Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Houston Holidays

In Houston for the holidays this year...the weather has been completely all over the place. 75 degrees one day, 30 degrees the next, and back to rainy, humid and 80 degrees today (typical Houston weather). As my loving sister says, "hope you're enjoying the holidays in the most polluted city in America". Correction, CaitO. Though sometimes one can argue it may "feel" like the most polluted, here are the actual most polluted cities, by ozone pollution, according to The American Lung Association’s State of The Air 2008 report.
1. Los Angeles - Long Beach - Riverside, CA
2. Bakersfield, CA
3. Visalia - Porterville, CA
4. Houston -
Baytown - Huntsville, TX
5. Fresno - Madera, CA
6. Sacramento - Arden - Arcade - Yuba City, CA - NV

7. Dallas - Fort Worth, TX
8. New York - Newark - Bridgeport, NY - NJ - CT - PA
9. Washington - Baltimore - Northern Virginia, DC - MD - VA - WV
10. Baton Rouge - Pierre Part, LA
Way off. By three. Anyways while I dearly miss my family in Florida and would do anything to be spending the holidays with them (and lying on the beach), I have been keeping myself busy in the kitchen with holiday cheer plans every evening. A friend of ours had a few of us over last night for a wine tasting party. We were all to bring an appetizer...or two. My fiance's mother (a fabulous cook herself) always has something [cooking] up her sleeve. She suggested I try these recipes. If she is suggesting, I am trying. Her recipes are always tasty and satisfying.

Bruschetta with Cannellini Beans and Strong Herbs
The creamy texture and mild flavor of cannellini, or white kidney beans for strongly herbal rosemary, thyme and sage. This robust bruschetta is a meal in itself when served with a peppery little salad.

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp each of fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage
Pinch of hot red pepper flakes
2 cups cooked cannellini beans or 1 15-ounce can, drained
1/2 tsp sun-dried tomato paste or imported tomato paste
Salt
1 Tbsp finely diced red onion
Freshly ground black pepper
4 slices country bread, cut about 3/4 inch thick
Olive oil for drizzling

Place the olive oil, butter, garlic, herbs, and hot pepper red flakes in a medium sauce pan. Cook over low heat for several minutes. Add the beans, tomato paste, and salt to taste. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, using a wooden spoon to crush the beans. If the mixture seams dry, add a little water or broth to achieve a creamy texture. Meanwhile, grill or toast the bread on both sides. Drizzle the bread lightly with olive oil. Spoon the bean puree on the bread and sprinkle with the red onion. Top with a few drops of olive oil. Serves 4.

Zucchini and Parmesan Salad
Amazingly good combination of raw zucchini and Parmigiano. Simple and light.

Ingredients:
8 ounces small zucchini
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces of Parmigiano-Reggiano, in 1 piece
1 baguette, sliced on an angle in 3/4-thick slices and toasted (optional)

With a vegetable brush, scrub the zucchini well under cold running water. Trim off the ends. Using a mandoline, slice the zucchini very thin. Arrange the slices in a shallow platter. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste until blended. Drizzle over the zucchini. With a vegetable peeler, shave the Parmigiano into thin slices. Scatter the slices over the zucchini. Serve immediately alone or top over toasted baguette slices.

It was a successful night in the end, and I've added a few new recipes to my collection (not to mention another case of wine is on its way to New York). Never can have too much vino on hand!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

This week in the kitch...

Mexican Chicken Soup with Homemade Tortilla Chips!
This has become my new fav for weeknight dinners. I'll make it on a Sunday and have plenty of left-overs to get you through your work week! For quicker preparation you can use a ready-made roasted chicken from your local grocery store.


Mex
ican Chicken Soup
Ingredients:
4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2½ quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade or low sodium store-bought
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
¼ to ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional
6 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas
For serving: sliced avocado, sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and tortilla chips (homemade preferably).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Cut the tortillas in ½, then cut them crosswise into ½-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips (preferably homemade-see recipe under Sides and Bites).
Yields: 6-8 servings. Time to make: 50 min
Texas Tortilla Chips
This week I wanted the fried "good stuff", but you can also bake the tortillas for a healthier option. 400 degrees for 10 minutes.


Ingredients:

Vegetable oil for frying

Twelve 6-inch white corn tortillas
Course sea salt

Pour the oil into a large heavy-bottomed pot to a depth of about 2 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat to a rolling boil.

