Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Soup Season! First up: Spicy Squash & Bean Soup

The colder it gets, the more I just want to cuddle up on the couch with a hot bowl of soup. There is definitely a season for soup, and we are getting deep in it. I made this hearty soup last week and it lasted Brad and me about 4 days. I put the whole pot in the fridge and would take a bowl full, heat it up for lunch or dinner (or both!) and indulge. It's so nice to have a homemade soup prepared for the week.

For this soup, I got inspiration from a few different recipes I saw on various food blogs. I like to take bits and pieces from different recipes and then create my own. One recipe I saw used butternut squash and another used delicata squash. When I was at the store, I couldn't seem to decide between the two so I used both, naturally. Butternut squash is commonly used in making soup because it tends not to be stringy; it tastes somewhat similar to sweet potatoes. A quick note: the oranger the color of the squash, the riper, drier and sweeter it will be. Delicata squash is one of the tastier winter squashes; it has a creamy pulp that tastes almost like corn and sweet potatoes.

Delicata on the left, Butternut on the right

Enough about squash, let's get to the recipe...

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ginger powder (or freshly grated)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 cups cubed butternut squash
2 cups cubed delicata squash
1 bay leaf
4 cups vegetable broth
(1) 15.5 oz can black beans
(1) 15.5 oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
(1) 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
shelled pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, red pepper, carrots, jalapeno and garlic and cook on medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes. Mix in the salt, chili powder, ginger, cayenne pepper and cinnamon and stir for about 1 to 2 minutes. This mixture should smell amazing... spicy and sweet. Once the veggies are evenly coated with the spices, add the rest of the ingredients, except for the pumpkin seeds: the squash, bay leaf, vegetable broth, beans and crushed tomatoes. Bring this to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer for about a half hour, stirring occasionally. You want the squash to be soft and tender, but not too soft where it gets mushy.

Once the soup is ready, spoon some into a bowl and garnish with pumpkin seeds. I love the crunch that the pumpkin seeds add to the soup, plus I think they look really cute.

Leftover soup makes for a great quick lunch or dinner.

More soup recipes to come....


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Goodbye, NYC. Hello, Bradley Beach!


I realize that I have not posted since May. Lame. However, I have made some great changes in the recent months and have shifted gears completely. I could not possibly be happier. I needed to take a chance and follow my heart and passions. That said, I resigned from my job at Conde Nast (after almost 4 years) to take time to focus on school (nutrition) and thoroughly enjoy my life. Working a full-time job and going to school on Sundays, whilst trying to maintain a social life was far too much for one human. This led me to put my blog on the back-burner, and to be honest I kind of stopped cooking all together. I literally had no time and my kitchen in NYC was not very conducive to creating the grandiose meals that I had lurking around in my brain. So, Bradley and I moved to Bradley Beach. How appropriate! It's been wonderful thus far, and I know it's only going to get better. I am studying hard, taking long runs on the boardwalk, enjoying every single moment and most importantly, cooking! And I plan to cook a LOT! So please, stay tuned... With the holidays upon us I will be sure to share my own creations and some old family favorites.

Goodbye, NYC (for now).
Final photos of my building on 12th Street in the East Village.

Hello, Bradley Beach!

The "Treehouse." Brad and I absolutely adore this new home.
With an outdoor deck, a gigantic screened in porch and each other, what more could we need?!

Two blocks from the beach!

November 27th, 2010. Fourth Avenue. Bradley Beach, NJ.

I will be posting a new recipe for crab meat stuffed mushrooms tomorrow.... My addition to Thanksgiving's feast : )

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Life & Seaweed Salad

So, I'm making big changes in my life and finally following my heart and passions. It feels wonderful. I recently rekindled a wonderful relationship with a beautiful soul, Danielle DeAngelo, after a 10 year hiatus in our friendship. It must have been fate because we literally have the same dreams.

Last month I enrolled in a Clinical Nutrition and Holistic Health Program - which Danielle has almost completed - at the Academy of Natural Health Sciences in Woodbridge, NJ. It's perfect; I'll learn everything from advanced nutrition, herbology and homeopathy to sports nutrition and healing psychology. I am beyond excited.

Anyway, in the first lesson I learned that seaweed is one of the healthiest things we can eat. Lucky me... I LOVE seaweed salad, but had never made my own. Why? I don't know. Seaweed contains so many important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, B-vitamins, vitamin C, iron and potassium. It's been shown to cleanse the body of toxic pollutants. Sweet - I should be eating this every day.

How foolish I have been not to make it sooner. It couldn't possibly be easier.

Here's how it goes:

1 package dried wakame seaweed (can be whole or cut - mine was cut)
6 tbsp rice wine vinegar
6 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp Asian sesame oil
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
half a cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
sesame seeds for garnish

Wakame Seaweed, purchased at Whole Foods

Soak wakame in warm water covered for about 5 minutes. Drain then squeeze out excess water. If the wakame is not cut, cut it into thin slices.

In a separate bowl, stir together the vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and garlic. Poor dressing over the wakame and mix to combine well. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with cucumber slices, like so....

So good and so healthy.

Please do try this. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but this was the best seaweed salad I've ever had. It didn't have that overly chewy texture I was used to or get stuck in my teeth at all. It was perfection.



