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Archive for the ‘Healthy Meal’ Category

Hola!

It’s so bittersweet to be back in rainy New York after a gloriously sunny, warm, wonderful week-long vacation. We just got back from a much needed vacation to Puerto Plata on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, and let’s just say, one week wasn’t enough.

The week was spent relaxing to the absolute max. Of the seven days we were there, most hours were spent laying on fluffy white beds on the beach (apparently lounge chairs are a thing of the past?), soaking up the sun, catching up on reading, and slurping down refreshing adult beverages.

We took only a couple of breaks, the first to visit a horse ranch and do a horseback tour of the island, which took us through Dominican farms and under hundreds of fruit bearing trees, past everything from avocados and mangos to coconut and papaya. Dominican farms look very similar to the jungle itself – not a whole lot of rhyme or reason that us foreigners could see, though apparently they’re planted this way to protect the soil and the land. The farms were all interspersed throughout the wild fruit trees, leaving the whole countryside laden with edible delights.

Our second break from laying beach-side was to visit the 27 Charcos de Damajagua – or the 27 Waterfalls of the Damajagua River – an absolute MUST do if you ever visit Puerto Plata. Essentially, we hiked through the jungle to the top of the twelfth in a series of connected waterfalls (the full 27-waterfall trek takes several hours), and then proceeded to jump, slide, and swim our way down twelve waterfalls back to the bottom of the mountain! All I can say is, you haven’t lived until you jump feet first down a cascading waterfall rapid! This trek was a total rush, not to mention a beautiful, fun, adventurous way to enjoy Puerto Plata. It was the highlight of the trip!

It was really, really hard to come back to the States after such a restorative getaway, but return we did. And one thing I have to admit that I was looking forward to getting back to was the food. We stayed at an all-inclusive resort in the DR, and while the food was overall pretty good (and better than I expected), I couldn’t wait for a hot, home cooked meal. And there was one thing in particular I was craving.

Pancakes.

To me, a pancake breakfast is synonymous with vacation. Sadly, though, the pancakes in the DR just did not cut it. To be frank, they were chewy, rubbery, and I’m pretty sure the same batter was used to make everything from pancakes to waffles to danishes. After a distasteful bite on the first day of our trip, I stuck to the much more delicious french toast at our hotel’s breakfast buffet for the whole week, but when I landed in New York, I was suffering from a fierce pancake craving.

But not just for any pancakes. Adam’s mom’s super special, ultra hearty oatmeal walnut blueberry pancakes. First thing Saturday morning I rushed downstairs to whip up a double batch for a family breakfast. Using the food processor, these pancakes come together in a snap, and are ready in minutes. Which means you can eat them even faster!

For an oatmeal lover like myself, these are pretty much the ultimate pancake. They’re hearty and comforting, fluffy, and full of nutty crunch from the walnuts. Blueberries, my berry of choice, add a tart burst of sweetness that balances the hearty oat flavor nicely – but you could add just about any berry, or bananas to the batter. Just don’t forget the butter and syrup – they might be slightly healthier, but they’re still pancakes, after all!

Oatmeal Walnut Blueberry Pancakes - Serves 4 to 5

Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1-1/2 cups of whole rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1-1/2 cups of skim milk
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup of frozen blueberries

Method

1. Place flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, milk, vanilla, oil and eggs in a food processor and puree until smooth.

2. Transfer the batter to a bowl. Add the chopped walnuts and blueberries and stir to combine.

3. Heat a griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Cook until golden brown on both sides and set in the middle. Serve hot with butter and maple syrup.

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted a full-fledged restaurant review on the blog, namely because cooking and developing recipe is where my head’s been at. But last night I had a meal so insanely great that I literally could not go without mentioning it. In fact, I’ve already bragged about this meal to half the people I know, so it seems pretty appropriate that I document it here.

