Sunday Dinner Series: Ready for soup season

It’s not quite soup season yet.  Yesterday in New York it was a humid 90 degree day.  But right about now is when I start getting sick of eating salads every day for lunch.  My mom makes a pot of soup almost every Sunday in the winter and sends me her recipes, but I stumbled upon this Black Bean-Tomato Soup with Cilantro-Lime Cream recipe from Cooking Light and was eager to test it out.

Let me tell you the reasons I’m a fan:

  1. It’s super easy to make
  2. Has a lot of staple ingredients that wouldn’t require you running around to specialty stores (including some of my favorite spices and herb – yes, pile on the cilantro! Oh, and BACON)
  3. It’s semi-healthy, which may seem counterintuitive after my bacon comment, but I swear it’s reasonable!
  4. I have leftovers for lunch this week

The tomatoes provided a nice balance with the beans, and the chipotle chile powder and cumin gave the soup a nice kick.  Just because I like it hot, next time I would add a jalapeño as well.

Below is the recipe and steps which you can also find here.

Bon appétit!

Ingredients:

  • 2 center-cut bacon slices, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (about 1 small)
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added organic diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Preparation:

  1. Cook bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings in pan; set bacon aside. Add onion and celery to pan; cook 5 minutes or until celery is tender. Stir in 3/4 teaspoon cumin, chile powder, and garlic; cook 1 minute. Stir in bacon, pepper, beans, tomatoes, and broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Place half of bean mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining bean mixture; process until smooth. Keep warm.
  2. Combine sour cream, remaining 1/4 teaspoon cumin, cilantro, rind, and juice in a small bowl. Dollop cream over soup.

 

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Sunday brunch zucchini fritter recipe

Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables due to its versatility as an ingredient that can be deliciously baked, fried or sautéed in a dish.

There are a lot of zucchini fritter recipes out there but this one by Martha Stewart combines earthy ingredients and, naturally, I think the pecorino romano is an essential add that gives a subtle rich flavor.   It’s simply one of my favorite uses of the squash – a light yet filling brunch or lunch recipe that I can make in large batches and store for leftovers to eat (reheated or even served cold) throughout the week.

Bon appétit!

 

Recipe: 2 ingredient zucchini gratin

Cooking can’t get any easier than this!  My mother shared this “recipe” with me via my grandmother, Meme.  It’s simple and delicious as a side dish, or I even just ate it for dinner.  After all, anything with melted cheese on it tastes better to me!

What you need:  Parmigiano-Reggiano & Zuchinni

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Simply peel of the zucchini skin and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Grate cheese

Coat pan with olive oil and layer zucchini.  Salt and pepper veggies and add cheese as desired.  Repeat process for each layer

Bake in the oven until cheese is nicely browned on top

Bon appétit!

Hearty & healthy lunch recipe: Kale-quinoa salad

I came across this kale and quinoa salad recipe (on BuzzFeed of all places!) and thought it was too delicious not to share.  With the fall and winter season comes heartier dishes, but I love how this meal can still be filling without making you want to crawl under your desk and nap for five hours.  It’s quick and easy, and perfect way to honor the seasonal veggie.

I recommend using fat free feta for the lightest cheese option, and definitely throw in those cranberries to add a little sweet note to the dish.

Ingredients:

2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
1 bunch kale, washed and chopped into 1” pieces
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 scallions, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup crumbled fat free feta cheese
salt and pepper
hand full of dried cranberries

The full recipe and directions can be found here on BuzzFeed Food.

Bon appétit!

Sunday Dinner Series: Bobby Flay’s Ancho-and-Honey-Glazed Salmon with Black Bean Sauce and Jalapeño Crema

Bobby Flay never fails to disappoint in the flavor department.  If you love the spice and bold flavors of the Southwest, you are probably a big fan of his restaurants.  After tasting many dishes of his and watching him cook on TV for years, I assumed an attempt to replicate any dish would be a recipe for failure.  B Flay is notorious for dishes involving multiple steps and many ingredients.  I was excited to receive a copy of his Mesa Grill cookbook a few years ago, but became quickly overwhelmed on where to begin.  So I started with dinner.  I was trying to eat more fish and found myself drawn to the level of flavors and balance of sweet and spicy highlighted in his ancho and honey-glazed salmon recipe with black bean sauce and jalapeño crema.

