Monthly Archives: March 2010

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother… but he will be soon, because he’s about to eat his birthday cake

This month my brother turned 27 years old. One year closer to 30. Terrifying. Because I’m right behind him. Remember when we were 5 and 7, Christopher?! I do.

Please note the crimped hair and giant glasses – we’ve always been a stylish family

This year my older brother asked if I would bake him a cake for his birthday. Now, I myself belong to the school of “nuts ruin baked goods” but Christopher wanted walnuts in his carrot cake, so I included them. If you try this recipe, feel free to leave them out. Trust me – you don’t need them.

On the menu:
Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

*The only change I made to the Epicurious cake that I link to above is I made a double layer cake instead of a triple layer, and I did not use parchment paper in the baking pans. All you have to do is spray non-stick spray and coat the entire pan, bake for around 40 minutes.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a picture of the finished, decorated cake and a slice of the inside!

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You Know What They Say About It

Those high-fructose corn syrup ads have always bugged me. “It’s made from corn.” Newsflash: everything starts as something natural. That doesn’t mean we should eat everything. Cardboard sandwich with a gasoline spread, anyone? But it comes from the earth!

That’s why I was so pleased to read this. Turns out (PREPARE TO BE SHOCKED) high-fructose corn syrup is not good for you, and it is way worse than regular sugar.

In other shocking news, the grass is green and chocolate is tasty.

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Crispy, Crusty, Cheesy Goodness

Today was gross for three reasons: it was Monday, I have a cold, and it was raining. Today was great for three reasons: I won’t see Monday’s ugly face again for 6 whole days, I heard that this weekend it’s supposed to hit 80 degrees, and one of my very best friends who lives in my backyard cooked me dinner. Even Steven.

On the menu:
“Becca Does Tilapia” with parmesan crust and basil tomato cream sauce
Asparagus with rosemary sea salt

Tilapia
Serves 2

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup basil [1/4 cup roughly chopped, 1/4 cup chiffonade]
2 tilapia fillets
salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon Japanese spice blend [you can buy this blend of Japanese spices in most grocery stores with an international section, but if you don’t have it, you can substitute a pinch of red pepper flakes, garlic salt, or paprika]

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes. Turn down heat to medium/low and add cherry tomatoes, cook for 2 minutes. Add cream. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Sauce will turn slightly pink and coat the back of the spoon. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet large enough to fit both fillets. Pat dry the tilapia fillets. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Combine parmesan, panko and Japanese spice. Dredge the seasoned tilapia fillets in the seasoned flour. Shake off excess. Dip in egg. Press into Parmesan/panko mixture. Place in heated skillet and cook 3-4 minutes per side. Fish will be golden brown when it’s done. Plate the fish and pour sauce over the top.

Asparagus with rosemary sea salt
Serves 2

10 asparagus stalks
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp rosemary sea salt [this can be found at any gourmet grocery, on Amazon.com, or you can substitute basic sea salt in a pinch]

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place asparagus on a cookie sheet and brush with olive oil until the stalks are coated. Sprinkle sea salt generously over stalks. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, until tender on the inside and slightly crisp on the outside.

NOTE: This dish is not my standard fare. Fish = good for you. Asparagus = good for you. Basil, tomatoes, a little olive oil = good for you. I had to remind myself of the health factor while eating this meal because the fish was flaky, the crust was crispy, and it tastes like a million calories. I’m telling you, kids… it’s not. Enjoy.

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Food Cart Friday!

In my opinion, and from what I’ve read online and in newspapers, New York is behind in the food cart trend. Sure, we have lots of halal food, cupcakes, falafel, and chicken and rice, but where is our creme brulee cart? Our bacon dog cart? Our gumbo cart? All in due time, I’m sure. For now, I’ve done a little research into the tastiest midtown food cart options in Manhattan. And no better day than Friday to treat myself to a little fried fish and some cookies.

Kim’s Aunt Kitchen Cart: 46th Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue (closer to 6th Ave, south side of the street) I decided to try Kim’s Aunt because most websites claimed that the fish was fresh and made to order, quelling two of my food cart fears. Who wants to eat food that’s been sitting in a grease pit for hours? Not this girl.

On the menu:
Flounder sandwich (fried flounder pieces, tomato, lettuce and white sauce on standard white bread)

Verdict: YUM. Oh, beautiful fried fruit of the sea. While the bread got soggy in the ten minute walk from the cart to my warm little office, I barely even noticed. The coating on the huge chunks of fish was crispy, the flounder inside was flaky and tender, and the veggies were crisp and fresh. You can’t get much in midtown Manhattan for $4.50 but this sandwich will fill you up and keep you full straight through the 3:00 office slump. Props to you, Kim’s Aunt, whoever you are.

Treats Truck: in some sort of sneaky PR move, or perhaps just to keep the population of midtown from gaining a collective five pounds, the Treats Truck moves! Their schedule can be found on their website, but for the past few Fridays they’ve been stationed on 45th Street and 6th Avenue from 12:30 – 3. Uh… or so I hear.

