Category Archives: Condiments

Veggie Burgers

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There’s nothing I hate more than a cold. This past week was pretty bad health-wise for those of us at the law school. It seemed like all of my friends were sick, and my friend Amanda and I got pretty bad colds.  All of my Vitamin C  consumption just couldn’t stave off the law school germs. It probably didn’t help that I’ve been staying up late doing work for the past week and a half, but what’s done is done. I’m just hoping that I’ve fulfilled my cold quota for the year and that the germs will now leave me alone. What can I say? I’m an optimist sometimes.

After a week of soup, soup, and more soup, I was really craving something hearty last night. I spotted this recipe for vegetarian burger a few days ago on Tastespotting and pinned it within seconds of reading the ingredient list. I love black beans. Black bean soup, black bean salad, black beans burritos. You name it, I will eat it. And I love veggie burgers. I’m always looking for more ways to get in my daily dose of protein, and this was just the ticket. It’s hearty and flavorful, and you can easily adapt it to what’s in your kitchen.

The original recipe calls for quinoa, but I am somehow completely out. So I substituted farro. While the grains normally take 35 to 45 minutes to cook, Trader Joe’s now makes a great ten-minute variety. I am actually obsessed. If you haven’t tried farro yet, you definitely should. It’s nutty and filling, and Oprah has classified it as a health food (so it must be true). All I know is that I feel great eating this whole-grain, and it doesn’t hurt that it tastes fantastic!

Happy eating!

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Winter Kale Salad

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Yesterday was uncharacteristically warm, topping off at over 60 degrees with tons of sunshine and practically no wind. Given that D.C. has been in the 20s and 30s since Inauguration weekend, this random burst of warmth was quite welcome. I wore a dress for the first time in ages and gave my wool coat a break as I opted for a vest.

Don’t get me wrong; I love cold weather. But cold winter days have a tendency to put me in a rut, both wardrobe-wise and foodwise. Not only do I pile on layer upon layer of sweaters and coats, but I also feel like I need hearty, filling food to cope with the season. The problem is that most comfort food consists of rich stews, roasted chickens, and lentil- or bean-filled chili or soup. Needless to say, one gets really sick of eating the “brown” food group most of the time, and yesterday’s weather was the perfect reason to break this habit.

I tried to stick to winter-friendly ingredients–things that you can find in plentitude during the cold season. The crunchy kale pairs well with the bold flavor of blood oranges and the sometimes sharp bites of fennel. Plus, combining blood orange juice with sherry vinaigrette produces a dressing with the perfect amount of tang. And–personal health plug–this salad is packed with vitamins and antioxidants. Total win.

So here’s to incorporating color into your winter menu. Happy eating.

** Side note: I’ll post the promised Smitten Kitchen side dish on Friday. I just thought the weather called for a salad post!

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Roasted Chicken Thighs with Olives, Tomatoes, and Grapes

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Today’s recipe comes from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, whose cookbook may be the greatest gift of 2012 to home cooks everywhere. Deb has a fantastic blog, and when I saw that she was releasing The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, I preordered copies for my sister’s and my good friend Caroline’s Christmas presents. I was lucky enough that my friend Sam (from Blogging with My Mouth Full) was generous enough to gift me the same.

My high school friends and I had a potluck this past weekend, and, as the hostess, I contributed the main dish and a side dish–both of which came from this book. I’ll post the side dish later this week, but it was the main dish that completely blew my mind. First of all, it was easy to make. Easy to assemble, easy to double for a large crowd, easy to do other things like clean your apartment while the chicken bakes. A win for any dinner party.

Second, it was flavor intense. I was both intrigued and wary when I saw that the original recipe featured a combination of grapes and olives. Salt is probably the seasoning that I struggle the most with (isn’t that pathetic?) because everything that I think is too salty, most others find to be not salty enough. What can I say? I’m broken. Leave me alone. As a result, I kind of sort of hate olives. I really want to like them. I try them whenever they are presented to me at Italian restaurants, but I pick them off pizza and never buy them myself. I was also worried that the grapes would be too sweet. Combining the two? Pure genius. The flavors balance each other so well, and the resulting sauce was too perfect for words.

I hope that you give this recipe a try. It might seem a little adventurous but the result is oh-so-worth the risk. Happy eating!

