I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fall Vegetable Salad

As the month of November comes to a close, I can't help but think of all of those things I have to be thankful for.
I get to live in, and make a living in, a city that challenges me and excites me with every day. A place where it is impossible to be bored or boring.
Despite being far from home, I have many good friends here who I truly consider family who help to celebrate the the little successes and lift me up when things are rough.
My siblings and I are all blessed enough to have each found a significant other who we love deeply and who each wonderfully returns the favor.
I have gorgeous nieces and nephews who I couldn't be more proud of.
I have a job that allows me the time and the money to be able to actually enjoy and experience the things that New York City has to offer.
I am fit and healthy.
I have many opportunities to do what I love and share that with those around me (and those online as well).

It can be easy to get caught up in the little trials of our lives and forget all that we are so lucky to have. This is a great time of year to take stock and remember it all, but it is important to not let that go throughout the rest of the year. Perhaps a resolution as we move forward is to make a point at the first of every month to really sit down and count our blessings. Take them in and let these carry us through the following weeks. Give thanks for each of the little gifts that have been bestowed on our lives.

One more thing I'm thankful for? A dinner that is healthy, hearty, and full of vegetables that is still absolutely delicious on a fall evening. Grateful for the "green presents" the farmer's market has given me. :)

Fall Vegetable Salad
serves 2-3 as an entree

2 c. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1/2 c. chopped pancetta
1/2 lb. oyster mushrooms, chopped
3 c. spinach
1/2 c. shaved Parmesan
juice of 2 lemons
1/3 c. honey
1/2 t. ground mustard powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 c. olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook for about 2 minutes. Drain and then rinse under cold running water to cool. Drain and pat dry as much as possible.
Place the pancetta in a large saute pan. Heat over medium high until the fat has rendered and the pancetta is crispy, about 4-5 minutes. Remove the pancetta to a paper towel lined plate.
Add the blanched Brussels sprouts to the pancetta fat and cook until browned and slightly crispy, about 4-5 minutes. Remove the sprouts to a platter.
If there is very little oil left in the saute pan, add about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and allow to heat (still over medium-high temperature). Add the chopped oyster mushrooms and saute until they are browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes or so.
In a small bowl mix together the lemon juice, honey, mustard powder, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until it is emulsified.
Toss a couple of tablespoons of the dressing with the spinach leaves and place these in the bottom of a large platter. Toss the Brussels sprouts, pancetta, and oyster mushrooms with a few more tablespoons of the dressing and layer on top of the spinach. Sprinkle the shredded Parmesan over top of the whole salad and serve.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Pine Tar Press Round-Up

Prepping for Turkey Day has kept me busy and away from the blog. Promise I have some posts on the way for you soon! Until then, check out what I've been up to over on Pine Tar Press:

Pumpkin Muffins

Radishes in Miso Butter

Cheesy Dip

Edamame Dip

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"Smoked" Mac and Cheese

It has been a week.

Luckily feeling a little more positive after the last post. Had a great run around the city on Sunday with some other friends, hitting up a few miles of the marathon course and high-fiving other runners along the way. Had a great dinner with the husband at The Spotted Pig (if you want to die and go to heaven hit it up and order the gnudi. Good lord). Volunteered with Occupy Sandy and headed out to lend a hand on Staten Island. It was difficult to see the damage and imagine how some of these people would even begin to clean up the mess that was left behind. I wish there was even more I could do, but hope that giving some a listening ear helped to ease just a fraction of the shock and pain. Then last night we hunkered down to wait out the snow storm, hoping that it wouldn't cause even more damage to those who have already been through so much. And I am finally, finally getting to go back to work tonight. Thankful.

Comfort food has been the order of the week and in my opinion there is nothing more reminiscent of good ol' days and childhood than macaroni and cheese. Though the stuff in the blue box seems so easy, it really isn't all that more difficult to whip up the real deal. Smoked cheese as the star mixed with several other cheeses in my version gives wonderful depth of flavor, yet doesn't feel so fancy that it takes away from the comfort element. I've given instructions on how to keep the dish extra creamy if that's your style (think shells and cheese) or to bake it to create a drier mac for those that prefer this way.

