Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mad Men Holiday Party

I finally posted photos from a Mad Men party a couple weeks back. What a blast... I got to cater it along with my culinary school classmate Amy. Amy recently started a job as a Healthy Eating Educator at Whole Foods, and of course we focus on healthy eating, so it was a bit hilarious to turn out 60s style comfort food. Not the healthiest (at least I made turkey meatloafs instead of beef), but hey it was the holidays. I was so wrapped up I forgot to take photos of most things, but here's the menu we had:

Crockpot mini cocktail wieners
Pete's Chip-And-Dip Bowl (homemade onion dip and ruffled potato chips)
Veggie Crudite
Cheese logs
Canapes (Egg salad with pimentos and blue cheese with pecans, rosemary and honey)

Madison Avenue Meatloafs (I used the Barefoot Contessa's turkey meatloaf recipe but baked in muffin tins for less time, just until the meat therm showed it was done)
Truffle mac and cheese
Waldorf salad
Green bean casserole with fried onions

Chocolate Fondue
Rum-infused Banana Pudding with Chocolate Covered Toffee (A recipe worthy of it's own posting, which I'll try to do soon)
Old Fashioned Candy Assortment (My favorite were the chocolate covered gummy bears)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Recipe: African Chicken Stew

I’ve been craving African Peanut Stew since seeing this recipe a few months back. It’s something I’ve made a couple times, including one version in school. But seeing this one inspired me to improvise a new recipe that was better and healthier than any I've had before. Traditionally made with lots of peanut butter, this stew can be rich. My version reduces the amount of peanut butter, amps up the spices, and tosses in lots of flavorful veggies and roasted chicken. To accompany, I served quinoa with shredded coconut, scallions and cinnamon. This is a flexible recipe... toss in whatever vegetables you have on hand, make it veggie only by substituting beans for the meat (I bet garbanzos would be good), play with the seasonings, or switch up the additions to your grain.

2 tbsp peanut oil (coconut oil would also be great, or you can use EVOO)
1 onion, sliced in half and then strips
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Ginger, 1 inch piece peeled and minced
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp coriander seeds, toasted and then ground
½ tsp garam masala
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
Jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional)
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 cups chicken or veggie stock
1 sweet potato or yam, cut into ½ inch cubes
½ cup mushrooms, quartered
1 cup canned diced tomatoes (I used Trader Joes with jalapenos)
¼ cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky both work)
Approx. 2 cups roast chicken, cut into small bites
Kale or chard, 1 bunch thinly-sliced (stems removed, these can be added in earlier if you want to use them since they take longer to cook)
Salt, to taste

1 small bell pepper (any color you’d like), chopped
Scallions and/or cilantro, sliced

Quinoa- (Bring all to a boil, turn off heat, cover and let sit 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork when done. If liquid remains put on low heat uncovered, stir occasionally and watch carefully so it doesn’t burn)
¾ cup quinoa, well rinsed
1 ½ cup water or broth
Small handful shredded coconut
1 scallion, sliced
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Heat oil over medium in a large pot or dutch oven. Add onion and saute until tender (but not caramelized), add garlic and ginger and cook for a minute. Add spices, tomato paste and jalapeno (if using). Cook one more minute, stirring to combine well.

Add in chicken stock, diced tomatoes and all vegetables except the greens (kale or chard). Cover and simmer for approx. 20 minutes, or until potato is almost tender. Stir in peanut butter, chicken and greens. Cover and simmer another approx. 10 minutes, until greens are cooked. Add salt and adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve over quinoa or other grain topped with the bell pepper and herbs.

6 servings

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Recipe: Palak Paneer Omelet (my breakfast with Madi)

I'm dogsitting. Living the single city lifestyle, I don't usually make it up for breakfast on the weekend, but this week I have my canine companion (Madi there on the left) nudging me at 7am each day. Thus, I saw this drizzly Sunday AM in nice and early and had lots of time to make breakfast. Of course, Madi's kibble entree took priority. But after that, I thought about feeding myself. When I looked in the fridge, a container of palak paneer, Indian spiced spinach and cheese, jumped out at me. Since spinach and cheese are two of my favorite things in omelets, I got creative and used my leftovers as a filling. The result blew me away. Tons of flavor, a nice change to the normal breakfast offerings, and healthy!

You can buy your palak paneer at the grocery store. Tasty Bites makes a good version or get it at a restaurant. Or if you've got the time and ambition, It is actually quite easy to make yourself. It's even simple to make the paneer, and you'll get a huge feeling accomplishment (it's not every day you get to say you made cheese right?!)

