Archive | May, 2011

D.U.M.B.O.

17 May

If you aren’t familiar with NYC, then chances are you’ve never heard of D.U.M.B.O.

DUMBO is a neighborhood in Brooklyn and it stands for “Down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.”

This past weekend, Alex and I found ourselves in DUMBO so that we could meet with a potential wedding photographer.  The meeting and our visit went well!

First up, we stopped for lunch at O’Crepes.

O’Crepes is a small creperie with a menu that features local and organic ingredients.

They offer both savory and sweet crepes with the option to create your own if you don’t like any of their signature crepes.  Everything looked so yummy but we were there for lunch so we stuck with savory crepes.  I ordered the J Hook which was a buckwheat crepe filled with cream cheese, smoked salmon, and spinach.  Alex went with the Architectural Digest which had chicken, mushrooms, ratatouille, and onions.

We got to watch the chef hard at work!  He made the crepes right in front of us in no time flat.

Yum!  This crepe was huge!  I couldn’t finish the whole thing but the part that I did eat was great.  My only complaint was that the smoked salmon was very salty.  I think if I ever find myself back at O’Crepes, I’ll order what Alex got.  His dish was fantastic.

After lunch, we had a little bit of time before our appointment so we decided to walk around.  Not two steps from the restaurant, what should we come across?  A humongous candy shop.

Alex was thrilled.  He was very focused and had to make sure he walked away with the best of the best.  Candy shopping is no joke. :-)

Dewey’s was such a fun shop!  There was so much to look at and to taste.  Alex and I were quite pleased with our purchases.

As we finally made our way to the photographers, we ran into this guy.  I couldn’t leave without snapping a picture!  He said hi and requested that you go to Brooklyn for a visit.

:-) We had a great time and hope to go back soon.  There was so much to see that we only scratched the surface!

Have you ever been to Brooklyn?

Honey Roasted Cinnamon Cashew Peanut Butter

16 May

Yes, it’s quite a mouthful.  On so many levels.

In fact, if my mouth weren’t so full of Honey Roasted Cinnamon Cashew Peanut Butter I might be able to tell you its fabulous.  And that I’m addicted.

You see, ever since I made my first batch of peanut butter, I’ve been having so much fun.  My mind has been full of flavor possibilities and my mouth has been full of nut butter.  Do you see a trend?

Over the weekend I indulged myself with this sweet, smooth, and rich nutty creation.  A not-so-thin layer spread over an English muffin and topped with bananas, was the perfect treat.

So if you need a pick-me-up on this dreary Monday, this is just the thing. 

Oh who am I kidding?  This is always just the thing.

Honey Roasted Cinnamon Cashew Peanut Butter
(adapted from this recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup unsalted, dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup and 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp coconut oil, optional
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp salt
Directions:
  1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. On a pan covered with parchment paper, spread out peanuts and cashews.  Drizzle honey on top and mix.
  3. Roast for 15 minutes, stirring every five minutes.  Be careful they don’t burn!
  4. Once nuts are roasted, dump into the food processor and allow them to cool for a few minutes.
  5. Begin processing the nuts.  This mixture did not butterize as readily as the peanuts alone so you may have to scrape down the sides of the processor several times.
  6. To help the nuts butterize, I added some coconut oil about five minutes in.  You can decide if you want to add it as you don’t necessarily need it.
  7. Once the nuts are smooth, add the cinnamon and salt through the feeding tube.  Continue to process until the desired consistency is reached.

Someone out there please confirm that I’m not the only nut butter addict.

Cheesy Pretzel Bites

15 May

When I first saw this recipe, I immediately emailed it to Alex.  His response was precisely what I expected.  He asked that I make them as soon as possible since they looked amazing.  I couldn’t have agreed more.

Unfortunately life got in the way and before I knew it months had gone by without these pretzel delights.  Luckily, this weekend I found the time to make some.  They. Were. Awesome.

