Easy as Pie…Err Tart?

Mushrooms, Gruyere, Baked

Mushroom & Gruyere Tart

Sometimes people get so hung up on names, titles, making sure things fit the mold and are “correct” that they forget to realize what’s actually important.

My Sunday started off well, I strolled the green market, chugging my large coffee, and stumbled across incredible Crimini mushrooms.  My mind immediately decided that a perfect mushroom and cheese tart would be in order.  Little did I know that in a few hours, back at home, this decision would send me in a frantic  Google search on the difference between a tart and a pie and, oh quiche! Ok, I am sure the copious amount of caffeine didn’t help my compulsion, either.

1 hour, 8 browser windows and two crossed eyes later I realized that there probably was no way I would received a definitive answer.

“It’s the dough you use!”

“No, it’s about the type of pan you bake it in”

“A pie a sweet and is only baked on Wednesdays.”

So this had me thinking, doesn’t really matter what we call things?  If I want to call it a tart, I’ll call it a tart – who is going to stop me!

Whether it’s food or in life, it’s all about what you make of it right?

But let me just say, you better make it something delicious.

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Homemade Granola

Maybe it’s just me, but paying an arm and a leg for something that you can easily make on your own is outrageous.  Enter, granola.  Who doesn’t love this stuff.  It’s crunchy, comes in many different flavors and make a bowl of oatmeal, among other things, a knockout meal or snack.

Well, paying more for the pre-made stuff isn’t the only reason making your own makes more sense.  Have you ever looked at the back of the package?  Loaded with sugar and questionable ingredients, it’s no reason granola sometimes gets a bad rap from nutritionists.

The answer?  That’s right, make you own!  Homemade granola is not only healthier – it’s also easy!  So go ahead, experiment with your favorite flavors.  Berries, walnuts, maybe baked quinoa instead of oats.  Whatever, you come up with, I promise you’ll be happy!

Homemade Cranberry Chocolate Granola

2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup slivered almonds
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp + 1 tsp agave nectar (or honey)
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Cooking spray (or butter)
2 tbsp dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the the oats, cranberries, almonds, salt and cinnamon.  Stir in the agave nectar and vanilla until thoroughly mixed.

Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray or butter.  Spread out oats mixture into an even layer.  Cook in the oven for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes to ensure the mixture doesn’t burn.

Once oats are browned, remove from oven and let cool at least 20 minutes before adding chocolate.  Seal in airtight container and enjoy.

Reducing Food Waste (& Your Grocery Bill)

Until recently, I was living at my parent’s home & commuting everyday into the city.  As trying as this time was (as any post-graduate living with their parents can attest to) it was also a good time to save money, something you don’t appreciate until you are paying an arm & a leg for a NYC apartment.

My only problem was having more money meant that I had more to spend on my weekly groceries.  Compounding this problem was that at the end of the week, I often found myself wasting food.

Although my new found budget constraints makes smart shopping a necessity rather than just a ‘nice to do’, weekly food planning is something that can help anyone who is looking to waste less, on a budget or not.

To make it easy, dedicate 20 – 30 minutes a week before you do your shopping to do the following:

  • Take inventory:  What’s in your fridge, freezer & pantry.  Check dates & see if there is anything you should use up soon.
  • Glance at your calendar:  Even though life can throw you a curve ball sometimes, loosely try to plan out your week.  Are you planning on working late Tuesday night?  Hopefully it’s more like drinks Wednesday with your girlfriends.  Whatever it is, make sure to have a few backup plans ready.
  • Pick & Choose: Don’t carve your weekly menu out in stone.  If your plan falls through it will only discourage you.  Instead, make a 4 column list – breakfast, lunch, dinner & snack.  Keeping in mind your inventory & schedule, start filling in each of the columns seeing where you can reuse leftovers or get double use out of purchases.  From here, decide what is absolutely needed from the store. Use this list as you go through the week, picking & choosing depending on what works for you as each day unfolds.

By doing this you should see a dip in your weekly food budget as well as the amount of food you waste each week.  To give an example, here is my list for the week…

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Huevos Rancheros

If you have ever been to a Mexican restaurant for brunch, chances are you’ve seen Huevos Rancheros on the menu.  Heck, most American diners now serve this dish up, although it is rarely as good as the real deal.  Don’t despair, the Huevos Rancheros recipe below will no doubt satisfy your craving for warm tortillas, spicy tomato-chili sauce and a perfectly fried egg.  Best of all, most of the ingredients are probably already in your pantry so you can whip this up whenever that craving hits you.