Meanwhile, stack the tortillas, and cut the pile into sixths to make chips.

Raise the heat to high. Working in batches, fry the chips, turning them with a skimmer or slotted spoon, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chips to a paper towel-lined pan to drain. Season with salt immediately. Cool and serve.
Yields: 4 -6 servings. Time to make: 30 min

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Winter Comfort

Nothing beats the winter blues like a warm hearty, healthy bowl of pasta. It's been one of those weeks...and it's only Tuesday. I bundled up to make my rounds: first stop at the local deli for the fresh ingredients, then to Murray's Cheese for homemade pasta, gourmet cheeses and, of course, something chocolate for dessert. I came home, opened a bottle of Elizabeth Spencer Napa wine, put on the classics (Nina Simone!!) and started boiling the water.

Spinach, White Bean and Pecorino Pasta

What you need:
* 4 ounces whole-wheat fusilli
* 4 cups baby spinach
* 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
* 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
* 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1/2 can cannellini beans, rinsed
* 1 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
* 1/4 cup shredded fresh pecorino romano
* 1/3 cup breadcrumbs (you can toast and make fresh or use ready-made)

What to do:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally. Stir in spinach during the last 2 to 3 minutes. Drain. Dry the pot.

Whisk broth and flour in a small bowl until smooth. Heat oil in the pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly for about 30 seconds. Add the broth mixture and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly, until it thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Add beans, vinegar, salt and pepper and the pasta and spinach. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is heated through, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat; add cheese, stirring until it melts. Serve immediately, topped with breadcrumbs. Serves 2.

Sit back, relax, and settle in. This is a pasta dish that will bring you comfort at the end of a cold bitter day.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Happily Ever Napa

I realize that it has been a few weeks since my last posting and I promise a good reason for this. I recently had a birthday so my boyfriend planned a trip to Napa. We had both never been, and have talked about it for many years. The flights were booked months ago, just as important, the restaurant reservations were made well in advance...

Lunch was scheduled for our first day at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen. After spending one fabulous day walking around San Fransisco, staying at the recommended Clift Hotel and enjoying our first dinner at Conduit, we got right on the road early the next morning to head to Napa. We checked in at White House Inn, a quaint newly-renovated house in downtown Napa. We were greeted by friendly people, dropped our bags and got right back in the car to drive up 29 towards Cindy's (with planned tastings on our way, of course). We stopped into few vineyards, including Laird Family Estate. I notebly loved one partincular wine called Jillian's Blend, a blend of their Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Perfectly light red wine with some body and spice elements to it (just finished off a bottle two nights ago with dinner). Once we made our way to Cindy's we were hungry. We ordered their flatbread to share. I got Cindy's Curried Chicken Salad and he got the Backstreet Burger. Just what we needed. Ready for more. On our way back to the inn we took a different route on Silverado Trail; new view, different vineyards. One I remember liking in particular was Pine Ridge. This was the best day to me. Driving around with no where to be. Good company, good music. Great wine. Fresh air. Relaxation. How else would you like to spend your Friday afternoon? I'll let you ponder on that for a second...

That evening we had dinner at one of the greatest Wine Country establishments, the Restaurant at Auberge Du Soleil. Legacy for it's award-winning menu and wine list, we sat at a table on their famous terrace overlooking olive greens and vineyards. It is supposed to be the best seat in town for sunset but was disappointingly foggy out that night. We were still happily satisfied with the view and about to enjoy a full four-course meal. Dinner was decadent. Seared foie gras with pistachio and bittersweet chocolate sauce, halibut with pea puree, liberty farm duck with artichokes...wine pairings...trust me, there was more. Incredible. We enjoyed every last bit and eventually rolled ourselves home to get set for our final day in the valley.

We woke up early the next morning for a wine tour that James had planned (have I told you the name of the man that I have been dating for the past few years is James?). A woman (quirky, smiley, can already tell she has a great sense of humor) rings the doorbell. I knew then that this was going to be an eventful day. We got in her car and immediately started talking 'wine': how we were complete amateurs only wishing we knew more, knew what we liked when we tasted it, loved when people paired wines for us, enjoyed drinking wine at almost every meal, and so on. She was great. She talked the whole way to our first stop. We learned so much in the first 15-minutes! We preferred the smaller intimate vineyards, so we completely avoided the "commercial" ones (Cakebread, Opus One...we even skipped over Robert Mondavi). We started at Adastra Vineyards. This was special. Family-owned by Dr. Chris Thorpe and his son-in-law, this certified organic vineyard is located on a beautiful 33-acre ranch. He gave us a tour of the entire property, including tasting his organically-grown tomatoes straight from his garden and sniffing-and-guessing herbs as we walked around. His wine was not so bad either. (We bought a case).

