my broth. But sometimes, when I'm feeling crazy, I mix one of the herbed ones with one of the plain or unsalted ones. Wild, I know. If you want to see how bold I really am, check out the recipe I'm posting tomorrow for Very Veggie Soup. Very Veggie.

Note: I did not receive any compensation or product from Rapunzel for this review.

17 March 2011

think less, do more: bookbinding at brooklyn brainery

I heard about Brooklyn Brainery last year at Work It Brookyln and have been coming across them in various ways ever since.

Brooklyn Brainery is a community learning space that has volunteer instructors teaching one or two night classes on any and every subject-- the idea being that the instructor is merely the enthusiastic instrument to help faciliate group learning. Pretty rad, and such an important and great thing for the community.

I have been wanting to take a class there for a long time, but because the classes are usually very small, around 10 people, and typically very cheap, about $30, they sell out quickly, and I've always been beaten to the punch. I have also been wanting to learn more about bookbinding and most of the courses I've looked into at area art schools were either too much of a commitment or too expensive, so when a 2-night Intro to Bookbinding class was offered for March, I pounced immediately.

Their new storefront space in Carroll Gardens is lovely, and while I can see they still have some work to do in there, but it will help them continue to grow. And the book class was also really fun-- we made six books in a total of four hours spread out over two night. I already have plans for all of them. Most of the books we did are quick projects, and I was excited to see how accessible making a book is.

I'm thinking about teaching a class or two at the Brainery... just not sure what yet!

16 March 2011

video awesome: "cute kid talks about unhealthy food: trans fat"

This video absolutely made my day. How do I get this girl to be my spokesperson?

15 March 2011

recipe: make your own muesli

Most store-bought cereals are over-priced, over-sweetened, and over-packaged. M's brother and sister-in-law inspired me when I saw they made their own muesli* on a visit about a year and a half ago. After that I made my own once or twice, but haven't gotten around to it again in awhile. Recently I've been buying some muesli in the bulk section at Whole Foods to have as a treat, but after awhile that was getting expensive and remembered that making your own muesli is crazy fast, cheap, and easy-- it requires hardly anything more than a measuring cup (optional) and a bowl.

Typically, I'd say a serving of muesli is about 3/4 cup. The version I just made cost me about $6, using all organic ingredients and NYC prices, coming out to 67-cents per serving. Not bad when you consider how much a box of healthy, organic cereal costs (or any reasonably healthy cereal for that matter). Empower your breakfast! Think outside the (cereal) box.

*Muesli is is a popular breakfast cereal in Switzerland invented in the early 1900s based on uncooked rolled oats or other grain, fruit and nuts. (Thanks Wikipedia!) Most packaged versions use a lot of dried fruit, but if you make it fresh as a meal you can grate or chop fresh fruit into it. I usually stick to the dried stuff myself, as I see this as a breakfast of convenience. It is traditionally served as a cold cereal, by mixing in milk, coffee, fruit juice, or water. I also like to cook mine with almond milk-- alternately you can heat the milk up, pour it over the bowl of muesli and let it soak in for a minute.

today's muesli: whatever's in the cupboard 
4 cups regular rolled oats
1 cup regular rolled oats, pulsed in food processor or blender
1/3 cup each of: chopped pecans and almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds
2/3 cup mixed dried apricots, raisins, and cranberries

I like to eat it like this: 3/4 cup muesli + 1 to 1 1/4 cup almond milk or water (or combo), heated over medium for about 5 minutes. Put in a bowl and drizzle a little honey or maple syrup on top. But now that it's getting warmer, I may transition to sometimes having it cold, letting the almond milk soak in for 5-10 minutes first. But maybe not, warmer foods are better for your tummy in the morning.
Base Recipe
Makes about 7 cups, or 9 servings
4 cups regular rolled oats (can sub 1 cup with wheat or rye flakes)
1 cup regular rolled oats, pulsed in the food processor or blender (or sub quick oats)
1 1/3 cups nuts and seeds (larger ones coarsely chopped, if you prefer)
2/3 to 1 cup soft dried fruit (larger pieces cut down)

