Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Autumn Moroccan Stew

Monday was attempt number one this week in using butternut squash creatively. The obvious uses, like ravioli, risotto, roasted or soup, seemed like way too much work after an already productive day of applesauce and cookie making. It's easy to come up with side dishes for squash, but a little more challenging when it must be the main event in a vegetarian dinner. (FYI, ratatouille is NOT a main course that gets vegetarians excited.) It needs to be interesting, filling and satisfying. Moroccan flavors are a good stand-by for me. I like how they use dried fruits and nuts to balance the spices in tagines and stews. So I gathered a bunch of ingredients I had around, made some couscous, and threw together this flavorful stew. I even managed to incorporate one of those apples... only about 20 or 30 left!

(makes 4-5 servings)
Spice mix
1/2 + 1/8 tspn Coriander
1/2 + 1/8 tspn Cumin
1/2 + 1/8 tspn Turmeric
1/2 + 1/8 tspn Cayenne
1/4 tspn ground black pepper
1/4 tspn kosher salt
3 Tbsp Paprika

1 small yellow onion, cut in half and sliced into strips
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 C canned Diced Tomatoes (and juice)
1-1/2C Butternut Squash, peeled / cubed (1 small 5-6” long squash)
1 C carrots, sliced (3 carrots)
1 Apple, peeled, cored, chopped
1/4 C Golden Raisins
3/4 C water
2 Tbsp Lemon juice
1 Tbsp Sugar
Olive Oil
Toasted Almond slices
*Optional: Chicken-less strips (such as Trader Joe’s)
*Whole Wheat Couscous

1. Saute Onions and garlic in olive oil in a medium saucepan for 5 minutes. Add most of the spice mix and stir.
2. Add tomatoes, squash, carrots and water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer about 15 minutes.
3. Add sugar, lemon juice, apples and raisins. Taste and add more spice mix if needed. Simmer another 5-10 minutes until apples are cooked through.
4. Prepare couscous, set aside
5. Toast almonds, set aside
6. If using chicken-less strips, put in a microwavable container and top with a few tablespoons of the stew. Microwave 30-45 seconds on high.
7. Serve stew alongside couscous, and top with strips and almonds. Spice to taste with crushed red pepper. Garnish with parsley flakes.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Applesauce Is Easy

I was almost ready to go to the store to pick up a few groceries, but it looks like it might rain soon. I also realized the one crucial thing I needed (to make the oatmeal cookies) was applesauce. Oh yeah... I have a giant bag of apples, and applesauce is probably not that hard to make. In the same time it would have taken me to walk to a store and back, I was able to make it from scratch. Basically, if you can peel an apple and boil water, you can make applesauce. In under 30 minutes. I looked at my Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook (from college food science class) for the basis of this recipe. I added lemon juice to cut the tartness of the Macintosh apples, and used brown sugar instead of white - and much less of it.

30 minutes total, approx. 3 Cups of sauce.
2lbs Apples, peeled, cored, chopped (about 6 small/medium)
1/2 C water
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp dark brown sugar (or more to taste)

Peel apples and take care to remove all parts of the core. Roughly chop into a medium saucepan. Add water, lemon juice, cloves and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir from time to time.

The recipe said to boil 8-10 minutes, or 12-15 for smooth consistency. I found that I must have lazily cut large non-uniform chunks of apple, so I ended up cooking it for 20 minutes. I also threw it in the blender for a quick whip, since I like my sauce super smooth.

2lbs of Apples

Just throw it in the pot and let it simmer.

Apple Picking

This past weekend we went to Vermont to visit my parents. There's not a whole heck of a lot to do up there, and Saturday was a clear crisp Fall day, so we decided to go pick some apples. Unfortunately all the cider donuts were sold out, due to massive crowds, but we easily picked a half-bushel of Macintosh apples within 15 minutes. We also picked up some acorn and butternut squash, and some local aged cheddar. I documented the usual chickens and tractors, that are a dime-a-dozen up there, but somehow seem so novel once you spend 8 years away in the city.
I'll spend today cleaning the house, finding my fall wardrobe, and researching how to use the squash and 15lbs of apples that remain. Somehow I hope to fit in another batch of those oatmeal cookies we became addicted to, and maybe a run in the park. Stay tuned for how it all turns out...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

$10 French Wine

Since my husband is celebrating his 1 year bachelor party anniversary (which he thinks is so clever) by going away with the guys to drink single malt scotch and smoke cigars (which he thinks is so masculine) I have the weekend to myself. One of many to come. He's probably put more planning into this trip (2 months or so) than he will for our actual wedding anniversary.