From there we visited Shifflett Estate, Tres Sabores, had a picnic lunch at Allora and a tasting in between at Elizabeth Spencer. All-in-all the day was more than fulfilling. At one point we had to take a coffee break at Bouchon Bakery. This was heaven. You already know that sweets are my weakness (I am sure most can relate). Their homemade TKO (oreo cookie) and a Peanut Butter and Jelly cookie!!! Go now. Run before they are all gone.

The day started coming to its end. We made the drive back to our inn already talking of canceling our perfectly-scheduled dinner reservations at Martini House due to the past three gluttonously glorious days. Once back at the inn, James had one more surprise. He somehow managed to drag me outside to a gazebo that we had discovered our first night there. We walked in. He got on one knee. And yes, he proposed! And yes, I said yes! Birthday trip, turned engagement celebration. This is officially one trip we will remember forever. Now soon-to-be Mrs. Stewart (have I mentioned his last name is Stewart?), I have a wedding to plan...with many tastings to come. Do stay tuned...








Saturday, September 6, 2008

Starbucks Up and At Em' Again

Much to my surprise, Starbucks has done it again...found a way to keep me as a secret customer. I am incredibly more fond of the neighborhood coffee joints. I used to avoid Starbucks at all costs and even go out of my way to get my morning joe from the smaller individually owned places (or trucks for that matter). They started to win me over at the start of this summer with their healthier breakfast sandwiches and posted calories. They have now added more to their menu. I noticed the other morning on my break from teaching Physique 57 classes their Power Protein Plate on display that only contained 330 calories. This included a hard boiled egg, a mini whole grain bagel, fruit, cheese and peanut butter. If I hadn't already eaten that would have definitely been my choice for the day to snack on. The only turn-off was the presentation. You have to ignore the "airplane-style" packaging with a squeezable tube of peanut butter, along with the fact that the bagel is cold and untoasted. Another addition is their Perfect Oatmeal ranking in at 140 calories with side options of dried fruit, medly of mixed nuts (additional 100 calories each), and/or brown sugar (additional 50 calories). The Chewy Fruit & Nut Bar looked the most appealing with big seeds and oats and chunks of dried fuit (250 calories, 4 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein). Others that I might not try include an Apple Bran Muffin and their Berry Stella (a star-shaped muffin-like creation made with dried oats and berries).

I wish that I could say I've tried and tasted all of these new products and they are actually flavorless and entirely not worth the trip nor the double-crossing that I have started to commit, betraying my small coffee joints... Maybe this idea could in fact be reality. Only time can tell. Perhaps I find myself at a Starbucks on another work break next week. Perhaps I give in. Perhaps I taste?

To be continued...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Philly Cheese Steak Taste-off

I was in Philadelphia this past weekend for a family wedding. As yet another bridesmaid, your obligations are soley to the bride and it is your duty to be available for her at all times. As honored and as much fun as it was, by the end of the weekend I had to be sure to fit in a true Philadelphia experience before returning home and my boyfriend NEEDED a Philly Cheese Steak. My cousin gave us two suggestions without hesitation: Pat's or Geno's, the two top-rated Philly Cheese Steaks in town. Located just across the street from one another. We drove to the Italian South Philly neighborhood hungry and ready to chow down.

Contender #1: Pat's King of Steaks.
Location: Where 9th Street crosses Wharton & Passyunk Ave in Philadelohia, Pa.
History: Founded by Pat Olivieri in 1930. Started as a modest hot dog stand in South Philly until he craved something new and created the steak sandwich.

Contender #2: Geno's Steaks. Location: At the X-shape intersection noted above.
History: Founded by Joe Vento in 1966. Learned everything he knew from his father who opened Jim's Steaks in the 1940's.

