Thursday, July 15, 2010

Baby back ribs

Harris Teeter had bogo ribs a couple of weeks ago, and the baby back ribs looked too good to pass up. I trawled the internet for recipes for making these in the oven and came up with some really good sites. Most of the recipes called for a dry rub followed by 30-40 minutes in the oven, then a baste with barbecue sauce followed by another 20-30 minutes in the oven, and finally one last baste with the bbq sauce and short jaunt in the broiler. (video here and recipes here and here)

We followed a version of this and used Jack Daniel's BBQ sauce because it is Vince's favorite, and we were too tired to come up with our own creative version.

The verdict: Really tender ribs, so the method worked, but the BBQ sauce didn't do jack for the ribs. We ended up with a one-note flavor that got to be too much by the end. Thank goodness for bogo. We will certainly try again (with our own sauce of course!)

P.S. Sorry about the bad blackberry picture. I'm still having computer issues.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

May the Schwartz be with you!

Chef Michael Schwartz is at it again! Besides being a James Beard award winner, he has recently teamed up with Blue Star foods creator of crab products and come up with some delish-sounding recipes. I'm a huge fan of Michael's Genuine Food and Drink (in Miami and the Caymans) and of blue crab so these recipes definitely seem worth a try.

If the Schwartz vouches for these products they can't be half-bad, although I wonder how they stack up to a fresh dozen just pulled from the steamer and dripping with Old Bay.

Check out Michael's Blue Star recipes at

I plan to try some of these just as soon as I can get my hands on some Blue Star crab meat. Let's see if this man can write a recipe as well as he can cook.

P.S. I was not paid for this post, but if Blue Star wants to send me some free crab meat to home-test the recipes I would be happy to oblige. Just send me an email!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Heading to the 305

I'm off to Miami in a week. Yay! Any recommendations for new food spots? I'm up for some culinary adventures.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Gardening in Small Spaces

For all of you out there with the luxury of a balcony, terrace or even a backyard, here is a website that will help you grow to your full potential. My good friend John started Grown in the City a few months ago and it has grown up quite nicely. If you love fresh food there is nothing fresher than something that comes just a few feet from your door. Besides growing tips, John will clue you into the latest on guerilla gardening and policy/planning issues that affect urban areas.

I particularly like the DIY segments where John teaches you how to make self-watering containers out of recyclables!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Caprese Salad

This weekend we got lucky with a happy coincidence. Harris Teeter had a sale on the Perlini Mozzarella and hot house tomatoes, and Chris' basil was running wild. The result? Only the best caprese salad I've had this side of the Atlantic! OK, so maybe it wasn't the best, but it was pretty good. We ate it while we watched the U.S.A. soccer heart breaker, but at least our taste buds were happy.

This is definitely a recipe to entertain with or if you have any extra, and I don't think you will, you can always toss with cold pasta for a heartier salad. Quick disclaimer, these measurements are approximations. I'm fairly undisciplined in the kitchen and rarely ever use my measuring cups or spoons. I swear I'll reform when I get a dish washer! Until then consider these suggested measurements for your own creations.

7 oz. perlini mozzarella (mozzarella balls the size of marbles)
2 ripe hot house tomatoes diced
1/4 cup fresh basil, made into ribbons
1/3 cup fresh parsley, rough chopped
1/2 of a small red onion sliced fine
1/2 cup of olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

After chopping and slicing, toss all the ingredients together and let sit for about 30 minutes for all of the flavors to meld together. Serve with bread or crackers.

P.S. I'll try and get a picture of this up on the web soon!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Scrumptious Strawberry-Spinach Salad

Ok, so you know I couldn't resist the alliteration. Lately, I've been working on healthy meals and sides that don't involve a whole lot of heat. Two valiant window units try desperately to cool our apartment and the oven/stove combo is often too much for them. Today's lunch consisted of leftover frittata (God bless the microwave!) and a spinach salad.

This salad is so tasty and quick to make you won't even think twice about it. Plus, spinach and strawberries are a nutritional power duo. The greens are packed with iron and the strawberries provide vitamin C to facilitate absorption of the non-heme iron in veggies. Add some walnuts and my favorite dressing Brianna's Blush wine vinaigrette and you have a sophisticated salad in minutes that is fit to entertain. For a calcium boost, try adding some goat cheese. Your taste buds (and waistline) will thank you.