Varying the combination of nut and fruit can make for fun themed cereals!
- Breakfast on the Beach: coconut, macadamia nuts, pineapple, papaya, mango
- Summer on the Patio: almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, cherries, blueberries
- Just Another Moroccoan Monday: almonds, walnuts, figs, apricots, currants, dates
- Winter Morning: hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, cranberries, raisins

10 March 2011

recipe: steamed swiss chard rolls stuffed with heirloom grain, bean, and vegetable filling with a zaatar-tahini sauce

In the mood to something a little different, here's something I whipped up for myself for brunch the other day (inspired, in part, by photos from Anita's retreat). I'm often recommending things like this dish, but don't often make it-- maybe because it's not super fast and requires just a little forward thinking. But I had done some cooking the night before and had some cooked beans (chickpeas and an heirloom mix) and cooked grain mixture (brown rice, amaranth, and millet), and for once, I hadn't chopped up my bunch of swiss chard, so I actually had whole leaves available. And I had time. 

Keeping things frugal lately, and still wanting something brunch-worthy, I passed up my roommate's offer to make me some spinach and eggs, and got down to business and ended up with Steamed Swiss Chard Rolls stuffed with an Heirloom Grain, Bean, and Vegetable filling with a Zaatar-Tahini Sauce and Kalamata Olives. And a "salad" of chopped almonds and dried apricots.

Mixed Grain and Bean Filling
This would also make a great side dish warm or cold.

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup cooked brown rice or other grain
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas or other beans
1/2 cup small diced zucchini
handful of sliced swiss chard stems
1/4 teaspoon each of coriander and cumin
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
dash chili flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a medium sized pan over medium high heat. Add in all remaining ingredients and stir to combine and distribute. Continue stirring occasionally until chard stems and zucchini are soft, adding a splash of water if the pan gets dry, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Note: Other good add-ins would be a 1/4 cup raisins or currants and/or 1/4 cup chopped almonds.

Swiss Chard Rolls: Step by Step Instructions

Wash two large swiss chard leaves and remove the bottom parts of the stem (slice up to use in the grain filling). Place one leaf smooth side down on a cutting board or clean counter and put 1/2-3/4 cup of the grain filling on the bottom (broader) part of the leaf.

Like a burrito, pull the bottom of the leaf over the filling, keeping it relatively tight. Then, roll up the two sides to make a snug package. Roll the leaves up the remainder of the way. Insert a toothpick or small skewer if the leaves don't want to stay shut. 

Repeat with the other leaf. Place the rolls in a steamer in a pot filled about 2" deep with water. Steam for 10-15 minutes. The leaves will be very tender and will tear easily at this point. Remove the steamer from the pot and slide the rolls onto a plate, with the help of a spatula.

Serve topped with Zaatar-Tahini Sauce and a few chopped olives.

Zaatar-Tahini Sauce
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon or more of water
1 teaspoon zaatar
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients until well mixed. Adjust for consistency by adding a little more lemon or water and seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

08 March 2011

my new affinity for bentos

Carrot-Tomato-Apple Salad, Avocado, Spinach, Chickpeas
Last summer I had to make some adjustments to my diet and was also focused on paying more attention to what I ate during the day-- namely on work days where being around food all the time sometimes got me into trouble. Most people assume that since I am cooking for clients regularly I probably eat pretty well at work. While that can be the case, I am just a normal person! Now, everything I cook with is good, real food, but that doesn't mean I need to be stuffing it in my face all day-- I mean, how many organic pretzel sticks or spoonfuls of almond butter is it okay to eat before it isn't okay? Like everyone, I get in a hurry and don't have a proper meal before leaving the house, or didn't always take the time to pack myself a good lunch, so I found myself starving at really inconvenient moments.