*Sidenote: We were warned that the most important thing you must know is how to order. The service is fast. The line keeps moving. You better be ready. Your Cheese Steak options include three kinds of cheese: Provolone, Chedder, or Cheese Whiz (the only way to go by the way) and with or without onions. So for example, if you want Cheese Whiz with onions you say "Whiz wit". If you want Cheese Whiz without onions you say "Whiz witout". Notice the "t" in place of the "th" in the word with. You need to fit in with the "Yo Philly" accent here. This is just the first window. The second window is for drinks and fries orders.

Half of our group went to Pat's, the other 2 went to Geno's and we met back at Pat's outside picnic tables for the Ulitmate Taste-off. Both cheese steaks were just heavenly so we had to get down to the nitty-gritty. Pat's bread was softer and the cheese and onions were piled on top of the steak (which I thoroughly enjoyed). Geno's spread their cheese on the bread first and then placed the steak and onions on top (which I found not as moist). Based on these critiques, I have to go with the one that has been around the longest. My title for "Best Philly Cheese Steak" goes to Pat's!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Summer Nights

It was my official last weekend spent in the Hamptons and it seemed only right to end on a high note with long beach days, fresh food, local wine and of course prokadima contests. We spent Friday night cooking in. It's always a gastronomic affair with our group. The grocery shopping on the way in only started the process... Waldbaum's for the essentials, The Seafood Shop for the fish, and a final stop at our local wine store for bottles of their best. Once the wine was corked, culinary cheer filled the room. I had the honor of sharing the chef's hat this summer with my friend's boyfriend, Ben. He pulled out his own set of knives and I knew it was on. Simplicity, healthsome, tastefulness. We had the same mindset. It was gonna be gooooood. Fish tacos with Ben's spicy cole slaw and avacado. His tuna ceviche; my summer salad. Fresh, tasty goodness. We used talapia for the fish. Simply pan seared with olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes. I used a fork to pull into perfect pieces. I am still trying to convince Ben to share his slaw and ceviche recipes with us. Hopefully this will be soon to come! There is nothing better than old fashioned S'mores for dessert. We weren't camping out on the beach like our previous weekend at a friend's Lobster Bake, so we had to settle with the good ole' gas stove. (I have to say it was a step up from our only other option...the microwave.) This was the treat of the weekend...every late night snack, as well as the final morning's breakfast. An absolute hit.

The summer in the Hamptons will be one not to forget. Jitney rides, beach days, cooking out, eating in, Surf Lodge, watching sunsets, Pierre's, Physique 57, Yama-Q, Della Femina, 3 dogs too many, bike rides, Turtle Crossing, summer playlists, Talkhouse....now looking forward to being back in the city for the start of fall in September: "The hottest party month in the city" -Chris Sweet.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dinner in Dwelling

There is nothing better than cozying up on the couch with a good bottle of Pinot Noir and catching up with your "stories" on the tube after a previous long night out with friends. Add great food, a boyfriend, a dog, a playmate, a sidekick, a partner or just a delusion to the picture and you've got yourself a perfect date-night in.

I have been making this salad every weeknight to go along with whatever I am having for dinner. It seems to compliment everything from an Amy's Roasted Vegetable Pizza (to die for, by the way!! No cheese, organic whole wheat crust, shitake mushrooms, roasted peppers, marinated artichoke hearts and sweet onions!) to my Turkey Meatballs, to a fillet of fish. I absolutely crave it, but I didn't realize how amazing it was until I make it for others and they are just dying for the recipe?? I spice things up as seasons change and use what is fresh and in-season, but for summer I stick to these basic ingredients:

Simple Summer Salad

Mixed Greens or Baby Romaine
Avocado (pitted and diced)
Tomato medley - Cherry, Exotic, Grape, Mini Plum, etc. (halved or quartered)
Pine Nuts
Grated Parmesan
Brianna's Real French Vinaigrette
Fresh Cracked Pepper (to taste)

Nothing fancy. No slavin' away in the kitch. Literally toss to your liking and enjoy! The sharp Parmesan cheese and the creamy avocado mixed with the simple dressing creates an appealing texture that you have just to try for yourself...

This week I ventured out and made a filet mignon to go along with my salad and used the help of Tyler Florence to create a savory Pinot Noir sauce. As I am sure you can gather, I don't eat beef too often...but I crave the occasional steak and this one was totally tasty!

