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Meatless Monday: Back in the Habit

Ok, I was on a strong MM kick- I didn’t post any recipes since it was pretty mundane stuff like spaghetti with eggs and tomato. Or it was total disasters that I had to suck down due to the enormous guilt I feel when I waste food- my tofu stir fry with peanut butter noodles would be an example of that.
But last week, I threw any sort of eating caution to the wind in celebration of the holidays. I met up with my best friend from high school for a reunion dinner last Monday and had the world’s best burger at Egan and Sons in Montclair. Of course, it probably isn’t the world’s best burger, but when you don’t have beef for about two months (I hadn’t had it since October probably), it will taste awfully good. Christmas Eve dinner was at my parents, and my family as most Filipino families, are notorious for having  Too Much Protein Syndrome so we had lechon (roast whole pork), salmon, another whole fish, chicken, ham, fried chicken, ribs, beef lasagna, etc etc. Christmas Dinner was my SO’s parents house, and I offered to make a ham, which though was the pre-cooked, glaze-included variety, was very good.

Along with all the sweets like Food for the Gods my cousin gave us (a box of 32 pieces, dear lord), candy, cookies, and the fact that Trader Joe’s (popped my TJ cherry last night) carried French macarons, I am looking forward (so are my newer awesome jeans I bought earlier this month) to detoxing a bit, slowly and getting back to eating lots of vegetables.

I mentioned going to Trader Joe’s, which was my first time ever. What a delightful little place! I couldn’t imagine doing all my shopping there, but I was able to get some fun appetizers for the NYE get together we are having. They also had some adorable little butternut squash, and in my fondness of All Things Autumnal and orange vegetables, I made this version of Butternut Squash Soup.

The only recipe I used to work with was a Barefoot Contessa one that called for a cup of half and half and canned pumpkin and all this other crazy nonsense. I needed something somewhat healthy, so I adapted Fat Free Vegan Kitchen’s Clouds in the Sunset which is butternut squash soup with roasted cauliflower. Trader Joe’s had run out of cauliflower, and I was too lazy to try to go to another market, so here is my Curried Butternut Squash Soup, inspired by Ms. SusanV

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

1 large butternut squash, about 2 lbs

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large garlic cloved minced

1/2 tsp of ground ginger

1 heaping Tbsp of Curry Powder

1 Qt/4 Cups Vegetable Stock

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut butternut squash in half, scoop out seeds, and lightly oil a baking sheet. Place the cut side of the squash (I sprayed my slightly with olive oil) down. Place in oven for about 30 minutes (give or take) until flesh is wrinkly and the skin can be poked and pierced with a fork easily.

2. In a larger saucepan, saute onions and garlic until aromatic and the onions are clear, about 3-4 minutes. I sauteed them in a little bit of Smart Balance, because I wanted a slight buttery taste. Olive oil should work fine too. Add ground ginger and curry powder and saute for another minute or so.

3. When the squash can b handled, scrape out the pulp ( I find it easier just to pull the skin off) and if you need to, mash up a bit in a bowl. Add squash to the saucepan and saute to combine all the spices and onions and garlic with it.

4. Add the vegetable stock (carefully!) and bring to a boil, let it simmer for 5 minutes or so. When ready, take an immersion blender/stick blender, and mash up (carefully, again!) all the squash and onions to the consistency you want. I like my a little lumpy, so I didn’t go too nuts.

I ate this with a nice multi-grain roll from Trader Joe’s- a good bread is a must as a companion.  You can also be indulgent and add a little mozzarella or Gruyere cheese on top. I froze the rest of my soup, since this is broth-based (as opposed to a cream based) it’ll freeze nicely.

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Snow-Day

It’s the last weekend before Christmas. Original plans included a holiday party this evening, complete with friends from near and far, food, drinks, and a dessert buffet, supplied by my guests.

However, the weather has changed all this. The Northeast is expecting a Noreaster, and even though the snow isn’t coming down too hard just yet, the weatherpeople are starting we can get up to 8-10 inches. Yikes.