Somewhere around this time I had started scanning bento blogs and photo pools for fun-- the "cute bentos" are especially fun to look at, and I felt inspired by the colors and fun shapes, and typically balanced meals and I wanted them all for myself. I looked around for a nice bento set to call my own, but after too many Hello Kitty inspired dishes or ones that were too bulky, I ended up with an awesome lock-tight container at one of my favorite shops in Chinatown-- 'cause after all, all bento means is "box". (I especially felt okay about my plain box after a lot of reading of my favorite bento related blog, Just Bento, the author of which, Makiko Itoh, recently published The Just Bento Cookbook).

After making a commitment to myself to pack my lunch on at least half of my work days here are a few of the things I came up with-- and while I thought having to plan my lunch might be tedious, it actually became a really fun activity and I took photos of them each morning and felt excited to eat them later, happy to know that I'd be eating good food and eating with intent.

Here are a few more I made! I'll work on posting some recipes of some of these and whatever I come up with in the future.

Mixed Veggie and Herb Salad, Brown Rice, Boiled Egg
Chickpea-Kirby-Sungold Salad, Carnival Squash, Spicy Spinach, Brown Rice
White Beans with Roasted Tomatoes, Parmesan, Oil-Cured Olives, and Roasted Summer Squash over Steamed Wild-Brown Rice

07 March 2011

product placement: rishi earl grey rooibos

Like so many things, I was first introduced to hot tea as a enjoyable beverage during college by a friend from Ohio during a service trip to chilly North Carolina. And until I met the man in my life, I was pretty committed to fruity herbal teas/tisanes and was convinced I didn't like black tea. I also liked the fruity teas because they didn't require any sweetener or milk, and I reveled in the purity of it all. But being from England, he knows a thing or two about tea and expanded my mind and tea palate a teaspoon of tea leaves at a time, and the first time I tried some proper Earl Grey I was smitten. (With both him and the tea).

Unfortunately, or mostly fortunately as I see it, my body and caffeine don't get along too well, so I limit my black tea intake to a couple of times a month, and even decaf black tea gets me a little jittery so I try not to depend on it. And then we found Rishi's Organic Earl Grey Rooibos. It has all of the lovely bergamot and citrusy flavors I love with regular Earl Grey coupled with high quality slightly sweet and woodsy rooibos. When I open the can of loose tea and take a whiff, I think I get that same excitement that coffee-addicts get when they sniff their coffee grounds and know it will be just a few minutes before they get to imbibe the delicious, soul-warming cup. The rooibos steeps to a beautiful dark amber and goes beautifully with a splash almond milk and a spot of honey or agave. It's the favorite start to my mornings.

Rishi Tea Website

04 March 2011

recipe: breakfast burrito pizza

IMG_7427The morning after I thought I had sated the Pizza Monster within with this, I woke up with a voice whispering "Pizza?" Fine! I had a couple of small gluten-free pizza crusts in the freezer also, cast-off from a client. I had made something vaguely Tex-Mex a few days before so had some cilantro and half a can of refried beans in the fridge, and was also feeling inspired by the egg-and-cheese pizza I sometimes get on busy working mornings at Whole Foods.

Breakfast burrito pizza it is!

The plan quickly came together: chipotle-tomato sauce, refried beans, scrambled eggs, mozzarella, and cilantro.

I'm not really known for patience in the morning, but I do sometimes have time on my side, so while I thought it would probably be a good idea to pre-cook the eggs, since I wasn't making my own crust and couldn't create a wells to prevent them from running-off, I got lazy and decided not to bother. So as a result, most of the eggs wound up running off onto the sheet pan, but I did manage to dam some of the eggs with little hills of refried beans. It worked ok.

Also, the beans sort of made the whole thing very dry, so I would add more sauce the next time.

Breakfast Burrito Pizza
These are approximated measurements, and are already adjusted for things I "would do next time".