Monday, March 1, 2010

Stuffed Cabbage

Recently I've encountered a lot of recipes for stuffed cabbage. It's strange how certain foods appear in my life across various mediums (magazine/newspaper articles, menus at new restaurants, on the Food Network, etc.) all at once... It's like the universe is deliberately trying to feed me inspiration.

Anyway, I wanted to create a vegetarian version of stuffed cabbage. Typically, stuffed cabbage calls for rice and ground beef; however, I don't eat beef and therefore needed to come up with something different.

I've been eating a lot of quinoa lately so I figured this would work as a great base for my filling. I steamed a bag of spinach and added that to the quinoa along with a can of lentils and a dash of salt and pepper. That was all; simple, healthy and delicious, and not to mention total improve. I literally used whatever I had in my cabinet and fridge.

As I began pulling the cabbage leaves apart I felt that they were a bit firm, so I steamed those for a few minutes which made them softer, and therefore easier to roll and form.

Here's how it went...

Steamed cabbage leaf.

Cabbage leaf with filling

Stuffed cabbage leaves in a casserole dish.
Once rolled, I secured them each with a toothpick to hold the contents together.

I've noticed that most recipes for stuffed cabbage call for a topping of tomato sauce, so this is exactly what I did. I made a quick sauce (recipe below) and spooned it over the entire dish before baking in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Tomato Sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 24 oz can crushed tomatoes
Salt, pepper and crushed hot pepper to taste
In a medium sauce pan, heat oil and add onion and garlic
and saute for about 3 minutes.
Add the can of tomatoes and let simmer until ready to use.
Could not be easier.

I have to say that this was really fun and easy to make and super delicious. It was the perfect comfort food I wanted for a lazy Sunday evening. I sprinkled a little Pecorino Romano cheese on top (how could you ever go wrong with PR?!) and I ate it immediately when it came out of the oven. It's also great as left overs. Brad just ate some more, or should I say devoured some more, and it was just as good if not better today.

I highly recommend making stuffed cabbage, either my way or your own way. Think of the cabbage leaves as an blank canvas - you can create your own masterpiece!


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Grapefruits Are Better Than Candy.

My grandparents have spoiled me rotten with citrus fruits. Tony & Rita Pescatore moved to Boca Raton, Florida from New Jersey about 30 years ago. Since then, they have been consistently sending us a huge box of perfectly ripe, juicy, beautiful grapefruits right from their own tree... I feel blessed! There is something magical about a Florida grapefruit that makes my soul feel energized. As dramatic as that may sound, it's true. I love them.

As children, my mother wanted my brother and me to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible. Candy only in moderation. One of my favorite snacks was my mom's genius creation using the Florida grapefruits.... better than candy, and so simple.

Here's the story.

Cut the grapefruit in half.

Using a grapefruit knife, cut around the perimeter of the fruit
and then in between each section as displayed below.

Drizzle with honey and shake on some cinnamon.
Put it in an oven preheated to 400 degrees for about 5-7 minutes.
You want to allow enough time for the honey and cinnamon to melt
into the grapefruit and get warm in the center.

Serve with a spoon and indulge.
This perfect snack is so delicious and satisfying and will make your day an extra special one.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Rat-a-tat-tat! It's a New Year!

Happy New Year, Friends!!!

Apologies, folks, as I've been kind of a bore lately with this blog, but not to worry... I'm back! And very excited!

One of my new year's resolutions is to be more consistent with my blog... at LEAST one post a week. I mean, this should be relatively easy considering I eat multiple meals a day and am constantly day-dreaming of what my next meal will be.

So, let's go!

I recently revisited the amazing Pixar film Ratatouille and was inspired to create my own ratatouille! Before I get into that, I'd like to share two short clips (the first is super short) from the movie...

First up... Rat, Remy, teaching fellow rat buddy how to eat properly...

Next, Remy helps Linguine cook a famous recipe by hiding in his chef's hat...

This movie truly inspires me... It shows that anyone, and I mean anyone, can cook. That said, below is my recipe for ratatouille and it couldn't be easier.

For those of you who don't know, a ratatouille is a seasoned vegetable strew typically consisting of eggplant, zucchini, onions, green peppers, tomatoes and garlic, served hot or cold (thanks, Webster!).

My ratatouille:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 sweet onions, chopped into chunks
2 orange peppers (any color would do), chopped - for those of you who know me well, it shouldn't be a surprise that I opted for orange peppers :)
1 eggplant, peeled and cubed
2 yellow squash, cubed
2 zucchini, cubed
2 tomatoes, chopped - must be very ripe
1 14oz. can diced tomatoes
4 tbsp capers
2 handfuls of basil, chopped
1 cup shredded pecorino romano
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients, save the pecorino romano, into an oven safe casserole dish so that all veggies are coated with olive oil. If you don't have an oven safe dish large enough to accommodate all veggies, you can absolutely split into two.

Pre-cooked veggies

Distribute pecorino romano evenly on top of the veggies and place in the oven for 1 hour. The vegetables become soft and moist as they give off water when cooked.

Please note: this recipe makes a lot of ratatouille, enough for 8 people. However, since it is so easy and versatile I recommend making all of this. It's great for a quick snack the next day, or a side to a main course. In fact, the next day I made an omelet for breakfast and used this as the filling and it was to die for.

Serve and enjoy!

See you soon!