I’m not a snow person at all- I commute daily in my car, I hate the cold, etc. And due to the weather, our plans are a bit up in the air. We might have some guests this evening, and a small spread will be prepared.

In anticipation of anywhere from 2 to 20 guests, cleaning is in order. After a good cleaning session, don’t you want something that’ll fill you up? I’ve been craving ratatouille since the beginning of this week. Here is my easy recipe for this filling, healthy meal. Best part is that I could set it to cook while I finished up cleaning the bathroom. Multitasking!

Quick and Easy Ratatouille

1 eggplant, roughly chopped into chunks

1 half of green pepper cut into strips

1 zuchinni, sliced not too thin not to thick

1 onion chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced

1 Tbsp dried parsley

1 large can of diced tomatoes, about 16oz.

1 handful of spinach

olive oil, salt & pepper

1. In a medium sized Dutch oven, heat up olive oil. Sautee onion for one minute, add garlic and sautee another 2 minutes until aromatic.

2. Add peppers and zuchinni, sautee with onions and garlic, making sure to coat all the vegetables. Add eggplant and sautee for 2-3 minutes until tender.

3. Add tomatoes, be sure to drain most of the juice as the tomatoes will create a nice broth for the stew. Add dried parsley and season with salt and pepper.

4. Let simmer covered for about 10-15 minutes. Add spinach to pot, cover and let it wilt for about 5 minutes.

I like to eat it topped with fresh mozzarella and a nice chunk of French or Italian bread slathered with butter. So very quick and easy and perfect for this snowy day.

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Meatless Monday: Hello, Spaghetti Squash

For this week’s MM, I finally decided to tackle the spaghetti squash that I bought several weeks ago. I was slightly intimidated because, as you may all know when you cook a spaghetti squash, the innards cook and become long strands of squash, hence its name. Now what other vegetable does that? Creepy.

So, I decided to go the boil-to-cook method, though my pal told me about roasting it. I really ought to start posting pictures with these recipes, but I’ll continue to be lazy until probably the next year.

Spaghetti-Spaghetti Squash

1 medium spaghetti squash

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/2-3/4 cup of your favorite marinara sauce (I do love Newman’s Own)

1/2 c of baby bella mushrooms

parmesan shavings (optional)

1. Split the spaghetti squash in half, scoop out seeds. Immerse in a large saucepan filled with water. Bring water to a boil and cook for about 30 minutes, or until fork tender. When ready, remove from water and ‘probe’ (as the little sticker on the squash said) until your ‘spaghetti’ strands are pulled. I put it in a tiny colander while proceeding with the rest of the meal.

2. In a medium saucepan, sautee in olive oil, your crushed garlic clove until aromatic. Toss your baby bellas in there and sautee until they appear tender. Add spaghetti squash and season with salt and pepper.

3. Pour tomato sauce and bring everything to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Top with parm.

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Meatless Monday: Curried Chickpeas and Couscous

My SO isn’t a fan of eating when meat is not the central protein. I’m working on that slowly. It’s hard because he’s not exactly meat and potatoes.

Not saying that this dish will be of any interest to him. When SO works Monday evenings, I take advantage of the empty nest and plan on vegetarian. Mondays at work usually consists of me playing plenty of catch-up, but I try to make time to look up something to make.

Today, not so much. My sinuses are indicating that I might have something else brewing below so I took the day to work at home. This didn’t excuse bossman to give me an impossible assignment, when all I really wanted to do was lay down. Eleven hours of work later (you don’t quite have the advantage of ducking out when you want to when you work at home), I want something quick and easy.

This is wholly inspired by Channa Masala, a dish that’s special to me because it was one of the first vegetarian dishes I learned to cook while in college, when I ate mostly vegetarian (not the world’s greatest but you know).

Curried Chickpeas and Couscous

1 can of chickpeas, drained

1 can of diced tomatoes

1 onion, chopped

1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper

1/2 tsp Cumin

1-2 Tbsp Curry powder

3/4 cup Couscous

1. Heat olive oil in medium saucepan. Add onions and cook until tender. Add cumin and cayenne pepper and fry until fully incorporated.

