Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sweet Potato and Quinoa Chili

I love sweet potatoes oh so much. I really could eat them all the time, especially since there are so many great ways to prepare them. Baked, roasted, mashed, I really want to eat some! 

A few weeks back when I was on the search for a hearty sweet potato recipe, I came across one for sweet potato and quinoa chili. I know, I know, it's June and really hot and humid here in NYC, not the fall and in the midst of football season, but it sounded so delicious and quick to make so I went for it!

Boy, am I glad I did! My husband gave rave reviews on this dish, loving the heartiness from the sweet potatoes and kidney beans and the kick of flavor and heat from the mix of spices. And who thought that you could incorporate quinoa into a chili? Not me! It really soaked up the flavors and made the dish more substantial and...well, hearty. I think I've said that word way too many times in this post...but we are talking about chili after all.

I'll definitely keep this recipe in my repertoire to make again once the weather gets cooler (or if I have another summer craving for sweet potatoes and chili). In the meantime, I need to find another winning sweet potato recipe since I bought more on impulse at the grocery store today. Oh, the cook's constant search and journey in the kitchen. I love it!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Land of Plenty

A few weeks ago, one of our really good friends from college and best man at our wedding, Chris, happened to be in New York for work and had a night off, so we made dinner plans. Back in college, Matt and Chris delivered Chinese food for a take-out place, which resulted in a lot of free meals and a love for the food. This made the decision easy when we were trying to decide what type of food we should eat. 

Usually when we're craving Chinese, we'll head down to Chinatown to one of our favorite restaurants, but Chris was coming in from Queens so we wanted to find something more convenient. During my restaurant search, I came across Land of Plenty, which offers authentic Szechuan Chinese food. The menu was extensive and the reviews were good so it sounded like a winner to me!

It's always a good sign when the majority of customers in a restaurant are from the same country/region as the food. I was happy to see that all of the tables around us were predominantly Chinese. The menu was enormous, which made it really difficult to choose only a few options (we were only three people after all!). I had read reviews online beforehand to see what others recommended, so I had a list of a few options, just in case.

We started with pan seared pork dumplings, which we inhaled before I remembered to take a picture. They were crispy with a flavorful pork filling and soy dipping sauce, a solid start to the meal.

A feast for your eyes
We chose three entrees to share, and boy were we in for a treat. The entrees were huge, way more food than three people could possibly eat without feeling like your pants were going to burst. I loved the braised fish filets with silky tofu. The fish was delicate and mild in flavor and the silky tofu just melted in your mouth. Both of these were a great complement to the spicy broth and crunch from the chopped peanuts.

Chris recommended ma po tofu with chili minced pork since it's one of his favorite Chinese dishes. The dish was definitely the spiciest of the three, but equally delicious. The tofu was a bit chewy while the sauce and pork gave a nice kick and substance to the entire dish.

The third choice was double cooked pork belly with chilies and leeks. The pork belly was very rich and velvety, which was a nice balance to the other tofu-driven dishes. I'm not sure what I was thinking, but one of the chili pieces looked like a green pepper to me so I stuck the whole thing in my mouth and started chewing. My mouth was on fire! I was stuffing rice in my mouth to try and dull the pain. Lesson learned - remember what your dish is called before making poor decisions.

After we stuffed ourselves silly, I wanted something sweet but light to finish off the meal. I asked our server what she would recommend so we ordered the stuffed sticky rice balls with sweet black sesame based on her suggestion. The broth was very subtly sweet and the rice balls were filled with a black sesame paste that was a great palate cleanser after a very rich and spicy meal.

I know I'll be back since I'm pretty sure we only ate about 1% of the dishes on their huge menu. Land of Plenty - such an appropriate name. An enormous selection of dishes, all of which are huge portions in and of themselves. I can't wait to stuff myself again next time! Frog legs, I'm looking at you.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Yogurt and Spice Chicken with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

What do you do with a package of chicken breast? So many options and recipes to weed through that it can be overwhelming. Luckily, I left the responsibility to my husband a winning recipe so all I had to do was help out once he decided. 

He chose a recipe for yogurt and spice chicken skewers with a honey mustard dipping sauce. In order to make sure the chicken would turn out really juicy and tender, we marinated the chicken overnight. A few months before, we made a yogurt marinated chicken dish that we only marinated for an hour or so and it ended up too dry. We learned our lesson for this recipe!

