Sunday, March 15, 2015

Avocado Toast 3 ways

Guys, I think I have a problem. My avocado obsession has taken a whole new turn. Living in NYC, I’ve gotten really spoiled by the fruit and vegetable vendors on the streets. I mean, where else can you get 4 pomegranates for $5? Or 3 avocados for $4? These being two of my all time favorite foods, I’ve been buying them a lot lately, since I cannot resist that kind of deal.

As a result, I’ve been eating avocado toast pretty much every day. Now I know I’ve posted a recipe for avocado toast before, but this time I want to break it down for you. We’re going to start simple, then get fancy, then pack a powerful punch. These toasts are great for snacks, easy meals, or if you’re just feeling fancy.

My classic avocado toast is simple and delicious. Smash avocado on bread, squeeze lemon juice, sprinkle salt, and dig in! But since I’ve also been noshing on pomegranates lately (see above), I decided to incorporate those into my toasts. Add a little feta for a salty bite and the result is something that feels luxurious but takes almost no time to assemble. Finally, for days when I need a heartier meal, I like smashing my avocado with chickpeas to add some protein. Usually I leave it alone, but sometimes I’ll go all out and add toppings to make it a full blown sandwich.

Whatever way you dress up avocado toast, you really can’t go wrong. How do you like your avocado toast?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Recipe ReDux: Peanut Butter Chocolate Mug Cake

I don't know about where you are, but it's been pretty freezing here in NYC. The other day I went to an early morning exercise class and it was NEGATIVE 15 degrees outside. It's insane.

When it gets brutally cold like this, I turn to warm drinks and comfort foods. That happens to coincide nicely with this month's Recipe ReDux theme: Chocolate Matches. My immediate instinct when it comes to mixing flavors with chocolate is chocolate with nuts, fruit, and my all time favorite, peanut butter. So why not mix up these flavors and satisfy my sweet tooth all at the same time?

Chocolate and peanut butter are a match made in heaven. I actually have yet to meet a single person who doesn't like this combo, therefore I assume this person doesn't even exist. This cake is mixed together and then "baked" in the microwave, making for a super quick dessert. I made the recipe in glass jars which both look pretty and keep the portion size in control. You could also easily dump one recipe's worth in a large mug and bake yourself a bigger cake. It's totally up to you. I find the smaller portion is perfect, especially with a scoop of ice cream on top, because this cake is dense and amazingly rich.

What do you like to pair with your chocolate?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Recipe ReDux: Maple Chipotle Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you rang in 2015 in a big way. I'm starting with a bold new snack for this month's Recipe ReDux.

The first Recipe ReDux of the year is "Start Smoking in the New Year" and it's all about smokey spicy goodness. To me, the very first thing I think about when you say "smokey" is chipotle chili. It's spicy, as chili peppers usually are, but it's also distinctly smokey. It adds depth of flavor that red pepper flakes or regular chili powder often lack.

I love pairing this smokey spicy flavor with something sweet to balance it. I love using it on butternut squash or sweet potato. This time I paired it with maple syrup. I added just a touch of cumin to round out the flavor, a dash of salt, and a bit of olive oil to help it stick. Then I drenched raw pumpkin seeds with the mixture and baked it off. The result is crunchy, sweet, spicy, and smoking hot - the perfect snack.

What's your favorite smokey spicy pairing?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Roasted Chickpeas

These days, I am too often torn between eating tasty food and cheap/free food. It’s the dilemma every student faces. Do I save money or eat healthy? The last two weeks have been especially challenging for me as I am doing a rotation in a smaller hospital that has no cafeteria. Instead, they provide staff with hot lunch every day, but few options for vegetarians. I can pretty much always count on there being white rice and steamed vegetables. That combination is boring, bland, and does not have any protein, but it's so hard for me to justify not eating the food provided. Rather than bringing in my own lunches, or spending a fortune eating out for lunch every day, I’ve been getting creative while still minimizing costs.

I’ve been bringing in things to mix into my rice and veggie plate. This usually includes salted pistachios for seasoning and crunch and a sauce or dressing of some sort for flavor. Or I would go one step further, roasting some chickpeas to provide that crunchy texture I’ve been missing, along with some much needed protein.

I love roasted chickpeas. They’re ridiculously easy to make, can be done with any flavor combination, and are addictively delicious. I love how crunchy they get and how the flavors you mix in with them stick so nicely. This batch is full of garlic, basil, red pepper flakes for some zing, and nutritional yeast (though Parmesan cheese would also be great here). They make a great snack or a fantastic addition to salads. I’ve been adding these to my rice and veggie plate, then topping everything with some version of my balsamic vinaigrette. Suddenly my bland, boring lunch seems pretty gourmet.

How do you dress up your lunch?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Recipe ReDux: Chai Tea

I have to admit, I’m cheating a little bit with this month’s Recipe ReDux. You see, the theme is “Grab a Book & Cook” and we’re supposed to turn to page 42 (to celebrate 42 months of Recipe ReDux…and also the answer to the question of Life, the Universe, and Everything) (sorry, I had to) of our favorite cookbook and make that recipe. But given my current living situation, I don’t actually have any of my cookbooks with me. I put them all in storage for the year since I just couldn’t choose which one or two should come with me to my tiny little room. Instead, the only food-related book I brought with me was The Flavor Bible, which is more like an encyclopedia of ingredients than a cookbook.