Strawberry Spinach Salad
1 package Organics baby spinach
1/3 cup sliced strawberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (toasted if you like)
3 oz. cheese of your choice
Brianna's Blush Wine Vinaigrette Dressing (to taste)

Toss and serve.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chicken Pot-pie Recipe

Every now and then I fiddle around with a recipe and it comes out GREAT! Then, I forget to write it down and can never recreate it again. Last night could have been one of those nights. I made a chicken pot-pie that was so delicious that Vince and Chris declared it was the best they ever had. So in the efforts of helping my fragile memory remember here it is:

Chicken Pot Pie

2 large chicken breasts
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup butter (salted)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of milk
2 cups chicken stock (make your own or use Swanson low sodium, trust me!)
1 med. onion
5 cloves of garlic
2 celery spears
6 oz. frozen mixed veggies
6 oz. frozen sliced mushrooms
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
1 sprig of rosemary
1 store bought pastry crust

Season chicken and cook until browned thoroughly in two tablespoons of olive oil with a sprig of rosemary on top. This adds so much delicious flavor! Add about 1/2 cup of chicken stock if you see that it is getting too hot or stuck to the pan. Once that is finished, pull out chicken breasts and cube. Discard the rosemary sprig. (While this is cooking you can prep the veggies.)

In the same pan, melt the butter and add the flour to make a roux. Once this has browned add the chopped celery, onions, and garlic. Stir until onions are softened. Add milk and chicken stock and stir together. Then add frozen veggies, mushrooms, bay leaf, salt and pepper and let this all meld together, about 5 minutes. Then add the chicken back in. Stir. Pour mixture into a deep pie dish and cover with the pie crust. Cut in a few vents and place in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until crust is golden.

If anyone tries this can you tell me if it works out? I'm trying to work on my recipe writing skills. Thanks! Bon Apetit!

Computer virus!!!

I'm glad I got some pictures up yesterday. It seems that my computer has a virus and I can't get rid of it! I'm afraid to connect my external hard drive to the computer for fear of contaminating that too. So until this gets figured out you will just have to use your imaginations!

Happy Hump Day!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Arugula Salad three ways

We love Arugula salad at our house. After tasting a really delicious one at Bread in NYC, I brought this back to Miami and then Arlington. The pepperiness of the arugula provides so much flavor you really don't need much in the way of dressings. The Bread arugula salad is topped with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and shaved parmesan and replicated frequently at home.

Lucky for us, arugula seems to be the national green of Italy. No joke, it grows like a weed over there, showing up in main courses, contorni (side dishes), salads, and even as a garnish. There were two arugula salads that particularly stuck out. The first was at La Carbonara, home of the cacio e pepe just blogged about. This was a nice mix of arugula and thinly sliced raw baby artichokes dressed with olive oil, white wine vinegar and a spritz of lemon juice. The artichoke was fresh and crunchy. A neat variation on a classic veggie.

The second salad that comes to mind was the insalata tre colore (three color salad), a tribute to the Italian flag with juicy red tomatos, shaved parmesan, and loads of leafy arugula. Quite lovely.

Although I must say that I'm partial to the first preparation, these were really nice variations and something that I'll most definitely have to try at home.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cacio e Pepe

This is a super simple Roman dish that only requires you to have the very best ingredients on hand. There are only four ingredients in this dish so you really can't skimp on quality. The flavor is intense and amazing. We tasted this at La Carbonara (not in Campo d'Fiori) in Rome just last week and it made the top three on our best dishes in Italy list. You could probably make this with a pasta of any shape, but I reccomend a thick spaghetti/fettucini type pasta to get maximum sauce exposure.

So here it is, brace yourselves for the simpleness of it all:

Pasta (I had this with tonnarelli, thicker spaghetti)

Pecorino Romano cheese

Black Pepper (freshly ground, preferably Malabar)

Olive Oil

Cook the pasta until it is al dente. Al dente for italians is much chewier than what we are used to in the U.S. Drizzle with olive oil and toss onto a plate. Grate a good amount of fresh Pecorino Romano onto the pasta and sprinkle with black pepper. When it is time to eat (which should be immediately!) stir it all together to make some creamy goodness. Delicious!!!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

From the land of Wool and Honey

This weekend I finally made it to the Dupont Circle Farmer's market. It's vast and fantastic and reminded me of the Campo d' Fiori in Italy (more on that later) only more organized. I was drawn to one of the white tents that was hung with multi-colored skeins of soft, folded wool. The colors were so warm and inviting, ironic that this was still enticing on a 90+ degree day. Through the wool, I saw a golden flash and knew that I had found what I was looking for: Locally grown honey! Finally!

I had a chance to buy some local honey last year, and this spring the allergies weren't so bad. I had read somewhere that eating local honey can immunize you to a certain degree to the seasonal pollen in the air, and so far so good, except that I was almost out! Luckily, Solitude Farms makes honey along with their wool (probably not something you should mix together) out in Round Hill, VA. The taste is light and fresh with just a little hint of the comb to spice it up. If all goes well, we can have another allergy free year!

Solitude Farms:

And, we're back!

