Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Siteseeing in the City

I had a whirlwind weekend, surprising my sister in Charleston for her bridal shower, and then spending yesterday back in NY with some friends visiting from China. Charleston was the perfect weekend retreat from the cold weather - I was basking in the 50s! It was great getting to spend a weekend with my sister and meeting a lot of her friends that I've only heard of by name. 

Once I was back in NYC, I had a tourist filled day, checking out the Statue of Liberty, walking through Central Park, and roaming around the American Museum of Natural History. Here a few pictures from my walk around the city.

Some of my favorite places to see around the city are:

  • Views from Top of the Rock
  • Central Park Conservatory Garden
  • Chelsea Market (so much good food!)
  • Taking the tram to Roosevelt Island and seeing the creepy house at the south end of the island
What are your favorite NYC attractions? Tell me in the comments section!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Leek and Potato Soup

Hopefully I haven't become too predictable with the onset of cold weather, but I'm always craving a satisfying bowl of soup that warms me up from head to toe. After going for a run in Central Park yesterday (I know, what's happening to me?!), I already knew I wanted to make soup for dinner. I tend to gravitate towards soups that are, at their core, veggies and broth that I can blend up into a thick soup with my immersion blender. I found this recipe for leek and potato soup that I knew would hit the spot!

Sticking with my resolution to use new ingredients, this was the first time I've cooked with leeks! The leek and potato mixture made our apartment smell amazing as they were cooking down. I still need to figure out what I can to do with the leek tops since I have a lot left over that I don't want to waste. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

While the veggies and broth were simmering, Matt caramelized the mushrooms (another resolution to cook together more often!). We both forgot how much they cook down so we only had enough for our two bowls of soup. Luckily I forgot to buy more butter for another recipe so I was able to pick up some more at the grocery store so we don't miss having these with our bowlfuls today!

We blended the soup smooth, not leaving it chunky as this recipes suggests - whichever you prefer will still produce a delicious soup! We added a generous amount of salt and pepper to really bring out the flavor from the veggies.

Each bite of this soup was the perfect mixture of flavors and textures. The soup itself was creamy, with hints of citrus from the lemon juice. The mushrooms were perfectly caramelized and gave the soup some chewiness and a great earthy flavor. The creme fraiche cooled the soup down a bit, and the green onions (I already had some in the fridge so I used them instead of chives) offered a little crunch and just the right amount of raw onion flavor without overpowering the dish. I would make this soup again in a heartbeat!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Black Bean Pita Pizza

Happy Tuesday to all of my lovely readers! I'm always looking for motivation and ideas to try out new recipes, but sometimes nothing speaks to me. I don't know how that happens when there are so many delicious recipes out there, but I guess when there are so many options, it's hard to know where to start! Luckily, I have a hungry husband who I can ask for suggestions when I'm stumped as to what I should whip up in the kitchen.

I recently had a recipe brain fart and Matt suggested pizza so at least I had a starting place! There are so many directions you can go in when it comes to pizza so I started combing through my options on Foodgawker. I came across a very appealing recipe for Mexican style pizza that uses a black bean paste instead of your typical sauce. Black beans, cilantro, hot sauce and cumin? Sign me up!

This black bean paste is AMAZING. You can just eat it on its own with tortilla chips and call it a day. The paste is about the consistency of hummus, but the bits of cilantro and warmth from the cumin really make this "sauce" delicious. I would recommend making this recipe for the paste alone! I only made half of the amount called for in the recipe, which still left some extra at the end - I certainly wasn't complaining about having a yummy snack the next day!

Since my grocery store was completely out of pizza dough (I know, I'm too lazy to make my own), I went with the next best option and bought pita! Who doesn't love an individual pizza that you don't have to share with anyone? After cooking the pizza in the oven with the black bean paste and pepper jack cheese, I topped it with some shredded lettuce, diced tomato, and sour cream (just for Matt since sour cream is not my cup of tea).

