Corn-Coconut-Lime Muffins

So sorry for the tardy posting…I could have sworn that I pushed “publish” yesterday, but I pushed “draft!” Have a delicious weekend, all!

These are some super easy muffins based on my favorite treat from Amy’s Bread - their lime cornmeal cookies. These cookies bridge the gap between sweet and savory. They are perfect for breakfast or a snack – I guess that you could eat them as dessert, but I certainly never have any left over after dinner.

These muffins are a tribute to those, made with a sample of Zico that I was sent.

Corn-Coconut-Lime Muffins

coconut lime corn muffins

1 package corn muffin mix, including whatever is needed to prepare the package

Zest of 2 limes

2 cups shredded coconut

Enough Zico coconut water to replace the liquid (NOT THE OIL!) called for in the recipe

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1. Prepare the muffin mix according to instructions. Replace the water with coconut water.

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2. Add the lime zest and shredded coconut.

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3. Put into greased muffin tins and bake according to package.

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4. Serve.

IMG_1750 This is so easy…like, almost criminally so. It’s just an easy mix that is doctored up with a few ingredients and BAM! – suddenly it’s some artisanal muffin. It could actually be sweet enough for dessert with a powdered sugar and milk glaze, but I like it as a muffin. It’s light and fluffy, with sticky shreds of coconut and that fragrant coconut water flavor. Lime’s essential oils are all in the zest, so using the zest infuses the batter with tart lime flavor without having to juice the lime. Replacing the liquid with coconut water cuts fat and adds such a delicate tropical flavor. The texture is a little crumbly, but slap some butter on one and you will suddenly forgive its structural defects. Whip these up and you will feel like you are in the tropics.

Or at Amy’s Bread…def one or the other.

Ruth Reichl’s Pumpkin Soup

I wish that I could give you the instructions to this recipe.

But I can’t. because I didn’t invent it.

I read it for the first time 10 years ago, waiting for a friend to come out of her doctor’s appointment. I was sitting in my car in the Arizona sun, undoubtedly drinking a diet coke and thinking about a final in my science class that week.

And finally, a decade later, I made it for the first time.

And it was spectacular.

Please click here for Ruth Reichl’s recipe for baked pumpkin soup.

20141103_175846 And watch how this… 20141103_180042 Looks like this… 20141103_194102 And then turns into this.

A few notes:
20141103_194408 -bake for an hour at 350 then at 450 for the last 30 minutes or so.

-take the top off of the pumpkin forthe last 10 mintues of bkaing to make it golden brown.

-after removing the strings and seeds, rub the inside of the pumpkin with seasonings – salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper…whatever you want. The flesh is sweet but dense and it require a lot of seasoning.

-season the layers of bread and cheese as you go.

-I used fontina cheese and it ROCKED

-1 small pumpkin per person is not too much…really, it’s not.

20141103_195951 Sweet. Soft. Custardy. Cheesy to the max. Buttery, salty, and utterly decadent. This needs a simple, vinegar-dressed salad of endive alongside to cut through the richness. I could understand the desire to add sausage or spinach, but I was so utterly thrilled with this rendition that I wouldn’t change it at all.

10 years later, it was definitely worth the wait.

BBQ Chicken and Cheese Crescent Rolls

I took my cue from this off of one of those stupid commercials where the family all plays football together in the picture perfect backyard, falls into a pile of leaves, then scampers off to the gleaming kitchen for a quick meal that mom whips up while wearing size 2 jeans and smiling the entire time.

Needless to say, we are not that family.

We are a family who has frozen chicken burgers in the freezer, a jar of bbq sauce in the pantry, and a can of crescent rolls in the fridge.

Don’t worry, I promise that I served a salad and some roasted carrots alongside.

BBQ Chicken and Cheese Crescent Rolls

Ingredients:

1 package crescent rolls

1/2 lb. of ground chicken burgers (if you just have ground chicken, add some chopped onions, herbs, salt, and pepper to the mix)

3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

3 tbsp – 1/4 cup bbq sauce

hot sauce to taste

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1. Sautee the chicken until it is totally cooked. Add the cheese and mix through until it’s melted.

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2. Add the bbq sauce and mix to combine. Turn off the stove.

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3. Take out the crescent rolls and preheat the oven per the instructions on the carton.

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4. Take a small dollop of chicken mixture and spoon it onto the widest part of the crescent roll.

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5. Roll the crescent dough over once, then put a smaller amount onto the next little triangle section of dough.

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6. Roll around to complete your little crescent! Repeat for all of the dough, and don’t worry if some come out a little wonky looking – that’s okay!

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8. Bake on a greased baking sheet until the dough is golden brown on top, then serve the buns topped with hot sauce and extra bbq sauce.