In a spur of the moment decision, my mom and I decided to grab dinner in the city last night before I head off into the Caribbean for a whole week (yes, I know!!!) on Friday. After each having our own fairly decadent Easter weekend, we wanted to eat out, but on the lighter, healthier side. After a bit of Yelping and Googling, I stumbled upon Candle 79 on the Upper East Side. The neighborhood was right, and I found myself flat-out excited about everything on the menu, something that rarely happens. But with interesting dishes like Avocado-Coconut Tartar, Morel and Ramp Ravioli, and Tofu Vegetable Napoleon, I couldn’t wait to sample a few of the dishes at Candle 79.

Candle 79 is a cozy, two-story restaurant on East 79th street, distinguishable on a mostly apartment-lined street by its deep red facade. Inside the restaurant, the ambiance was very relaxed and calm – almost zen – in the dimly lit main dining room where large framed photographs of fresh produce dotted the walls. A soft-spoken hostess led us to the back of the restaurant, where a frosted  glass wall encasing the kitchen sat at the foot of a winding staircase. Up the stairs we went into a second dining room, right to a table at the front of the room next to a row of windows. Dinner over natural sunlight? Finally, a perk to going out to eat at 6 pm.

Another soft-spoken waitress approached, filled our drinking glasses with filtered water, and delivered our menus. We quickly decided on sharing a few dishes and ordered. Another server brought over an amuse-bouche, which was a crispy, garlicky crostini smeared with a creamy spinach puree. Though I couldn’t identify the other ingredients, I noted that it must be dairy-free given the jurisdiction of the restaurant, and was impressed at the ability to achieve such a rich creamy texture without cheese or cream. But Candle 79′s ability to impress me would only continue.

Our first course was a heap of creamy smokey hummus, drizzled with red pepper oil and served alongside an assortment of fresh olives, a full bulb of roasted garlic, thick slices of carrot and cucumber, and a flaky, melt-in-your-mouth grilled Paratha bread that reminded me of Na’an more than anything else. The dish was an awesome assortment of finger foods and dippable items, all light, fresh, and just enough to inspire a greater appetite. My mom particularly loved this dish and plans to recreate it as an hor d’oeuvre for some upcoming spring parties!

Next up we had the Arugula salad, a fresh bed of greens laden with perfectly grilled spring asparagus, artichoke hearts, baby chickpeas, caramelized shallots, and avocado. The salad was tossed in a highly addictive Ramp Vinaigrette, and as one who loves ramps, and even more so, incorporating seasonal produce into dishes, I loved this touch. The salad was absolutely perfect and I would eat this every day if I could. Note to self: make ramp vinaigrette!

Our third and final course was the Morrocan Spiced Chickpea Cake, and man, did this dish blow us out of the water. The burger itself was a thick, soft patty made of chickpeas and what tasted like sweet potato, with a nice crispy crunch to the outside. It was topped with a thick smear of fig-apricot-ginger jam, and rested on a bed of perfectly poached cauliflower and broccoli florets. All these stacked components rested on in a bath of insane green coconut curry sauce, and the plate was sprinkled with slivered almonds. We almost couldn’t decide if this was more of an entrée or a dessert, so pronounced was the natural sweetness of many of the ingredients. It was all we could do to stop ourselves from licking the plate!

In the end, over matching pots of Vanilla-Cinnamon Rooibus Tea for “dessert,” we both decided that we would gladly go vegan if someone would cook us food like this every day. At Candle 79, not only do you not miss the meat (or dairy), but the flavors are so intoxicating and the food so well prepared, that you feel like you’re being given a treat, instead of being deprived. Best of all, you leave feeling energized and healthy, rather than stomach-achy and weighed down. Even if you’re not vegan or vegetarian (god knows I’m not!), I highly suggest checking out this restaurant – you might be surprised how great you feel after a delicious meal of organic, farm-to-table vegetarian goodness!

Candle 79 is located at 154 East 79th Street at Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10021.

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Happy Friday!