On the menu:
Double chocolate sandwich cookie with mint chocolate filling
Chocolate chip cookie
Vanilla sandwich cookie with vanilla filling
Double chocolate sandwich cookie with chocolate fudge filling
Double chocolate sandwich cookie with peanut butter filling
NOTE: I did not eat all of these cookies in one sitting, nor did I buy them all on one day. And this was strictly for research purposes. It’s a tough job reviewing cookies. Honest.

Verdict: Why hello there, brand new love of my life. This is my kind of cookie. The chocolate sandwich cookies had the PERFECT consistency: crisp on the edges, chewy in the middle. The vanilla sandwich cookie had a crispy texture all the way through, which is not MY favorite, but I’m sure some would disagree with me. And the chocolate chip was standard fare but delicious none the less. As you can probably tell… I recommend the chocolate sandwich cookies. And anything with frosting is alright with me.

If you have a New York food cart recommendation, lay it on me! Is there a creme brulee cart that I’m missing? Maybe it’s best if I don’t know about that one.

*top picture c/o Serious Eats

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Use Whatcha Got

As a single gal, I find cooking for just one is occasionally a challenge. I can usually adjust a recipe to make one serving (or two, leaving me with leftovers or leaving me having to unbutton my suddenly-tight pants) but then I have random ingredients in my fridge that I either must use before they spoil, or throw out. I usually end up eating the same dinner three days in a row, or a variation on the meal (risotto with mushrooms and asparagus, pasta with mushrooms and asparagus, and omelet with mushrooms and… you get it).

So tonight I found myself with heavy cream, capers, and chicken stock. The thought of eating that trout again was appealing to my tongue but not so much my waistline. The answer? Chicken Piccata.

Okay, so it’s not “healthy.” But it tasted damn good.

Any food stylist will tell you that my pasta is all wrong, there’s too much sauce in the picture, the plate’s not clean, the capers are haphazard… but don’t you just want to dig right in?? That equals success in my book.

On the menu: Chicken piccata
Serves 2

2 chicken breasts, pounded to around 1/2 thick (mine is thicker, but it’ll cook faster and be crispier if you pound it thinner)
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp lemon juice (or the juice from 1/2 of a lemon)
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream (half and half would work, too OR you can leave this out altogether if you choose)
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 Tbsp capers
salt and pepper to taste

[Put water on to boil for pasta] Melt butter with olive oil in skillet. Season chicken breasts liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Dredge breasts in flour, shaking off excess. Once butter is completely melted, add chicken to the skillet. Cook chicken on medium/high heat for around 6-7 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside. Add the white wine to the same skillet and reduce heat to medium (this is to de-glaze the pan). Scrape all the beautiful brown bits from the bottom of the pan and let the wine reduce down a bit. Once the liquid has reduced by 1/4, add chicken stock, lemon juice, and heavy cream, stirring until all liquids are combined. [If you start cooking your angel hair now in the boiling water, it should time out to be finished once the sauce is ready] Let the sauce reduce for another 5 minutes and then add the capers. Now it’s time to taste! If your sauce needs more salt (mine needed a healthy pinch) now is the time to add it. Mix well. Plate your chicken and pasta, and then pour the sauce over the whole plate.

As you can see… I like sauce. To me, life without sauce is like the beach without sand. The ocean without fish. A boat with no sail!

Can you tell I need a vacation?

Saucy chicken will have to be my escape for now.

*I also want to note that if you ever try this or any recipe I share and you have a question or a concern or an outrage (I mean… I hope not but I’m not perfect. Close. But not quite.) please let me know! Leave a comment or send me an e-mail. I’d love to know how it all turned out in your own kitchens.

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C-c-c-can we talk about this for a second?

I swear, this is my last gross-food post for awhile. I’ll get back to posting pictures of fluffy pancakes and cheesy pastas ASAP. But for now… please. Stop eating McDonald’s. Just… just do it.

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Fiestada pizza, a slice of cheese on a PB&J, turkey “chunks”, and other delicacies

Lately there has been a lot of media attention on childhood obesity and the lack of nutrition in school lunches. I vividly remember the sour cardboard taste of the French bread pizza, the sticky gum consistency of the mashed “potatoes” and the ubiquitous joy of the first day of middle school when the lunch ladies didn’t force you to buy a whole meal (you mean I can buy French fries, a bottle of Fruitopia, and Hostess cupcakes for lunch?! Sold!).

So while I will never preach nutrition on this blog, I do know the distinct sensation of craving fruits and vegetables after a particularly burger-ice-cream-nacho filled weekend. And I love anything freshly, organically, locally prepared. A girl can not live on bacon grease alone.

When I read about Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project in the Daily News, I was fascinated. I know a lot of kids love pizza and French fries. But kids also like apples with peanut butter, ants on a log, and even (gasp!) salad if it’s prepared correctly. I have to give the anonymous teacher behind Fed Up With Lunch a huge hand: you couldn’t pay me to eat these lunches as an adult.

Okay, maybe you could pay me.

But it would have to be a lot.

A sample lunch – bringing a whole new meaning to “mystery meat” (photo c/o Fed Up with School Lunch)

In related news, watch Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, premiering this Friday, March 26 on ABC. These kids don’t know what a tomato is. I wish I was kidding.

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