If he were here we'd be drinking red wine typically from Italy, Spain, or somewhere in South America. When he's not around I like a nice cold glass of white. Also, I am aiming to try more french wines these days. So I went over to our local wine shop, Gnarly Vines, to pick something up to go with the lobster. I'm not crazy about the neighborhood I cross to get there, but this store is like an oasis. There are young wine-savvy Brooklynites lingering, and the hands-on owner is always helping people find the perfect wine. I also like that the owner is very smart to the fact that most people shop by value, and has conveniently set all wines under $10 at the front of the store in open boxes, as well as clearly labelling prices. This also means he's not using the more expensive fixtures to sell cheap wines. Most liquor stores do this sort of thing, but it's usually "sale" items, and you don't know how they chose to promote them - whether they were old and dusty or poor vintages. But Gnarly has a consistent selection of value wines, complete with descriptive tags, so you're in and out as quick as you'd like. The description of the Colombard/Ugni Blanc helped me choose a French wine I never would have glanced at - something about a vacation and drinking the local wine and citrus sensations. OK, make me think about vacations and tart fruit and I'm sold! Indeed, the wine paired perfectly with lobster and corn, since it was mild with just a little citrus and sweetness. So from now on, I'll keep an open mind about their wine.

Fast & Simple: Lobster in Garlic White Wine Sauce with Creamy Dill Potatoes

Today's adventures in Brooklyn consisted of a nice swim in the pool, a trek to Trader Joe's & the greenmarket, and then another trek to Fort Greene to a cute wine shop. I planned a simple New England dinner of lobster, corn on the cob and salt potatoes (okay those are from Syracuse). But upon shucking the corn to find it completely white, I was distressed at the idea of an all-white dinner. It can taste like heaven, but I cook with color. Eating for me is as much of a visual enjoyment as it is satiable. So I pulled a few more ingredients together to liven up the colors. The red of the lobster calls for something complementary and green. What do I have that is green? Cilantro - too southern. Cucumbers and spinach - whole other dish. Dill - reminds me of the gardens my grandparents had in Vermont. And it goes with potatoes. I had sour cream left over from the stroganoff, and a new bottle of mustard powder from the mac, so I figured I'd throw those in too. I didn't achieve all the colors I wanted, but overall it was a pretty simple but impressive spread. I have to admit that the plain boiled corn with butter, salt & pepper was probably the best, though.

Lobster with Garlic & White Wine Sauce
(1 serving)
Pre-cooked lobster, meat removed, tail cut in half
½ Tbsp Unsalted Butter
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 clove Garlic chopped
1/4C white wine (I used Domaine d’Uby Colombard-Ugni Blanc)

Heat butter and oil in cast iron skillet. Add garlic, sauté 1 minute. Add lobster. Heat through about 3 minutes. Remove from skillet and de-glaze with white wine. Cook off excess liquid and drizzle over lobster.

Creamy Dill Potatoes
(2 servings)
½ lb potatoes cut into small chunks (I used tiny 1-1/2” round creamer potatoes, cut into halves)
1/4C Fat Free Sour Cream
1 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Dill
1 tsp chopped scallion
Dry mustard powder
Cayenne Pepper
Black Pepper

Boil potatoes until almost tender (about 10 minutes). Over low heat, melt butter in a saucepan. Add scallions, about 2 tsp mustard powder, and a sprinkle of cayenne. Cook about 1-2 minutes. Add sour cream and heat slowly, stirring. Toss in the potatoes and stir to coat, seasoning with salt & black pepper.

Home-made Easy Mac 'n' Cheese

So I'm not having a terribly creative or original week, but I'm still producing lots of "good eats". I rarely make mac 'n' cheese the old fashioned way, since it usually it comes out too dry. But last night I felt like trying it out one more time, and it came out pretty darned good! I used Alton Brown's recipe for stove-top mac 'n' cheese, and then broiled it with some breadcrumbs on top. I left out the hot sauce, since I was already making buffalo grilled chicken. This recipe was so easy!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Relatively Healthy Cookies