It's hard to believe that its been almost 2 months since I have posted a blog up here (or anywhere for that matter!) First of all, apologies! Secondly, my excuse...Tasting Serendipity is PREGNANT!!!! This very exciting development has me and the hubby quite excited, but it did have an adverse effect on my relationship with food. While my morning sickness was never epic, it did cause a revulsion to anything food related that wasn't saltine crackers for awhile. Formerly tantalizing scents like simmering garlic and basil became smells that could not be tolerated. This unfortunately extended to my writing about food too. Yikes!

But now, I am out of the first trimester woods and really, really hungry again! Plus, I have 2 months worth of travels to tell you about. Yes, despite the morning (anytime) sickness I did manage to keep down some really great meals. So stay tuned for amazing eats from Chicago, Miami, Rome, and Positano. We had some great dishes that I need to remember and practice like the famous Roman cacio e pepe, a super simple, but stunning pasta dish with just four ingredients.

Until tomorrow dear reader friends!

Monday, April 5, 2010

How to make a flan: Part 2

Now that you have made the caramel, what you need to do is make the custard. For that you will need:
12 extra large egg (yolks separated)
2 8-oz cans of condensed milk
1 12-oz can of evaporated milk
1 12-oz measure of 2% milk
2 tblsps of pure vanilla extract (no imatation)
1. Pre-heat oven to 350. Separate the eggs from the yolks. Use the shells to separate if you are planning on making angel food cake or meringues with them later. Use your hands if they are destined for omelets.
2. Beat the egg yolks until they are a bit lighter in color, but not much. Add in all the milks and stir together.
3. Add the vanilla extract and stir together.
4. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer (this is important! No one likes a chunky flan) into the prepared mold with the caramel.

5. Place the custard and caramel mold into a water bath. (A larger pan filled with hot water).

6. Cook for 45-60 minutes (depending on your mold and your oven). The flan should jiggle slightly when you shake it, but a knife inserted into the center should come out clean. Definitely err on the side of under cooking rather than over cooking or you will have a chunk of solid custard rather than creamy goodness.
7. Once the flan is finished let it cool slightly, then place in the fridge for at least 4 hours, but for best results, leave it overnight.
8. When you are ready to serve, flip the flan over onto your serving dish and enjoy! Now doesn't that look pretty?

How to Make a Flan (Part 1)

Flan is a decadent Cuban dessert that combines the creaminess of custard with the deep deliciousness of caramel. Incredibly simple to make and equally hard to resist, this dessert had eluded me for some time. But not any more! After a foray into Angel food cake, I found my self with a quantity of egg yolks and no real use for them. A-ha! I thought, I'll make a flan. So I trolled the internet for recipes and videos (p.s. they are everywhere!) Then I consulted, Nitza, the Cuban cooking diva, and ultimately came up with a fabulous recipe.

Here is part 1: Making the Caramel

Place 1 cup of sugar into a sauce pan over medium high heat. No liquid necessary. Stir constantly and DO NOT leave unattended for any length of time. As the sugar heats up, the crystalized cane juice (or beet juice) will begin to melt and turn color...

But first it will turn into rocks (resist the urge to touch, there is nothing worse than a sugar burn)
Then it will begin to liquefy and turn amber, keep stirring!

Finally, you will have a dark brown syrup that smells like caramel, and perhaps just a bit like burnt sugar, but not too burnt.

At this point, turn off the heat, pour into the glass dish of your choice and swirl it around so that the caramel coats the bottom and half of the sides of the pan. Like so,

Allow this to cool completely. You will hear the caramel start to crack as it cools. This is perfectly normal and desirable.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Faifax Chocolate Lover's Festival

So this post is a little out of date, but as I was looking through my food pics for today's blog, I just couldn't help myself. The first weekend in March was warmish, sunny and free for us so we decided to check out the Fairfax Chocolate Lover's Festival, and let me tell you, it was a chocolate extravaganza. The event coordinated merchants, restaurants, and confectioners in downtown Fairfax, but we only got to two of the events.

The first and most extravagant was the "Taste of Chocolate" in the Old Town Hall, a beautiful building just bursting with people and treats. We smushed our way through and gathered a bag full of loot: chocolate covered strawberries, fudge, a chocolate covered pretzel, and some red velvet cake. Alas, or perhaps thank goodness, these treats were not free, you paid for tokens which were then handed to the vendors.

We continued upstairs, were the person to chocolate ratio was a bit better and we could bask in the glory of the chocolate fountain. I've tried some gross chocolate fountains in the past, but this one managed to create a waterfall-effect without watering down the chocolate. We also tasted some chocolate covered potato chips and subsequently bought an entire bag.

Finally, we ended the day with a look at some of the chocolate cake creations at the Chocolate Challenge. this one was by far the most sophisticated.