2 6" pre-made pizza crusts (gluten free or otherwise)
2/3 cup fire roasted crushed tomatoes mixed with 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder and salt, or to taste (optional)
1/2-2/3 cup refried beans
3 eggs, soft scrambled
3/4-1 cup shredded mozzarrella
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 400º and prepare a baking sheet with a little olive oil (don't use parchment, or you may wind up with a soggy crust). Top each crust with half of the tomato mixture, then dollop the beans out in relatively even increments, top with the eggs. Divide the cheese evenly and sprinkle on the cilantro, and a dash of parmesan if using.  Cook for 25-30 minutes in the oven until the cheese is nice and brown. Serve with some sliced avocado and/or a little salad, and maybe a piece of fruit. A nice, very satisfying brunch-worthy breakfast.

02 March 2011

less than 15 minutes of fame: sighted on top chef and recipes on the internet

Michelle and I at the first dish-- our favorite one. Magical sauce and pecan beer! Photo by Shannon K.
Late last summer my friend Michelle invited me to join her and two other friends at a taping of very popular chef competition show. Signed into utter secrecy, I'm glad to finally be able to tell you all I WAS ON TOP CHEF! But not in that way. The episode aired last week and we spied ourselves several times, pausing the DVR to critique our on-camera appearance and trying to remember what everything tasted like. (For the record, the guy who won that challenge, his dish was our second or third favorite which Michelle mostly accounts to his cheating by use of pulled pork-- because pulled pork is always good, and thus is an unfair advantage.)

One of the funniest things about this whole experience was how clueless I am about everything Top Chef related. I knew who the judges were (except for this guy), but if any of the contestants were familiar it's only because I've seen their faces staring at me with cocky grins from ads on subway platforms and phone booths. It's probably a good thing Anthony Bourdain wasn't there this time though, the whole "don't stare at the judges" direction we were given from the crew beforehand might not have worked for me.

So, now I've been on a reality TV show. I officially have done my 21st century duty.

Also in other news, a few recipes of mine were featured in a recent article on SecondAct.com in a post about healthy Oscar party snack options. Hope they helped a few people stay fueled through that many-hour show that I didn't personally have the patience to sit through.

01 March 2011

recipe: spelt pizza with kalamata olives, spinach, and sundried tomatoes


The other week I went through a pizza-craze-phase, like a "Me! Want! Pizza!" kind of thing. It doesn't happen very often, and I narrowly avoided indulging at Carmine's after exiting the subway when I remembered there was an awesome spelt sourdough pizza crust in the freezer already and I even had cheese. Then I started remembering I had things like spinach, olives, canned tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, and anchovies and hurried home.

So remember, at this point, I am the Pizza Monster. Hungry and defiant, I didn't bother to defrost the crust, I opened the can of crushed tomatoes, spread them on the frozen crust, sprinkled that with a little olive oil, dried oregano, salt, and pepper, and snuck a few anchovies in there. The only thing I cut was a quick chop of the olives and sundried tomatoes.  Threw the rest of the toppings on there, stuck it in a 400º oven and let it do its thing for 30 minutes.

Quick Pizza Monster Recipe
The measurements are mostly estimated. Monsters don't measure.
1 12" pre-made spelt sourdough pizza crust
1/3 cup fire roasted crushed tomatoes mixed with 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, dash of red chili flakes, pinch of salt and pepper
4-5 anchovies (optional)
3/4-1 cup shredded mozzarrella
handful or two of baby spinach
1/3 cup ricotta
1/4 kalamata olives, roughly chopped
6-8 sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 400º and prepare a baking sheet with a little olive oil (don't use parchment, or you may wind up with a soggy crust). Top the crust with the tomato mixture and anchovies, then add the mozzarella. Put the spinach on, weigh it down with a few spaced-out dollops of ricotta, then sprinkle on the olives and sundried tomatoes. Drizzle the whole thing with a little olive oil and sprinkle of parmesan if you like, and cook for 25-30 minutes in the oven until the cheese is nice and brown and the spinach is cooked down. Eat it and love it.

P.S. I didn't add much salt to anything here because the cheese, anchovies, olives, and sundried tomatoes brought quite enough on their own. If you are omitting the anchovies or your sundried tomatoes don't have salt added, sprinkle a bit of salt on the top of the pizza before baking.

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