Palak Paneer Omelet

2 eggs (preferably free range)
3 tbsp palak paneer
Approx. 4 tbsp frozen chopped spinach (or fresh if you have it)
1 scallion, sliced thin
Small handful cilantro, chopped
Garam masala
Ground ginger
Garlic powder (or 1 fresh clove, minced)
Sea salt
1 tsp brewers yeast (optional)


Cook spinach in an omelet-size nonstick skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, crack eggs and beat, adding a slight bit of water to ensure your omelet isn't dry at the end. Season egg mixture with sea salt, and dashes of garlic powder and garam masala. Add eggs to skillet and combine with the spinach. Allow omelet to set. Once set, add palak paneer to center and sprinkle with just a touch of ground ginger, as well as half the sliced scallions. Finish cooking omelet and plate. Top with brewers yeast if using, cilantro and remaining scallion. Great served with pita or naan bread.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Part I: Food Blogger Festival Favorite Things

I was lucky enough to attend the Foodbuzz Food Bloggers Festival a few weeks back here in SF, and have been meaning to do a wrap-up. As I was jotting down thoughts, I realized there's no way I can cover all in one posting so here's Part I of what will be two posts on my favorite things from a phenomenal event. This post covers Alternative Dining Experiences and Healthy Eats. Part II will include Holiday Foodie Gift Sources, Best Wines and Sandwiches (random I know, but I had two of the best of my life there), as well as unveil the utensil from my goodie bag that prompted me to run my "if you could only use one utensil the rest of your life" poll. Here goes Part I...

Top "Alternative Dining" Experiences:
The Outstanding In The Field (OITF) dinner, set in Greenleaf Produce's South SF warehouse and cooked by SF's Namu restaurant. OITF is something I've wanted to do for years thanks to my foodie buddy Michael Thacker. It's a big dinner that feels part flash mob, part wedding feast, part art show, and is mostly just incredibly delicious as the guest chefs use all seasonal, local produce, usually from the farm the meal is held at (to get a better sense check out their photo gallery). In our case, it also felt part rave being in an industrial district, but hey when you have hundreds of people at a city conference a produce warehouse is a damn fine substitute for a farm field! Especially when the food (for pics see my friend Steph's photos here... more on her in a bit) is as good as what Namu turned out -- so good that I went to their actual restaurant this week. It's a neighborhood gem. I saw the same crew working away, they had fun music going, a buzzing crowd and of course the food was delicious again. They also have special nights -- Monday free bar food from 9:30 - 10:30pm, Tuesday free cab ride on them, and Wednesday there was something too which I'm blanking on (sorry!).

ForageSF -- So we didn't actually have a ForageSF dinner, but I did have the pleasure of meeting founder Iso Rabins, which I enjoyed because I'd been to one of his dinners at Radio Africa Kitchen. His dinners (and Radio Africa Kitchen) are both additional fabulous alternative dining experiences. Iso forages for wild ingredients like seaweed, mushrooms and shellfish. Then a guest chef turns out a feast using the wild food. If you're local I'd strongly recommend you sign up to keep in the loop, I just did!

Healthy Eats:
Steph Chows -- Steph and I enjoyed hanging out throughout the Festival. She's got the most vivacious personality yet in a very down-to-earth way that I kinda miss from growing up in Wisconsin... she's good to the core, and she likes to eat healthy like I do! But we have a very similar perspective -- eat healthy most of the time and workout, but enjoy your food and splurge sometimes too (see her peanut butter and chocolate bread pudding muffins for a splurge-worthy recipe). We were both huge fans of the lavender raw cheesecake we tried from Alive (more on them next) and I knew I adored her when she went back for seconds of the Strauss ice cream and we discussed our mutual adoration for the coffee flavor. I must admit to being intimidated by her blog it's so well-written and got such character. I aspire to be like her someday... make sure you check it out. She even put a nice photo of us about halfway through her wrap-up, and the photo here of us was hers too!

Alive Restaurant -- I thought I'd tried all the raw/vegan/healthy restaurant options in SF. Turns out I was missing one very impressive option. Alive served a couple savory options and a sweet treat at the Friday dinner, and their food was outstanding! I can't wait to get to the restaurant to try it out. The raw cracker with avocado on top and raw cheesecake were favorites of mine. Even though there was tons of bad-for-me food around like pizza and cup cakes, I would have happily filled up on those.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Recipe: Herb-roasted Butternut Squash with Chicken Apple Sausage

With holiday parties and potlucks starting, I wanted to share a recipe I made for my Stanford Womens Alumni Club neighborhood potluck dinner this week. This group is the most vibrant, lovely gathering of women alum of all ages. I love the intergenerational exchange of stories, heated discussions on current happenings, and delicious sharing of favorite recipes!