The pretzel dough was soft and chewy with a light salted, buttery finish.  The cheese adds nice flavor and little extra chew.  Each bite was well worth the three plus hours it took to make them.  Trust me, when I say you won’t be sorry you made these.

Cheesy Pretzel Bites
(recipe from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp plus 1/2 tsp packed brown sugar, divided
  • 2 Tbsp warm water (110˚F)
  • 1/2 cup warm milk (110˚F)
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar)
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt

Directions:

Gather your ingredients.

(The water and butter were too shy to be photographed but I think you know what they look like.)

In a small bowl, combine the yeast, 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar, and warm water and let rest 5-8 minutes until foamy.

In another bowl, stir together the remaining 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and warm milk until dissolved.

In a large bowl, add 1 1/4 cups flour.  Pour in milk mixture and the yeast.

Combine all ingredients until a smooth ball of dough forms.

If dough is sticky, you can add up to an additional 1/4 cup flour.  Mine was pretty sticky, as you can see from the picture above.  I slowly added flour one tablespoon at a time.  In the end I only need 2 tablespoons to reduce the stickiness and used the remaining two when kneading the dough.

Once the dough comes together into a smooth ball, knead it for 5 to 8 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.

Transfer the dough to a bowl sprayed with olive oil cooking spray.  Spray the dough with oil and cover with plastic wrap.

Let the dough rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

After the dough has risen, remove the dough and place onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide into 2 equal pieces.  Roll one piece into a 12×4-inch rectangle.  Gently press 1/4 cup of cheese into the bottom portion of the dough.

Roll-up very tightly, starting with the end that has the cheese.  Cut into 12 1-inch pieces and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Repeat with remaining portion of dough.  I ended up with about 27 pieces because I had a little extra dough.  No worries, it just means more pretzels :-)

Let the pretzels rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil.  Add the baking soda and turn heat to low.  Slowly boil pretzels in batches, putting the pretzels into the poaching liquid, seam side down.

Poach for 10 seconds then carefully turn the pretzel over in the liquid.  Poach other side for 10 seconds then remove with a slotted spoon to the same prepared sheet pan, seam side down.  Repeat with the remaining pretzels.

Bake in preheated oven until golden-brown, about 15 minutes.  Once the pretzels are removed from the oven, brush melted butter on top and sprinkle with salt.

I have submitted this recipe to Yeastspotting.

Have you ever made homemade soft pretzels?

Five Friday Favorites – 5/13/11

13 May

Random is the name of the game today.  I’ve read so many great posts over the past week or so that I complied quite the random listing.  This is just a glimpse of what’s been happening in the blogworld this week.  I’m sure there are many awesome posts that I missed.  If you feel I overlooked something stellar, please share in the comments! 

My five favorites for Friday, May 13, 2011:

  1. Brown Rice Horchata (from skinnytaste.com)
    For those of you who have never heard of horchata, it is a Mexican drink made from rice, milk, cinnamon and sugar.  A few years ago this drink was foreign to me too however, it is one of Alex’s favorites.  He’s always on the look out for horchata when we go to a new Mexican restaurant.  Once I saw this recipe, I knew I had to save it so that I can make him some in our very own kitchen! 
  2. Burpee Blasts (from Getting Healthy with Heather)
    If you thought burpees were hard, think again.  The burpee blast takes this plyometric exercise to the next level.  Heather was brave enough to do 101 at once and she lived to tell the tale.  Phenomenal.  I hope to try these myself sometime however my goal is much more modest.  I’m hoping I can do more than one :-) 
  3. Weighing In (from Slate)
    This article discusses the importance and ease of using a kitchen scale.  Years ago I would have thought it crazy to weigh my ingredients when baking a simple batch of cookies or a loaf of quick bread.  But as I spend more time in the kitchen, I’ve come to learn that weighing the ingredients can make all the difference between soft, chewy cookies and cookie shaped rocks.  I use the EatSmart Precision Pro Kitchen Scale.  It’s probably the best $25 I’ve ever spent on kitchen supplies.
  4. Spring Abs Workout (from The Fitnessita)
    This is another great fat blasting workout that focuses on the core.  I like that it’s short and sweet but I’m sure highly effective.  It’s another one I plan to try soon!
  5. DIY Decorating with Masking Tape (from How About Orange)
    This last one is so much fun!  I love the simplicity and versatility of each design.  Also, if you’re not happy with your work, you can always take the tape off and start again.  You can change the tape according to the season, your mood, or whatever you like.  Personally, I’m quite partial to the purple tape but that’s just me :-)

