Oven-Roasted Brussel Sprouts

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The countdown to Thanksgiving is upon us. Now is the time to start thinking about he delicious foods to that you may eat (and cook!) for any holiday parties you have planned. And I am about to share with you to a healthy and fantastic tasting vegetable that is easy to cook and makes a show-stopping side dish: brussel sprouts.

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Now, if ever there was an easy dish to cook it’s this one. Seriously simple, seriously delicious. Oh and brussel sprouts are a great source of nutrients!

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Drizzle some balsamic vinegar glaze on top, and you have yourself the perfect side dish for tonight’s dinner, Thanksgiving, and beyond!

Over Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Ingredients:

  • Brussel sprouts
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Balsamic vinegar glaze, optional

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Remove yellowing outer leaves from sprouts, if necessary. Rinse sprouts and pat them dry. Slice each sprout in half.
  3. In a bowl, mix together halved sprouts, a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pour sprouts onto a pan that has been lined with aluminum foil.
  4. Roast sprouts in the oven for 20-25 minutes, tossing the sprouts once or twice while they are baking. The outer leaves will be golden brown and crispy.
  5. Drizzle balsamic vinegar glaze over brussel sprouts, if desired.

Damper-A Delicious Australian Creation

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When I was introduced to the damper recipe I was instantly intrigued:

  • Me: The ingredients make it seem like a biscuit or a scone
  • Recipe Sharer: Yeah it essentially is. And it goes with everything. I’ll send you the recipe directions.
  • Me: Does a mental fist pump. Thank you, that would be great!

According to Wikipedia,  Damper is actually an Australian soda bread and an iconic Australian dish. But to me the recipe sounded like a plain scone. And the truth of the matter is that scones are delectable. And Australia is a wonderful place. So I could only assume that this recipe was going to be wonderfully delectable. I immediately shared the recipe with my friend Shannon and we committed to making damper the next day. We have already made it twice in the last 5 days.

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The great thing about a knockout biscuit/scone recipe is that they are a very versatile pastry item. We kept ours original and simply slathered butter and jam onto them. But I can already imagine the possibilities: mixing fruit/chocolate/nuts into the dough, making bomb breakfast sandwiches using damper as the bread, serving them alongside dinner…believe me I could go on.

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Another plus about making damper as opposed to other scone or biscuit recipes it that it is relatively low in butter and sugar. It’s not completely exempt of those two items, but we have to take our victories, however small they may be. So without further ado, I give you Damper-the best biscuits with the weirdest name.

Australian Damper (Makes 1 large loaf, or 6 large biscuits)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1-1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons chilled butter
  • 1 cup milk or half and half

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl add flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Blend dry ingredients together with a fork.
  3. Slice chilled butter and add to the dry ingredients, blending butter in until the mix resembles coarse crumbs. (I used my hands for this part and “massaged” the butter in)
  4. Pour measured milk or half and half into the bowl and mix together until dough just comes together.
  5. To place damper on a baking sheet: (1) Form 1 large loaf with the dough or (2) Use a spoon to “drop” dough onto the baking pan. Do not flatten the dough.
  6. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
  7. Serve with butter, jam, honey, etc. The possibilities are endless!

Enjoy!

My “New York Style” Salad

Oh my. I am becoming a New Yorker.

So picture this: my fridge is essentially empty.

Empty, you say? Like, missing real, fresh food? Sadly, yes.

This predicament is both amusing and saddening. Amusing in that I still cannot believe I find myself taking up behaviors I used to think as exclusively for the native “New Yorker” (I could have never guessed a suburbia-raised girl like me could become a successful city dweller). Despite my new-found urban identity, I am bummed by my fridge because I like to believe that I always prepare and eat home-cooked meals using fresh ingredients. After all, that is how it started when I first came to New York City. Then, slowly I might add, I started buying more “snack-like” foods. Apples and peanut butter, mixed nuts, cans of beans, hummus…you get the idea. Next, I started eating out or traveling every single weekend. Couple that with the night a week I might eat out and suddenly buying a ton of produce and racing to eat it before it went bad became too much. Living alone is stressful on your diet, people!

Anyways, my meals have depended on gauging that “just right” amount of fresh food to buy every week. A couple of apples here, some spinach and baby carrots there…just enough to get me through 4.5 days of meals. And lately most of my protein has come from non-meat sources during the week. Thank goodness I have eggs, beans, and peanut butter (but not together because that would be gross). My love for these items–and their long shelf life–help me from avoiding a nutrient deficiency and keep my energy up.

