November 21, 2014

Holiday Eats: Cranberry Pie

Thank goodness for bookmarks. I saved this recipe years ago after tripping across it in the wilds of cyberspace. It still took a long while before making it, and I'd be so mad at myself for that if it did any good. Instead, I will just make it as many times as I can to make up for all the missed opportunities!

Called Nantucket Cranberry Pie (original post here), this is texturally more like a cake, but let's not fight over semantics, shall we?

This recipe is dead simple, and simply delicious. You can put it together in mere minutes, and it's a tart and tangy treat to mix it up in a sea of pumpkin and pecan pies.

It's a one-bowl, easy-peasy, satisfying recipe. Chop the cranberries and nuts (I used pecans, though the recipe calls for walnuts), toss them with a 1/2 cup of sugar, and dump them in your pie tin.

Next, add 2 eggs, melted butter, flour, sugar, and almond extract to the same bowl you used to mix your berries & nuts. You'll have a thick, yellow batter ready to pour over the berries.

I made this for a work potluck and it was gone in no time. The tart cranberries and the mellow almond flavor were a great pairing, and more than one person asked me for the recipe. I think it might be on a few tables this Thanksgiving!

It's not the most photogenic dessert when sliced, but everyone will eat it too quickly even to notice! I loved this so much that I made it again 2 days later for company.

This dish has earned a spot in my immediate rotation of recipes. It's easy to prepare, bakes in less than 40 minutes, and goes just as well for dessert (I'll add some orange zest and top with whipped cream next time) as it does for breakfast, next to a steaming hot cup of coffee. I hope you'll give it a whirl!

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 14, 2014

Wafels & Dinges Restaurant

A group of us gathered one EARLY Sunday morning, hoping to have some of my favorite pancakes at Clinton Street Baking Company. When our expected wait of an hour turned into TWO hours, and then we heard it would be THREE HOURS, we collectively said Oh HELL NO, and walked north to find a better option, ANY option. Three hours for pancakes? You must think I've lost my mind and then some. No. NO NO NO NO NO. I'm mad we even waited that long, but sometimes optimism can be a real kick in the head.

We walked two blocks up and saw the brick and mortar version of the Wafels & Dinges, an amazing Belgian wafel truck that was really at the forefront of the food truck movement. In fact, back in 2008, I organized a Wafels & Dinges Day at the talk show where I worked. Everyone chipped in about 10 bucks and the Wafels truck came just for us outside work. Sigh..that was a great day. But back to the future...

He's putting BACON in the wafels--thank you, Sir. THANK YOU.
We walked in, immediately ordered at the counter (where they serve sweet AND savory), and were seated in under five minutes. Hello, THIS is how I like to do brunch. Screw that waiting in line nonsense. And I had an icy cold, bracingly strong iced coffee-- FINALLY!

I like to start with savory first thing in the morning, so I ordered the chicken and mushroom wafel. It sounded so good, and tasted even better. It was like a wonderfully comforting stew. Impossible to eat with your hands, but I'm not complaining. I was not expecting the savory wafels to be so incredibly flavorful. Bright, green herbs and BACON cooked into the wafel!! It came with a side of lightly-dressed arugula and pickled, tickle-your-tongue onions. Killer combo.

ABF ordered the Wake Up Grumpy: an egg, bacon and cheese with two savory wafels replacing the biscuit. Drizzled with a generous portion of honey, it looked gorgeous, and ABF gave it two forks up, happily.

For dessert, ABF & I shared the sweet raspberry wafel, lightly dusted with confectioner's sugar and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with honey. This was great- ABF is coming around to really liking raspberries (one of my favorite foods), and I'm happy to share with him. As tasty as this was, I actually rate the chicken & mushroom wafel as even more fantastic.

See that stunning chocolate concoction? I think that was my friend Travis's pick-- I was so full at this point I couldn't even fathom trying it, but it smelled glorrrrrrrious.

The prices are reasonable, coffee is strong, flavors are fab, and the servers were all cheerful and welcoming. Skip waiting ANYWHERE for brunch and try out this spot!

Wafels and Dinges

209 East 2nd Street

NY, NY 10009

(866) 429-7329

November 06, 2014

Personal Shepherd's Pies

I'd made mini pot pies a while back (for St. Patrick's Day), but I hadn't tried them yet the low-carb way. This dish was one of the few ways my mom could get me to eat vegetables when I was a kid. Now that I'm older and FAR less picky an eater, I find myself making this dish on my own. On a chilly November night, I decided to make a few personal servings of Shepherd's pie, with some tweaks.

