Friday, March 27, 2009

TFF: Herb and Lemon Roasted Chicken with Smashed Broccoli and Garlic

My second Tyler Florence Friday post! The same week that I baked up the "taste of summer" coconut bread, I also made Tyler's herb and lemon roasted chicken with smashed broccoli and garlic. This recipe came from Tyler's book, "Real Kitchen." I pass on the same word of advice that Mr. Florence gave me (through his book, of course) -- give yourself plenty of time to marinate the chicken. It'll make the chicken that much more flavorful. This is definitely a full meal in itself -- no need for any starch on the side!

THE RECIPE: Herb and Lemon Roasted Chicken
1 1/4 hours to make + 5 hours to marinate
Serves 2

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon, peeled in big strips
4 garlic cloves, smashed
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 lemon, sliced in paper-thin circles
2 bone-in chicken breasts, 8 ounces each, skin on
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Chicken Stock
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

What to do:
Start by marinating the chicken because it will take the longest. To infuse the oil with flavor and create a base for the marinade, combine the olive oil with the lemon zest, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves in a small pot and place over very low heat. You don't want to fry the herbs, just steep them like you're making tea. When the oil begins to simmer, shut off the heat and let it stand for 10 minutes. Pour the fragrant oil, solid pieces and all, into a bowl and put it in the refrigerator to cool.

Combine the chopped chives, parsley, and tarragon in a small bowl. Stuff 2 lemon slices under the skin of each chicken breast, along with half of the mixed chopped herbs. Put the chicken in a resealable food storage bag and pour in the cool herb oil, turning to coat really well. Toss in the remaining half of the chopped herbs, seal the bag, and refrigerate at least 5 hours or as long as all day.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before cooking so it won't be too cold when it goes into the pan; cold chicken takes longer to cook.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put a cast-iron (or regular ovenproof) skillet over medium heat. Drizzle the bottom of the pan with a 2-count of olive oil and heat until almost smoking; this will keep the chicken from sticking. Season the chicken with a fair amount of salt and pepper and put it in the pan, skin side down. Cook for 5 minutes or until the skin begins to set and crisp. Flip the chicken and brown another 5 minutes. Flip it yet again, so the skin side is down, and transfer the entire pan to the oven. You want the chicken to render its fat and the skin to crisp up.

Roast the chicken for 20 to 25 minutes or until cooked through.

Transfer the chicken to a platter and keep it warm while preparing the pan sauce. Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered chicken fat and return the skillet to the stovetop. Add the chicken stock and lemon juice and cook over medium heat, scraping up the flavors with a wooden spoon. Cook the liquid down to a syrup, about 5 minutes. Stir in the butter to smooth out the sauce and turn off the heat.


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 bunch broccoli, about 1 pound, including stems, coarsely chopped
1 cup Chicken Stock
1/4 cup plain yogurt
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

What to do:
While the chicken is in the oven, move on to the broccoli.

Heat the olive oil in a medium pot; add the red pepper flakes and garlic. Throw in the broccoli and toss to coat in the garlic and oil. Pour in the chicken stock, cover, and let the broccoli steam for 10 minutes.

When it is quite soft, pulse the broccoli a few times in a food processor, or better yet, use a handheld blender if you have one. The broccoli should be partly smooth and partly chunky.

Stir in the yogurt to give the broccoli some body and season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the smashed broccoli onto 2 plates, lay the chicken on top, and drizzle with the pan sauce.

The chicken here was the star of the show for me. Not only did all the chicken's herbs and lemony-ness perfume our house deliciously (and I'm sure, wafted out of our house to tantalize the noses of our neighbors), the chicken itself was also wonderfully moist and flavorful.

To maximize what I already had in my pantry, I used dry bay leaves and dry chives (instead of fresh) for the chicken, which turned out well.

I was rather indifferent to the smashed broccoli. I actually love broccoli, and growing up, it was one of the few vegetables that I wanted to eat! The smashed broccoli though didn't appeal to me as much. I don't think there is anything I would change about the smashed broccoli -- I just think I'm more of a crunchy broccoli type of girl. The red pepper flakes (which I love) and garlic though were excellent flavor pairs for the smashed broccoli.

So cheers to another Tyler Florence recipe! Now to explore the next possibilities... I'm thinking maybe Thai Green Curry Chicken or maybe that brisket Tyler made on "Tyler's Ultimate..." I'd like to get a brisket in anyways before it starts to get too warm out!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Tart of Tomato and Cheesy Goodness

I was thrilled to find a group of foodie bloggers dedicated to the Barefoot Contessa. When in search of a delicious and reliable recipe, I've time and time again ran to Ms. Ina Garten for ideas. Sooo, cheers to my first Barefoot Bloggers entry!