But this version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was definitley my sentimental favorite. Can you make out the little Oompa-Loompas???? Awesome.
This event is definitely something to keep on your radar for next year, usually around Valentine's Day, barring another snowpocalypse.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Warm Goat Cheese, Beet, and Pink Grapefruit Salad

This baby can be considered an Inna Garten meets Jaleo meets necessity. At Knaus Berry Farm, the Amish sold these absolutely beautiful red beets and some truly succulent butter lettuce. Having recently been introduced to the goodness of beets by my friend Jaime, I had to try and make them for my family at home. We are not by nature a beet-eating people, but we are goat cheese and grapefruit eaters. I whipped this up as a healthy lunch for my mom and dad and it was delish and relatively simple (but totally worth it).
1. Peel and dice beets, season with salt, pepper and olive oil. Place in a foil covered baking dish for about 45 minutes. (This you can do ahead)
2. Peel and section a pink grapefruit reserving some of the juice to make the vineagrette.
3. Crack an egg and beat it. Dip slices of soft goat cheese and then coat in seasoned bread crumbs. (We had to use crushed saltines, not having had bread crumbs in the house, but I would go with the bread crumbs if you have the option). Sautee the breaded slices in a skillet with a bit of olive oil until golden and soft inside.
4. Prepare the viniagrette. 1/4 cup pink grapefruit juice, 1/2 cup olive oil (really good quality stuff) and salt and pepper to taste.
5. Break up the butter lettuce. Toss with the beets, grapefruit and dressing and top with a piece of the warm goat cheese.
Mmmm, mmmm! Healthy, colorful and delicious!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Babyweight, Inc.: A little sisterly PR

Hey there, everyone! Yesterday was a cold, wet, dreary day. Thank goodness it was Friday! Today I got a boost from the sun and from my sister's awesome blog. My sister, Luly, is an amazing woman. She has a doctorate in physical therapy, two kids, and is starting her own business to help women get back in shape post-baby. The name and the logo say it all: BABYWEIGHT: Use it to lose it. It's all about bonding with your baby and using that cute little munchkin to get your body back in shape. She has the practical experience plus the clinical know-how that makes her blog a must read for anyone struggling with some post-partum pounds. I know there are some mommas-to-be who read this blog, and you should definitely check out hers for fitness tips and stress management. She is coming up with a couple of products that will be awesome for the post-natal crowd! Plus, she has lots of posts that even non-mommys can relate to, like trying to get into a pair of skinny jeans or running through puddles.

Check out her website:

Or her blog:

She also has some really cute pics of her kids!!! They are just delicious!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Coming soon!

These pictures are long overdue on the blog. I actually took them while I was down in Miami for Blizzard 2010 part II. When I got back, there was sooooo much snow around I felt bad posting pics of vine ripening tomatos and juicy strawberries. It just seemed wrong, but now that the sun and the 70s have returned it seems perfect for a preview. These lovely tomatos and strawberries are growing at Knaus Berry Farm in the Redlands. The farm is run by snow-bird Mennonites, who are the highlight of many a South Florida celebration with their excellent sticky buns, fresh produce and outstanding strawberry shakes.

How could the shakes not be awesome with berries like this growing in their back yard?

This little tomato was just too cute to resist!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Blog discovered!

Hey everyone, I had a little break today to troll the internet and explore some new blogs and I found one I love!

Cara's Cravings

I found it while reading the comments here. Cara has some really great healthy spins on foods you already love. Plus she's not afraid to use big flavors and try something new, like these spicy thai fishcakes or crock-pot Mongolian beef. She also has great recipes for Jewish favorites, which would also be a great addition to any Easter dinner!

Enjoy the sun, Arlingtonians, Marylanders, and Districters!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sausage, Green Pepper and Onion Pasta

My favorite pizza topping combination usually involves thinly sliced green peppers and sweet onions, add sausage to the mix and you have a winner. This week, I thought I would bring the same flavors to a pasta dinner that would be both quick and delicious. So here's the run down:

I cooked up some Italian sausages (4) in the oven, 350 for 25 minutes in a foil covered pan. As they cooled, I sliced up the 1 green bell pepper and one medium yellow onion, and I minced 2 cloves of garlic as well. Once the sausage had cooled enough to handle, I sliced them diagonally and tossed them into a frying pan with about 2 tbsps of olive oil. Once they browned in went the green peppers, onions, garlic, and a dash of red pepper flakes for heat.

In the meantime, I boiled some water and poured in about 1/2 a pound of whole wheat spaghetti. Once this was al dente and the peppers and onions were softened and a little browned I mixed it all together and added about a 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese.

Super yummy, satisfying and a great way to take the pizzeria into the kitchen.

