Weekends are always awesome, right?

It’s always interesting when you go into work on Monday and everyone asks “How was your weekend?”  Isn’t the answer always “IT WAS AWESOME!!!!!”?!?  No need to wake up early, drive 20 minutes to the train station, park, walk 5 minutes to get the train platform, spend another 5 minutes (sometimes more if it’s running late, which it always is) on the platform to wait for the train, try to find a seat and be somewhat comfortable on a ~27 minute train ride, fight the other commuters to get downstairs to catch the work shuttle, pile into a crammed vehicle with your other commuter colleagues to get from the train station to the office, and finally arrive at work 1+ hours later.  So yeah, since I don’t have to get up and do that on Saturday and Sunday, then yes, my weekends end up being pretty awesome.

We’re starting to experience Spring-like weather, so I was out and about this weekend.  I went to cardio boxing on Saturday, hot yoga on Sunday, and did some shopping and cooking in between.  We picked up some fresh cod fillets which paired really well with the vegetables we had on hand.  Light and flavorful – the perfect meal to end a great weekend.

Pan Fried Cod with Roasted Red Peppers and Sundried Tomatoes

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cod fillets
  • 4 asparagus spears
  • Olive oil
  • For the breading:
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 cup, almond meal
    • 1 teaspoon, Old Bay seasoning
    • Sea salt
    • Black Pepper
  • For the topping:
    • 1 roasted red pepper (jarred), chopped
    • 2 tablespoons, sundried tomatoes (jarred, in olive oil), chopped
    • 4 basil leaves, chopped
  1. In a small bowl, whisk the egg.
  2. In another small bowl, mix the almond meal and seasonings.
  3. In a medium skillet over low to medium heat, drizzle olive oil.  Meanwhile, pat cod dry with paper towels.  Dip in egg, dredge in almond meal mixture on both sides.
  4. Add cod to the skillet, cooking for 7 minutes on each side.  Remove from heat.
  5. Lightly coat the asparagus spears with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place in skillet for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Plate by placing the cod first, then two asparagus spears.  Top with 2-3 heaping spoonfuls of roasted red pepper, sundried tomato, and basil mixture.

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Family Traditions

The time I’ve spent in the kitchen these past years is ever-evolving.  I’ve cooked Paleo dishes (inspiration to this blog), Asian dishes (Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese), vegetarian dishes, Vegan dishes… I enjoy it all.  The funny thing is that  I actually never enjoyed cooking while growing up.  I liked helping out here and there, but left most of the cooking up to mom (she even packed my lunch for work when I was living at home and working after college…).  One of my favorite childhood memories is making wontons with my dad.  It didn’t happen too often, but when it did, it was really exciting and I always loved helping out.  My dad would mix the meat filling and we’d all gather around the small wooden table in the kitchen, grab a spoon, and start wrapping the wontons!  We had to make enough for dinner for the family and always made extra batches to freeze.

I was at H-Mart the other weekend with my dad and came across the wonton wrappers.  This immediately triggered the memory of making these together with dad.  I tossed the wonton wrappers to my cart and gathered additional ingredients for the wontons.  I made them for dinner that night and made an extra batch to freeze (just like what my parents would do).  Bjorn and I enjoyed them, but the true test will be what my parents think.  I’m planning to make the frozen batch for my parents when they come over next time.

Wontons

Makes approximately 50 wontons

Ingredients

Filling:

  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 10 medium shrimps, peeled and deveined, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 (5 oz.) can of sliced water chestnuts, rinsed, drained, and diced
  • 1 tablespoon, sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon, oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon, soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon, salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon, sugar

Other:

  • 1 (16 oz.) pack of wonton wrappers
  • 6 cups, chicken broth
  • 1 scallion stalk, chopped
  1. For the filling, add all ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Mix well.
  2. To make the wontons, lay the wonton wrapper in front of you, so it resembles a diamond shape.  Using a small spoon, scoop about a teaspoon of the filling and place in the middle of the wonton wrapper.  Fold the top corner to the bottom corner to make a triangle.  Press firmly around the filling to seal the wonton.  Fold left and right sides downward – the final product will sort of resemble a nun and her hat, haha (see photo).IMG_6499
  3. In a large pot, over medium high heat, bring chicken broth to a boil.  Add wontons in (about 10 at a time) and cook each batch for about 5 minutes.
  4. Serve as wonton soup or over noodles.  Add chopped scallion for garnish.

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Vegetarian Inspiration

I spent a whole day last weekend in the kitchen.  It was amazing.  I was so happy experimenting with the food that I had in my fridge and pantry.  Oh, the joys of cooking!

I make Paleo meals every other day, but I have been attracted to cooking dishes that feature in season ingredients are full of flavor and healthy in different ways.  I’m not a vegetarian, nor do I think I will ever become one, but I made this pasta salad dish and immediately fell in love (even Bjorn enjoyed it).  It features a lot of my favorite ingredients and is an easy option to pack for lunch the next day.