The first time I prepared this dish it seemed like it took several hours to make which was probably because I tried to prep everything at once, feeling exhausted and ravenous by the time I sat down to eat.  This time I prepped the jalapeño crema and black bean sauce that morning so by the time it came to make dinner I didn’t feel like I was slaving in the kitchen for hours.  Even so, the resulting dish was well worth the wait.  I think it’s a perfect fall/winter fish recipe – it’s a little heartier, and the jalapeño and ancho chile will be sure to warm you up on a cool evening.

I made a slight time-saving and calorie-cutting adjustment to my recipe by not making fresh black beans (in my opinion, it tastes just as good to me with the can!), using fat free sour cream and cooking the salmon differently using my no-fail salmon cooking technique.

Bobby’s recipe with my prep/cooking instructions are below but you can also find his full unadapted recipe here.

Bon appétit, my friends!

Ingredients

  1. 1 1/2 cups canned black beans
  2. 1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
  3. 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  4. 1 large chipotle chile in adobo, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  5. 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  6. Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  7. 1 large jalapeño
  8. 1/2 cup fat free sour cream
  9. 1/3 cup honey
  10. 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
  11. 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  12. 8-ounce skinless center-cut salmon fillets
  13. 1/4 cup chopped scallions

Directions (Steps 1 and 2 can be done the day before or a few hours earlier)

  1. Drain 1 can of black beans under cool water.  Transfer to food processor with red onion, garlic, chipotle and cumin and chop until desired texture.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°. Roast the jalapeño directly over a gas flame until charred all over. Transfer the jalapeño to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool. Peel, seed and coarsely chop the jalapeño. In a food processor, puree the sour cream with the jalapeño until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the crema to a small bowl and refrigerate.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the honey with the ancho chile powder and mustard and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Rub the salmon fillets with the vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in the cold oven and turn up to 400 degrees to cook for 20 minutes.  Take out and brunch the salmon with the glaze and place back in the oven for 5 more minutes.
  5. Spoon the black bean sauce and the jalapeño crema onto plates and arrange the salmon fillets on top or next to the sauce. Brush the salmon with a little more of the ancho-honey glaze and serve.

Red velvet bourbon cake balls! (disclaimer: this is my first baking attempt)

It’s no secret I love to cook but the one thing I don’t do or care to learn too much about is baking.  This attitude of cooking vs. baking isn’t incredibly uncommon as you hear many chefs on TV moan and groan when tasked with anything dessert or pastry-related.  It’s like you can only do one or the other.  I love to eat sweet and delicious desserts so if I were asked to provide the number one reason I don’t bake it’s probably because I don’t trust myself around the finished product (a.k.a no self-control.)  However, I do know a few people who excel at it all, one person being my mom and the other notable chef/baker/entertainer extraordinaire is my friend Brooke.  She comes from a big Italian family, so she’s got all the goods from the best pasta sauce to the best pastries.

Brooke is now married living in her cute little home in Stamford, CT with her hubby so she she frequently invites the gals over for a lovely dinner.  And that’s when she introduced me to her magnificent cake ball creations.  She is meticulous and creative in her preparation.  Each of the balls are exactly the same size and she uses different batters from funfetti to chocolate and red velvet with multi-colored chocolate and sprinkles, so you have a stellar presentation and the assortment makes it fun to eat when you take a bite not knowing which delectable flavor you were delving into.

Brooke’s beautiful cake ball assortment

Brooke did herself a small disservice by introducing me to her cake balls because now she knows it’s expected of her to make them every time I’m invited over, which has happened more than a few times where I start SORT OF feeling bad.  So when she invited us over for Labor Day last weekend a couple of us decided we would try to reciprocate the cake ball love and have a little light-hearted ‘battle of the balls’.

I knew we needed a leg up in this fight so like in most instances when I try to make things better, I add alcohol.  That’s when I came across this red velvet bourbon cake ball recipe on Pinterest and decided that was the winner.

Following the directions, the afternoon before the party I baked the cake as directed then once fully cooled, I brought the batter over to Jessica’s house.  From there, we placed the cake in a big bowl, added the container of cream cheese frosting and the bourbon.  Once everything was mixed together we rolled them up in little balls and threw them in the fridge.  Easy!