Shopping list:
Whole wheat pasta
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow onion (medium)
Red pepper flakes
Parmesan cheese
(Salt and pepper, but who doesn't have these at home?)

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Gibson

We finally made it! After weeks, no months of thinking about classic cocktails and hidden entrances, Vince and I casually walked up U Street, turned on 14th and knocked on the big black door next to Marvin. It was Thursday night, before 10 and we felt so cool when the door man answered and whisked us up to the second floor bar, much to the amazement of our fellow pedestrians (I'm not sure that we would have such luck on the weekend). The interior is just what you would imagine, dark and cozy with a hint of Prohibition-era glam to it. The cocktails on the menu are enticing, even if I hadn't heard of half of the liquors used, but what's even better is that the bar-tenders will chat you up and make you something original based on your preferences. We went one for one, Vince ordered the Royal off the menu and it was ruby red and deliciously smoky. I asked for something citrusy and not too sweet and got a mojito inspired cocktail with a gorgeous mint leaf floating on top.

On our way out, we got a peak at the downstairs bar and it is sensuous, stunning and more lively than the upstairs. Plus, we got a glance at the fabled black leather bar. Very cool.

Definitely a great place to hang out or go for a date!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cuban food in the DC area??

Usually for Cuban food, I have to go to my house! There isn't a dense population of Cubans in this tri-state area, so your chances for a good cafe con leche or a pan con lechon are slim to none, unless you are eating at Casa Carmen! But there may be light at the end of the tunnel. One of the blogs I follow just posted a review of Cuba de Ayer in Burtonsville, MD. A bit far from us Arlingtonians, but the pictures actually look pretty authentic. I feel like a field trip is in our future!

Check it out here:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Let's hear it for the Black-Eyed Peas!

No, not the musical group, the kind you eat. The bi-colored beans seem to be making a come back on the fine dining scene these days. The evidence? After never having seen a black-eyed pea in a restaurant in my entire life, I spotted them twice within a weekend in two different cities, but in remarkably similar preps. The first eating occured at an established Portuguese restaurant in Miami, Old Lisbon. The beans serve as a side dish to the resto's fabulous cod fritters (more home-madey than Jaleo's but every bit as delicious). The beans were boiled to perfection, cooled and served as a salad with a bit of green pepper, red onion, vinegar and olive oil, a refreshing counterpart to the fritters. The second eating occured over Valentine's Day at our favorite Italian restaurant in DC, Tosca. This time the peas showed up unexpectedly on a silver spoon as our amuse bouche! Talk about a bite of delicious! Our waiter accidentally brought us two of these tasty little bites by accident, not that we would have sent it back. Tosca's preparation was much the same with the addition of red wine vinegar and fresh herbs (basil and oregano, we think). This same salad also showed up under Vince's excellently cooked lamb tenderloin.

I highly reccomend seeking out these black-eyed babies for their smashing taste and high fiber content. (They'll keep you full for hours, an important factor for those trying to lose weight or Catholics trying to keep their composure on fast days like today and Good Friday!)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It's snowing again...

Well not really. It just looks like its snowing because all of the frosting is raining down off the trees in front of my window. It's like a sunshower with snow. The trees are getting naked again. But here are a few more pictures of them in their winter garb.

Isn't this tree gorgeous!
This lovely stretch of street is usually quite busy, but I caught a traffic break!

This snow was perfect for packing into snow men. If Vince were home, I have visions of us making a series Calvin and Hobbes-inspired snowmen scenes!

Frosted Trees!

We had snow again last night, and today we have frosted trees!

If it gets sunnier, I'll upload some more pics.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Happy February!

Well, dear readers, we made it through January! Here in Arlington, we made it through a few snows and two epic weeks of a deep freeze. Seriously, I have never been so happy to see 40 degrees on the thermometer. It felt like spring time. Miami, I know you were frozen too, but people we made it through!

In February, we have the Super Bowl and Valentines day coming up. Two made-up, but essential holidays. I promise to make one football-shaped thing and one heart-shaped thing this month and show you via blogger, if you don't get the pleasure of eating it with me. February is also kind of awesome because it's such a short month. 4-weeks long, nothing more.

There are signs of spring coming, yesterday Emily gave me some seeds for my brother-in-law Chris. They are both avid gardeners and V and I get to reap the bounty of their harvests! So plant on!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Jose Andres "Made in Spain"

While we were flipping through the channels this Saturday night, Vin and I came across chef Jose Andres' PBS series "Made in Spain." Having just eaten at Jaleo that night, we had to see the man behind the food we loved so much.

"Made in Spain" is a hilarious, delightful, and delicious look at la cocina espanola (the spanish kitchen). Jose is so exuberant and enthusiastic about food that its hard not to smile the entire time. In this episode, Jose talked about a drunken goat cheese from the region of Murcia that Vince had ordered on our first trip to Jaleo. It was neat to see how the food gets prepared and even more interesting after you have already ordered it! (My dad has also bought this wine-cured cheese from Murcia in Miami, good taste, Dad!).