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These are wholesome guilty pleasures. The dough is basically a carb and preservative bomb, but the chicken is lean, the cheese is filled with protein, and you can always eat salad on the side. These are creamy, spicy, and tangy. They are best when served piping hot, but someone I know eats them cold out of the fridge for midnight snacks. These would be awesome for a big party, since they can be served room temperature and are hand held.

It’s the closest that we ever came to being a tv family.

Chicken Tacos, Brussels Sprouts, and The Best New Halloween Candy

A couple of quick bites from the weekend:

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Reese’s white chocolate pumpkins

New for 2014 and OMG AMAZING! I have never paired white chocolate with peanut butter – I actually always thought that darker chocolate was the best pairing for peanut butter. I was so amazingly stupid. White chocolate is the way to GO. It’s so sweet and vanilla-y that it makes the peanut butter taste nuttier and a little salty. It’s a much more adult, elegant taste that juxtaposes sweet and savory, dense and light. Plus the peanut butter:chocolate ratio is supreme.

20141102_194836 Brussels sprouts 2 ways at Almond

I haven’t been here for quite awhile and either I ordered wrong last time or they have upped their game. My meal here was just heads and tails above my prior experience. This salad was the highlight of the night for me – shredded raw sprouts in a creamy, lemony dressing with crunchy croutons. Then there were crispy and garlicky roasted sprouts atop the salad – deep and nutty flavor with that savory zing of roasted garlic. The crowning touch was a few thin shavings of salty Parmesan cheese. This is Caesar salad taken to the next level, and one of the most subtly seasoned renditions of this dish that I have eaten – no vampire breath after this treat.

20141031_133332 Chicken tacos at Schnippers

Because elevated fast food is one of my guilty pleasures – what do you want, I come from the land of In-n-Out. Schnippers does it right, with quick service, fair prices, and a great menu with dishes like sloppy chili fries, a variety of burgers, and these chicken tacos. Double wrapped in pliant corn tortillas, they are loaded with tender, smoky grilled chicken in an addictive garlic-chipotle mayonnaise. That’s topped with fresh pico de gallo, lettuce, and actually SHARP cheddar cheese. That sharp cheese is what separates the girls from the women – I really crave an almost acidic sharpness to cut through the meaty, creamy flavors of my tacos, and this delivers. Get thee to Schnippers stat, and don’t miss their awesome chicken fingers, either!

Billy’s Bakery – A Chelsea (Trick or) Treat!

Billy’s Bakery. Yes, a cupcake bakery. Shut up, I like cupcakes more than ever now that they are uncool again.

Just like jeggings.

I haven’t been here for quite some time, and wow…I miss it!

The Chelsea shop is diminutive – just a counter, a few fresh faced employees, and a couple of tables and chairs. Feel free to take your seat outside on the bench or bring it back to your casa. Be prepared for an influx of  kids if you go after school, but the scent of chocolate and sugar makes everyone a little kid-like, right?

Red Velvet

These cupcakes really are so good. They are just what you want in a red velvet cupcake – dense and a little chocolatey with a tender, moist crumb. The icing atop is tangy, smooth, and cream-cheesy. I could eat it by the spoonful and I’m honestly a little bummed that I can’t get a cupcake totally enrobed in icing.

20141030_154737 Vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting

Ugh, what a departure from that lovely red velvet cupcake. This cake is cottony and dry with nary a waft of vanilla. The frosting is good – very chocolatey and not at all greasy or chalky – but it can’t make up for that wretched cake. Maybe I got a bad one, but wow…this isn’t tasty.

20141030_154656 Icebox cake

Where have you BEEN all of my life?! Creamy, soft filling with a slight, pleasant tang. Deep, dark, chocolatey cookies that are tender and sweet. It’s like cheesecake-whipped cream-oreo filling-cookie goodness. This is incredibly rich – I couldn’t finish more than half of it, and I really gave it my all. I would get this again yesterday.

 

Billy’s is a small but generally wonderful bakery. The treats are fairly priced (that is to say, too expensive, but you are willing to pay it), most of the cupcakes are delicious, and the icebox cake is really craveworthy. Enjoy your weekend and make it a cupcake filled one!

Happy Halloween!

Tolani Wine Bar’s Surprisingly Delicious Menu

If you need a place on the UWS that isn’t brunch, cookies, or over the top fancy, your options are somewhat limited. Luckily, Tolani is on 80th and Amsterdam to fill that girls-night-out void.