"Smoked" Mac and Cheese

1 package macaroni or mini penne noodles
2 TB butter
2 TB flour
1 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
2 c. grated smoked gruyere cheese
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2.5 oz. goat cheese
3/4 c. breadcrumbs

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook to al dente according to package directions. Drain.
While the pasta is cooking prepare the cheese sauce. In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook for about 2 minutes to cook off some of the flour taste. Add the cream, milk, salt and pepper. Continue to stir until the sauce thickens up, about 3-4 minutes. Add all of the cheeses and continue to stir until the cheese melts. Then mix together the cooked pasta with the cheese sauce and pour into a 10" cast iron skillet or a baking dish. Top with the breadcrumbs.

If you want to keep your mac and cheese extra creamy, brown the breadcrumbs under the broiler and serve. If you like a drier mac and cheese, bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are browned and crispy.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Enchilada Sauce

Apologizing in advance for the rant-like nature of this post, but it has been weighing heavily on my mind today.

Having a bit of a rough time of it. Been going through a full range of emotions since Mayor Bloomberg first decided to continue on with and then consequently to cancel the New York City Marathon, on top of already feeling all ends of the spectrum due to the consequences of the hurricane.

When it was first decided that the race would go on, I was surprised, as I was sure there would be no way for the race to proceed with all of the damage to the city. I went back and forth with my feelings about running: wanting to put all of the hard work I've done to use, celebrating New York City, helping to bring an economic boost that is sorely needed at this time. On the other hand I felt guilty about running through a city where people lost so much and people were still trying to even begin to get back on their feet. Reading peoples' views on Facebook and a runners' forum didn't help: some people really felt that running could be a good thing for the city while many others thought it was in poor taste. Then the threats of physical violence towards the runners if they decided to race started to come out. I was actually scared of what would happen if I ran the race. I was frustrated with the anger directed towards the runners, many of whom had already committed to donating time and money to victims before and after the race during their time in the city, regardless of whether the race happened or not. I was frustrated that people were admittedly spending all day on social media to stop the race from being run--instead of going out and spending their time in more beneficial ways like volunteering.

Then the race was canceled. Yet there is still an outpouring of disrespect towards the racers. They are still called selfish for wanting to run (when many people had already spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars and so much time to run one of the greatest races in the world), and people are acting all shocked when the runners are donating their time, like they can't believe such selfish people would do something so kind: such as the large group from the Netherlands who called up to offer their services to Hoboken after learning of the marathon's cancellation.

The whole situation (along with others that I've seen and heard from during/after the storm) has put a bad taste in my mouth about New York. The thing is, I believe the right call was made canceling the race, although I feel it would have been much more beneficial to do so sooner. But the way the crowds took up this battle cry brought forth by the media and ran with it bothers me. Where are the news reports, Facebook pages, Crowdrise campaigns dedicated to stopping the Giants game that is happening in New Jersey (where they are worse off than many in NYC) at the same time as the marathon should have happened? It takes gas to get all of these people out to the stadium, the players make millions of dollars, consume water and gatorade, probably run generators of some kind for media, and thousands of people will sit around screaming about football while they shove their faces with food and beer--during which people will still be struggling to salvage something of their lives nearby. Where's the outrage over this? Where's the outrage over all of the New Yorkers who have sat in bars or restaurants drinking and eating while people were suffering nearby over these past few days? I'm angry that people look at me, as someone who was going to run a race through the city to celebrate it and then donate my time and money to help when I was finished, as worse than these people drinking in bars or playing/enjoying a football game.

