May 31, 2009

Make your own (iced) mocha

As annoying as those new McD's Café commercials are ("Commute? Commuté"), I must admit the images of the whipped cream-topped iced mochas had me thinking about them constantly. The McDonald's down my block has been taunting us for weeks with the machinery for the McCafé, but had yet to install it and get it working. Plus, as I mentioned: recession. Time to save some money without punishing my taste buds!

I made some double-strength coffee in my Melitta (heart it!) coffeemaker, then let it come to room temperature. I took one tablespoon of Hershey's syrup (add 2 if you want it sweeter) and whisked it into the cool coffee. Then I packed my favorite Mets tumbler full of ice and poured it over. A glug of milk lightened it up, and then the crowning touch: freshly-whipped heavy cream, drizzled, of course, with a little more chocolatey goodness. Fuggedaboutit.

Affordable? Affordablé!

(please enjoy the background appearance of my cardinal windchime, another of my favorite things!)

May 30, 2009

Shak(shuka) it to Me

My friend Yoga Jen and I have gone for post-yoga brunches many a time, but one of my favorite locales was the Israeli restaurant Miriam on Court Street (which has since closed--sigh--and the other location on 5th Ave just isn't as good, IMHO). Every time we went, I got the same thing: Eggs Shakshuka. They're a traditional Middle Eastern dish: basically eggs poached over a tomato/onion/red pepper sauce, and they are beyond delicious. I always figured they had to be easy to make, but never got around to it until now. I guess after learning that my favorite location closed, I have enough motivation to recreate the dish on my own. Plus, as you may have noticed, there is a recession going on, and it's kicking my bank account's ass right now, so I'm not eating out anywhere near as much as I used to.

There are a million different recipes out there, so I decided to wing my own variation. I got a 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes, one clove of garlic, half a yellow onion, and some eggs. That's it! I didn't have any red peppers on hand today (I'm overdue for a Fresh Direct delivery) so I had to go without those.

I sautéed the onions & garlic in some olive oil (many recipes I found called for vegetable oil??) until they were clear, then I poured the can of tomatoes (juice and all) over them and let it simmer for about 3 minutes, because that's all I could stand to wait. Sometimes cooking while you're starving is not the best idea. : )

Once the mixture had simmered for a bit (stirring it around to blend the different items), I plopped two eggs over the top and put on the cover. I let it sit for a few minutes--I honestly don't know how long. I was hovering too close to bother to look at a clock. But once the egg whites had mostly firmed up, I removed them, plated them, and promptly devoured them. I cooked the yolks just a smidge more than I'd normally prefer, but still, DEEEELICIOUS (and yes, that is steam fogging up the shot below).

May 23, 2009

Simply Delicious

One of the misconceptions that I constantly work to disprove is that eating healthy has to cost a lot. It really doesn't, if you know where to shop, what to make, etc. Take one of my favorite easy-to-make meals: rotisserie chicken & sautéed zucchini. The rotisserie chicken was on sale at; maybe 6 or 7 dollars? I put it in the oven for about 30 minutes just to warm it up, and while that was cooking I tidied up my sink and did a few other things around the house. With about 5 minutes left, I put the zucchini on in some olive oil and salt & pepper. A few minutes of tossing it around in the pan and it was good to go. For a nice change of pace, I used my microplane to finely shred some Gruyére cheese on top. It had a nice sharp edge to complement the veggies.

Total cost? About 8 dollars--and I had leftovers for 2 days! Granted, if you're feeding a family of four, there probably won't be leftovers, but you still can't beat 8 bucks for dinner--and it's delicious!

May 22, 2009

Random Acts of Baking

I had the day off (as in I'd already worked 20+ hours and there was no real reason for me to be in the office today, so enjoy the unpaid time off anyway!) today and decided to make a coffee cake. I reached for one of my favorite cookbooks, The Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Breakfast & Brunch. I LOVE this book. I even paid FULL PRICE for it (I get almost all of my cookbooks on sale/clearance normally) and it was worth every stinking penny.