We also loved Jose's unique turns of phrase and charming accent. One of our greatest aspirations at home is to make "A truly astonishing dish!" Hopefully, the tips and recipes on Jose's "Made in Spain" website will make that possible:

Empire State Postcard

January 1st is one of the best days to visit New York City. The revelers have gone home, the streets are quiet and you feel like you have the place to yourself. This year we rang in 2010 in NJ, and set off to the Big Apple with Vince's parents as our first adventure of the year. We caught a glimpse of the ball in Times Square and then sauntered over to the Empire State Building for a view of the city. Neither Vince nor I had ever been up the monumental building so we decided to go all the way to the top. The view was fantastic even though it was cloudy. Here are a few shots Vince took. The first one is from the 102 floor observatory and the second is from the 81st floor.

That's the Chrysler building, looking fabulous as the sun started to come out. After the elevators, lines, and gift shop, we needed some fortification, so we headed out to the Heartland Brewery conveniently located right next door. They offer these neat little beer samplers, and as you know from our trip to Cape Cod, we love these! The beers were all really refreshing, but my favorites were the lights and the darks. I'm not one for wheat beers. The Indiana Pale Ale and the Farmer Jon's Oatmeal Stout were really yummy.

We finished off the day by getting a last glimpse of the Christmas decorations at Macy's, The Tree at Rockefeller Center and a late lunch at HK in Hell's Kitchen (great deal on Belini's ok food).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Truly Tempting Tapas

At the request of someone who will remain nameless (you know who you are!), I'm going to tell you about some really delicious food today. I had forgotten all about it until a Bon Apetit (yes, I'm starting to love that magazine) recipe reminded me and made me crave last Friday's dinner all over again.

For you long time DC residents, this will statement will come as no surprise: Jose Andres' Jaleo serves really, really amazing tapas and incredibly reasonable prices. Vince and I went for the first time with some friends of ours before catching a play at the Shakespeare theater, conveniently located next door. We were seated very quickly once our party arrived and we had a blast at dinner.

But enough about that and on to the food. We ordered ten dishes, each bursting with flavor and goodness. I can't go into each one, but I'll tell you about my favorites. Number one in my book were the bunuelos de bacalao, codfish fritters. I have these guys all the time, but I have never had a fritter quite so light airy and full of flavor. I'd love to see what JA can do with conch.
Number 2: Apple and fennel salad with manchego cheese. Three of my favorite foods on one plate and a perfect balance of sweet and savory. This one I have to try at home. Number 3: Patatas bravas. First, I love the Spanish spelling of the name for potatos, so much more dignified than the Cuban papas. These were hearty, fried fingerling potatoes sliced and covered in a tomato sauce and garnished with a delicious aioli.

There were also scallops on squash puree, some wine cured cheese, wild mushroom risotto, beet and citrus salad, and an excellent sangria.

All in all an excellent night of dining and one that I would love to replicate at home! Tapas party anyone?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bananas and Yogurt

I think I am finally getting the hang of this yogurt thing. The key (for me at least) is honey. Half a teaspoon of honey plus any fruit and the yogurt is heavenly. It's also a pretty quick combination. If I had a real job, I think I might spend some time pre-packaging these yogurt concoctions into tupperware and taking them in as breakfast, lunch, or an afternoon snack.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pears and Yogurt

In an effort to eat healthier, I have introduced yogurt into my diet. I see the commercials all the time on tv, in magazines, even the newspaper, but I was hesitant to try it. Mostly because dairy, with or without active cultures, often does a number on my innards. Goat' s milk products are usually much better, but Trader Joe's is the only place that I've found to sell goat's milk yogurt. However the 32 oz. package necessitated a level of commitment I didn't have - until now!

This week I took the plunge and bought the big package of plain yogurt and some blackberries. The first attempt was a sad one, plain yogurt with just a bit of honey. Totally gross. Second attempt, yogurt with blackberries. Better, but still quite acid. Finally today, I got it right. I chopped up a ripe Bosc pear (the brown ones) and drizzled it with a teaspoon full of honey, then I added about a 1/2 cup of yogurt and stirred it all together. Delicious! Absolutely, the most refreshing breakfast I've had in a long time. I think the key was a good fruit to yogurt ratio. I'm still not a huge dairy lover, but if there is more fruit than yogurt, then it is satisfying. I think next time, I'll add in some slivered almonds or chopped walnuts to add protein and crunch.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Making food taste good

I'm a big believer in making a big batch of something and then freezing up a few portions to have easy meals for later. However, sometimes this goes awry. Like the time that I made a huge portion of red beans that tasted absolutely terrible. Well, not inedible, but tasteless. This caused some strife in the house as I obviously couldn't throw 3 freezer bags full of perfectly edible food away just for lack of taste.