I switched out the ground beef for ground turkey, and instead of peas, I used carrots. I'm not a registered dietitian, but I'll take the carbs in some organic carrots over junk food any day. Plus, the carrots looked so bright and colorful in what can be a dreary-looking dish. I also added mushrooms to the mix to sneak in some more veggies.

I boiled some cauliflower for 8 minutes, then put it in my food processor along with some roasted garlic, salt, pepper, and a small knob of cream cheese. I used this as the topping instead of heavier mashed potatoes. Most of the time, when I sub roasted cauliflower instead of white potatoes, no one even notices! Much lower carb count, still delicious!

After 30 minutes in the oven (at 400), they were perfectly browned on the top, and delicious inside! I had some that night for dinner with a good friend, and will be enjoying the leftovers this week for lunch!

Mini Shepherd's Pies:

1 lb ground turkey

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 cup mushrooms, chopped

3 large carrots, chopped

Worcestershire sauce

1 bag (16 oz) frozen cauliflower

Salt, pepper, roasted garlic cloves, or garlic powder

Sauté the carrots and onions until softened, set aside (I don't like burned onions!)-- Add ground turkey to pan, brown. Once it's almost browned through, add mushrooms. As turkey is almost cooked through, splash a tablespoon or two of Worcestershire sauce and blend. Add a dash of salt & pepper to the meat, set aside.

While browning turkey, boil the frozen cauliflower for about 8 minutes, until softened. Blend in food processor with salt, pepper, a clove or two of roasted garlic (or garlic powder), and an ounce of cream cheese.

To assemble pies: add 1/4 cup of turkey and mushrooms into a ramekin. Add layer of carrots & onions. Top with the pureéd cauliflower, and use a fork to make little peaks in the cauliflower.

Bake in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops are browned. Let ramekin cool 5 minutes, but still use caution when handling the dishes (pot holders are key). This dish gets even better the next day!

October 30, 2014

Spicy Carrot Soup

Our office LOVES to eat cook. Every so often, we take on a cooking challenge that focuses on one ingredient. In the past, we've featured lemon, pumpkin, and apple, in sweet and savory forms. This time, the lowly carrot, so often pushed aside as an overlooked, overcooked side, too center stage.

I decided to make a harissa-spiked soup I made years ago for a dinner party. It struck me as something different, a new mix of flavors for our group. And it couldn't be easier!

Okay, there is peeling and chopping to do with those carrots, but I find chopping to be very relaxing. You might disagree, and that's cool. Takes all kinds, right?
It's basically sautéed carrots & leeks, stock, and harissa. So dead simple! Once the carrots of softened, you put half of the soup in a blender and purée it, then add it back to the soup. Adds a nice texture and heft to it.
The original recipe calls for chicken stock, but we have a few vegetarians at work, so I switched to vegetable stock. I've never really used veggie stock before, but it turned out to be just fine. It was a different flavor, but it was still delicious, and some of the vegetarians thought the stock's richness gave the dish a meaty taste, anyway!

Harissa, a spicy pepper sauce popular in Northern African cuisine, is the magic ingredient. But a little goes a long, long way. I ended up adding an extra teaspoon, and it was deemed too spicy for some. I'd stick with just the recommended two!
Carrot hummus!
Carrot ring: EPIC

The next morning, I put the soup in a Thermos and carried it off to our Carrot Gathering. We had a delicious variety of sweet and savory dishes (Carrot ring! Carrot juice! Carrot hummus! Carrot-feta dip! Carrot CAKE!!!), and will be adding some of those recipes to my own repertoire! This outing also solidified this spicy soup as a favorite of mine.
You can put it together in less than 20 minutes, and yet the flavor of this dish is surprisingly complex!
You can get the easy-as-all-getout-recipe here!

October 17, 2014

Eggs-cellent Eats (Morrell Wine Bar)

I had a bit of a dental emergency recently. If you know me, you know how uptight I am about my teeth. It turns out that I grit my teeth so hard that I actually CRACKED one. Yep. I'm THAT strong. Well, it made eating a bit of a challenge, especially on the right side of my mouth. I wasn't sure what was going to happen at the dentist's office (this was a first for me), so I decided to have lunch BEFORE the appointment. 
Pre-dental work wine

I popped into Morrell's Wine Bar, which at 2pm was pretty empty, and took a seat at the bar. Morrell's is in the heart of Rockefeller Center, a certified tourist destination and a convenient location for many of us working New Yorkers. 

The deviled eggs sounded delicious AND easy to eat, so I ordered them and had a glass of Chardonnay.