Whew, what a week! This week has been quite the awesome whirlwind, if I do say so. It all started first thing Monday morning. I think the food gods must have been smiling down on me on Monday, because three great things happened all at once. First, I was able to secure (through a very helpful hand at my culinary alma mater, ICE) a ticket to this year’s IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) 2012 Conference. This year’s conference theme is The Fashion of Food: Where Food, Fashion and Media Connect. And let’s face it, I’m going for the food and the media, but I’ll stay for the fashion! Tickets run upwards of $300 for day so I feel super lucky to have gotten my hands on one. And there’s a Food Book and Blog Festival the day I’m going. What could be better?

The second great thing to happen is under wraps, but let’s just say I was offered the opportunity to visit a very exciting and mainstream center of food media, and I can’t wait! There may be more to come on that.

And then, as many blog readers know, a long time dream of mine came true when a friend of mine at the Huffington Post contacted me Monday morning to ask if I would like my post “Ten Things I Learned Working in a Restaurant Kitchen” featured on the HuffPost Food page. I think my reaction went something like screaming, sitting in shock in my pajamas staring at my laptop screen, and then calling my mom as fast as I could. Needless to say, I really appreciate the strong and positive response this post has gotten from food and non-food industry folks alike, and it has been a real thrill and honor to have it up on the Huffington Post. Thanks guys!

Photo by Flickr user: pvsbond

Given this blast of good fortune, and the fact that for the first time in over a year, my life is not being micro-managed and planned down to the minute, this week I also made a very spontaneous decision (read: in twenty minutes) and booked a trip to California for, oh, two months from now. I’ll be dragging my roommate and my boyfriend along with me to visit a life-long friend that moved out there a few years ago. It still hasn’t sunk in that I’ll be visiting the West Coast in just a few weeks time for the first time in my life, but I couldn’t be more excited. I’m looking forward to eating, photographing, and blogging my way through L.A., wine country, and who knows where else, and sharing it all with readers. Stay tuned for that story in early June!

Photo by JD Eiseman

Even with all this exciting stuff going on, let’s face it – a girl’s gotta eat! I haven’t been out of a restaurant kitchen for a week yet, and already I’m dying to get my hands dirty again with a  few solid hours of cooking. One inspiring recipe I came across this week that just encouraged this further was for Akoori, or Indian Scrambled Eggs.

There’s an adorable, kitchy little Indian take-out place down in the Village by my office called Masala Times (very bollywood, very spicy). I first discovered Masala Times on a food tour of the Central Village last fall, and now I frequent it whenever I have a craving for quick, satisfying Indian food. Their Unda Bhurji Pav is my favorite dish by far –  a thick, chewy wheat wrap (known as a Roti), stuffed with soft, buttery, curried scrambled eggs, sautéed onions and green peppers – sort of like the Akoori in the recipe above.

As soon as I saw the recipe, the craving struck and instead of dashing down the street to Masala Times, I decided to whip this up at home instead. The verdict? As Cara said with a smile, “It tastes professional!” This recipe is a real winner, and will get you a fluffy, flavorful, slightly spicy scrambled egg that tastes just like traditional Indian street food. This is as perfect for breakfast or brunch as it is for dinner, thanks to the savory, rich flavors. Plus, it’s ready in a flash – fifteen minutes!

I made this just for myself, but the recipe can easily be adapted for a family meal (the recipe below is for two). Use two to three eggs per person, or as I did, two whole eggs and three egg whites. This goes great with some warm Roti or even crisped up whole wheat tortillas. Don’t forget the Mango Lassi!’

Unda Bhurji (Spiced Indian Scrambled Eggs) - Serves 2

Adapted from Food Republic

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon of Sesame oil or Ghee
  • 1/2 of one large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 small Serrano chile, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red curry paste
  • 1 medium tomato, roughly chopped
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Method
1. Heat the sesame oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions until browned, about 5-7 minutes.
2. Add the garlic, Serrano chile, cumin, and red curry paste. Saute for a minute until fragrant, and then add the tomatoes. Cook for another minute until the moisture has cooked off. Reduce heat to low.
3. Add the cilantro and stir to combine. Then, add the beaten eggs and stir slowly to incorporate. Continue to stir eggs over low heat until soft curds have formed and the eggs are set, about five minutes.
4. Garnish with more cilantro and serve immediately with Roti, or a warm wheat tortilla.