It’s a South African influenced wine bar  with a dark, cool vibe that is sexy enough for a date but elegant enough to take the parents for brunch. with a hefty by the glass list as well as an extensive selection of Pappy Van Winkle bourbons. Better yet, it has a food menu. Not just bar food, but real sharing plate, restaurant food. The kind of food that makes you salivate just looking at it but that doesn’t require a foodie degree to enjoy. Catch my drift:
20141028_194335 Tuna carpaccio with olives, fried garlic, and arugula

An interesting, savory take on tuna tartare. The tuna is paper thin, reminiscent of beef carpaccio but with an even more velvety texture. The garlic is crispy and a little spicy and the olives provide a Nicoise-esque punch of salinity. This is light and a great way to start the evening.

20141028_200943 Fish tacos

Best dish of the night, hand down. This taco is so far superior to many other grilled fish tacos in town. The grouper is meaty but mild, perfect for its spicy (but not overly so) tomatillo salsa. Crispy cabbage, buttery avocado, and a quick spritz of lime all complete the package in a warm corn tortilla. It’s juicy, crispy, spicy, and fresh…all of the things that make Mexican food great. Best of all, it’s simple. It relies on awesome ingredients so here isn’t any weird crema or nouveau wrap to muck up the clean tastes of the food. There is only one to an order here, so be sure to order enough for the table.
20141028_200949 Lamb, beef, and veal meatballs with ricotta

Delicious and so satisfying on a chilly night.  The meatballs are spicy and robust, with the lamb bringing out some earthy flavors. The sauce is long cooked and sweet; richer and more wine-y than light summer sauces. A sprinkling of salty Parmesan cheese and some creamy ricotta make this more of a stew than a meatball. Be sure to ask for more warm bread to sop up the delicious sauce.  20141028_211707 African bread pudding

I don’t know what makes this African, but it’s delicious – like a deep-fried bread pudding with a spongy texture. Crispy, light,a nd positively soaked in a thick vanilla-y creme anglais.

Tolani is well priced with excellent service and really good food! The portions are tiny, so don’t take big eaters here, but there’s a great happy hour and the food is really worthwhile. Finally, a place on the UWS that fits the bill for a relaxed night out on the town.

10 Reasons That Offal is Awesome

10 Reasons that Offal is Awesome


1) It’s fun to win $5 by your friends by eating some ox or beef heart on a bet.


2) People like Dan Barber are making the ever controversial foie gras more humane and approachable than ever. 


3) WWAZD (What Would Andrew Zimmern Do?)


4) Chicken livers can be down home and fried or uptown and truffled – it’s the ultimate people pleaser.


5) That bag of giblets isn’t just there to weight down your Thanksgiving turkey. Sautee them with butter and then stew them with red wine and seasonings for the best gravy you ever ate. 


6) Nothing goes better with jelly than peanut butter. Unless you are talking about fig jelly and duck liver pate. Then, oh yeah, THAT goes better with jelly. 


7) Playing tricks on your friends has never been more delicious. Just tell Nate that the chopped liver is tapenade, then videotape his response when you tell him what it is and put that reaction on YouTube.


8) How else can you spend $7 at the butcher’s counter and end up with something like this?


9) If you’re going to get something stuffed inside a burger, it might as well be the most delicious meat on the face of the planet.

Prepared Uncle Lou's Chitlins on a plate with greens and cornbread

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10) Eating “chitlins”gives you street cred.

Elle’s Kale Chip Commandments

I have this friend, Elle, who is kind of my lifestyle guru.

She just knows how to DO things well.

Which is why I should have known that she would teach me how to make kale chips. Her methods are straightforward and must be followed to a “T.”

The result is nothing less than crack cocaine.

And all that you need to do is follow Elle’s commandments:

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1. Thou shalt dry thy kale

Chips abhor moisture. No matter how great your oven is or how fresh your kale is, if the stuff isn’t dry, it ain’t gonna crisp. Elle carefully dries EACH leaf with a paper towel before she declares it good enough to bake.

2. Thou shalt not overlap thy leaves

Because she says that if even a little bit of the leaf is left unexposed to heat, it will stay limp and become mushy, ruining the entire chip. She says that the kale can be touching at the edges but not overlapping. You will have to do several rounds of baking since there’s a lot of shrinkage when they heat up.

3. Thou shalt drizzle, not pour, the olive oil.

Do that little hand back-and-forth hand shaky thing to get a few drops of oil on each leaf, then let it go. You don’t want to drown these puppies in oil.

4. Thou shalt salt well

Kale loves salt and needs it. Salt those suckers, and add some cayenne pepper if you feel frisky.

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5. Thou shalt bake at 350 F until they are almost black and smell delicious

About 20-30 minutes should do it.

6. Thou shalt eat like potato chips that break easily

Because these break all over the place and unless you have a dog to eat the crumbs, you’re going to want to take care.