I had all ingredients on hand: cake flour, walnuts (on sale at Fresh Direct!), and canola oil, for starters. I creamed the butter and sugar in a few minutes, added the dry ingredients, and swirled in the walnut/cinnamon/sugar topping. I'm thinking my oven might be running a bit hot these days, so instead of the recommended 55 minutes, I put it in for 45, and it was ready by then.

I know you're supposed to let it cool, but I couldn't wait! Is my baking getting better and better?

The answer is yes. Woo hoo!

May 21, 2009

Baked Eggs

This is a dish I've always admired, but never attempted.. until NOW (portentous thunderclap).

Seriously, though, I had a little extra time before work this morning, so I took out my cookbook, "Brunch," and flipped open to a recipe I knew required ingredients I already had: eggs, spinach, butter.

I was only making enough for one, so I sort of fudged my way along. I grabbed a huge handful of spinach, which might look like a lot, but ended up being juuust enough. I probably could have even grabbed a bit more. I ignored the book's suggestion to boil the spinach for FOUR minutes? Did I not want any taste or texture left? It could be me, but this seemed an awful lot of time to cook spinach, when the recommendation is to get it to the point where it's still bright green. I cooked it for about a minute, then took it out of the hot water and ran cold water over it to stop the cooking. Once I squeezed the excess water out of the spinach, it wasn't even as big as the egg I was about to crack over it.

I made a bed of spinach at the bottom, put a sliver of butter on top, cracked the egg over it, sprinkled some pepper over it, and added a splash (like not even a full teaspoon) of heavy cream on top. I figured since I salted the water for the spinach already I didn't need to salt the egg, too.

The recipe calls for 15 minutes at 350 degrees, which I say is great if you want a rock-hard-boiled egg. I did not. I made the first one according to specs, and it was too cooked. I put a second one in for about 11 minutes, and it was perfect. Soft but not too runny.

They look pretty fancy-shmancy, don't they? It's a simple dish that's low on effort and high on looks--definitely making an appearance at my next brunch!

May 01, 2009

Incredible, Edible Egg (Whites)

I actually did something I always meant to do--I used leftover egg whites!! Instead of tossing them! I always, always save them when I use egg yolks for cooking, but this is the first time I've actually used them instead of tossing them. I know.. I know.. don't ask me why I feel it's slightly less wasteful if I undergo the pretense of storing them for a few days before ultimately, inevitably tossing them. It's just how I, as the kids say, roll.

Yesterday's danish recipe called for 2 extra-large egg yolks. Since I only had normal-sized eggs, I used 3 egg yolks, and set aside the egg whites in the fridge. This morning I decided to whip up a delicious omelet using fresh veggies and my favorite, pepper jack cheese.

I first sautéed some red peppers, yellow onion, and mushrooms in the pan. Here's the thing--I'm kind of obsessed with mushrooms right now, and yet they still freak me out a little. I used to HATE them: the smell, the texture, the fact that they are a fungus. But in the past year, my taste buds have come around, even if my brain hasn't completely joined the group. For instance, as I rinsed and sliced the mushrooms this morning, I couldn't help noticing that THEY SMELL LIKE DIRT. I don't like eating dirt, I don't like the FEELING that I'm eating dirt, and I have to tell you, it took some mental athletics to push through that sensation. It's kind of like green tea--sometimes I can take it, sometimes it tastes like liquid dirt. And I don't like that.

But once the mushrooms softened and took on the onion flavors, I calmed myself a bit. I set aside the sautéed ingredients in a handy little ramekin before using thes same pan for the eggs. I wanted SOME yolk in my eggs, so I added one whole egg to the 3 egg whites, resulting in one MONSTER omelet. Isn't it pretty?
Nicely browned by the butter, bursting with yummy ingredients. A trick my mother taught me--when the omelet is almost done, turn off the heat and cover with a lid. The steam fluffs up the omelet quite nicely so your eggs aren't too dry. I knew there was no way I could eat it all, so I ended up only eating half (Non-giant portion pictured at top of post). Maybe I'll have the rest for lunch!

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