Huevos Rancheros

(serves 2)

Printable Version

1 15oz. can diced tomatoes
1 half of a medium onion, diced
1 half of a jalapeno, diced (and seeded if you can’t take the heat)
4 eggs
2 tsp. smoked paprika (optional)
1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tsp. ground cumin (optional)
2 flour tortillas, whole wheat or white
1  tbs olive oil
1 tbs. butter
4 thin slices cheddar or pepper jack cheese (optional)
Salt
Pepper

Step One:  Get the Sauce Started

Heat about a half tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook until softened and translucent about 3-4 minutes.  Stir in the jalapeno and cook another minute.  Add the tomatoes (including any juice in the jar) and bring the sauce to simmer before lowering the heat.  Do a taste test and season with salt, pepper, cumin and cayenne (if using).  Continue to cook the sauce at a low simmer while you prepare the rest of he items.

Note: Add a bit of water if the sauce becomes to dry but make sure you re-season if it tastes bland afterwards.

Step Two: Warm Up Your Tortillas

In a medium sized skillet over medium heat, add about 1 1/2 tsp. of the olive oil and 1 tsp of paprika (if using).  Once warm, add one tortilla.  Cook for about 2 minutes or until bubbles form on the top side.  Flip over and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until tortilla is warm.  Either transfer to a plate or place in the oven on low heat to keep warm.  Repeat same procedure with remaining tortilla.

Step Three: Eggs!

Using a medium skillet (to save on cleaning time, use the same skillet used for the tortillas), heat the butter over medium-low until melted.  Fry the eggs to your taste (sunny side up or over easy are delicious here!) and add the cheese (if using) about 2 minutes before the eggs are done.

Step Four: Serve It Up!

Place a tortilla on each plate.  Spoon some of the sauce on the tortilla and place eggs on top.  Top with more sauce.  Enjoy!

Variations & Accompaniments

For recipes like the above, I really like to use the ingredients and instructions as a guideline and almost every time I make them they come out slightly different.  I encourage you to experiment with the recipe and see what different combinations you love.  To help spark some ideas, here is a list of things you can try:

  • Serve with either refried beans (black beans & pinto beans also work) and rice.  This is often how they are served in Mexico.  Fried potatoes (similar to home fries) are also commonly served
  • Garnish with cilantro or sliced avocado to add a fresh flavor to the dish.
  • Use crumbled Queso Fresco which is a mild Mexican cheese similar to feta, in place of the cheddar or pepper jack cheese. Add once the meal is plated.
  • Experiment with peppers.  If you like spicy food, try using dried (and reconstitued) or canned/sliced peppers.  For example, diced chipotle peppers (in adobo sauce) will add a deeper, smokier flavor to the sauce.
  • If you enjoy a smoother texture, puree in a blender or use an immersion blender.  Be sure if you are using a regular blender that you cool the sauce before adding it to the glass container.  Heat the sauce back up in the skillet before serving.

Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones = Best Breakfast Sandwich Ever

The holidays are here again and just as they bring added joy to our everyday routines, they seem to bring a similar sweetness to the things we eat.  Pies,  yule logs, ginger snaps & cheesecakes are lurking around every corner.  And then there are holiday cookies, which are not just everywhere but seem to be the perfect homemade holiday gift. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I’ll take a luscious cheesecake or chewy snickerdoodle cookie any day, but what about everything else?

Not surprisingly when our office decided to hold a holiday pot luck last week, the sign up list was filled up with all things sugar.  As I perused the list, contemplating what to make I noticed the discrimination and concluded that I would be playing on behalf of Team Savory.   My holiday cookie recipes & gingerbread house would just have to wait their turn.

Ironically enough, my final contribution was a variation on a typically sweet item – the scone.  Except this one was speckled throughout with pockets of melted cheddar cheese and bits of spicy jalapeno.  It was creamy & moist and the consistency was so perfect you felt like a scone scientist looking at all of the different layers after you broke it in half.

I found the recipe from Smitten Kitchen who states the recipe is adapted from Peter Oleyer at Calexico Carne Asada in Brooklyn, via NY Mag.  With little to no recipe tweaks on my end except a little extra cheddar and jalapeno for good measure, this recipe is incredible.  If my description above isn’t enough to convince you, please I beg, just make the darn scones for yourself.

Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Peter Oleyer at Calexico Carne Asada in Brooklyn, via NY Mag

makes 8 large scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick or 4 ounces) cold butter, diced
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 eggs, divided
1/4 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, diced
2 small jalapeños pepper, minced (I wimped out and used only one only to find my scones entirely heat-free)

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a small skillet, melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter and sauté the jalapeños in it until soft, about two minutes. Let them cool, then place them in a small bowl with the cheddar cheese and coat them with one tablespoon of the flour. Combine the remaining flour with the baking powder and salt. Cut in the remaining butter with a pastry blender, fork or two knives, until the butter bits are pea sized.

Lightly whip two of the eggs and cream and add to the flour-butter mixture. Using a wooden spoon, fold mixture until it begins to come together. Add the cheddar-jalapeño mixture to the dough and mix until everything is incorporated.

Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead gently for less than one minute. Pat dough out to a 3/4- to 1-inch thickness and either cut into 8 triangles or the shape of your choice with a biscuit cutter. Make an egg wash by beating the remaining egg with a teaspoon of water. Brush the scones with egg wash and place on a parchment-lined (or well-oiled) baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones, Part II:  How to make an AWESOME breakfast sandwich

The holiday potluck turned out fantastic and to my surprise, the dessert table was not the largest spread there!  Take that sugar (I’ll see you again soon I’m sure, however).  The scones were also a big hit and at the end there were only a few leftover.  Now, usually scones are best to be eaten on the day they are made.  These bad boys however were quite moist and given the proper attention, I was positive they could be re-purposed over the weekend.

Sunday was the perfect day to find out.  A gloomy and lazy day from the start, brunch on the couch with a large pot of coffee seemed quite fitting.  I checked out the scones waiting patiently in my fridge and once I deemed them fit for service, came up with these Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwiches on Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones.  And the surprise,  I paid homage to the season as well as the scone’s sweet roots by adding a bit of honey.  Sweet & savory, now that is truly the best of both worlds!

Bacon, Egg & Cheese Sandwich on Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones

2 eggs
4 slices bacon
Cheddar Cheese (or whatever you have on hand)
2 Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones (I made mine smaller than it says in the recipe above)
Honey
Butter

Slice scones, place in low oven until just toasted.  Cook bacon in a skillet until done to your liking.  Remove grease and melt butter over low-medium heat.  Fry eggs in skillet 2 minutes until just set.  Flip over and place cheddar cheese on top, cover with lid.  Cook another 2 minutes until cheese is soft and melted.

Spread bottom of scone with honey, place egg & cheese down and top with bacon and the scone top.

Enjoy!

And yes, this was deemed as the best breakfast sandwich ever as one happy guest stated.

The second sandwich was already eaten so pardon the crumbs!

Green Eggs & Ham…sort of

After getting out of work a bit late the other night I was faced with a dinner dilemma.  It was too early to resort to grabbing something in Penn Station before catching my train but if I waited until I got home and cooked dinner I would be so hungry (and tempted to eat any junk placed before me).

As I began to think about what was in the fridge that I could cook up in a hurry,  I remembered seeing gorgeous basil pesto on The Sweet Kitchen earlier that day.  I decided that whatever I ate would include pesto, but with what?  Pasta was an obvious choice but since I had noodles for lunch I tossed that idea out the window.

Then it came to me, I’ll have eggs!  I love having eggs for dinner especially when time is short.  They are quick, filling and delcicious!  But what about the pesto?  And there it was,  I was going to have green eggs & ham for dinner.

Now, the eggs weren’t actually green and the ham was actually Canadian bacon but work with me here, ok?

I got home and picked some super fresh basil from the garden, added some garlic, pinenuts, cheese & olive oil and combined it all in the blender.  Perfect pesto!  Then I cooked up some of the bacon and fried an egg.  It was all layered on top of an Ezekiel toasted bun (bottom portion only) and added topped with more pesto.

Apologies for the bad photo as my camera is still being fixed 😦

Green Eggs and Ham

WOW!  This was really a perfect dinner and I was almost sad to finish the last bite. Definitely something I will be making again very soon.

What are your favorite meals to make when you are in a hurry?

Sunday Morning Pancakes

I had great plans of getting up early this morning and running all of my errands so I could make it into the city for a sample sale which starts today. However, when my alarm went off at 7am and I peeked out of my window only to see clouds and a hazy sky – I lost all motivation to get out of bed and proceeded to hit snooze repeatedly.

Once I finally got out of bed I made the decision to not rush my morning and to go into the city at a later time (probably better I don’t spend the money anyways). I contemplated what to have for breakfast but soon realized there weren’t many options (Errand #1: Get groceries).