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7. Thou shalt not save thy leftovers

Kale chips are salty and delicious when hot and soggy and sad when not.

8. Thou shalt make extras for me

Okay, I added that last part.

Things That You Learn in The Catskills

This weekend, we went up to our friends’ family home in the Catskills.Spoiler alert: it was relaxing, beautiful, and totally delicious. We stayed in the house for almost the entire weekend, and consumed an entirely inappropriate amount of cookie dough, White Russians, and Cards Against Humanity. 

Here are a few of the things that I learned:

20141025_132039 Grills rock

I love living in NYC, I honestly do. But I miss having a backyard grill. There is just nothing quite like a burger cooked over a grill or a smoky hot dog with charred, crispy skin. These burgers were prepared 2 ways – 1 batch for purists, with only salt, pepper, and the pure taste of beef. The other way was for the crazy folks, with spicy panko breadcrumbs, oregano, sea salt, and about 18 other secret ingredients. I especially loved those spicy ones because they stood up to the heavy char of the grill.
20141025_134951 I mean, that’s a good looking meal, right?

20141025_194533 Have the butcher flatten your chicken

Less cooking time, more even cooking, fewer pesky bones. The butcher can remove the spine, leaving you with a large, flat chicken that can be grilled relatively quickly and then cut quickly for attractive serving. These were simply seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and lemon. Juicy on the inside and crispy, smoky skin on the outside. Wow, I’m totally hating NYC and our lack of outdoor grills right now.

20141025_084723 MacGuyver it

Don’t have a popover pan? Make one out of tinfoil! Husband getting cranky? Put him in the baby bouncer and let him play with the mobile!

Four Fat Fowl St. Stephen cheese

An impulse purchase at a gourmet deli on the way up to the house may have been the greatest find of the weekend. This cheese, made in the Hudson Valley, is EVERYTHING that you want a great party cheese to be. It’s triple creme and as silky as brie with more density, so it doesn’t melt too quickly. The flavor is mild and nutty, with a slight, pleasant tang towards the end, similar to Camembert. The rind looks scary and waxy, but it’s so soft that you can eat it without fear. It’s fantastic on cut up apples, on Triscuts, and on fingers. I actually can’t say anything bad about this cheese, especially since I found out that it’s available in NYC.

The Catskills: Home to Dirty Dancing, random rabbits running around your front yard, and some damn fine home cookin’.

By the way,the winner of the JCPenney giveaway is:

True Random Number Generator   2 Powered by RANDOM.ORG

JUSTIN! 

Congratulations Justin, I will connect you and JCPenney ASAP!

Minute Steak Salad with Goat Cheese and Pickled Onions

The minute steak is much maligned. People think that it is cheap, thin, and tough…a little like Tara Reid. BUT…if it is prepared properly, with a bit of acidic marinade and a VERY QUICK sear so it is left quite rare…it is cheap, thin, and divine. London broil for a fraction of the price – a perfect luncheon for one.

Of course, the way to do this the right way is to serve it on a crusty roll with sautéed onions, melted swiss cheese, and plenty of Tabasco sauce.

But, in the interest of using up the arugula in my fridge, I made it a steakhouse salad instead.

Salads are wonderful, even and especially in the winter. They can be a refreshing,filling, and – yes – even a little bit indulgent – ending to a day of eating cereal and microwaved burritos at work.

Minute steak salad with goat cheese and pickled onions

minute steak salad

Ingredients:

2 minute steaks (or 1 leftover flank steak, skirt steak, filet mignon…nothing too fatty)

1 bunch arugula, washed and dried

1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (I love bucheron)

1 dash Worcestershire sauce

1 recipe pickled onions

drizzling of steak sauce

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1. Put the Worcestershire sauce and the steaks in a zip top bag. Marinate for 30 minutes or so.

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2. Put the stove on high and put the steak in a notstick skillet, or a one that is greased with a wee bit of oil.

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3. For small minute steaks, cook no more than 1.5 minutes per side. Remove them and let them rest so the juices redistribute.

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4. Cut the steak into bite size pieces. That color in the photo is ideal…no grayer than that.

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5. Put all of the ingredients into the salad bowl and eat immediately.

This is what makes minute steak good – quick cooking and complimentary side components. Warm steak, juicy and salty, softening the rough arugula and bringing out its slightly bitter tones. The onions are piquant and the tomatoes are soft and sweet. The goat cheese warms under the heat of the steak, melting slightly and releasing its tangy,savor flavor. The steak sauce is sweet and spicy – making this more of a meal and less of a salad. The important step is to eat this while the steak is still warm and that the steak be very rare so it’s still juicy even though it’s thin.

And, now…a slow clap for the minute steak:

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