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So, I’ve been on a real Salmon kick lately.

If you live in New York (or anywhere), this is an expensive “kick” to be on. Salmon can cost upwards of $15 a pound (!), which is, gulp, a dollar an ounce? Compared to the insanely low $2.99 a pound you can get boneless, skinless chicken breasts for, it seems like it would be hard to rationalize eating such a posh fish for dinner. But then, you man up, buy some salmon, make the salmon, and you eat it. And you realize, it is so, totally, worth it. Besides, there’s only so much ground turkey and chicken a person can take before they head straight to the fish counter at Whole Foods and order up!

Last week, I was looking to make a quick-and-easy dinner for one, and decided I’d broil up some salmon, since it’s pretty much as hands-off as you can get. I tossed a four-ounce filet with some olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic, and popped it in my toaster oven (like a professional chef would do!) at 400º F for about 20 minutes.

While the salmon was roasting away, I dug through my fridge for some sort of side dish that would at least resemble a vegetable. As per the usual, avocado seemed the most appealing. But since plain old avocado slathered on top of salmon seemed a one-note, I opted to cut the fat with a refreshing bit of chopped cherry tomatoes, diced roasted peppers, and a splash of balsamic.

This is a pretty “safe” dinner in my kitchen. I love all of these ingredients and they’re make frequent appearances in my cooking, so there wasn’t any doubt in my mind that I’d enjoy this dish. That being said, I didn’t expect for this to be quite so incredible!! In fact, it blew me away!

I took the first fork full of the steaming hot, juicy salmon with a cool, creamy chunk of avocado and tart piece of tomato, balsamic dripping, and did a double take (yes, this was powerful enough to tear me away from The Bachelor: Women-Tell-All). The flavors were completely complimentary, richly satisfying from the salmon and avocado, yet refreshing from the tart red vegetables and vinegar. Each bite of fish and salsa hit all of my taste buds: savory, sweet, tart and tangy.

While the first rendition of this roasted salmon dish came about by accident, the second take was completely deliberate, and I hoped to prove with a back-up taste-tester that not only was this dish ridiculously easy to pull off (even for those who might be intimidated by cooking salmon), but the mouth-feel from healthy fats and refreshing flavor were appealing to those with different palate preferences.

The verdict? The dish was, once again, a huge winner in the flavor department, not to mention full of bright, beautiful color, making it sure to impress. Serve it alongside a chilled orzo pasta salad, like the one below.

I adapted one of my favorite orzo recipes, upping the mint, kalamata and green olives for a more sweet and tangy contrast to the rich salmon. In short, this is a super-fast, super satisfying, extremely delicious (and healthy) spring dinner!

Roasted Salmon with Tomato Avocado Salsa – Serves 3

Ingredients

  • 3 – 4 to 6 ounce fillets of wild Salmon (such as as Sockeye)
  • 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 medium avocado, skin and pit removed, chopped
  • 1/2 of one large, ripe tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (depending on your taste)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 400º F.

2. Spray a baking sheet or roasting pan with non-stick cooking spray. Season salmon fillets with salt, pepper, garlic powder and thyme on both sides. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and toss to coat. Lay salmon skin-side down on the baking sheet. Roast in oven for about 20 minutes, or until meat flakes when cut with a fork.

3. While the salmon is roasting, make the salsa. Combine chopped avocado, tomato, roasted red pepper, balsamic vinegar, and remaining olive oil in a small bowl. Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Toss to coat. Allow to marinate while salmon finishes cooking.

4. Once salmon is cooked, allow to rest for a few minutes. Serve hot with a third of the salsa over each fillet. Great with a room temperature or cool orzo salad or green salad.

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