The two March recipes looked fabulous. I joined after the first recipe, Chicken Piccata, already took place (but plan to make that one too!) so here is the second recipe -- TOMATO AND GOAT CHEESE TARTS. Um, hello, yum! (Thanks to Anne of Anne Strawberry for picking out this recipe!) Mr. J was a bit wary of goat cheese, but I was so excited to try a recipe with many of my favorite ingredients. And this turned out to be so simple. We were visiting my parents this past weekend so I took this opportunity to cook up a storm for a larger audience. I brought along my inside out carrot cake cookies (the March entry for Cookie Carnival!) for taste testing and all the ingredients for these tarts...

1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted (I used Pepperidge Farm)
Good olive oil
4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 large onions)
3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus 2 ounces shaved with a vegetable peeler
4 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese
1 large tomato, cut into 4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices
3 tablespoons julienned basil leaves

What to do:
Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 11 by 11-inch square. Using a 6-inch wide saucer or other round object as a guide, cut 2 circles from the sheet of puff pastry, discarding the scraps. Repeat with the second pastry sheet to make 4 circles in all.

Place the pastry circles on 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.

Using a sharp paring knife, score a 1/4-inch-wide border around each pastry circle. Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork and sprinkle a tablespoon of grated Parmesan on each round, staying inside the scored border.

Place 1/4 of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edge. Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on top of the onions. Place a slice of tomato in the center of each tart. Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. Finally, scatter 4 or 5 shards of Parmesan on each tart.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. The bottom sheet pan may need an extra few minutes in the oven. Serve hot or warm.

Let's just say, they turned out beautifully and smelled amazing. I had such fun with assembly -- I cut out the puff pastry circles freehand (with a little bit of guidance as to what "6 inch rounds" were), scored the border with my new favorite knife (the "multicolor paring knife from Williams-Sonoma), and stacked up the yummy ingredients on these beauties (with a few nibbles of the ingredients in between).

I had quite a bit of leftover puff pastry dough so I made some extra treats on a separate tray. I was able to fit the four tarts onto one tray so I would have enough space for the second tray of extras. I rolled some of the puff pastry into "twists" and covered them in extra grated parm cheese. I also made some mini tarts with the extra parm cheese and sauteed onions/garlic. We had these as a snack the next day, mmm, so good even cold!

The tarts puffed up and took on a golden brown color. We found it was easiest to just eat these tarts like a slice of pizza -- picking it up with your hands and devouring it from outside in. I attempted to use a fork and a knife, but that wasn't really necessary.

I would definitely make these again! I loved all the flavors and the recipe is so versatile, you could try all sorts of ingredients in these.

We had the tarts with small steaks on the side. The tarts though are quite filling by themselves, so maybe next time I would put together a side salad with some sort of protein.

Oh, and I'm happy to say that the goat cheese won over Mr. J.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cookie Carnival: Deliciously Soft Inside-Out Carrot Cake Cookies

Now, I've never been a fan of carrots. I actually hate raw carrots (although, I'll eat shredded carrots, but please, no carrot sticks!). But, carrot cake? That's a different story. Carrot cake with rich, creamy, cream cheese icing? I accept! So imagine my excitement that for my first Carnival Cookie recipe, we are making Inside-Out Carrot Cake Cookies... imagine two pieces of carrot cake sandwiching cream cheese icing. And an excuse to break out my new stand up grater? Sounds like a good plan to me. (Here's the round-up for the carrot cake cookies from us Carnival Cookie bakers)

from Gourmet, April 2004

1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup coarsely grated carrots (2 medium)
1 scant cup walnuts (3 ounces), chopped
1/2 cup raisins (2 1/2 ounces)
8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup honey

(The cookies hanging out (and cooling down)...waiting to become yummy sandwiches)

What to do:
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter 2 baking sheets.

Whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

Beat together butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in carrots, nuts, and raisins at low speed, then add flour mixture and beat until just combined.

Drop 1 1/2 tablespoons batter per cookie 2 inches apart on baking sheets and bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are lightly browned and springy to the touch, 12 to 16 minutes total. Cool cookies on sheets on racks 1 minute, then transfer cookies to racks to cool completely.

While cookies are baking, blend cream cheese and honey in a food processor until smooth.

Sandwich flat sides of cookies together with a generous tablespoon of cream cheese filling in between.

Results/Comments: These cookies came out better than I expected! At first glance, I thought they would be a bit crunchy or hard, but they were wonderfully soft (I love soft cookies...). The cookies also turned out bigger than I expected and with two of these cookies sandwiching the cream cheese filling, it is quite a decadent treat!

The shredded carrots melted into the cookie batter and the walnuts provided a nice change in texture with a bit of crunch.

The cream cheese was actually a great complement to the cookies -- the cream cheese offered a bit of tangy-ness and offset some of the cookie's sweetness. I used lowfat cream cheese which was still quite creamy and also added some cinnamon to the cream cheese/honey mixture (I was going to add in some nutmeg too but found that I was all out).

I LOVED these cookies, much more than I thought I would. I will definitely make these again. I'm thinking next time I would make them as standalone cookies instead of sandwich cookies with the cream cheese filling as a topping. What a great recipe to start out Cookie Carnival!