2. Add chickpeas and season with salt and pepper. I didn’t add too much salt because I didn’t drain the chickpeas.Sprinkle curry powder on top, combine.

3. Add diced tomatoes and bring to boil. Let boil for about 2-3 minutes, then throw in couscous. Remove from heat and let stand until couscous is cooked, 5 minutes tops.

Eat with yogurt or a side of bread or on its own. My first batch I added 1 Tbsp of Curry Powder but found that I wanted more. The amount if subject to your own taste preference.

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Orange you glad? I made Sweet Potato Pie?

Part II: Sweet Potato Sweet

I’m not a big pie fan. I don’t really enjoy making pies- the thought of trying to make pate brisse is exhausting, so if I do attempt to make one, I really need to put aside a date. i’m also more of a cake/crust kind of girl, so if I’m eating pie, I usually will eat most of the crust and just a nibble of whatever the filling is. Fruit pies are usually the victims, because it’s the only way I can enjoy certain fruits due to odd allergies.

The craving for pie is also a very specific craving. I will enjoy one during Thanksgiving if someone brings out a homemade pie, or a sampling of mini pies from Mr. Tods, which is conveniently located near my home. The latter being the only place really I enjoy pie; I loathe most supermarket pies.

However, I happened to have a premade pie crust in the fridge. I had made some pumpkin pie bites last week, and decided to ‘chase that feeling’. Sweet potato pie is pretty good, but I wanted to find something less starchy tasting. Warning, this recipe is very sweet (adapted from this one). Yo can omit the cardamom if you must.

1 refrigerated pie crust

1 lb sweet potatoes (about 2 large ones)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 c brown sugar

1/2 c milk

2 eggs

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1. Set out pie crust from fridge. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Boil sweet potatoes until you can pierce them for a fork. This took about 45-50 minutes.

3. When potatoes are done and cool, rub peels off and mash thoroughly.

4. Mix mashed sweet potato with butter and both sugars. Add eggs one at a time until each combined. Mix in spice, caradmom, and vanilla.

5. Prepare pie crust in pan, pour filling.

6. Bake for about 45 minutes until top is set. Let cool on wire rack until warm. Serve with whipped cream.DSC02545

I didn’t want to make a whole pie, so I made miniature ones using a regular muffin pan. I’m also a bit of a whore when it comes to my initials, so with some leftover pie dough I dotted them with ‘C’s. You know it.

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Orange you glad?

I just realized that I’m making a bunch of orange foods!

Part I: Sweet Potato Savory

I’m trying to be better at cooking with what is in the house, and I realized that I had sitting on my kitchen table, where about 4 large sweet potatoes that I had bought ages ago. Well, three weeks ago. Today at work I decided that today I had to put those sweet potatoes to work for me.

But I had to make dinner! When I hear sweet potatoes I think of sweet, mushy, clumps of sweet potatoes, dripping with butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, marshmallows.Thanksgiving is right around the corner- I’ll have plenty of that business then.

You can’t make that! I said to myself. No, I cannot. Luckily there are geniuses like Mark Bittman.  I found an article of his from last year talking about how the poor, beta-carotene rich sweet potato gets unfairly pigeonholed into the ubiquitous Thanksgiving side dish.

No one puts sweet potato in a corner. Now I had to put the pieces together to make something work. The SO made some spaghetti and neglected it a couple of days ago. The gears began to crank, with the help of Mr. Bittman and some poking around on allrecipes.com.