There's this anger, bitterness, entitlement swarming around that have all combined to make me disappointed in this city I live in. Which is sad, knowing that so many people ARE out there giving all they can to make it better. My hope is that part of this is the incredibly selfish disappointment over all of my training going to waste and missing out on one of my favorite days of the year, and that after getting in a good run with friends tomorrow and then volunteering my time next week will help restore my faith and love in this place I call home.

A little comfort food couldn't hurt, either. So I bring you a simple enchilada sauce that will drown tortillas filled with your favorite stuffing in deliciousness and hopefully drown some of your own sorrows as well.

Enchilada Sauce
(good for a 9X9" pan of enchiladas if you like them ridiculously saucy, as I do. Otherwise would be good for a less-saucy version in a 9X13" pan)

2 TB butter
1/2 c. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 TB flour
1 TB tomato paste
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
3/4 c. chicken stock or water
1 t. chili powder
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. chipotle chili flakes (or red chili flakes)
salt and pepper

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the onions and saute until tender and translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or so. Whisk in the flour and stir constantly for about 2 minutes to cook off the raw taste. Stir in the tomato paste and then add the tomato sauce, chicken stock or water, chili powder, cumin, oregano and chili flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook for at least 8-10 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. Now the sauce is ready to use to top your favorite enchilada recipe!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Winter Squash Pasta

Have been cooped up in our apartment for most of this week during and following Hurricane Sandy. We were incredibly lucky and had no damage to our place, very little damage to the immediate neighborhood, and kept our power throughout. Feeling incredibly blessed.

However, I'm also starting to feel antsy and a little crazy. With subways not running until this morning, and still no train service into Manhattan I have stayed around our place to stay out of the way of those who actually needed to make the trek to the city to get to work (like the husband). The lack of outside human contact has started to get to me and make me cranky and distracted (I've already stepped away from writing this post 5 times). Making it worse is the fact that I'm tapering for the New York City marathon which is happening on Sunday, so I'm not able to do any long runs, don't want to walk around too much, and haven't had a drink of booze all week (no wine through the hurricane--how did I do it?!).

Some house cleaning and organizing and a bit of cooking has really helped me hold it together. Luckily we were well-stocked in the kitchen area so we ate like kings during the storm. One such meal was this bow-tie pasta tossed with roasted winter squash and sage. Stormy weather comfort food.

Hope any of you that were also in the storm's path are safe, healthy, and also fared as well as we did. Much love and support to those who didn't. A few options if you are able and want to financially assist victims of this hurricane: http://theweek.com/article/index/235620/how-to-help-victims-of-hurricane-sandy.

Winter Squash Pasta
about 5 servings

1 medium winter squash or pumpkin (about the size of a large butternut squash)*
olive oil
salt and pepper

9 oz. bow-tie pasta
4 TB butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 TB fresh sage, chopped
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
optional: fried sage leaves, for garnish
(*I'm not sure what type of squash I used here--forgot to take a photo before chopping up, but it was a small, off-white pumpkin variety that would fit in my two hands.)

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Slice the squash into pieces about 1/2-3/4" thick (it is ok to leave the skins on at this point), making sure to clean out and remove the seeds. Brush both sides of the squash slices with olive oil and place on a large sheet pan. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast until the squash is tender and just beginning to brown, about 30 minutes or so depending on the squash. Allow these to cool enough to handle and then remove the skins and chop the squash into large pieces (an inch or so). (Another option is to skin the squash and chop into into 1" cubes before roasting, but I find I ALWAYS slice my finger open when I try to peel and chop uncooked winter squash. Roasting before doing most of the chopping is a way to save my fingers!)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. Before straining the pasta, be sure to save back about 1/2 cup of the cooking water to use in the sauce.

Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add the garlic and the sage and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the roasted squash and toss in the butter (some of the squash will break apart--this is good as it will break down into the sauce making it extra sweet and creamy). When the pasta is cooked add it to the squash sauce and add 2-3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water. Toss together, and if the sauce is looking a little "tight" thin it out a bit with another tablespoon or two of the cooking water. Toss with the Parmesan cheese and serve topped with fried sage leaves.