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Non-Meat Burger Tasting OH SO MEATY. Yum.

Yesterday, the weather was absolutely beautiful here in DC. Albeit, it was a little bit brisk, but wonderfully sunny with blue skies, and you could just feel that spring weather was around the corner. Inspired by the warming weather and the February issue of Gourmet, I "grilled" up some burgers. These were super simple and quick to make -- and as Gourmet said, very pantry friendly.

I'll just put it out there, I love meat -- give me a good steak anytime and I'm a happy girl. But, we are attempting to eat healthier, so this seemed like a good alternative! These burgers are made of black beans, but tasted of meaty goodness. Perfect for the meat lovers (and non-meat lovers) in your life!

Italian Black Bean Burgers (adapted from Gourmet magazine's recipe) -- 2 burgers

1 (15-oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained, divided in half
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 cup finely chopped basil
Garlic salt to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 soft hamburger buns or toasted sliced bread

What to do:
Pulse 1/2 a can of beans in a food processor with mayonnaise, bread crumbs, cumin, dried basil, garlic salt, and cayenne until a coarse purée forms. Transfer to a bowl and stir in fresh basil and remaining beans. Form mixture into 2 patties.

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Cook burgers until outsides are crisp and lightly browned, turning once, about 5 minutes total. Serve on buns.

Comments: Gourmet called for cilantro and additional spices to give these burgers a southwest taste. I had mainly basil and other Italian spices in my pantry at the time, so I ran with that! I stacked mine with swiss cheese, ketchup, mustard and a little bit of Thai hot sauce. Mr. J topped his with carrot slices for some crunch and Thai hot sauce.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A&J Restaurant - Northern Dim Sum to Comfort and Satisfy

For most dim sum weekends, my family and I find ourselves at New Fortune in Gaithersburg. New Fortune serves "Cantonese" dim sum, which is what people often think of when they think of dim sum. But, on some weekends, especially during the cold days of winter, we venture in a different direction and seek out "Northern" dim sum. Our favorite place for Northern dim sum (at least for the past several years) is A&J Restaurant in Rockville, Maryland.

A&J has been a fixture of Washingtonian magazine's recommended "Cheap Eats" for years and with good reason. Think of piping hot dumplings, steaming bowls of soup noodles, and flaky "pastries" filled with all sorts of savory concoctions. A heavier variety of dim sum than the often steamed options of Cantonese dim sum (although, perhaps that's just a reflection of what we order at A&J!), it was always comforting and always satisfying.

Ever since I was little, I have loved scallion "pancakes"... but my favorite was not the scallion pancakes, but instead, the deliciously flaky scallion pastries that are somehow both light and dense at the same time. The flaky crust wraps around the scallion filling and is often sealed with a layer of sesame seeds. For years though we had been unable to find these scallion pastries at dim sum; instead, many restaurants started moving towards the ever popular scallion pancakes. Don't get me wrong, these pancakes are fantastic as well (especially heated up as leftovers the next day!), but they were never quite what I remembered from my childhood. And then, perhaps a year ago, we found that A&J had mini scallion pastries on their smaller "breakfast" menu (the small menu that accompanies their main menu) -- so now, everytime we go, we get TWO orders. One order to eat there and one order to take home. Yum.

My dad's favorite thing to order at A&J are the xiao long bao, or steamed dumplings. Although these xiao long bao often are not as juicy as xiao long bao from our favorite Crystal Jade Restaurant, my dad still cannot resist them when we are there. He often wants to order FOUR orders (=16 xiao long bao!) for four of us on top of everything else we love there... we can usually talk him down to three orders though :)

Perhaps one of the main reasons why we love A&J are the wide variety of noodles available. For every noodle dish, you can get thick or thin noodles, both appealing for their own reasons! I believe these noodles are handmade on site, and the texture of the noodles show it. Our current favorite noodle options are: (1) za jiang mien -- noodles with salty ground pork, shredded cucumbers, and bean sprouts (a favorite of mine since I was little!) (above), (2) the spicy beef soup noodles (below), and (3) soup noodles accompanied by deep fried pork or chicken (I prefer the skinny noodles with this!).

Finally, there are... "sandwiches" available. Ok, perhaps sandwiches isn't the right way to describe these treats, but imagine instead of "bread" you have a thousand layer flat pastry that folds at the center and inside is shredded pork...or beef... I love these for leftovers as well for days after.

And then the "hamburger" (beef xien bing). An exceedingly juicy beef "patty" (I recommend lots of napkins, a bowl to catch excess juice, and caution to be used because the steam that escapes is VERY HOT!) encased in potsticker dough, panfried so the two sides are crispy. These are best fresh and straight off the pan, so eat these at the restaurant! (Mr. J eating one of these below)

If you couldn't tell, I love Northern dim sum...and its many leftovers. We often order much too much for four people, justtt to be able to take some home to enjoy during the week to come! And, if you can't make it to Rockville, A&J also has a location in Annandale, Virginia. I recommend arriving on the earlier (or later) side because around 11:30 to 12:30, the small restaurant is packed.