Another dependable protein item: sliced lunch meat. Although it isn’t as wholesome as cooking chicken in the oven or broiling a steak, for someone with only a couple of meals to prep at home, it’s a great go-to for something filling. Slicing lunch meat further (a.k.a. chopping the lunch meat into coarse pieces) allows it to be tossed into an omelet, thrown into soup, or-as in this instance-sprinkled on salad.

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This recipe was all too simple and the ingredients are solid, nutritional standbys. I buy the ingredients for this salad on a Monday and it will get me through exactly four days worth of lunches. Is it all I have for lunch? No. Is it a better option for lunch that ordering Chinese takeout? Yes. Just pack this salad along with some snackie-snacks (yes I got all cute and called them snackie-snacks). Suddenly, weekday eating for the single-living city-dweller became easy, delicious, and healthy. And now I am craving a bagel…oh, New York.

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Salami & Spinach Salad (makes 4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups spinach (1 bag)
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 package salami
  • Olive oil and Vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

Rinse spinach and remove stems. Chop tomato, salami, and avocado. Toss together with 1 tablespoon each olive oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste.

I am officially a “Party-Dip Person”

Well, I went to my boyfriend’s house and this happened:

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I love a good social gathering. Call it my love for entertaining, or maybe my love for conversation, but either way I really like it when my friends and family come together. And when one of these social gatherings occur you can bet your Crockpot that there will be a party dip there (See: Smokey Avocado Dip and Baked Brie Appetizer)

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Last weekend I spent the time with Nick (the man I also refer to as “the boyfriend”) and his family at their beach house. You could say I was a happy camper with unlimited sunshine and a couple of days of free time. When Nick and I spend time together we always make sure to eat some great food. When I decided I wanted to make us something Nick gave me this look that said “Please make a batch of Buffalo Chicken Dip”.

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If you have ever considered yourself a fan of buffalo chicken, then this party dip recipe is for you. If you have never tried buffalo chicken, you need to make this dip because clearly you have not tasted the most amazing flavor combination bar food has ever seen,

Buffalo chicken contains the perfect amount of spice to wake up your taste buds. It also makes a wonderful accompaniment to a cold beer.  Make the dish into a cheesy dip and you hit “addicting party food” territory. You will want to make this recipe for a crowd. One, because if you eat the whole thing yourself you’ll surely feel ill. And two, your popularity will skyrocket right before your eyes (and happy, buffalo-chicken-filled tummy).

Now for the nutrition-conscious (which is something we all aim to be and if you’re not interested I recommend skipping the next couple paragraphs): this dip is by no means healthy. It contains a lot of cheese, and with cheese comes saturated fat. In small quantities cheese is actually quick good for you: think calcium, protein, and blood-sugar balance. And it tastes fabulous. But this dish is cheese-laden, a “cheese-on-cheese” sort of delicious. So eat with caution: no one wants to eat a cup of cream cheese with a spoon but if you aren’t a conscious eater that is exactly what you’ll do with this dip. And let’s not forget that Ranch Dressing (or Blue Cheese Dressing if you prefer) is high in fat, calories, and sodium especially when bought at the supermarket. So enjoy yourself, but go easy.

So now that I have addressed the cheese, it’s time to address get on to the great part about this dish: the chicken! In this carb-laden world  I know more people who would eat a bagel instead of an omelet, or mac and cheese instead of a turkey sandwich. You need your protein, people! The human body needs protein to function well, especially during bodily growth and development. This party dip is one that definitely gives you some lean protein (chicken) to help your bod run in tip-top shape. So despite the fact this dish is high in fat, pat yourself on the back for the contribution of protein that you’ll make to your system.

Okay, done with the health tirade. Sorry if your eyes glazed over. They won’t anymore after you try this recipe. Enjoy!