Filet Mignon with Mushroom and Pinot Noir Sauce

2 filet mignon steaks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
Assorted mushrooms, halved or quartered
1 Tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 cups Pinot Noir
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Season both sides of filet mignon generously with salt and pepper. In an oven-proof skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Place the steaks in the hot pan and sear one sides, about 3 minutes. There should be a nice crust. Add the mushrooms and garlic. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast about 10 minutes, or until steaks are cooked to your liking.

Remove the steaks and mushrooms and cover. Bring the pan back to the stove over medium-high heat. Add the wine and scrape the pan, getting up all of the good bits. Place the steaks and mushrooms back in the pan, coat in the sauce and add the butter for extra richness.

Plate the steaks and mushrooms again, topping with the sauce to serve.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Afternoon Slump is Starting to Look Up!


Ok, I know that I've already mentioned my summer OBSESSION with iced coffee so I thought it only right to pass along some
delicious dirt. Present a receipt from your morning cup of joe and Starbucks will sell you an iced grande beverage for $2. Only now through September 2nd (the officially dreaded final day of summer). So GO! RUN! Before summer is over!

And spread the good word...

(Though nothing beats the iced coffee from Cafe Angelique or Grey Dogs, but that's just my opinion).

Monday, August 4, 2008

Cookie Dreams Contest

What would YOU want in a cookie? Tell me your cookie fantasy and YOU could WIN your very own cookie....named after you! What is your ultimate flavor combination?
WHAT ARE YOU CRAVING?

If you're on Facebook, join my Group O'COOKIES and reply to the discussion board topic...
"What Would You Want In A Cookie?"

GET CREATIVE. GET THINKING. START DROOLING.
WHAT WOULD YOU WANT IN YOUR COOKIE?????

Voting starts now!

O'Cookies Captured

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fit Me on the Jitney!


Having an incredible summer so far...already can't wait to get out of the city again this weekend. Keep checking back for more summer eats and Hamptons feasts!


Put the Peanut Butter Down!


WARNING. YOU ARE ABOUT TO BE INTRODUCED TO THE BEST PEANUT BUTTER THAT I HAVE EVER TASTED. IN THE WORLD.

Do not try this at home. (Especially hungry and alone).Peanut Butter blended with sweet white chocolate. No trans fats, no cholesterol, and all natural , Peanut Butter & Co has been around since 1998 and prides itself on providing great-tasting, all-natural, healthful products. Now I realize that peanut butter can be a healthy part of a diet, as this is something I eat every day (though more like Reduced-Fat Jiffy on whole grain rice cakes), but this is no joke. One bite and you're hooked. This is definitely a dessert. Not a condiment. And what is lecithin anyways? At least it has no hydrogenated oil and no refined sugar.

Does that count?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

New to Foodie BlogRoll!

I have a new sidebar feature! Check out the Foodie BlogRoll. A great place to see all the newest blogs featuring recipes, food and restaurant reviews. You can join Foodie too! Just click the link to the left and you will be taken to the Foodie blog. Check it out!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Meat-and-Three with a side of Southern Comfort

Just got back from a wedding weekend [well-spent] in the Deep South of Birmingham, Alabama. Two friends from college were getting hitched and I thought it would be nice to share in the celebrations and catch up with old colleagues. After spending four years in Dallas, TX with true (egh ugh) southern gentlemen and belles, I thought I had seen my "fare" share of what the south has to offer...until now. Until B'ham. Roll Tide!

I was picked up by the groom from the airport and taken directly to Garage. Traveling with one of the groom's pledge brothers (my boyfriend), we joined his groomsmen for a low-key guy's lunch. Bar, by night, and by day a courtyard seating with eclectic and antique decorations for sale. The no-fuss menu was simply your choice of: BREAD, MEAT, CHEESE, TOPPINGS and CONDIMENTS (yes, they used the word condiments). To my surprise they came up with an extraordinarily tasty 
turkey sandwich. The whole wheat bread seemed home-made with a nutty crust. Fresh turkey, spicy mustard, lettuce and tomato with salt and pepper over a bed of potato chips and a crispy pickle. I devoured my sandwich while listening to drunken stories (that of which seemed straight out of the movie Varsity Blues) from the previous night. They were all "drunk as a buck" from all of the "hunch punch" (think extremely southern twang here). Perfect start to a full weekend.