These pizzas were really delicious, primarily from the black bean paste. In case you didn't get it by now, you've got to make this paste! The gooey cheese and crisp, crunchy lettuce really make this a satisfying and quick dinner to make during the week. Let me know what you think!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Enchiladas Verdes

My husband made enchiladas verdes last week, using two new ingredients that we've never cooked with before - tomatillos and cotija cheese! We made some improvisations along the way to make the recipe work for us, but they are turned out very delicious!

We cooked the tomatillos, serrano peppers and garlic in our cast iron Dutch oven, lined with aluminum foil, since we didn't have a griddle pan. It worked really well, blackening the veggies until they were ready to be blended into a delicious sauce. We only used 2 cups of chicken broth for the sauce, which already made the sauce pretty watery. We ended up adding several scoops of cornstarch to thicken it because it wasn't doing it on its own once we started heating it up.

We also decided to lightly crisp the corn tortillas in a pan instead of frying them, which worked out well, but took longer than frying. I think next time we would want to fry them, just to see if there is a difference.

The sauce was really spicy from the serrano peppers, but once we dipped the tortillas in the sauce, rolled up the chicken and lettuce/cilantro mix inside, and slathered on some creme fraiche (I couldn't find any Mexican crema at my grocery store) and cotija cheese, the sauce really mellowed out and wasn't too overwhelming. We had these again the following night and the sauce was even more flavorful than when we first made it.

I would definitely recommend trying the dish! It takes some work with all of the steps involved, but it was a lot of fun (to watch) - I was the kitchen supervisor for this meal while Matt cooked a delicious dinner for me!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Roasted Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Soup

It has been quite the winter wonderland in New York since the end of last week. Winter storm Hercules (seriously, who comes up with these names?) came into New York full force on Thursday, dumping at least six inches of snow all over the city. Of course, I was happy as can be because I love the snow! Unfortunately, it started melting this weekend and the slushy snow has come. If only I had proper waterproof winter boots and I'd be able to deal with it better. Oh well, my love for snow outweighs the gross slushiness :)

Due to the cold weather, I thought, what better way to enjoy it than with a comforting bowl of soup? I already had a head of cauliflower in my fridge so I decided to try out this recipe for roasted sweet potato and cauliflower soup

I roasted the veggies for about 40 minutes since my oven only likes to go up to 350 degrees before setting off the fire alarm (gotta love NY apartments). I would recommend baking them until they are fork tender so that blending is easier, depending on the quality of your blender. I used an immersion blender and then transferred everything to my food processor since it was still fairly chunky.

I added about three cups of chicken broth to start, once I blended the soup. I used my immersion blender again as I added more broth, ending up using about 5 cups. The soup had a slightly thick consistency, not silky smooth as the original blog suggested, but I was happy with the results.

I also added more spices than the recipe suggested, as I felt the flavor was a bit on the bland side. I didn't realize at first that I had paprika so I added a few pinches of cayenne pepper instead. Once I found my paprika, I added about a 1/4 teaspoon along with a few pinches of ground ginger. I also added a generous amount of salt as the original teaspoon was not enough, in my opinion.

This soup provides a really great foundation and allows you to doctor it up with whichever spices you like. I feel like there are other directions you could go in, such as adding curry powder, turmeric and ground ginger. The flavors really meld together after a day or two as well so you'll get even more of the flavor from the spices you've added in. I hope you enjoy the soup and let me know what twist you put on it!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had an amazing night celebrating the new year. I still can't believe it's already 2014 - where did 2013 go? It was a great year traveling to new cities and a new country with my love, two trips to NC to see both of our families, a beautiful wedding, and many great NYC memories - more than I can list! I'm very excited and optimistic for a new year, especially my sister's wedding! It's going to be a great 2014 and I have a few resolutions to kick off the new year.

  • Cook more homemade meals with my husband
  • Try new ingredients
  • Blog at least once a week (starting today!)
  • Focus on creative projects instead of getting into a mindless TV/internet routine
  • Go to bed at a reasonable time to feel more well rested
  • Read at least 25 books

Last lunch of 2013!
I hope you all have an amazing 2014! Feel free to share your resolutions for the New Year in the comments section!