So, I experimented. The first batch we ate plain, yuck! Healthy, but gross. I tried adding more salt, but that only made things marginally better. The second batch got bacon, a good plan, but I burned the bacon, making salty and smoky into black and bitter. Ok, round three (I told you I made a ton of this!), bacon again, not burned. and Safeway's salsa verde. Much improved. Mostly because the salsa verde was over-powering all the bean taste.

Finally, I got it right. I buckled down and thought about the problem. When I made my mom's bean recipe, I didn't have a ham hock. It's a smoky thing that gives the beans all their flavor. While I didn't have a ham hock, I had something with a similar flavor profile: chorizo cantimpalo. Even better actually. So I dropped the beans in the slow cooker, added the chopped chorizo, some chopped carrots and potatos, let it simmer for 8 hours and voila! Deeee-licious beans. Holy crow, I could have served these to royalty.

So the moral of this story dear readers: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. It's bound to get tastier sometime.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bananas and Brie

This holiday season our go to appetizer was a little something I whipped up with leftovers one day for Vince. It's a sweet and savory combination with just a little bit of crunch that will have your guests coming back for more. All you need is French bread, brie cheese, ripe bananas, brown sugar, butter, and a splash of brandy! It's a little like bananas foster, but with a creamy cheesy twist.
2 ripe bananas, sliced into ovals
1/4 dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 tsp of cinnamon
2 tbsp Brandy
1 loaf of French bread, sliced into rounds
1 wedge of brie cheese
Slice the French bread into 1/4 inch round and toast in a 250 oven for 10 - 15 mins. In a sautee pan combine the butter, sugar and cinnamon over low heat. As the mixture begins to thicken, add the sliced bananas. Add the brandy and allow the mixture to coat the bananas and soften them. After about 10 minutes turn of the heat and assemble the appetizers. First, place a slice of cheese over the French bread, then add the brandied bananas. Best served warm.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How to Make Beer Bread

If you are looking for a quick and easy bread recipe that is full of flavor, look no further. My sister, Mimi, passed this recipe along from one of her boyfriend's roomates at UNC. I made it awhile back and just found the recipe as I was doing some January cleaning. Here it is:

Beer Bread:
1.5 cups of whole wheat flour
1.5 cups of white flour
4.5 tsp. baking soda
1.5 tsp. salt
12 oz beer

Assorted nuts, dried fruit, seeds, etc.

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all the dry ingredients together, then pour in the beer. Mix it all together. It will be a very sticky dough. Now you can add in a variety of seeds, dried nuts, and dried fruit if you want to make it a heartier bread. I recommend sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and maybe some chopped dried apricots.

Pour dough into a greased loaf pan and back for 50 to 60 minutes.

This bread will make your entire house smell good and tastes great with butter.

Monday, January 11, 2010

PB & J Oatmeal

First and foremost, Happy Birthday, Tito! Secondly, I have just hit upon a new breakfast sensation. As part of the New Year's resolutions to get fit, loose weight, etc, etc, I am trying to get into eating oatmeal for breakfast. Oatmeal is good for you. It has fat grabbing properties, and it can keep you full for a loooong time. I made a big batch last week and have been slowly working my way through it, reheating a little bit at a time for breakfast. Usually, I have it with a bit of honey and cinnamon, but today I thought I would up the protein content by adding in peanut butter and jelly. This has the potential to be really good, if I get the proportions right. Today's oatmeal is too peanut buttery, and I think grape jelly might work better than apricot. But until next time, happy eatings.

P.S. Even though its cold, we are getting an insane amount of sunshine in Virginia. I almost feel like I'm in Miami, until I go outside in shorts and flip flops, only to run in shivering and chattering. Ok, so I exaggerate, but the sunshine is awesome!!!!

Friday, January 8, 2010

How to Make Avocado Salad

Two avocado posts in a row? Yes. Two avocados at their peak point of ripeness = two posts. Thank goodness we didn't have any more! I just whipped up a batch of avocado salad and was amazed at how quick and easy it is, not to mention how healthy. All you need are avocados, limes, onions, olive oil, salt and pepper. The last four are kitchen staples in our house, always on hand, so it is no trouble to pick up two ingredients at the store for a serious nutritional punch. Putting the salad together is also easy. 1. Peel and cube the avocados. 2. Thinly slice the onions into rounds. 3. Squeeze limes over all. 4. Sprinkle olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. 5. Eat immediately or let sit, covered in the fridge for a few hours. I recommend letting it marinate for optimum flavor.