Oatmeal Cookies from Food Network &

I finally have energy tonight, thanks to a nice workout. I tend to get stuck in a cycle of not working out and then feeling tired, and since I'm tired, I don't workout. I also tell myself to accomplish other tasks if I'm not going to workout, but since I feel tired, I don't do those either. Tonight is another story. Although my thoughts were on food the whole time I was ellipticizing, I was actually trying to come up with a way to eat healthier. My eating has become like my exercise habits - erratic and half-hearted attempts at staying on the wagon. These days I never manage to get in quite enough cardio, and I always manage to add something bad to anything healthy. I'm half-way there. So today I wanted to make some oatmeal cookies, and I opened the canister of oatmeal for the recipe, and holy crap - 2 sticks of butter! Oh no way. I still want my cookies but I don't want cardboard either. I found this recipe on and it came out really well. They're crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. I omitted the egg-whites and added 1 Tbsp of unsalted butter. I also used a mix of craisins, golden raisins and chocolate chips. I never knew you could make good cookies without butter OR eggs. Yum!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Beef-Less Stroganoff

A bowl of Stroganoff

Overripe cherry tomatoes roasted at 425 for 20 minutes
with olive oil, salt, pepper & garlic powder

As Fall arrives and the chill is in the air, we naturally want to eat more comfort foods. I finally figured out a way to use the Trader Joe's beef-less strips I bought a few weeks ago. I needed something quick and easy, that I could adapt for my vegetarian. So tonight I concocted a quick Beef-less Stroganoff that satisfied both of us. The husband even went back for seconds. Success! These strips also pack 20g of protein and only 120 calories in 1/3 of a package. You could make it with steak or meatballs, but I didn't miss the meat at all.

Beef-less Stroganoff
(4 servings)
1 box of Trader Joe’s Beef-Less strips
1/2 C chopped Red Onion
1 C sliced button mushrooms
1 C (1 large) Russet Potato, chopped into ½” pieces
3 oz reserved water from boiling potatoes
7 oz Vegetable Stock
1 10-3/4oz can of Campbell’s condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
½ C Fat Free Sour Cream
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp butter or margarine
1 Tbsp Flour
Crushed Red Pepper
Thinly sliced scallions for garnish

Cooked extra broad Egg Noodles

Boil potatoes in just enough water to cover by about an 1”. Boil about 10 minutes or until al-dente. Meanwhile chop the onion and mushroom. Heat oil and butter in a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion and mushroom about 5 minutes until cooked through and starting to brown. Add the flour and stir in until dissolved. Add the beef strips and stir gently to separate them. Add the potato water to the pan and stir to deglaze the pan. Add the mushroom soup and stock. Simmer about 10 minutes, and season with salt, pepper, paprika, and just a touch of crushed red pepper flakes.

Meanwhile cook the egg noodles. You could use the same pot as the potatoes. Slice up the white parts of 2 scallions. Once the noodles come to a boil, add the sour cream to the stroganoff pot. Stir in, check for seasoning. Serve the stroganoff over the noodles, top with pepper, pepper flakes and scallions – the scallions add a nice crunch.

Monday, September 7, 2009


It seems this long weekend turned into something of a stay-cation. Friends and family visiting NYC turned into a weekend of discovery and re-discovery. It's been a while since I have just walked around in the city or gone to new neighborhoods. Friday night the husband and I went further into Brooklyn to Park Slope to meet up with a friend, and ended up having dinner before-hand at Barrio on 7th Ave. I love this place because it has creative cocktails, nice ambiance and pretty solid upscale Mexican food. The menu is refreshingly vegetarian-friendly, however I couldn't resist the giant hanger steak with roasted potato hash. A college girlfriend was visiting for the weekend, and having lived here for a couple of years she wanted to re-unite with old friends and NYC life. We met her and some others at The Gate on 5th Ave, which has a nice outdoor patio area, pretty popular with 30-something Park Slopers. Honestly, I could take it or leave it - too many smokers and no food - but people bring their dogs there, which I love.