Any big plans for the weekend?  Alex and I are going to keep it pretty low-key for the most part but we do have a meeting with a wedding photographer on Sunday.  I’m looking forward to it.  Wedding planning has been a lot of fun and it’s nice to see each piece of our big day fall into place.  Have a good one!

BBQ Chicken Pizza

11 May

Yesterday I posted about a quick weeknight meal for those days when you have little time to cook.  This is another great recipe for nights when you’re short on time but it does require some planning. 

Every few weeks I like to make some double batch of pizza dough on the weekend.  It’s really quite simple although it does require a couple of hours of rise time.  Next time I make a batch, I’ll post a step-by-step tutorial so you can see what it’s all about.  

If making pizza dough from scratch isn’t really your thing, there are a lot of great pre-made doughs available.  Most of them freeze really well so all you have to do is remember to defrost it and you’ll be ready to make homemade pizza in a snap!

BBQ Chicken Pizza
(makes one pizza with about 8 slices)

Ingredients:

  • One batch prepared pizza dough
  • 2 to 3 boiled chicken breasts, shredded
  • 1/4 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees (or follow package directions).
  2. Roll out pizza dough and place on a greased pizza baking sheet.
  3. Cover dough with BBQ sauce and place shredded chicken on top of the sauce.  Gently mix to combine.  I used about 1/4 cup and there was plenty of sauce but feel free to adjust the amount to your liking.
  4. Sprinkle cheeses on top to cover all sauce.
  5. Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes.  Allow the pizza to cool for a few minutes before digging in!

This pizza would be even better with some carmelized onions or gorgonzola cheese.  It’s such an easy recipe to customize!

Do you make pizza dough from scratch or do you buy it pre-made?  If you buy it from the store, which brand do you prefer?

Weeknight Dinner in 20 Minutes

10 May

The need for convenience is something that most people can agree on.  These days, everyone has such a busy schedule that anything that can make life easier is welcomed.  However, when it comes to food, convenience usually means unhealthy fare such as fast food or overly processed frozen dinners.  But it doesn’t have to.  There are ways to prepare a quick, nutritious meal in 20 minutes!

One of my favorite speedy meals involves chicken sausage.  It has such great flavor, it’s filling, and it cooks up in a matter of minutes.  The trick is to be careful of what sausage you buy.  Some brands contain artificial ingredients and preservatives which are not necessary and provide no nutritional benefit.  My brand of choice is Applegate Organics.

They don’t use antibiotics on their chicken and all the ingredients are organic.  Check out these stats!

My favorite way to cook the sausages is on my handy, dandy George Foreman grill.  The grill heats up the sausage evenly and retains the moisture so that your finished product is warm, succulent, and tasty.

And you get those neat little grill lines!  (If you don’t have a grill, you can easily cook them up on a skillet.)

Next up is some whole grains.

Pasta from a box is nothing new and it is so easy to prepare!  Annie’s is all organic with a pretty decent list of ingredients.

Here are the stats:

Now, the easiest part of this meal is steaming some broccoli on the side.  Do you have 5 minutes?  Because that’s all it takes. 

Let me give you a play by play of how to complete this meal in 20 minutes.

  • Pre-heat grill & boil water (for the noodles) – 5 minutes
  • While the noodles are cooking, put the sausage on the grill & chop broccoli – 10 minutes
  • In a smaller pot, bring about 2 tablespoons of water to a boil.  Throw in your broccoli, cover the pot and steam – 5 minutes
  • Done!