Nutritional Info:
Avocados: Very high in monounsaturated fat (the good kind), NO cholesterol, high in folate (pregnant ladies take note)

Onions: Fiber, may protect against stomach cancer, folate!

Olive oil: need I spell this out?

Limes: Vitamin C (duh!)

Grand total: serious nutritional punch and awesome flavor

Thursday, January 7, 2010

How to Make Guacamole

There are hundreds of different ways to make guacamole with the same basic ingredients: avocados, onions, lime juice, and jalapenos. While usually a fan of the traditional, I tried something different this week with the now-ripe avocados we got from a family friend in Miami. (For the record, avocado season is usually over by late august, but my grandfather's best friend, Duque, has the greenest thumb in Miami and some late bearing varieties.) I mention that they are now-ripe because when we transported them to Miami, they needed to be packed in our checked luggage. Why? Well, they were as hard as rocks and the TSA considered them a security threat. That and Vince's heavy glass beer drinking mug he got as a present. But, I digress. This guacamole I came up with is light on the spice and more refreshing in flavor than some guacamoles I've had. All the amounts are approximate and you can adjust them to your taste.

1 ripe West Indian avocado (or 3 hass avocados)
1 lime (squeezed)
3 scallions
1 garlic clove (made into a paste with 1 tsp. salt)
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and smash with a potato masher or fork. Season to taste and enjoy with your favorite chips!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

DIY Pasta Bar

Vince and I got to make Christmas dinner this year. A very nice casual affair because we had a wedding to go to the next day. While the rest of the family relaxed (or played with their toys), Vince and I got to work on a pasta bar using the farm fresh veggies that my mom gets from a friend at work. In our corner we had a pound of spaghetti, some mature arugula (read very bitter), tomatoes, thai basil, shallots, garlic, chicken tenders, olive oil and some white wine. Vince made a base sauce with garlic, olive oil, butter, and thai basil, which tasted about the same, but turned the sauce purple (very cool). We mixed that with the spaghetti then set about making the add ins.

Ok, so the add-ins were made first, but the order has been rearranged for the sake of clarity. Add-in number one: Sauteed arugula with olive oil, white wine and shallots. Add-in 2: cubed chicken breasts with white wine, olive oil, white wine, salt and pepper. Add-in number 3: Sauteed tomatoes with shallots, white wine, olive oil, salt and pepper. We served the pasta and garlic sauce in the pot and arranged side dishes with the add-ins. Everyone could mix as much or as little as they wanted of every ingredient and no one had to complain about eating green things.

The secret to making a pasta bar cohesive is to have repeating ingredients in every component. For our pasta bar, the usual suspects were the white wine, shallots, and garlic. This dish has endless variations and if you increase the portions would make a great luncheon buffet or casual dinner.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

It's that time of year again. Time for taking stock and making promises. The usual New Year's suspects always seem to include eating better, vowing to lose weight, or attempting to broaden your mind (while reducing your mid-section). All are admiral goals, albeit too soon abandoned. This year, while I may also secretly by adhering to the usual suspects, I plan on having a few new resolutions: to enjoy life more, to live for the minute not for the hour, to worry less and to pray more. As 2009 showed, life is full of ups and downs, thankfully more ups than downs, and I plan to go into 2010 focusing on the positive. This little blog is one of my outlets for the joy in life, and I hope it brings you happiness (and some good eating) in 2010!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Popeye's chicken

is really quite tasty, especially when eaten on the way home from New Jersey at the Maryland House. Popeye's two-piece and biscuit is also a send off to the wanton ways of holiday eating. Tomorrow we diet!

Happy New Year everyone! 2010!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Airport Date

For starters, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!! 2009 was a great year and 2010 looks to be even better. This holiday season brought a lot of travel our way and the discovery of the airport date.

What is the airport date you may ask? Well, it begins with an extended layover or the anticipation of long lines and security delays at the airport. You arrive early at the airport with your significant other and find that the lines aren't nearly as bad as you thought. With time to kill, you peruse the airport options and find that there is a sushi restaurant right by the security line (Reagan, terminal B). You sit, enjoy some spicy California rolls and a bit of sake. Now fed and relaxed, you sail through security with ease, grab a magazine in the terminal and snuggle up for a leisurely read. Alternatively, you may come to the airport already fed. In this case, I suggest a jaunt through the independent bookseller's stall (Miami International, Terminal D). Choose a couple of books to read with your significant other. We like to take turns then swap. Grab a coffee and some pastries, or even some light libations, before you settle in for some lively banter and people-watching.

As you can see, we discovered this form of entertainment serendipitously. A delightful surprise when we were most expecting discomfort and pain from our journey.

P.S. If my diction seems a bit funny, you can attribute it to a recent reading of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, picked up at MIA. Hilarious and contagious!