Goat Cheese and Arugula Pasta Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 box (12 oz.) of whole wheat rotini pasta
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 6 oz arugula
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Cook pasta as directed.
  2. Add pasta and remaining ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Mix well.
  3. Serve immediately.  (Yes, it’s as easy as that!)

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4 Degree Weather Comfort Food

We had another snowstorm last night.  The office was closed today and I haven’t left the house at all, except to let Ziggy out.  Since he loves the snow so much, I tried to take him for a walk, but it was way too cold!

With the cold weather comes awesome comfort food.  We had turkey chili tonight with homemade cornbread.  Really perfect for 4 degree (F) weather.

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Turkey Chili

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tablespoons, tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon, chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon, red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon, paprika
  • 1 teaspoon, cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon, cumin
  • 1 can (28 oz), peeled plum tomatoes in tomato juice, cut tomatoes into chunks
  • 1 can (15.5 oz), black beans
  • 1 can (15.25 oz), corn
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Toppings (Optional): Plain greek yogurt, shredded cheddar cheese, avocado
  1. In a large pot over medium high heat, drizzle olive oil.  Add onions and garlic and saute until golden.
  2. Add ground turkey, cook and stir until brown and crumbly.
  3. Add seasonings (chili powder, red pepper flakes, paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, sea salt, black pepper) and mix well.
  4. Add green pepper, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, corn, and black pepper.
  5. Mix well and let simmer for 2 hours.  Stir occasionally and add in additional seasonings to your liking (e.g. more red pepper flakes for more spiciness).
  6. Serve with cornbread and optional toppings.

Cornbread (No cornmeal necessary!)

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 can (15.25 oz), corn
  • 1/2 cup, skim milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup, flour
  • 1/2 cup, sugar
  • 1/4 cup, melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon, baking powder
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F).
  2. In a mixing bowl, add corn, milk, eggs, butter, and sugar.  Mix well.
  3. Add in baking powder and flour, mix until combined.
  4. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray and fill with batter.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cooked through (toothpick test).

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Baked Chicken with a Touch of Honey

I guess another reason why I love the snow is because I’m forced to stay in the house, which is sometimes a good thing.  I finally cleaned off the dining room table (scattered papers and mail everywhere), organized, and spent lots of time in the kitchen.

Soup for lunch and baked chicken for dinner.  No empty bellies here!

Honey Roasted Chicken

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless chicken thighs
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F).
  2. Mix all ingredients (except for the chicken) in a bowl.
  3. Place chicken thighs on baking tray.  Brush with marinade.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes.  Brush the remaining marinade and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

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Quick and Easy Soup to Warm the Heart

First big snowstorm of the season! Snowfall started early this morning and is forecasted to continue all day and through the night.  As much as I hate shoveling and dealing with the snow (such as getting to work on a snowy day), there’s just something so amazing about the peacefulness of the snowfall; the lack of vehicles on the road, everything wrapped in the pristine snow, snowflakes flying everywhere and landing on your coat for a millisecond before it melts away…  Moments like these make me never want to leave the northeast.

Of course, a snow day means staying in the house all day.  So, what do I do to keep busy in between my shoveling duties?  I’m sure the answer is pretty clear (just in case you can’t guess, it’s to cook!).

I’ve been in a soup mood ever since the temperature has constantly been below 30 degrees.  I really wanted to make a roasted tomato basil soup over the weekend, but didn’t get a chance to get to the grocery store.  With no fresh or canned tomatoes on hand, I had to improvise a bit.

Quick Tomato Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. marinara sauce (I used Rao’s)
  • 16 oz. chicken broth
  • 1 15 oz. can of peas, pearl onions, and mushrooms
  • 4 oz. baby bella mushrooms, quartered
  • 4 oz. ground turkey
  • 2 oz. israeli couscous
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 4 basil leaves
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  1. In a large pot, over medium high heat, add one teaspoon of olive oil, shallots, and garlic.  Cook for about a minute, until golden brown.
  2. Add ground turkey and saute for a few minutes, until cooked through.  Add vegetables.
  3. Pour in marinara sauce and chicken broth.  Mix with other ingredients and turn the heat to low.
  4. Toss in israeli couscous, red pepper flakes, basil leaves, and season with sea salt and black pepper.  Mix well.
  5. Let simmer for 20 minutes (or until the israeli couscous is cooked).

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Roasted Garlic Just Makes Everything Better

Thanksgiving;  a holiday for friends and family to gather in a warm house, spending quality time in the kitchen and at the dinner table.  No pressure with gift giving – What to get?  How much to spend?  Will they like this?  Just a simple day spent with good company and most importantly, good food.

As the years have evolved and we’ve grown older, the cooking duties have been passed from my mother to her daughters.  My parents are still in charge of the turkey, but the rest of the fixins are handled by my sisters and I.