So next time you need to eat in a hurry, consider the fact that there are healthy options out there!

What’s your favorite dinner to prepare when you’re short on time?

Honey Roasted Homemade Peanut Butter

9 May

Early last week I shared with you how I make peanut butter from scratch using only two ingredients.  It’s such a simple recipe (if I can even call it that) and it packs so much flavor!  While discussing the recipe with a coworker, he suggested using honey roasted peanuts.  I was certainly intrigued.

Instead of buying honey roasted peanuts (which contains a shocking amount of ingredients), I decided to roast my own peanuts in honey.  It was very simple and added only 10 minutes to the whole process.  Those 10 minutes are worth it my friends because this peanut butter was unreal.  I was thrilled with my original and now I’m in love with the new and improved version.

If you own a food processor, do yourself a favor, make this honey roasted peanut butter!

Honey Roasted Peanut Butter
(adapted from Ashley’s Roasted Maple Cinnamon Almond Butter)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cup dry roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  Line a pan with parchment (this makes clean up a whole lot easier).

Pour the peanuts on the pan, drizzle the honey on top and mix.  It may be hard to mix at first as the honey can be sticky but once it heats up in the oven, it’ll be much easier to stir.

Roast for about 15 minutes, stirring every five minutes.  Make sure they don’t burn!

Dump the hot nuts into the food processor quickly before they harden and stick to the pan.  Let them cool for about 5 minutes before processing.  Turn the processor on and let the nuts do their thing.  It should take about 5 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl as needed.

Add in the salt and process again until it’s well mixed.  Try not to eat all of it straight from the processor.

I sent this to my mom for Mother’s Day along with her mini-loaf of Peanut Butter Banana Bread.  It’s absolutely a recipe worth sharing with someone you love.  Or, if you can’t bring yourself to share it all, make a double batch and keep some for yourself :-)

Five Favorites Friday – 5/6/11

6 May

Earlier this week, I shared a tutorial on how to make your own peanut butter at home.  Ever since then I’ve had nut butter on the brain.  I even created another recipe thanks to a suggestion from my coworker. 

Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to share it with you shortly.  Dare I say it’s even better than the peanut butter recipe?  But you’ll just have to check back and judge for yourself.

Keeping inline with my nut butter infatuation, I’ve found some stellar recipes that all use nut butter.  Here are my five favorites for Friday May 6, 2011:

  1. Dark Chocolate Cinnamon PB Cups (from Nutrition Nut on the Run)
    I’ve made my own peanut butter cups and I have to say that they don’t even compare to store-bought.  They are just so much better!  You can customize each ingredient to suit your taste, such as the use of dark chocolate instead of milk, or adding cinnamon.  I love all that Hillary did with these PB cups and I can’t wait to replicate them in my own kitchen!
  2. Pistachio Butter Cups (from From Donuts to Delirium)
    These look phenomenal!  The pistachio butter has such a vibrant green color that makes the cups look even more irresistible than they sound. 
  3. Cinnamon Raisin Almond Butter Cookies (from Kiss My Broccoli)
    I love the combination of cinnamon and raisin in just about anything.  Add almond butter to the mix, and I’m sure you can’t go wrong.  These cookies look fantastic!
  4. Pink Fuzzy Slipper Cookies (from Hungry Happenings)
    These cookies involve peanut butter in the form of Nutter Butter cookies.  And, quite frankly, they are just adorable.  Ever since I found them, I’ve been brainstorming occasions for which to use them.  So creative!
  5. Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich Cookies (from Mind Over Batter)
    A delectable twist on a childhood favorite.  Yum!

What was the last thing you made using nut butter?  Feel free to leave a link in the comments!

El Centro & The Freelance Whales

5 May

Have you ever heard of the Freelance Whales?  Chances are, you haven’t.  If you’d asked me that a couple of months ago, my answer also would have been no.  However, when I heard Alex playing their catchy, upbeat songs I couldn’t help but hum along.