A&J Restaurant
1319-C Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852
(301) 251-7878

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Baked and Wired - Amazing Cupcakes Sharing the Throne with Gtown Cupcake!

This weekend, Mr. J and I came to a startling revelation. Gasp, we think we may have found a CUPCAKE PLACE that we love EVEN MORE than Georgetown Cupcake. I know, it's shocking. I've spoken here about my love for Georgetown Cupcake, with its little bites of stylish, tasteful (both to the mouth and the eyes), and sinfully rich heaven. I've talked about how I've waited over half an hour in line, outside, in the cold, just to buy 6 cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake. I've babbled about how this was my go-to place for cupcakes in DC.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I think Georgetown Cupcake is in for some competition. Enter, Baked and Wired. No, Baked and Wired isn't a new place (although it did expand its space back in early 2008)... I had heard about it, in fact, heard rave reviews from one of my most avid cupcake loving friends. This was her most favorite cupcake place in DC. And this weekend, I finally discovered why.

Baked and Wired, from the moment that you walk in, has a completely different feel from Georgetown Cupcake, which is located just a few blocks away. Here, they have an area with tables, specifically inviting guests to stay a little while, plug in your computer, tap into the internet, or sit with friends and catch up on the latest, or get comfy with a book, a coffee, and one of their chocolate satin cupcakes (one...or two...or perhaps three...).

There was no long line winding out the entrance (and may I say, no people looking at you wondering why you are in this thirty-person deep line waiting for cupcakes). Instead, there were warm and friendly faces waiting to take your cupcake (or other baked good) order. Like Georgetown Cupcake, there, sitting in front of you, is an array of sweet treats waiting for your selection. At first, I only saw two or three types of cupcakes (the "Perfectly Bitchin'" chocolate peanut butter cupcake quickly made it on our list)...and then I looked up and laying before us was an impressive spread of cupcakes.

The cupcakes looked quite sizable compared to a lot of the other new cupcake stores that have popped up around DC. You surely got your $3.50 worth when you bought one of these cupcakes. These were soft and fluffy cupcakes, covered in a mouthwateringly thick slab of buttercream. At first glance, these cupcakes looked similar to Cakelove cupcakes. Don't be fooled. When we got these cupcakes home and bit into them, they tasted ... amazing. They are wonderfully moist, almost a cross between a muffin and a cake. The icing wasn't "buttery" or "greasy" (as Cakelove's cupcakes were described at our cupcake party weeks before)... instead, the icing bursted with sugary flavor. If you don't like sugar, these are not for you. They were much more sugary (but in a delightful way) than Georgetown Cupcake.

We resisted the urge to buy too many. Originally, we were just going to get two, one for each of us. This quickly doubled into four: strawberry (strawberry icing on a vanilla cake with chunks of fresh strawberries baked into the cake), the aforementioned Perfectly Bitchin' (peanut butter icing with chocolate cake), and for comparison's sake with other cupcakes, the vanilla&vanilla and what should be called the "Death by Chocolate" (they had a witty name to go along with it, but my sugar coma has knocked that out of my brain).

After a bite of the strawberry cupcake, Mr. J immediately proclaimed Baked and Wired his new favorite cupcake place, dethroning Georgetown Cupcake. But I'll be honest, I can't knock Georgetown Cupcake off its throne... but instead, I've found a place to share its throne. GC and BW, they represent the best of cupcakes in DC, but they are different from each other, and they offer two different experiences to the cupcake devoted. GC is more about refined, beautiful looking cupcakes with inventive flavors. BW is more about just simply delicious and sugary delights that focus on more the taste of the cake and the icing themselves with a "made from scratch" appeal. And really, having two fabulous cupcake places so near each other? That could never be a bad thing.

The next time I'm craving a cupcake, I will be venturing back to Baked and Wired, mainly because there are still so many flavors left to be tried! Plus, I admit, there is something so inviting about the place, that next time, I want to just spend an entire Sunday afternoon there. Perhaps with their wireless internet, I'll be writing my next blog entry there.

Baked and Wired
1052 Thomas Jefferson St. NW
Washington, DC 20007
(Between 30th and 31st Sts and M and K Sts)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tyler Florence Fridays: Coconut Bread with Pineapple Butter

Last week, I came across “Tyler Florence Fridays,” a blog set up by Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, Megan of My Baking Adventures, and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies, to bring together foodies who love Tyler Florence and love his equally tasty food. Every week, TFF participants cook up (or bake up) one of Tyler’s recipes from either his cookbooks or online recipes from one of his Food Network shows. TFF then posts, every Friday (as per the name!), a round-up of everyone’s dishes for the week. Just a way for us to sample Tyler’s recipes without having to try every single one of them and to find ones that we want to try and make ourselves!