Sweet Potato and Spinach Spaghetti

1 large sweet potato, peeled and shredded
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 lb of spaghetti cooked
2 Tbsp butter, divided
1 tsp salt
a nice handful of baby spinach
1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup of shredded parmesan
1/4 cup of diced or slivered almonds (optional)

1. Cook spaghetti. While spaghetti is cooking, prepare sweet potato, onion, garlic, and cheese if you need to grate it.
2. In a large pan, heat olive oil up over medium-high heat. Saute onions,garlic, and salt until onions are clear. Add shredded sweet potato and combine with cooked onions and garlic. Saute until tender and soft, about 5-8 minutes.DSC02533
3. Add handful of baby spinach. I like to tear them up while I adding them. Saute until wilted, about 2-3 minutes.DSC02537
4. Add 1 Tbsp of butter and combine until melted.
5. Add cooked spaghetti and mix until fully combined. You can add the extra tablespoon of butter here if you think your pasta needs it. Add parmesan cheese, mix. Top pasta with mozzarella and nuts if you’re using it. The nuts are a great form of added protein. Serve piping hot!

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next…Sweet Potato Pie.

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How Boulder bowled my tummy over

I rewarded myself with an end of summer vacation to Boulder, CO to visit one of my old college roommates and best friends from Rutgers. It was definitely a necessary getaway, as work has gotten to be kind of annoying at times.

Boulder, CO is a pretty, healthy, crunchy, clean kind of town. Altitude issues aside, I had a blast hanging out with Beth and meeting her friends from Naropa (where she is getting her Masters in Art Therapy… GO BETH) who are all awesome souls. I can only think of a couple of things that bugged me- maybe the large number of her residents (she’s a peer mentor in the one undergrad dorm on campus) who went without shoes, the dry air, dehydration, etc.

I had lots of good eats while in Boulder and Colorado. My reviews:

Sherpa’s Adventures 825 Walnut St. Boulder, CO 80302-5034: This was my first meal after getting into Boulder. Beth came to pick me up from Denver Int’l and I was completely famished by the time we reached Boulder. She had looked up this place before hand; apparently it’s the best Indian and Nepali food in Boulder. I had requested Indian food since I don’t get to eat it very often (the irony is that I live in central NJ which has some of the best Indian food around- blame my boyfriend!). The owners apparently all mountain climb/are sherpas.I had the Lamb Korma, Beth had Saag, and we split a single serving of Naan. I was starving, but my lamb was delicious. It was the first time I had lamb in a stew as opposed to a chop/on its own. It was slightly gamey, but really succulent due to the sauce and flavors in the Korma.
DSC01745The Kitchen’s Hummus

The Kitchen 1039 Pearl Street Boulder, CO 80301: While Beth was off on Thursday getting her learning on, I explored the city. Luckily she lives nearby the downtown area- the Pearl Street Mall is chock full of great stores and eateries. I had put some research into my one solo lunch, and decided on The Kitchen, which I read an article about in Food and Wine. The ambiance is airy, light, chic, and inviting. The service was excellent. I indulged and had the Kitchen’s hummus to start, served with a three thick slices of grilled bread. My main was a slow-roated pork sandwich, topped with salsa verde, served with a side of fricase, potatoes, and a light vinagrette dressing. Sublime and excellent. The Kitchen also boasts a bar, all organic/all local food attitude. The cocktails were tempting, but I decided to pass since I was still adjusting to the altitude.
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Chocolate-Bacon-Maple Cupcake from Tee and Cake

Tee and Cake 1932 14th St Boulder, CO 80302: I am a cupcake fiend so of course I had to scope our Boulder’s cupcake offerings. I was not disappointed when I came across Tee and Cake. I indulged in a maple cupcake topped with chocolate ganache and….wait for it…crisp bacon. The bacon wasn’t as crisp as I would like, but it wasn’t oily or greasy. The ganache was what ganache should be- smooth, creamy, without leaving any sort of grit on the top of your mouth. The cake was airy and light, yet flavorful. Had to step away before I tried other cupcakes- they had many different varieties!