Freelance Whales is an indie rock band from Queens that got its start by singing on subway platforms throughout the city.  Over the past year or two, they’ve been working their way up through live performances, television soundtracks, and commercials.  Last night, we were lucky enough to see them in concert.

Before the show, we grabbed a bite to eat.  We decided to go to El Centro in Hells Kitchen. 

We’d been once before but it had been quite a while so this was the perfect chance to head back.

After browsing the menu a bit, I decided on the shrimp fajitas and Alex went with the hanger steak.

We munched on some tortilla chips and salsa while we waited for our food.  The chips were great; very crisp and salty without being greasy.  Unfortunately the salsa was a little watered down for my liking but I ate it nonetheless.

And then, dinner was served!

My fajitas were served with three corn tortillas, various sides, and rice and beans.  While the food was very flavorful, the portion was a little small for the price.  I only got five pieces of shrimp.  That’s less than two per fajita!  Also, I sure could have used a little more guacamole.  I love that stuff :-)

Alex said his dish was also good but they were stingy on the beef.  You can see from his plate above that more than half was just rice and beans!  After the meal we both agreed that while the food was good, the prices were much too high for the amount of food served.  We most likely won’t be back.

Next up was Terminal 5 for the Freelance Whales show.

The venue was intimate without being crowded and there was no point at which we thought the music was too loud.  In fact, there were times we were struggling to hear certain instruments.  After the show, Alex made a good point that the sound distribution was off for some of the instruments as they could not be heard at pivotal points of the songs.  It could have been an issue with the venue or the band, but either way it wasn’t enough of a problem to take away from the show.  We definitely had a great time :-)

The opener was a band called the Foals.  This group was new to me but I still enjoyed a couple of their songs.  That’s one of the great things about concerts; it exposes you to music you might not have heard otherwise.  Now that I’ve heard them, I plan to look into their music a little bit more.

Finally the Freelance Whales took the stage for a pretty awesome set.  The band has five musicians and they are all so talented.  I don’t even know how many instruments they had on stage but each took their turn playing something different.  It’s remarkable what they could do!

It was a fun night out and not too wild for a weeknight.  I have many habits that rival those of a 70-year-old woman; an early bed time is one of them.  :-D

What was the last concert you went to?

Pastrami Queen

4 May

Last night, Alex and I found ourselves further up on the Upper East Side than we’re used to. 

You know, it’s funny, I find the longer I live in New York, the more time I spend south of 72nd street.  When I first moved to the city in 2005, I lived way up on 92nd street.  It was a little two bedroom, in a walk up building, over a CVS, across from the gym and a five minute walk from the train.  The neighborhood was great and there was plenty to do but I found that I felt detached from some of the cooler places in Manhattan, namely downtown. 

Over the years, I moved a lot.  I lived in three different apartments in the 90s, two in the 70s, and now one cozy apartment in the 60s.  I enjoyed my tour of the Upper East Side but I think I’ve finally found a place I can call home :-)

Anyway, that was a big digression from the topic at hand.  And that topic is the Pastrami Queen.  As the name indicates, the Pastrami Queen is a kosher deli that specializes in quality meats.  According to Zagat’s they even have the best pastrami in New York.  Alex and I decided to see for ourselves.

They’re menu is a tad overwhelming as there are so many items from which to choose!

In the end I decided to go with the overstuffed roast turkey sandwich.  Alex choose the famous pastrami on rye.

The sandwiches were huge!  But you better believe I finished mine.  It’d be a shame to let such fine meat go to waste.

We both liked the Pastrami Queen and will definitely go back again.  I’m pretty sure the pastrami wasn’t the best in the city and it’s no Katz Deli, but sometimes you just can’t make it downtown, in which case, Pastrami Queen is a great option.

Have you ever been to a genuine, NY kosher deli?  If so, what did you order?

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