I have a number of Tyler’s cookbooks and thought that TFF was the perfect opportunity and reason for me to break them out. So for my first week in “Tyler Florence Fridays,” I decided to go with something from one of my favorite meals – brunch! And so I tried Tyler's Coconut Bread with Sweet Pineapple Butter.

I love to bake and in this recipe, Tyler references trips to Sydney, Australia, one of my favorite places in the world. In particular, he talks about a breakfast place in Darlinghurst called bills. Bill Granger is the chef at bills and he is a chef that I’ve always wanted to sample his food – when in Australia, I often found myself in the cookbook section of the bookstore, paging through one of Bill’s cookbooks… In any case, bills serves up a coconut bread similar to the one here in Tyler’s cookbook, so I decided I had to try it. (Plus, Mr. J nearly salivated on the book when he heard about it).

So here it is, from Tyler’s “Real Kitchen” cookbook: Coconut Bread with Sweet Pineapple Butter.


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing pan
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
1 1/2 cups of unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut, toasted

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 275. Grease bottom and sides of a 9x5 inch loaf pan with butter. In a large bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In another large bowl, whisk together melted butter with the brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Pour in the coconut milk and whisk together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold everything together with a spatula until you have a smooth batter. Gently fold in the shredded coconut until evenly distributed. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and set it on a cookie sheet. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the bread. Rotate the pan periodically to ensure even browning. Cool the bread in the pan for 20 minutes or so; then when cool enough to handle, remove the coconut bread to a cutting board and let it cool completely before slicing.


The coconut bread turned out nicely... It was admittedly a bit dry, a littel bit more dry than I would have preferred (I didn't get to make the actual pineapple butter that Tyler suggested as an accompaniment, although I think that would have given it a great flavor complement and make the bread less dry... I made a version of pineapple butter but it didn't set up very well!). But the flavors of the bread were great. The coconut is not overpowering -- more subtle hints of the coconut. The lemon zest actually comes across fairly strong, so next time, I would probably cut back a little on the lemon zest. I think that this would also be fabulous with chocolate chips (but really, almost anything is better with chocolate chips!) mixed into the batter.

The bread was a big hit with Mr. J. He brought some to work and although it crumbled quite a bit before he made it to work, he devoured it. The bread keeps well for at least a week (we took Tyler's suggestion and wrapped it up tightly and placed it in a plastic bag).

Cheers! Thanks to TFF for having me as part of this group! (I actually made a second Tyler Florence dish this past week, but will wait to post til next week :))

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"5 a day" Day 3: Skipped Meals and Mixing Up Veggies


Breakfast: Really, this is starting to get repetitive... I'll need to think of a new breakfast item! 1 medium banana + "banana" oatmeal (again, not a fruit) + skim milk. Fruit intake = .5 cup. Revision... my work day threw me off course, so I actually only got to eat half of my breakfast before it got all cold and solid (boo). So, revised to fruit intake = .25 cup.

Snack: 100% orange juice (11.5 fl. oz). Fruit intake = 1.44 cups. (Being careful though to be aware of my sugar intake from fruit juice)

Snack: Makeshift trail mix -- raisins, almonds, and coconut flakes. Fruit intake = .3 cup (from the raisins).

Dinner: So I was a bit derailed from work today, which resulted in two snacks (if you could call orange juice a snack? Perhaps "hydration" is better?) instead of lunch. So all my veggie intake had to take place during dinner. I put together a "salad" of garbanzo beans, green beans, and artichoke hearts seasoned with salt, pepper, a bit of tabasco, and a few other spices. It turned out delicious! I put a bit of that on a sandwich along with tuna (with some celery) and some of the salad on the side. Measured it out so that it came out to 2.5 cups. Veggie intake = 2.5 cups.


Fruit Intake = 1.99 cups

Veggie Intake = 2.5 cups

Wednesday = Success! I was concerned by my lack of vegetable intake all day, because I wasn't sure how I was going to get in all my vegetables during dinner. But I was actually surprisingly happy with my vegetable servings. The ingredients came together really well and the spices and hot sauce added the kick of flavor I needed. I think the key for me is to mix and match vegetables instead of trying to meet my vegetable daily servings with just one type of vegetable (i.e. Tuesday's broccoli feast). I'm going to implement this same idea on Thursday for lunch (if the weather holds out that is, otherwise I may not wander too far from my office building!).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"5 a day" Day 2: 100% Fruit Juice Makes Fruit Intake MUCH Easier!


Breakfast- Came prepared with my banana again today! AND I realized that 100% fruit juice counts so this led to: 100% orange juice (11.5 fl oz) + 1 medium banana + "strawberry" oatmeal (not a fruit) + skim milk. Fruit intake = 1.475 cups (OJ) + .5 cups (again, rounding down for the medium banana) = 1.975 cups.