They also brought me some delicious bread (I stuck to the softer, oniony kind) and very cold, very hard butter. The bread was chewy and flavorful, and I made sure to keep chewing only on the left side.

The deviled eggs were truffle-scented with fried, crispy chicken skins. Soft, salty, fatty, and a teeny bit of crunch at the end (just enough for a sensitive tooth). 
How are these eggs so gorgeous?? Smooth, perfectly filled, and every bite was a delight. 
The wine was a One Rock Chardonnay from Long Island's North Fork (#drink local), and while I'm not overall a "Chardonnay person," this was great. Light and crisp and lovely.
I loved the wine with the eggs! Why don't I make deviled eggs at home? They are so delicious! Granted, they are not cheap-- Morrell is not a Cheap Eats place, but it is always well-done and satisfying. 

PS: For those of you wondering, it turned out I didn't need a crown after all, just a deep filling. And it hardly even hurt! My teeth and I are doing much better now.

Morrell Cafe & Wine Bar
1 Rockefeller Plaza  
NY NY 10020 
(212) 262-7700  

October 01, 2014

British Breakfast (London)

For someone who's not a fan of flying, I sure am learning to suck it up and do it anyway. It helps when something as delicious as a British breakfast is waiting on the other side.

I took a girls' trip last month with my good friend LaShauna-- her fantastic idea, and my absolute delight to join her. We started early on a Thursday morning, looking for a breakfast spot even though it was nearly lunch time. The Gallery Pub was just the spot!

It's a dozen or so steps from the Pimlico tube stop, mere minutes from the place we were staying, and thankfully, was still serving breakfast at nearly noon!

We each got the Light Breakfast (£7.50, or about 12 dollars at the time): 2 eggs (LOOK AT THOSE GORGEOUS YOLKS), Irish back bacon (soooooo good), sausage, the requisite broiled tomato, and toast. It might be the American in me, but I just don't get the mushy tomato. Don't like it, don't get it. If any of you out there are UK citizens, please enlighten me on the appeal of it. I'm also sure there are many American bites that are equally confounding to you!

The breakfast was stomach-filling and heartwarming. The pub was quiet, relaxing, and the perfect start to our stay. You can see why I'm a bit smitten with British eggs, can't you? And a hot cup of tea is always a delight.
English Breakfast, of course!
The Gallery was also a delight-- beautiful interior, helpful staff, a leisurely place to start your day (and a hopping one to end your night, if you're around at that time)! You can get a fantastic, solid British breakfast here for a song!
The Gallery
1 Lupus Street
London SW1V 3AS, United Kingdom
+44 20 7821 7573

August 07, 2014

Ristorante le Segrete (Rome, Italy)

On last night in Rome-- a torrentially rainy last night-- 2 of the girls from our group joined me for a late night dinner at Ristorante le Segrete.

The restaurant appears tiny when you first walk in, with only 4 or 5 tables fitting in the front room, but the downstairs is spacious and warm. We had a room all to ourselves for a bit!

I ordered the artichoke bruschetta there-- just your basic garlic and olive oil masterpiece in edible form, topped with the most amazing artichokes I've ever tasted. They really are spectacular in Rome!

I paired my appetizer with a glass of an Italian red (can't remember the specific grape/varietal)-- always an excellent bet in Bella Roma.

One of my friends ordered the garlic & oil bruschetta-- I think she was hoping there would be more to it.

They do look a little underwhelming in retrospect-- but she still ate them! She also got the pizza (first pic in this post), a traditional pizza margarita, with mozzarella, fresh basil, and olive oil, and a perfectly charred crust. It smelled so lovely!

Our other dining companion ordered a dish with fresh zucchini and cream sauce. I want to say these were paccheri noodles, but I'm not sure. She was quite happy with her dish.

My dish is one I try in nearly every Italian restaurant: Cacio e Pepe (cheese & pepper). It's a dish that sounds and looks humble, but packs such a savory punch. This was perfectly al dente, a great chew to them, and expertly seasoned with the perfect amount of cracked black pepper, a spice I'm learning to appreciate more and more. O, Italia-- you are always so delicious!

The food was heavenly, the service was great, and they even take Discover cards!

I loved this spot; it's not touristy, prices were reasonable, and our server always popped up at precisely the right moments without rushing or crowding us. I'd recommend it if you're looking for a more sedate spot for dinner-- get the downstairs seating if you can!

Ristorante le Segrete

Via della Scrofa, 31

00186 Roma, Italy

+39 06 6476 0557

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