Here’s a simple recipe for roasted garlic mashed potatoes.  Roasted garlic is great for other uses – spreading over a warm and crispy baguette, mixed in with pasta and sauteed vegetables, or just enjoying it as is.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 8 medium sized Russet potatoes
  • 1 head of garlic
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut off about 1/4″ off the top of the garlic head, exposing the individual cloves of garlic.
  3. Drizzle olive oil in a small baking dish.  Place garlic head in the baking dish and drizzle additional olive oil atop.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30-35 minutes.
  4. While the garlic is roasting, peel and halve the potatoes.
  5. Place the potatoes in a large pot, add 1 teaspoon of sea salt, and add water.  The amount of water should just cover the potatoes, no more, no less.
  6. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook until potatoes are soft and fall apart when poked with a fork.  Remove from heat and mash with a fork.  Set aside.
  7. Remove garlic from oven and let cool.  Use a fork to pull the cloves from the skin.  Add to mashed potatoes and mix well.

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PSL to Officially Kick-Off the Season

We woke up at 6:45 am today.  It was 51 degrees.  Autumn has officially arrived. 🙂

Chilly early in the morning and late at night, but beautiful and comfortable throughout the day.  Our favorite time of year.

As I prepare the meals for the week, I think this short rib slow cooker dish will be perfect and comforting on a chilly night.  Plus, it’s nice and easy, cooks during the day (without supervision), which means dinner is ready right when we walk through the door.  More family and cuddle time with the puppy!

Now, off to get my first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season….!

Short Ribs with Tomato Sauce

Serves 4

  • 1 lb short ribs
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil
  1. Season short ribs with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large skillet, over high heat, drizzle olive oil and cook each side of the short rib for about 3-4 minutes.  You want the edges to have  a nice golden color before placing in the slow cooker.  This helps seal in the flavors.
  3. Add diced tomatoes and sliced onions to the bottom of the slow cooker.  Top with short ribs.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
  4. Serve with rice, pasta, or a vegetable.  Or enjoy alone.  The meat just falls right off of the bone.  Effortless cooking and effortless eating.

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Meatless Mondays (and Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays…)

I go through a lot of phases with my eating/cooking.  Right now, I’m in my veggie phase.  I’ve been eating vegetarian meals for dinner every night… not necessarily because I want to explore being a vegetarian, but more so because I’m loving the flavors and endless possibilities.  My office is near Fairway market – the perfect way to spend a lunch break.  I could just spend endless hours in that store, admiring all of the different types of fruits, vegetables, olive oils, etc.  It’s nice to be able to pick up some fresh (and local) vegetables to cook for dinner or tomorrow’s lunch.

The only issue with cooking vegetarian meals is that Bjorn is not very thrilled.  But honestly, how can you say no to this delicious veggie burger…. topped with chopped beets (leftover from a previous meal), shredded cheddar cheese, and avocado on a freshly baked multigrain roll (from Fairway bakery)??

Veggie Burgers

Makes 6 patties

  • 1 can (15.5 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 6 oz frozen butternut squash, chopped
  • 6 oz frozen pearl onions, chopped
  • 6 oz frozen kale, chopped
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon paprika
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil
  1. In a medium bowl, mash the black beans with a fork.
  2. Place butternut squash, pearl onions, and kale in a food processor and finely chop.  Add to mashed black beans and mix well.  (Note that you can substitute this recipe with any type of vegetable!)
  3. Add breadcrumbs, egg, and seasonings.  Mix well.
  4. Form into patties and place onto wax paper.  Freeze for at least 2 hours before cooking.  (Keep frozen until ready to be cooked).
  5. In a skillet over medium high heat, drizzle olive oil, and cook each side for the patty for 5-7 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat, add desired toppings (my choices were chopped beats, cheddar cheese, and avocado), and serve atop a multigrain bun.

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Feeling Lazy

We’ve been eating so poorly lately.  I’ll usually get home around 6 or 7 during the week and am often too tired to cook.  I have tons of recipe ideas buzzing in my head, but am having some trouble finding the energy to work my magic in the kitchen.  I must find a new routine.  We cannot continue eating like this.  One night, I came home and Bjorn had already eaten dinner.  What was his dinner? “Pizza bagels and pigs in a blanket”, hah!

I always love a good salad.  Good salads always require a little bit of extra effort, but it sure is worth it in the end.  The mango and avocado were getting super ripe, so I knew I had to include that in my meal tonight.  Since I didn’t plan ahead, I could only include seafood as my protein (easy to defrost).  Turned out pretty good for a last minute dish!  Took about 15 minutes from start to finish to prepare and cook.

Baked tilapia over chopped Romaine

  • 1/2 head of Romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 tilapia filet
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 mango, cubed
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 10 grape tomatoes, halved
  1. Season tilapia filet with sea salt and black pepper.  Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, or until cooked through.
  2. Place mango, avocado, grape tomatoes, and lime juice in a bowl.  Mix well.  Season with sea salt and black pepper.
  3. Place the chopped Romaine on a plate, top with tilapia and mango mixture.  Serve immediately.

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