Snack - This weekend, I threw together a makeshift snack of raisins, almonds, and shredded coconut (the coconut was an ingredient for my Tyler Florence coconut bread for "Tyler Florence Fridays"). So had a bit of this snack. Fruit intake = .5 cup (1/4 cup of raisins = 1/2 cup)

Lunch - Broke down and went to get soup... 12 oz tomato soup with bagel. Veggie intake = 1.25 cups (I'm assuming that all 12 oz of tomato soup aren't tomatoes, so estimating a little bit less than 1.5 cups of tomatoes). Looks like I'll need to be eating a ton of veggies for dinner...

Dinner - Fettuccine pasta from last night -- shrimp, zucchini, shallots, with added 1.5 cups of broccoli. At least I like broccoli. Veggie intake = approx 1.6 cups. (I ate the majority of the baby zucchini the night before)... and a glass of red wine. Oh wait, that doesn't count as fruit.

Total Intake:
Fruit: 2.475 cups
Vegetables: 2.85 cups

Tuesday = Success! I think I'm beginning to realize though that I need to start cutting back on the portions of my non fruits and vegetables in my meals, so that I'm not just simply eating MORE and instead eating a better balanced meal.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Zaytinya RW - a little something for everyone

Zaytinya, for me, is always an ideal go to choice for when friends or family are visiting from out of town. There is a little something for everybody and it has a great atmosphere.

I recently revisited Zaytinya for a birthday Restaurant Week lunch with four work friends. My one friend and I were so excited to revisit Zaytinya during Restaurant Week because of the GREEK CHERRIES AND YOGURT DESSERT ( !! ) that they serve ONLY during RW (they usually serve up a peach version, which is delish, but the cherry is to die for).

For $20.09, we ate like kings and queens. Four courses of mezze -- Zaytinya offered several choices for each course and we mixed it up a bit, so we could share. My favorites were:

*the hummus
*the baba ghannouge (both the hummus and baba were perfect with their oven-fresh, pippin hot bread... how I love their puffed up ellipses of bread)
*garides me anitho (sauteed shrimp)
*shish taouk (grilled chicken, sumac onions, grilled tomatoes, garlic tuom ... one of my faves every time I go there)
and of course, the greek cherries and yogurt (marinated cherries, vanilla yogurt cream, apricot espuma, pistachio powder).

Always a crowd pleaser, for any meal (including brunch which I tried last summer and loved!).

"5 a day" Day One: Veggies Easier than Fruits?

So, as I've been reading all of my friends' food diaries, I've realized that my eating habits, although very delicious, have not included a ton of nutrients. I mean, I can only rationalize so much cheese, chocolate, wine, and sushi! As a result, I've decided to attempt "5 a day" fruits and veggies this week to kick start some better eating habits.

I decided to google "5 a day" to figure out exactly what counts as a serving of fruits or veggies and ta da, I came across the CDC's "Fruit and Veggies Matter" website. The CDC has replaced the "5 a day" program with the "Fruit & Veggies -More Matters" campaign, to emphasize on eating a variety of fruits and veggies instead of simply "5 a day." They also have a handy calculator on their website that told me I should eat about 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables every day.

Now to see what exactly counts as 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of veggies, the website offered a few general tips. 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables, 1 cup of 100% vegetable juice, OR 2 cups of raw leafy greens equals 1 cup from the vegetable group. 1 cup of fruit, 1 cup of 100% fruit juice or 1/2 cup of dried fruit is considered 1 cup for the fruit group.

With these guidelines in mind, I'm kicking off my week of more fruits and veggies! Below I'm keeping track of this week's food intake... so kind of my "A Week in the Food Diary of... Attempts at 5 a day." I think that I'm going to post every day to keep myself accountable (because who knows when I would derail!). Maybe I'll eventually consolidate the entries...


Breakfast - I'm trying to pick up on eating oatmeal again in the morning. Luckily, I have my good friend/coworker J to keep me accountable for this... "peach" oatmeal + one banana + skim milk. Fruit intake = .5 cup (a small banana = .5 cup, a large banana = 1 cup... I would call my banana medium, so erring on the side of smaller...)

Lunch - homemade veggie and turkey chili. This weekend we cooked up some of my favorite chili -- tomatoes, ground turkey, kidney beans, red peppers, green peppers, onions, and loads of spices. I estimate that this included: 1/6 red pepper (~1/6 cup) + 1 cup of kidney beans (~ 1 cup) + 1/6 green pepper (~1/6 cup) + 1/6 onion (2 slices = 1/4 cup) + 3/4 cup of tomatoes (~ .75 cup). Veggie intake = 2.33 cups (The CDC considers a tomato a vegetable...).

Snack - Pineapple cup. Fruit intake = .5 cup.

Dinner - Cooked up some fettuccine with marinara sauce + baby zucchinis + shallots + shrimp. I would estimate that my portion of pasta had .25 cup of tomatoes + 3 baby zucchini (~ .5 cup) + .25 shallot. Veggie intake = 1 cup.