Unfortunately, we didn't have skewers (although we don't have a grill in our small NYC apartment anyways) so we cut the chicken into strips and cooked them in a pan. The chicken had a great sear as the marinade caramelized, creating a really nice crunch.

But I haven't even told you about the delicious dipping sauce that complements the chicken so well! We made our own honey mustard with...well...some honey and spicy brown mustard. I mixed about two parts mustard to one part honey since I don't like it to be too overly sweet. I added a bit less of the sour cream that the recipe calls for since I'm not really a big fan of sour cream in general. The dipping sauce was cool and refreshing while being a little sweet, tangy and tart - a great pairing with the juicy chicken!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Chocolate Banana Smoothie

I have a major sweet tooth that I'm constantly trying to satisfy. I pretty much always want ice cream, Pinkberry, chocolate, cookies...the list could go on and on. My craving always seems to kick in right after dinner and it's hard to say no! There are so many times when I'm asking Matt if we can go for a late night Pinkberry run. It's semi healthy, right? I just keep telling myself that to justify it. 

I've been on the search for some healthier recipes so that I'm not constantly consuming tubs of ice cream and boxes of cookies. Easier said than done, but I found a great chocolate banana smoothie recipe that really satisfies my late night craving. It's so easy to make with only three ingredients - bananas, cocoa powder and almond milk. What's easier than that?

I had a bit of a chocolate smoothie explosion.
I prefer freezing my fruit instead of using ice cubes in my smoothies, just because I think it makes for a smoother, more creamy frozen drink. We have a fruit stand guy right near our apartment where he sells fruit and veggies for much cheaper than what you'd pay for in the grocery store. I usually buy strawberries and bananas from him, chop them up, and freeze them. My go-to smoothie is strawberry banana because it's so simple and delicious. I recently added some plain Greek yogurt to it and it made it a million times better. Delicious!

I've made this smoothie a few times now and have tried it both ways - with fresh bananas and ice and with just frozen bananas. I definitely prefer it with the frozen bananas because it does come out a lot more smooth, instead of having the slight icy texture to it. There's another smoothie that I recently found that I want to make soon with raspberries, peanut butter and plain Greek yogurt. Let the smoothie search begin!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Udon Miso Soup

Last week, I had this constant craving for udon noodles, which was kind of strange since I was dying from heat in my apartment. I kept thinking about the very simple, but delicious udon bowl I get at Panya, a great Japanese bakery in the East Village. Instead of trekking down to the village, I decided I would try and make some noodles myself!

I found an easy recipe for udon miso soup and got all of my ingredients together. When I was looking for the noodles in the grocery store, I couldn't find the fresh ones that are nice and chewy, only dried noodles. Of course, the following week when I was checking out, I saw them in the refrigerated section with the pre-made gnocchi and ravioli. At least I know for next time!

I added extra miso paste to the broth because I wanted it to be really flavorful. I started with the suggested amount in the recipe, but I felt like it was a little weak and I wanted a really intensely flavorful broth.

The combination of the noodles, chewy mushrooms, earthy spinach and broth lead to a very satisfying soup. I can't wait to make it again with the right noodles - it'll be even better! I want to make a dish with soba noodles soon as well. Really, I just want to make and eat all different Asian dishes - nothing wrong with that!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Chipotle Chicken and Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Before the week of sweltering heat we've been having in NYC (ugh, 90 degrees? I'm not ready for this), we had a few day spell of cold, rainy weather that had me craving comfort food. We had recently stocked up on a ton of chicken breast when one of our local grocery stores had a huge sale and I had some sweet potatoes on hand so I knew I wanted to find a recipe for a really flavorful marinade for the chicken and mash some potatoes.

I found this delicious recipe for chipotle chicken that was packed full of flavor and spice. I was craving mashed sweet potatoes so I disregarded the roasted potatoes part of the recipe and cooked the chicken in a pan, not in the oven. Regardless of those changes, the marinade for the chicken turned out so well. 

The spice of the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, the kick of smokiness from the cumin, the sweetness from the honey, and the warmth from the cinnamon were a great combination.

I also made mashed sweet potatoes using a really quick, simple recipe that really highlights the great flavor of the sweet potato itself. All I had to do was peel the potatoes, chop them up into one inch pieces, boil until they were fork tender, put them in a bowl with some milk (I always have almond milk on hand for cereal so I used that) and mash away.

Once they were mashed, I add a little salt and pepper and some ground ginger for a greater depth in flavor. This meal was exactly what I wanted on a cold, rainy day and I would definitely make both again!