So I turned to page 42 and found the “Anise, Star” entry. Now, I’ve never cooked with star anise, but I’ve always liked the look of them. My mind immediately went to mulled wine (which I’ve already posted) or mulled cider (which I just wasn’t in the mood for). In both cases, I imaged a beautiful little star pod floating on top of a steaming mug of something delicious. Eventually, this something delicious became Chai tea.

Apparently most recipes out there for Chai tea don’t have star anise in it, but I found a few that do, and decided that was a good enough reason to start playing around with it. I love Chai tea and I love Chai lattes, but always find that when I order those at a coffee shop, they’re far too sweet for my taste. I love the idea of a spiced tea with just a bit of milk and a hint of sweetness to round it out. So I threw together some cinnamon, cloves, pepper, smashed cardamom seeds, fresh ginger, cloves, and of course, star anise. I cooked the mixture until it was bubbling and fragrant, then steeped some Darjeeling tea bags in it. The resulting tea is spicy and warm. I love adding hazelnut milk to get a little bit of a nutty taste to the tea, but regular milk would work wonderfully here as well. I think I’ve found my new hot drink for the winter!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Savory Yogurt with Balsamic Tomatoes

I always used the think of yogurt as a sweet food.  Maybe it's because all the flavored versions are sweet and full of fruit.  Maybe it's because I used to associate sweet with breakfast, and yogurt was always a breakfast food in my mind.

Whatever the reason, I recently realized that my all-time favorite breakfast is not only savory, but it also features something distinctly yogurt-like.  You see, there is a special place in my heart for the classic Israeli breakfast of chopped salad, labneh sprinkled with zaatar, and a little bread to lap it all up. Labneh is a thick spread that I've heard compared to both yogurt and cheese.  Really, it's something in between.

The point is, I was recently inspired by my love of the savory labneh to look at yogurt in a whole different way. Yogurt is a great, easy snack, packed with good stuff. Greek yogurt is even better with a large wallop of protein thrown in there. While the fruit flavored ones are a fantastic snack, I also love the plain yogurt and how tangy it is. 

For the last few weeks, plain Greek yogurt and crackers has been a go-to breakfast or snack for me. I love the way plain, tangy yogurt pairs with sweet tomatoes. Everything is always improved with a little balsamic vinegar, in my opinion, but you can feel free to keep the tomatoes plain. I tend to buy Chobani since they're the most widely available, but any brand will work. Whatever brand you use, I highly encourage trying a savory twist on yogurt. You might even find a new favorite breakfast combo.

What's your favorite way to eat yogurt?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Recipe ReDux: Minestrone Soup

This month’s RecipeReDux theme is “A Food Memory For Which You Are Thankful,” which makes sense for November, because, you know, Thanksgiving. My immediate thought was minestrone soup. Now, for me, this memory is more of a late September/October memory than a Thanksgiving memory, but I’m thankful for it all the same.

I might have mentioned this in the past, but my favorite Jewish holiday is Sukkot. It happens every fall. We build a hut, or sukkah, in the backyard and we eat our meals in it for a week. I remember having fun decorating the sukkah with lights, strings of beads, and the longest paper chains we could manage as kids. I remember hosting my class in the sukkah every year. School was only a block away from my house, so we’d make a special, mini field trip to my backyard, where my mom would be waiting with snacks. But for me, the most memorable part of this beautiful holiday was always the minestrone soup.

Sukkot happens at the beginning of the fall season. The later it happens during the year, the colder it is and the happier I am. My favorite memories are eating in the sukkah at night, being cold, trying to huddle closer together at the table for warmth. Then, my mom would bring out the first batch minestrone soup of the year (we lived on that stuff all fall and winter long), and we would delightfully hunker down over our steaming bowls of soup and drink up the warm deliciousness. This is one of my all time favorite food memories.

The minestrone soup is no longer a magical soup for me, now that I understand that my mom made it because it was ridiculously easy to put together, but it still holds those wonderful memories in it. I should note that my family calls it minestrone because that’s what it most resembles, but my mother is a Hungarian Jew who was just trying to find a soup all three children could enjoy, so it’s not the most authentic recipe. And that’s totally fine by me.

This soup calls for a couple of canned goods, some fresh veggies, and not a whole lot of time on the stove. Not only is it comfort food for me, but it’s a very dorm-friendly recipe, one that I plan on using all winter long. While there are some basic ingredients that make this soup what it is, there are also a number of optional additions that we’ve added in the past, depending on what we have on hand. Here I’ve made the most basic version, but I’ve also included a list of additions.

One thing to note is that there are no noodles in this minestrone. I don’t know why, but noodles in soup have never really appealed to me. They tend to feel like mushy blobs of nothing, so I leave them out. Growing up, we’d sprinkle croutons over the soup instead to give each bite a nice little crunch. Delicious.

What food memory are you thankful for?