As I thought over the items I actually had in the pantry, pancakes came to mind. Now, normally I am not a huge fan of pancakes but this morning they sounded good. Realllly good. I also knew that I could freeze the extras and enjoy them for breakfast during the week which is promising to be hectic.

Since I would be eating the leftovers during the week (when I try and eat a bit healthier) and I had quite a large meal out at dinner on Saturday night with my Sister, I decided to make these a bit more nutritious my making them whole wheat.

In the end, my pancakes hit the spot and they gave me the energy boost I needed to get on with my day.

Whole Wheat Pancakes (blueberry & chocolate chip varieties)
makes about 10 medium sized pancakes
3/4 cup Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Wheat Bran
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tbs. honey
2 large eggs
2 tbs. vegetable oil
1 tbs butter
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup blueberries (optional)

In a large bowl combine the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, wheat bran, baking powder and salt. Whisk with a fork until combined and aerated. In a separate whisk together the milk, honey, eggs and vegetable oil until combined.

Preheat griddle to 300°F. Once warm, melt butter on griddle. When butter is melted combine dry ingredients and wet ingredients, stirring only until combined (about 10 stirs). There may still be lumps and that is okay, the batter should not be over mixed.

Pour approximately 1/4 of batter onto griddle (I use an ice cream scoop to ensure consistency). Repeat with remaining batter. Place chocolate chips onto some of the pancakes and blueberries onto the others, if desired. When the sides and top of the pancake begin to bubble, flip over. Cook on other side for approximately 2-3 minutes.

pancakes

Enjoy!

(I had one blueberry and one chocolate chip with a sliced plum….)

pancakes2

Sunset photo from dinner at the beach with my sister last night….

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Piece of (Crumb) Cake

I don’t think I have ever met someone who does not like crumb cake.  In fact, if I did meet someone who turned their nose at this close to perfect creation I would strongly suggest they seek professional help.

What makes the crumb cake so perfect, you ask?  Well,  it could be the light, moist cake at the bottom or maybe it’s the tasty cinnamon & sugar crumb mixture sprinkled on top.  And I’m sure all of that butter helps it out a bit.  But no, not for me.  My love for crumb cake is because of its sneaky way of making it OK (maybe more than OK) to eat cake for breakfast.

The brilliant ingredient in this crumb cake recipe (originally from the December 2007 issue of Gourmet) is the addition of fruit jam or preserves which keep the cake moist and adds another layer of flavor.

You will find yourself going back to this recipe over and over not only because it is delicious but also a cinch to make – you don’t even need a mixer!  Perfect for dessert or for breakfast with a cup of coffee.  It also makes a great gift for a party and always pleases a crowd.  Because, like I said earlier – who doesn’t love a crumb cake?

Jam Crumb Cake
Recipe from Gourmet, December 2007
(the original recipe calls for raspberry jam but in this version I substituted blackberry)

Check here for recipe

dry ingredients

Wet ingredients

Jam

Jam swirls

Crumbs

Going into the oven

Finished Jam Crumb Cake

Finished Jam Crumb Cake

Sunday Morning Brioche French Toast & Berries

Sunday Morning Brioche French Toast & Berries

After a long day of drinking mint juleps and watching the races, I decided there wasn’t a better breakfast to enjoy on a rainy Sunday than French toast (and of course some bacon)

I didn’t change the standard recipe for French toast but what puts this one above the rest are the thick buttery slices of brioche bread. I picked this loaf up from Amy’s Bread in the West Village but next time may attempt to bake my own.

My instructions and measurements below are not 100% accurate (that morning was still a bit blurry) so I encourage you to add cinnamon & sugar based on your preferences.

4 thick slices Brioche bread (I cut these about an inch thick)
2 1/2 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar (light or dark brown)
pinch Kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blackberries
Maple syrup (optional)
Vanilla Greek yogurt (optional)

In a deep baking dish whisk together eggs & milk until combined. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and all of the sugars plus salt.

Heat griddle (or large skillet) over medium-low heat and melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter. Take one slice of bread and dip in milk mixture until covered. Remove and let drain for a minute (on a plate) before placing on the griddle.

Add more cinnamon to the milk mixture and whisk. Repeat with remaining bread slices, adding cinnamon after each piece and adding butter to the griddle for each slice.

Cook French toast approximately 4-5 minutes each side or until golden brown and crispy.

Serve with fresh berries on top & maple syrup if desired. I enjoyed mine with a dollop of vanilla Greek yogurt on top but was too hungry to wait for a photo!