Saturday brought me into Manhattan early for brunch with the visiting friend (& company) at Cowgirl Hall of Fame on Hudson. Haven't been there in years, and then only for dinner. They had a pretty decent brunch featuring buttermilk biscuits, chicken apple sausage and a sweet waitstaff. Not cheap, though, if you like a cocktail with your eggs! We roved around Christopher and Bleeker, and made our way up Greenwich to the High Line. I visited the High Line when it first opened, but there are more food vendors and places to sit now. My favorite thing about the High Line, as a local, is the smell of all the plants they've placed up there. The wildflowers, grasses, and herbs in remind me of living in the country and happening upon some abandoned train tracks near a corn field. From there we walked through Chelsea Market to enjoy more delicious smells. Seeing all the fancy cupcakes spurred a conversation about where to find the best, and the consensus was Buttercup Bake Shop. My visiting friend also wanted to revisit Central Park and sit in the grass, like we used to spend the summer weekends. So we hit Buttercup on W. 72nd St. for cupcakes (I resisted the urge and got a smoothie) and sat in the grass in the park listening to a random string quartet play. I very rarely hang out on the Upper West side, but our friend knew a great wine bar where we could rest and decide a dinner plan, called Wine and Roses. Labor Day weekend is wonderful for scoring normally hard-to-get outdoor tables and hip spots, so we were lucky enough to kill a couple of bottles on the sidewalk and girl-talk. For dinner we went down to Tribeca, another neighborhood I love to explore but never know where to go once I'm there. The girls wanted Steak Frites, so we went to Odeon, which I'd never heard of. We shared a small plate of summer corn ravioli that was amazing, although it's the only thing vegetarian on the menu, I would bring my husband just for those. I had some standard quality french onion soup and a seared tuna steak over sweet tomatoes and eggplant puree. I would say the tuna was a little sub-par, not being seasoned quite enough, but the girls all had either hanger steak or strip steak frites and it was amazing melt-in-your mouth deliciousness.

And the journey continued 2 blocks up at Brandy Library for some swank drinks and complementary candies from the owner. My visiting friend was exhausted and left us, but my friend who lives here also decided to accompany me out for one more drink at Sin Sin in the East Village, since my husband's friend got us in for a party with a DJ friend. Normally I hate Sin Sin with a passion since it's so crowded and pushy, but the upstairs was chill with the husband's friend's friend spinning.

Sunday we discovered Fairway Market in Redhook. We happened to have the car here, so although we were tired we took the opportunity to check it out. That place is huge and crazy! It is so different here in Brooklyn, than Manhattan, in that you can drive 10 minutes and park in a parking lot, use a full size shopping cart, and even find Lobsters for $4.99/lb. Although the perfect stacks of produce and tempting smells were great, the place was quite an overwhelming maze of products. I think they really might have everything here, if you can find it! The best find was some cheese we picked up called Beemster Classic 2 year aged Gouda - excellent!

Some of the husband's family was visiting from Chicago, so I threw together a hot bean dip to tide all 11 of us over while we chatted. Later we decided to take the sister-in-law and cousin out to the Lower East Side for another late night. That neighborhood is always changed, but you can always depend on an endless row of bars and restaurants to hop in and out of. We hung out in Libation for a while, then Verlaine, and finally cabbed it over to MacDougal for a Falafel at Ali Baba's (only because Kati Roll Co. was closed!).

Finally today we got to sleep a little and hang out at home. We watched Baboons on NatGeo, and about 3 hours of Anthony Bourdain while we drank coffee and I experimented (unsuccessfully) with making banana nutella crepes. Just a few more loads of laundry, some packing and then off to Montreal tomorrow for work.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New Season = New Desire

As the weather quickly changes from hot and stormy to cool and calm, I find myself sniffling back a potential cold and looking forward to a return to cozy fall comforts. The crisp air brings up memories, and suddenly I want new clothes in hot colors and hot food in new flavors. Unfortunately, it is also my busy season in work, and aside from having little time to cook, the only time I get to shop for myself is when I'm shopping for work. For that very reason I hesitate to leave my desk for the shop's temptations. But a shopper will shop, no matter what, and I've developed quite the online shopping habit. Hardly a day goes by that the doorman greets me empty handed, as there seems to be a continuous flow of packages with my name on them. I promise I won't let myself buy much this fall, due to the whopper of an expensive year it's been, but I've got an eye out for the key items.

My first stop on the planning of the fall wardrobe is Karen Millen. If I had gone into women's fashion post-college, as I thought that I would, my line might look something like Millen's. Now, with all my background from designing ski-looks in outerwear, and also working as a buyer for yoga apparel, I'm even more certain that my ideas would look quite like hers. There is a lot of black, white and gray in her collections, with sudden pops of color. I like this concept, since I work on clothes all day, I don't like to work to get dressed. She does a lot with wool - always a favorite of mine to work with. But the signature look is color-blocked, pieced together and almost corseted with sensuous style-lines and chevron shapes. If I had time, I'd be inspired to sew for myself. If I had the money, I'd buy the whole line. However, here are the pieces I am in love with.

Karen Millen Tweed Dress
Karen Millen Tailored Skirt

Karen Millen Tweed Skirt
Karen Millen Elegant Dinner Shirt
Dinner Shirt Back
Karen Millen Colour Block Vest
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