When the invite came I thought of winter squash and apples since both are in season. In the past, I’ve roasted butternut squash halves with an Italian sausage and apple filling, so was considering something similar. A recipe search, however, turned up the following dish which takes the squash and roasts it cubed, along with plenty of herbs and pieces of pre-cooked sausage. It’s a tasty recipe as is, but I wanted to add my own character. I used truffle oil, lots of the fresh herbs and additional dry herbs as well, tossed in apples along with some shallots (I adore them roasted and thought it would be a bigger crowd pleasure than garlic), used the chicken apple sausage as suggested, and gave the whole thing a big sprinkling of black truffle salt.

This recipe is versatile, healthy, and can be made ahead so it’s a good one for all the upcoming festivities! Any mix of things could be tossed in really. It would be great also with red peppers, broccoli, other squashes or sweet potatoes, etc… I doubled the quantity for our group of 10, and the roasting time increased to about 45 minutes so beware you may have to adjust your cooking time. Enjoy!

Herb-Roasted Sausages and Butternut Squash

Adapted from Bon App├ętit, December 2003

Yield: Makes 4 servings

6 cups 3/4-inch cubes peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 pound purchased fully cooked sausages (such as chicken and apple), cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
8 garlic cloves (or 6 shallots, peeled)
3 tablespoons flavored olive oil (such as roasted pepper or herb, I used truffle oil) or regular olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar


Preheat oven to 450°F. Combine squash and next 6 ingredients in large roasting pan. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until squash is tender and sausage is warmed through, stirring once, about 30 minutes.

Transfer squash and sausages to platter. Drizzle with vinegar and serve.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Recipe: Best Veggie Sandwich Ever

One of the bloggers I met at this weekend's Foodbuzz Blogger Festival was Brittany from Eating Bird Food. She won a recipe challenge from Nature's Pride bread for this sandwich. At first glance it doesn't sound unusual. Hummus and veggies, we've all had that, right? But the hummus is white bean and basil, plus the sandwich gets amazing flavor from feta and peppadew peppers. Brittany told me she got these peppers, which are miniature and red, from the olive bar at Whole Foods. This is one of those ideal meals that is flavorful and satisfying, yet you feel good after eating it. The hummus recipe is separate and can be found on Brittany's blog.

You could of course play around with any combination of veggies you'd like, but I think the peppers and feta are essential. Enjoy!

Healthy Veggie Stuffed Hummus Sandwich (serves 1).

2 slices- 100% Whole Wheat Nature’s Pride Bread

2 tbsp – basil hummus

1/4 cup- alfalfa sprouts

3 slices- red onion (thinly sliced)

3- roasted peppadew peppers (sliced/chopped)

4/5 leaves- baby spinach

4 slices- cucumber (thinly sliced)

1 tbsp – feta cheese

Sea salt and ground pepper to taste

Lay the two slices of bread out on a plate or other surface. Spread the equal amounts of hummus onto one side of both slices of bread. Layer the remaining ingredients on one slice of the bread in the order listed. Carefully top with the second slice of bread, cut the sandwich in half and enjoy! This recipe could easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled depending on how many people you are serving.

New Poll: If you could only use one utensil...

Last spring I was asked a fun question by a date: "If you could only use one utensil the rest of your life, what would it be?" "Spoon", I responded. After all, you can pick up everything you'd eat with a fork with a spoon, plus those pesky liquids, and how often do you really need a knife? The follow-up dinner date I was encouraged to order a steak, and after the waitress walked away he gave me a lovely spoon (it even had a ribbon on it). Fortunately, the steak that night was stroganoff style, so I didn't make too much of a fool of myself.

It's a question I've thought a lot about since, including as I've attended the first ever Foodbuzz Blogger Festival, being held in San Francisco this weekend. We've been served from all sorts of dainty little dishes with miniature sporks and forks and simple finger items galore. There was one gift in our goodie bags though that I can't stop laughing about, and has given me an entirely new perspective on the proper answer. Before I share it, I wanted to take a quick poll (if you were at the festival also, shhh, don't spoil the surprise). Enter your vote above, or come up with your own suggestion in the comments section for this post. And more on the festival to come, or check out my Facebook page for a few photos.