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Brunching: Lavagna

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Brunch Buddies

You’d be hard-pressed to find people who love brunch as much as my friends and I do. My love of brunch fits perfectly with my love of almost all breakfast foods and bubbly drinks. So when my friend Jocelyn and I were trying to come up with a time to meet up, brunch seemed like a natural solution. We invited my friends Amanda and Christina along for the ride and wound up at Lavagna over by Eastern Market.

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Tortellini Pesto Salad

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Remember that time I had a food blog that got put on the back burner first during exams and then while I let my mother feed me over break? Yeah, I do. Sorry ’bout that. Blogger fail. BUT one of resolutions this year is to be better about blogging. That and keeping my “to do” lists organized in a Moleskine journal. Oh, and to pack my lunch more often. Don’t worry, I have already put all of these on a “to do” list.

Anyway, let’s work on two of those, shall we? Today, I bring you a tortellini salad that takes about as long to make as it does to boil some pasta. It features some colorful vegetables–which I think is what most people are hoping to add to their diet around this time of year. The best part, however, is that this salad incorporates my favorite condiment at the moment: red pesto. Made from sun-dried tomatoes, cashews, and some quality olive oil, I first fell in love with it while studying abroad and rediscovered it after picking up a jar from Eataly this past summer. My friend Amanda was kind enough to replenish my stock and to grab a jar of my favorite brand on her last trip to NYC (I have the greatest friends ever). I have yet to make my own, but something tells me that attempt is right down the road.

Happy Eating!

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Incredibly Easy Tomato Sauce

This is my go-to quick sauce recipe, or, as I like to call it, “weeknight sauce.” It goes on pasta. It goes on pizza. It sometimes gets used in eggplant parm. Prep takes roughly 5 minutes. Cooking averages 15 to 20. You can adjust anything and everything to suit your taste, and it can be multiplied easily to serve a crowd. It’s got a bit of a spicy kick, but feel free to tone down the heat. If you prefer your sauce to be slightly chunkier (as I did for my pizza), don’t cook the fresh tomatoes for quite as long–only about 2 to 3 minutes–or add them in with the canned tomatoes and wine. If you plan on freezing some, leave out the fresh basil.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (I use a mix of rosemary, oregano, parsley, and basil)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 scant tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ to ½ cup red wine (For some inexplicable reason, I always think this tastes best with Malbec)
  • Salt & ground black pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil

Directions:

  • In a medium pot, heat your olive oil until shimmering over medium heat.
  • Add in the onions and garlic and cook until just starting to soften.
  • Add the tomato paste and about half of the dried spices. Stir to coat the onions and garlic and cook about 1 minute so that the tomato paste loses its raw flavor.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes. Cook three to five minutes until softened and starting to disintegrate.
  • Add the remaining spices, the canned tomatoes, crushed red pepper flakes, and the wine. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in some freshly torn basil.
  • Serve warm.

Makes about 2 cups.


Things I Love: Bolthouse Farms Caesar Salad Dressing

I know. I know. This is not a recipe. Apologies. I swear I cook. I made a pretty kickass chicken noodle soup Sunday night that I intend to share with y’all this weekend (post-exams). In the meantime, please put up with me raving like a madwoman about things I adore.

Today, I bring you the greatest salad dressing to cross my path in a really long time. For those of you who know me well, you are probably aware that I’m not much of a salad dressing person. That’s right folks. Yours truly can eat an undressed salad. I just feel like a lot of dressings detract from the taste of the vegetables. I have been told this makes me more similar to a cow than the average human, but I don’t like my salad to taste “heavy.” When I do dress my salads (which, admittedly, I do more now than I did a year or two ago), I tend to make my own vinaigrette and use just enough to coat the leaves.

But every so often, I want a Caesar salad. The problem is that most Caesar dressings tend to weigh down the greens. Plus, if you check out the ingredients list and nutrition panel on most of those things…well, you might as well not eat the salad.

My friend Sarah suggested Bolthouse Farm’s Caesar Parmigiano Salad Dressing to me a while back, and I finally decided to try it a couple of weeks ago. I am OBSESSED. Here’s why:

  1. It’s made with yogurt.
  2. What does this mean for us salad-eaters? Lower calories! There are only 45! In 2 tbsp!!!!!!! That goes a LONG way.
  3. It’s tangy! The slightly “sour” flavor of the yogurt cuts through the density of a traditional Caesar and pairs really well with the crisp Romaine.
  4. It works as a great marinade for chicken (life lesson from my mother: marinating chicken in yogurt makes it extra soft and juicy when cooked).
  5. Most salad haters like the taste of Caesar dressing–so it’s good for a crowd.
  6. It has parm in it–so you don’t need to add any extra (though, if you are me, you’ll throw in half a tablespoon for the heck of it).
  7. Did I mention that it’s 45 calories?