Dinner that night was spent at the highly recommended (2001 James Beard Award recipient) Bottega Restaurant. I was really looking forward to some all-star food and this seemed like just the place. Upon entering, the vibe was highbrow and elegant. The staff was on-cue and ready to serve. We were seated immediately and ordered cocktails at once: Dirty Grey Goose Martini for me, and Scotch straight up for him. The waiter seemed thrilled that we were in town from New York. We took his word and ordered his recommendations that you can only taste in "these parts of the states".  We started with the Fried Green Tomatoes and Okra with craw fish aioli and the Beef Carppacio with horseradish and arugula. 
Mouthwatering. Um...need I say more? I then ordered the Grilled Grouper with sweet peppers, eggplant and capers and he had the chicken. The waiter paired wine perfectly with our main courses. We were heading to a rehearsal party from here and did not want to fill up on dessert so he convinced us to try their watermelon sorbet, while we enjoyed our espresso.   

The following day started with a Wedding Brunch at a family friend's estate. The house was located on a hill in Mountain Brook with the most amazing view of the city. Brunch consisted of Bloody Mary's, Biscuits with Ham and creme fraishe, different varieties of egg souffles, grits (of course), fruit salad, and coffee cake. That evening was the wedding. We enjoyed ourselves at their country club with 600 other guests (serious southern celebrating). I had the opportunity to catch up with a sorority sister who was born and raised in Bhama, now married and residing there...along with the rest of the family- all lawyers or teachers. I wasn't leaving until 5:00 the next evening so we made a plan to grab lunch the next day. She got so excited she screamed in her utmost southern twang "Girl! I will take you to the best meat-and-three around!" I had absolutely NO IDEA what she was talking about. Baffled. [confused smile]. Ugh. Sure?? She definitely got one huge patooty kick out of the fact that I was completely clueless as to what she was talking about. "Meat and three vegetables, of course!"


Tracy's- B'ham's "go-to" for filling down-home meat-and-threes (again, one meat and three vegetables). The friendly folks behind the counters and the smell of 
wholesome home cookin' as you entered (and the fact that Harris knew everyone there) made me realize how far away I was from home. The menu was written on a chalk board and consisted of Today's Meats: Fried Chicken, Hamburger Steak (still not fully aware of what exactly this is), Turkey and Dressing and the like. Their ever-ending list of vegetables included all of the country classics: Fried Okra, Fried Green Tomatoes, Black Eyed Peas,  Mac and Cheese, Baked Apples, Squash Casserole and Avocado Salad. Of course you also had your choice of corn bread or a roll. So not my typical lunch, but definitely one that I was looking forward to experiencing!  I ordered the Turkey and Dressing (asked for dressing on the side, but they obviously don't get that much because they didn't come through on that one), Fried Green Tomatoes (can't get enough of these) the Avocado Salad and my corn bread. Pure country. 

The rest of the day was spent, well, quietly. This city is a ghost town on Sundays! I tried to walk around but only found luck with a Starbucks to be opened (and a NY Times!!). Just a few breathing beings strolling around. And the dry cleaners had only pastel dresses (both women and children's) hanging in the windows?? It was oddly perfect. Yet couldn't imagine having to set all of your "to-do's" for Saturdays! 

Enjoyable weekend overall...I think I fell in love with Bhama. 

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Latest O'Cookies Flavor!


EXTRA! EXTRA! 

Drum roll please.................

I am here to announce the latest addition to the O'Cookies family: 

Double Chocolate Cherry Chunk! 
Decadent white and dark organic chocolate with whole dried cherries and oats. Heavenly. 

Try one for yourself. Place an order by emailing: erino@o-cookies.com. Or stop by your local Cafe Angelique! 

Cheers!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Best Turkey Meatballs. Ever.


I was leaving Equinox one evening a few weeks ago craving their turkey meatballs that they serve there....the greatest weeknight dinner.  I had never wanted something so badly. I hadn't stopped talking about them throughout my workout to the point that I also convinced my friend Natalie that she wanted them for dinner that night too. When they were out, we were thoroughly disappointed. After whining to the cashier for a few minutes and pouting to one another, we finally pulled ourselves together and walked to Gourmet Garage to get ingredients to make our own. The last thing I wanted to do that night was to spend the time to actually cook my dinner, but once we walked in we started to get creative.  Pine Nuts!  Top 'em on salads, pastas, and vegies. Bake 'em in cookies and cakes, toast 'em for extra crunch.....the highest form of protein in a nut. Done. The BEST Turkey Meatballs ever. 