Snack - Frozen green grapes. SIXTEEN GRAPES. Who knew that it would take SIXTEEN GRAPES to constitute half a cup? Well there you have it. Fruit intake = .5 cup.


Veggie intake = 3.33 cups
Fruit intake = 1.5 cups

Monday = success! When looking into my fridge this morning though, I'm starting to think that I might have to go and purchase more fruit this week. The fruit supply is already starting to dwindle...although the veggie supply continues in full force (we have loads of frozen and canned veggies for after the fresh produce runs out).

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Meli Patisserie & Bistro - desserts as delicious as honey...

It have been nearly five years now since I've lived in Baltimore (how time has flown...) and the food landscape there has changed considerably. Oh, I had my favorite places that I frequented and Baltimore definitely had its food highlights. But the options are more plentiful now, or at least that's what it seems like. Luckily, now that one of my best friends has moved back to Baltimore, I've been picking up some new favorite haunts.

Our friend M was visiting us during one of our cold spells (somehow, she always seems to come up when it is especially cold! I'm convinced it is because she wants an excuse to wear her boots and sweaters since she has no use for them while she lives in Florida). We decided to meet up with M's friend B for dinner ... and happily, it turned out to be Restaurant Week in Baltimore. B picked out our dining spot: MELI. And what a good choice it turned out to be for our one night there.

I've been to Meli's sister restaurant, Kali's Court, but Meli was new to me. Located in the heart of Fells Point, attached to the Admiral Fells Inn, and nearly across the street from the Natty Boh shop (which reminds me I still want to get that Natty Boh shirt, but I digress...), Meli was a perfect escape from the cold. We were tucked into our own alcove, surrounded by curtains, almost our own little dining room. I loved the "honeycomb" theme throughout the restaurant ("meli" being Greek for "honey" after all!).

Our waiter was cheerful, attentive, and unpretentious. He rattled off the specials and was quick to point out that all the items on the menu were fair game for restaurant week (how happy were we to hear that?). The options all sounded equally tantalizing, so we decided to get a variety of dishes to taste test each other's meals.

Some of our selections:
  • Grilled tomato salad with mache, fleur de sel, balsamic honey, halloumi cheese (fresh tomatoes, even sweeter after being grilled, and massive portions)
  • Lobster macaroni and cheese (how could one resist?)
  • Duck confit
  • Amaretto cheesecake with berry coulis, fresh berries, and homemade whipped cream (our absolute favorite of the desserts! Simply creamy and indulgent.)

  • Chocolate Framboise: layers of chocolate mousse, raspberry puree, and chocolate case encased in ganache

  • Chocolate almond tart: chocolate almond mousse inside a tart shell covered in dark chocolate
On a sidenote, I just noticed that Meli offers mimolette as one of their cheeses in the "cheese tasting." I LOVE mimolette and have rarely found it at restaurants in the area.

I enjoyed my night at Meli -- I don't think that I would really need three courses all to myself next time (quite impressed by the sizeable portions!), but was happy to have sampled such a wide variety of their menu. Although, I must say, looking back, I couldn't recall what any of us had for our entrees. I must have had a food blackout at that point and had to have my memory jogged by M. Appetizers were much clearer in my head...desserts were VERY clear. Indicative of what parts of the meal I enjoyed the most?

Meli Patisserie & Bistro
1636 Thames Street
Baltimore, MD 21231
(410) 534-MELI

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Week in the Food Diary of... a Government Attorney/Triathlon Trainee

Week 4: A Week in the Food Diary of... a Government Attorney/Triathlon Trainee

My friend, the government attorney and triathlon trainee, offered to be featured this week! Here is a short bio from her: I'm a government attorney and I generally bring breakfast and lunch to the office with me, and cook dinner at home. I'm also training for a couple of different races this year (half-marathon in May, sprint triathlon in August, Olympic triathlon in September, marathon in January 2010) and often my training dictates what and when I eat, because it can seriously impact how I feel during a workout. My partner is gluten and lactose intolerant, so you'll see that most of my evening meals don't include any wheat or dairy. Besides lots of skim milk and small amounts of cheese, that has spilled over into most of my meals, even the ones I eat alone. One last consideration: I gave up sugar (except for natural fruit sugars) this year between Valentine's and Easter as a personal challenge.


7-8 raw almonds (8:45a) - I love raw nuts. I got into eating them when I did a 100% raw/vegan diet last August. Just a few fills you up - perfect snack.

Triscuits and hummus and green and white tea (Stash) (9:40a) - I love tea, and drink tons of it.

Green and white tea (Zen, by Tazo) (11:40a)

Vegetable soup (12:45p)

Banana (2:30p)

Natural strawberry apple sauce (5:30p, pre-biking) - Being hungry during a workout makes me want to quit early, so I try to eat just enough to stave off dinner pangs - usually fruit.

Couple almonds (7:30p) - while making dinner

Polenta with lean ground turkey meat sauce and 2% cheddar (8:00p)

Tasting/seasoning bites of ragtag salad (9:30p) - I often prepare the next day's lunch the night before.