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Afternoon Tea at Dushanbe

Dushanbe Tea House 1770 13th St Boulder, CO 80302: The place to go to when in Boulder! Of course, coming from the tea industry, I had to go. I made a reservation for high tea with Beth; an afternoon tea newb. The teahouse itself is a place to visit- it was built in Boulder’s sister city, Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan- the entire tea house was built in Dushanbe then sent over to Boulder and put together. Beautiful, hand painted walls and ornaments adorn the tea house. Our afternoon tea was more than delightful; tiny sandwiches and cakes, and pleasant helpings of a delicious and simple side salad (the soy vinegrette is worthy of being imitated), a potato salad with pieces of andouille sausage, and pasta salad. The scones were good, not the greatest. My biggest qualm was with our server leaving our infusers in the teapot instead of preparing the tea, and presenting us with the finished tea. I accidentally over-steeped! Alas, it was a wonderful, beautiful time. Very girly indeed!

Little India 330 E 6th Ave Denver, CO 80203: We drove through Denver after an eventful and cold day in Colordado Springs visiting Pikes Peak. Our only nourishment the entire day was a half a jar of blueberry granola, 2 donuts from the summit house (special recipe for the high altitude), hot chocolate, and fries. We were ready for real food. Thanks to yelp.com I was able to locate this place and easy directions. More Indian food! Why not? I had the house favorite, chicken tikka masala, Beth had saag with chickpeas. Deliciousness as usual; seems like Colorado can give central Jersey a run for its money.

Sunflower Organic Dining 1701 Pearl St Boulder, CO 80302: When I see ‘organic’ in a restaurant’s name, I usually think that it’s a gimmick and I’m right- the food is subpar, but HEY ITS ORGANIC. I hate that, I really do, when justice isn’t given to the best, quality ingredients. Now, of course I peronally cannot buy all my produce organic, but I try. Eating organic, when presented with good tasty options, is way easier. I wish Sunflower was local- I would have brunch every weekend there! I had the smoked salmon eggs benedict- tasty, flaky salmon, perfectly poached eggs, their version of a hollandaise sauce (made with soy mayo), all atop a large slab of cornbread. For real. They had me at cornbread. Amazing and kept me full until I got home way later that evening, my feet safe and sound on New Jersey ground.

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Ribbon Candy from Hammonds Candy Factory

Other foodie activities:

Celestial Tea Factory Tour 4600 Sleepytime Dr Boulder, CO 80301: Of course this was a big to-do on my list (this and breweries,, which unfortunately we did not manage to fit into our schedule). The tour is free and accessible by public transportation. Beth and I went, along with her good friend Danica, who had not gone yet. The tour is very fun and I love seeing how other teaplaces operate, and I became insanely jealous of the herb storage. My biggest disappointment was our lively tour guides misinformation- white tea having more caffeine than green (I had to bite my lip). I could have been that person but I wasn’t. The tour ended appropriately in the Celestial Seasonings gift store where I bought two boxes of delicious smelling herbal tea (Gingerbread and Sugar Cookie- two flavors my company does not have in caffeine free).

Hammond’s Candy Tour 5735 N Washington Street Denver, CO 80216: On route to Colorado Springs, our Celestial Seasonings tour guide informed us of Hammond’s candy tour. I was pumped because MARTHA STEWART loves Hammonds. Rather, maybe Darcy Miller, editor of MS Weddings loves Hammonds because it’s one of their top suppliers of candy for the ubiquitous and ever popular candy buffet at weddings (I don’t care how non-trendy it is when I get married, it’s happening). Hammonds is known for their hard candy and ribbon candy. It was really interesting to see how the actual candy is made and pulled and molded.

Powell’s Candy Store 1200 Pearl St #110 Boulder, CO 80302: This candy store was so much fun to browse through! They also boast a gelato bar. Candy of every sort imaginable here- I would imagine children losing their shit once setting foot into this store; I nearly did. I was good and bought only a chick-o-stick and some crazy lookign Botan Rice candy from China.

Food regrets? Not trying out enough of Colorado’s local beers. I’ve been finding myself drinking more and more beer and Colorado boasts the most micro breweries than any other state. I did try Avery’s IPA and several Mountain Sun Brewery’s beers. A brewery tour is in order for the next visit.

I thought with all the walking around in Boulder, that I would be ok with all the eating. I think I gained a few pounds, can’t blame it on the altitude either. 😛

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