The batter needed to chill at least a few hours so my friend Marysa took the balls and semi-sweet chocolate and white chocolate chips back to her house.  I was going to come over the following morning so we could dip the balls and let them cool.  As I was heading out to Marysa’s, my mom came up to me with a printed out paper about melting chocolate in addition to coconut oil, tossing out all these warnings on making sure that the chocolate drips from the spoon and doesn’t get too hard and white chocolate doesn’t burn because it’s actually not chocolate, blah blah.  This was just too much info and sounded more complicated than I thought it would be so I just nodded my head and left.

I got over to Marysa’s and she already burnt the white chocolate so that was completely unusable and the other semi-sweet chocolate was sitting in a frying pan, not dripping from the spoon.  This is becoming a disaster!

We added some coconut oil to try to salvage the chocolate, but ONLY a couple teaspoons at a time.  Jesus.  Then when we thought we had it under control we tried dipping the balls in and it was not pretty.  The batter was falling off and getting everywhere.  It was a hot mess and we needed to start over.  We ran across the street to Trader Joe’s to pick up more chocolate for attempt number 2 in addition to some chocolate-covered seeds and almond cookies that we could crumble and sprinkle over the balls to mask this complete presentation disaster.

Second time around we melted the chocolate correctly, except our balls were still looking like complete shit, not at all how I had envisioned and all of them were different sizes, and probably a little bit too big.  Oh well.

choc2

After the cooling, we tried one out.  They were goddamn delicious.  They looked like turds, but they were delicious and at this point, I just wanted something edible.   Now that I’ve survived my first baking attempt, I just need to work out a few kinks, mainly presentation.  Do I hate baking more now than I did before?  Absolutely.  Will I continue to try to perfect my cake balls in an attempt to impress ball master Brooke?  Absolutely.

Until next time!

RED VELVET BOURBON CAKE BALLS:

Red Velvet Cake Mix – baked but not frosted
Cream Cheese Frosting – 1 can
Semi- Sweet Chocolate and/or White Chocolate Chips – 1 bag
¼ cup of Bourbon Whiskey

 

Dinner delivery from Plated! Now get your apron on…

Anything involving food or cooking immediately catches my attention so I was thrilled to receive a perk present from the folks over at Klout and Plated to test out the services of this newly launched food company.  I remember reading about them in TechCrunch about a month ago and started following them on Facebook so I was definitely intrigued to find out more about how the concept and sample some of the recipes.

What is Plated?  Simply put, Plated offers recipes curated by top chefs around the country and delivers all of the ingredients to make a delicious home-cooked gourmet meal, down to the exact measurements per plate – directly to your door.  The service costs $14-$15 per plate for non-members, and $10 to $12 per plate for members.

I ordered four plates as part of the perk: two plates of the Roasted Swordfish with Meyer Lemon Risotto and two plates of the Lamb Soulvaki Kebabs with Grilled Pita and Greek Salad.

I realized after I placed my order online that I didn’t really understand the delivery process.  I don’t live in a doorman building so I was nervous about a box sitting downstairs where someone could take it, and then having it shipped to my office sort of defeats the purpose when I’d have to carry pounds of groceries home on the subway.  After I called customer service, they assured me everything would work out and tweeted that they have little ninjas working for them!  Perfect!  I trust little ninjas.

Side note, kudos to the @Plated Twitter team.  As a social media marketer, it’s always refreshing to see brands on top of their game and responding to consumers in near real-time versus receiving a response two days later after its been vetted through multiple teams for approval, which we know is NOT what that platform is about. 🙂
Needless to say, I was beyond relieved to find everything arrived in one piece.  All of the ingredients were conveniently labeled and best of all, everything looked fresh.  Inside were a couple print outs of the recipes along with instructions on how to prepare my dish.
My takeaway:  I think this is an excellent idea and a very simple guide for beginners who don’t do a lot of grocery shopping but are looking to learn how to cook and test out their chops in the kitchen.  It’s such an easy guide and the simplicity of the packaged delivery (they even peeled my garlic clove!) makes the process a lot more approachable for an amateur chef.  Not sure if it was just the dishes I picked, but the one thing that holds me back is the fact that I always have a well-stocked kitchen and tons of ingredients where I find that I do have a majority of the items to make most of the recipes each week.  But, that’s just me.  Overall, I was incredibly pleased with the exceptional customer service and quality of food from Plated and would recommend it to any of my friends.  I’m sure we’ll continue to hear a lot from them and I look forward to watching the company grow and succeed!
Here are some of my #platedpics.  Bon appétit!