Turkey Meatballs with Pine Nuts

1 lb ground turkey
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 large egg, slightly beaten
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 Tbls pine nuts, toasted cooled and chopped
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
olive oil

Stir together. Form small-sized balls. Place olive oil in medium-heat skillet. Place a few meatballs in at a time, shaking skillet until browned and cooked through. Top with a ready-made tomato sauce. Serve with a mixed greens salad. 

I usually cook half and freeze the rest for later in the week. I have had these around over the past month and eat them at least once a week! Perfection. 


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fast Food Revelation


As you can imagine, I am not a big chain restaurant connoisseur. But over the past few weeks, I have been  pleasantly surprised with our classic American on-the-go eateries. I have stumbled upon some shocking revelations at these cheap eats, only known to me for its "super-sizing" of processed, unhealthy, oily, greasy foods.

Epiphany #1. 
After living in my current place for about a year now, I recently noticed a McDonald's down my street. I honestly thought to myself, who would ever go there? The very next night, walking home from dinner with a friend who lives on the opposite corner of 6th Avenue and West 4th Street raved about their iced coffee, so much to the point that she forced me inside to taste. You have to understand, I am a true tea drinker, but there is something about the change in weather in New York City. That first break of sunshine and warmth that makes me crave iced coffee ALL summer long. This, my friends, was the best thing that I could have come across that evening. Not to mention the cheapest. I shall return.
Epiphany #2. 
I was having one of those mornings- woke up late, no time for breakfast, running out the door. I found myself at a Starbucks uptown just to grab my morning tea...and then my stomach growled. I immediately noticed their breakfast sandwiches (again, something that I usually ignore: ready-made food that has to be heated up doesn't usually settle in my mind too well. Not too mention what really could be in those sandwiches??).  I next saw that the calories and fat content were written right there AND there was a reduced-fat Turkey Bacon with egg whites on a whole grain english muffin. I died and went to heaven.  I asked for mine without cheese and forgot about where I was off running to. I picked up the Post and sat down to enjoy. Delish

Epiphany #3. 
Just yesterday I was running from one audition to the next and found myself with thirty minutes to spare. I saw a local Starbucks and made my way over for a coffee break. It was, again, nice sunny day. One that only gets me craving some sort of frosty frapp, or some other wasted caloric drink just terribly wrong for you. I got in line and looked at the menu. [Ahhhhhhhhhh] Enlightening! Posted calories. NO WAY?? I quickly snapped out of it and ordered their regular iced coffee with sugar-free vanilla for only 60 calories (vs. their Caffe Vanilla Frappuccino Light at 140 calories) and carried on with my day.  THIS IS GENIUS, I thought. This needs to be at every fast-food chain. 

I remember rumors of a proposed city ruling a while back to require food establishments with some certain number of outlets to post calories. Starbucks and Subway have already gotten on this, but it seems the city keeps hitting bumps in the road to get this passed. Delayed two days ago, yet again.  I could only imagine that other fellow New Yorkers are thirsty for this info as well?? I'm not trying to say that The Waverly Inn should have calories posted next to their truffled mac and cheese, but I do think that the fast-food chains should be required to do so in our country full of obesity. Grub Street recently wrote that IHOP also offers caloric information next to each menu item. Apparently posting that their omelettes range from 1,150 to 1,490 calories doesn't seem to bother the guests. Sadly, not surprising.  To us healthy people, calories count.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Perfect Saturday Afternoon Snack

The Artichoke. 
Facts: a low calorie food, a fat free food, a cholesterol free food, low in sodium, a good source of fiber, a good source of vitamin C, a good source of folate, and a good source of magnesium. Steam it. Grill it. Stuff it. Saute it. Bake it. Fry it. Dip it. EAT IT.  

Most people seem to be slightly intimidated by the artichoke. They just have no idea what to do with this grenade-looking vegetable. A friend recently admitted that she started to eat the petals whole at a dinner and was somehow able to convince the rest of her table it was the way to go. It wasn't until someone finally admitted that she had been knawing for quite some time and her jaw was starting to hurt that they realized they were way off. Once you master the "eating an artichoke" technique, you will never turn back. 