Bowl of shredded wheat'n'bran w/ skim milk (8:45a)

Large iced coffee w/ skim (9:45a)

Ragtag salad (wheat berries, lentils, carrots, parsley, red onion, green pepper, balsamic, olive oil, chopped hardboiled eggs); homemade applesauce (apples, vanilla, spices) (12:30p) - This was the first time I've ever made homemade applesauce, and it's SO easy! Just peel, slice, add spices, and cook down with about 1" of water for 30 minutes. Then mush if you want it chunky, or puree if you want it smooth. No sugar needed.

6-8 Triscuits (3:45p)

Brown rice sushi, pineapple (7:15p) - My absolute favorite dinner!

Bowl of corn flakes w/ soy milk (9:45p)


Coffee w/ skim milk, pineapple (7:45a)

Small handful of raw almonds (9:15a)

Ragtag salad w/ hardboiled eggs (11:15a)

Tazo Awake tea (1:10p)

Split pea soup from ABP (4:00p) - Wednesdays are strange, because I have a swimming class at 8:00pm. I can't eat a full meal before swimming, but then I'm so hungry by the time I've worked late, swam laps for an hour and then spent an hour on the train getting home. I try to eat something in the late afternoon that (1) gives me energy for the swim, (2) doesn't make me feel bogged down, and (3) leaves enough room for a satisfying small meal when I get home.

Apple on walk back to train after swimming (9:30p)

Tuna, scallions, garlic, cheese on small corn tortilla (10:30p)


2 hardboiled eggs (1 yolk, 2 whites), Granny Smith apple (9:00a)

Green and white tea (Stash) (9:40a)

Salad: Lettuce, grape tomatoes, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, chickpeas, Swiss cheese, croutons, non-fat vinaigrette; 1 cup of apple juice; 1 large dill pickle (12:15p)

Banana, small iced coffee w/ skim (4:45p, pre-running)

Shredded potato w/ 2% cheddar and bacon; handful of cornflakes (7:45p)

Jasmine tea (8:45p)


Small handful of raw almonds; cherry/peach/strawberry/skim milk smoothie (8:45a)

BBQ pulled pork sandwich; natural pomegranate soda (1:15p)

Iced coffee w/ skim milk (3:00p)

Pad thai (7:30p)

Jasmine tea (9:30p)


Egg McMuffin (9:00a)

Two cocktail-size ham sandwiches (12:30p)

Cinnamon raisin English muffin, cara cara orange, handful of raw pistachios, dried figs (2:30p) (about 90 minutes pre-running)

2 slices thin crust pizza: tomatoes, kale, scallions, chicken and apple sausage (8:15p)

Also, don't remember when, but had some Sweet Lime Turtles (all-natural fruit juice candy from Germany) at some point during the day. (Locally, these can be purchased at Glut, the food co-op in Mt. Rainier, Maryland).


Coffee w/ skim milk (9:30a)

Leftover kale pizza (10:15a) - I ate this in anticipation of going to spinning class a couple of hours later, but instead I ended up having lunch and walking all over the Mall when I found out at the last minute that a friend was in town for a convention. One of the joys/dangers of living in Washington DC!

Pita w/ hummus and veggies; slice of bacon off of friend's plate (1:30p)

Kale and white bean soup; figs and more fruit juice candy for dessert (7:30p)

Hazelnut vanilla tea (8:30p)

Please feed my love for cookbooks!

I have quite an obsession with cookbooks. Among other things, a love for cookbooks is one of the things that I definitely inherited from my mom -- I love not only to be inspired by and cook from cookbooks, but also to just read them. For that reason, I love Nigella Lawson's and the Barefoot Contessa's cookbooks that always offer a little bit of a story to go with each recipe.

In any case, although I probably don't NEED any new cookbooks, I am in search of cookbooks that are well-loved by you. On a sidenote, I'm also looking for cookbook ideas to find a cookbook that I can work through almost every recipe, to continue expanding my cooking and baking repetoire.

So, I throw out this request to you -- what are your favorite cookbooks? What is a cookbook that you reach for time and time again for new ideas, delicious recipes, or just to read? Feel free to post a comment here directly about your cookbook, or if you blog about it, post the link to your blog as a comment! At the end of next week, I'll post a round up of favorite cookbooks.

Thanks to you ahead of time!!


Monday, March 2, 2009


I was excited to hear from my friend DT that WAGAMAMA is coming to DC! I have fond memories of Wagamama, sitting at the long tables, slurping up piping hot bowls of noodles. Yum. My memories come from my first visit to Wagamama many years ago in London and then most recently, in Sydney (ironically, D and I figured out that the last time we were separately at Wagamama, we were both at the same location in Sydney at the Galleries Victoria (CBD)).

If you haven't been to Wagamama, then you're in for a happy treat ... Just think of it as good food for the soul. It is still a ways away... opening in May 2010!