Anyway, that’s my rave. Also, consider putting fresh thyme in your salads. My friend Caroline suggested this. Tried it once, never gone back.

The end. Happy law school finals week everyone!!!!

P.S. As per usual, reviews are not endorsed. This is just the result of me, hopped up on finals, enjoying a salad.


Breakfast Favorites

As mentioned, breakfast is one of my favorite meals of the day, but I sometimes find myself in a rut. I adore pancakes, french toast, oatmeal, breakfast burritos, and eggs in almost any form (I refuse to eat them smothered in hollandaise. Weird quirk. I know), and I’m always on the lookout for new breakfast recipes. So I thought I’d compile a list of some of my favorites as of late. If you have a great breakfast recipe, please post it in the comments! I could definitely use some inspiration (and incentive to get going) in the morning. Happy eating!

  • Breakfast burritos: Spinach, feta, tomatoes, and mushrooms make for a great “Greek-style” burrito on the run. Pesto, spinach, asparagus, and some Parm makes for a delicious Italian take. My favorite kinds of breakfast burritos, however, involve salsa. There’s something wonderful about the  the slight zing of cilantro and onions that takes a burrito to a whole new level. Just whisk in 1 to 2 tablespoons of your favorite salsa into a couple of eggs and quickly scramble on low heat. Wrap it up in a tortilla with a bit of cheddar cheese and, if you have time, some sauteed peppers and onions, and you are good to go!


Tomatoes Two Ways

I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas had a very happy holiday. We had a relatively quiet holiday as our little cousins were sick (boo!), and I came down with a nice dose of allergies. That being said, the food was delicious (Thanks, Mom!!), and my Benedryl-induced naps were pretty awesome. For a low-key holiday, it wasn’t half bad. That being said, I think I prefer the usual chaos of Christmas and can’t wait to see the little ones when they are back in fighting form next weekend!

So during the hell period that was finals, I invented a couple of quick, mid-week dinners. I’m not going to lie, this was the result of my somewhat interesting finals-grocery-shopping and the subsequent attempts to use everything in my fridge before going home for the holidays. The sauce is extremely basic. Both dishes use essentially the same ingredients–the only real difference is that, in one case, the sauce is tossed with some pasta and a splash of pasta water, whereas in the other, it serves as a savory topping for some flaky salmon.

In any case, I consider this a testament to the magic of tomatoes and feta. Serve either of these dishes with a healthy serving of sauteed spinach or winter greens, and you’ll have a pretty well-balanced meal. Hope this helps you out in a pinch. Happy Eating!

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Revamped Thanksgiving Staples

Recently, I’ve had a few people ask me, “Megan, do you have any good Thanksgiving recipes?”  Well, boy do I.  I have lots of terrific, tried, tested, and approved recipes for Thanksgiving, and I would love to share them with you.

Now, years back, when we used to live in DC, we would drive to Ohio for Thanksgiving and spend it with our families.  As guests, we usually didn’t do much cooking, but one year, I asked if I could try my hand at preparing the turkey.  My mother-in-law was kind enough to allow me to do so, and I was able to test Martha Stewart’s recipe for a brined turkey that I had been dying to try.  It was my first time fixing a turkey, and I was nervous—especially since generations of family members were doubting my techniques—but in the end, it was a total success.  The bird was moist and flavorful with a crispy skin.  What more could you ask for?

Once we moved to New York, however, Thanksgiving changed.  Instead of returning to Ohio to be with our families, we fix a feast here and invite friends over.  It has been a lot of fun, and it has allowed me to be as OCD about Thanksgiving dinner as I want to.  You see, I grew up not loving Thanksgiving.  I mean, I loved the family togetherness, but I’m not a mashed-potato-lover, and yams covered in marshmallows don’t get me excited.  In fact, the only food I really looked forward to on Turkey Day was the pie.

But once I got full control of the menu, I was able to revamp it and reinvent the “perfect Thanksgiving dinner.”  I stay true to the basics—turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberries, etc.—but prepare them in a more modern, if you will, fashion.

Below is a list of links to my favorite recipes.  These are recipes that will, no doubt, be on my Thanksgiving table this year.  I hope they make it on yours as well!

Brandon's lovely "tablescape"

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