Official Guide to Eating an Artichoke:
Pull off the outer petals one at a time. Dip the base into a sauce or melted butter. Pull through teeth to remove soft, pulpy portion of the petal. Discard the remaining petal. Continue until all petals have been removed and you find yourself at a fork in the road. Confused. Unsure of where to turn next? You've made it, my friends, to the heart. Spoon out the fuzzy center and discard. Cut the tender heart into pieces, dip into your sauce or butter and seriously enjoy. 

Okay. Now that you've got an overview of this great thing we like to eat, back to my perfect Saturday afternoon snack. After preparing the artichoke by running under cold water to wash, cutting off the the top quater and clipping the petals, steam the artichoke by placing it a few inches above boiling water. Using a steam basket is ideal. Cover and and steam 25 to 45 minutes or until a petal near the center pulls off easily. I like to add a garlic clove, lemon slice and a bay leaf to the bowling water for additional flavor. 

Meanwhile, take a stick of butter out of the fridge in order to soften to room temperature. Once softened, crush and mince a garlic clove and add to about three Tbsp of the softened butter for dipping. 

Enjoy with an ice cold refreshing beer. Again, the perfect Saturday afternoon snack.  


Sunday, April 6, 2008

New Fav


"BOBO- derived from the melding of 'Bohemian' and 'Bourgeoisie'- refers to a group of people who straddle the creative Bohemian realm and the Bourgeoisie world of economic achievement...this 100-seat restaurant was inspired by European dinner parties, celebrating the shared experience of dining with family and friends in a warm setting.  So that, at 5 o'clock in the morning, your guests haven't even considered leaving." 

Dirty vodka martini, amuse bouche of sweet potato puree on a parmesan cracker, mushroom risotto, wild striped bass with blood orange, endive and parsnip, and the most amazing chocolate souflee I have ever come across. Nuf said. Go tomorrow.

Cookie Cracked


Have I expressed to you my true infatuation for a good cookie? Well in the case that you are unaware, I am a cookie monster. I'm talking a lean mean fighting cookie-craving machine. A cookie maven, a cookie master, a cookie freak. A professional cookie taster. The powerhouse of...okay, you get it. Where did this come from one may ask?? I have to be honest, it's in the genes. I got my dreaded sweet tooth from my mother- it was always in the cards. C'est la vie! How can one pass up a gooey, chunky, decadent, oat-y baked treat at any time of the day? This, of course, is why I created my own version. On the healthier side, my cookies are made with a wholesome blend of flours, oats, unrefined sugars, some with dried fruits and nuts, some with decadent organic chocolate, and they are the perfect size to indulge sans the guilt! Sound too good to be true? Try them for yourself! Check out my latest flavor, Fruit and Nutz, with your morning coffee at Cafe Angelique

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Fare-well New York...

One of my very best friends is leaving the city...and getting married! We moved here together four years ago from college and have experienced practically every New York moment together.We are going to miss her dearly. This past weekend was her last. What would you do on your final days in this city?!??!  Base them around fine fare, of course! We started Friday evening off at The Bowery Hotel for cocktails and headed down the street to her going away party at the East Village Yacht Club.  Saturday was spent recovering, only to prepare for Sunday's wedding shower with a 5-course high tea at noon at The Inn at Irving Place. This was just divine. We pretended to be grown-ups with champagne upon arrival, tea sandwiches of smoked salmon with dill cream cheese on pumpernickel, goat cheese and sun-dried tomato on 7 grain, smoked turkey and cranberry on brioche and cucumber with mint creme fraiche on brioche. A third course of scones was served with clotted cream and
preserves, followed by a 24-layer crepe cake with fresh berries and assorted cookies and chocolate covered strawberries to finish.  We continued on to Hotel Gansevoort for cocktails on their rooftop only to finish our day at The Spotted Pig for their Pub Ale, Sheep's Ricotta Gnudi with Brown Butter and Sage, Devils on Horseback and burgers. One cannot forget about the Pumpkin Salad with Pecorino and Pinenuts, and a couple of orders of their Brussel Sprouts. Now that's what I call an ultimate Sunday in Manhattan.  Her final fare will be spent at our Nolita sushi spot, Mottsu, tomorrow evening where we have fancied one too many glasses of wine and spicy tuna rolls. Oh, with crunchies please. 

Our dearest Dareth, New York will not be the same with you. You will be missed, but I know that you will just eat up your new life in the BIG D!