Buffalo Chicken Dip (serves 12 at a normal party, 6 if you’re all buffalo chicken fanatics)IMG_3414

Ingredients

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, meat pulled from bone and shredded (or 3 cups cooked chicken breast, shredded)
  • 1/3 cup Frank’s hot sauce (it’s a buffalo-flavored sauce that every kitchen should have in stock)
  • ¼ cup Ranch dressing (or blue cheese dressing, if preferred)
  • 1 package shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 oz. cream cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. First, shred your cooked chicken to pieces. This step is messy and really, very fun. Tip: make sure the pieces are small enough that they won’t break your tortilla chips. No one wants to lose their chip in the party dip.
  3. Next, pour your buffalo sauce over the chicken and mix together in a large bowl. Let the sauce marinate with the chicken for a few minutes.
  4. Mix softened cream cheese and dressing into the chicken-buffalo bowl. Taste test and add more buffalo chicken sauce, if desired.
  5. Transfer your party dip to a casserole dish (I used an 8×8) and sprinkle cheddar cheese over the top. Warm dish in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips, baguette, crackers, or celery and carrots.

Cinco de Mayo Salsa

Cinco de Mayo got me in a salsa kind of mood.

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There is something so incredibly delicious about homemade salsa. The freshness of the ingredients cannot be beat, and the way the flavors meld together is absolutely delectable.

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I am such a sucker for vibrant colors. Looks good and tastes even better!

Typical fresh salsa (what most people think of as call pico de gallo) includes tomatoes (great source of lycopene for antioxidants), onions (full of nutrients for heart health and insulin resistance), and jalapeños (its spice factor, capsaicin, is currently being studied for its effect on decreasing inflammation and contributing to weight loss). Homemade salsa with this list of nutritional ingredients is pretty darn good for you!

Now, do what I have done and add mango and avocado.

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I just took salsa to a whole new level.

The combination of spicy jalapeño and sweet mango is addicting, and the avocado just brings it all together. I have eaten this salsa with chips, on top of salads, and by the spoonful. It would also be incredibly tasty atop a filet of fish. Who knew salsa could be so versatile!

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Today, my salsa went perfectly atop some mixed greens, making the perfect side dish to my New York Strip steak!

Mango & Avocado Salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 medium mango, chopped
  • 1 ripe avocado, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 large jalapeño, diced
  • 2 fresh limes
  • Cilantro, to taste
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • Garlic clove, crushed (optional)

Directions:

If you pre-chop all the ingredients the recipe comes together super fast. Place all the ingredients into a bowl, squeeze the juice of two limes on top. Sprinkle some salt and pepper and fold the ingredients together. Easy as that!

Kale, Cabbage, and Raisin Spring Salad

Well hello Spring! photo (28) It is SO nice to finally feel the sun’s warmth, see flowers blooming, and yes, it even feels good to start taking allergy medicine again (if it’s the price of admission for warm weather I will happily pay). I know what you’re thinking. IMG_3115 Raisins and kale: not an intuitive pairing. IMG_3116Well then let me be the first to tell you that the flavors and textures are marvelous together. The sweet, chewy raisins and the bitter, crunchy kale….mmmmmmm I could eat salad forever when it’s this exciting!

Kale, Cabbage, and Raisin Salad (makes 1 serving)

Ingredients:

  •  1 cup kale, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup red cabbage, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup broccoli, rinsed and sliced
  • 1/4 cup carrots, shredded
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 3 Tbsp scallions, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar (I used 1 Tbsp balsamic, 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Mix oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, set aside.
  2. Place the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl, toss with the dressing, and enjoy!

Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi

I have to say I feel quite accomplished for this one.

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So, I spent this whole weekend doing last-minute studying for the GRE (it is tomorrow, after all). And when I say I studied this whole weekend, I mean I looked at the books between cleaning my apartment, enjoying the beautiful weather, and making pasta from scratch.

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That’s right. Pasta. From scratch.

These ricotta gnocchi are bites of goodness. Dense and delicious, perfect for some pesto sauce. They were so good that I literally just ate this dish an hour ago and knew I had to give you all this recipe.

Ricotta Gnocchi (as seen on Hip Foodie Mom)
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • about 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix well using a rubber spatula or your hands. Knead/mix the dough for about 2-3 minutes. Expect the dough to be somewhat sticky. The dough should come together after a few minutes.
  2. Transfer the dough onto a well-floured work surface then using your hands, bring it together and shape into a mound. Wrap your dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour.
  3. After the dough has chilled, unwrap (sprinkle on a little flour to help you work with the dough if needed) and cut the dough into 3-4 pieces and then roll each piece into 12-inch long ropes or as long as you can get it (about ¾-inch thick). While rolling, if needed, add a little extra flour to your hands or the work surface (My dough was pretty sticky so it took a lot of extra flour).
  4. Using a knife, cut the ropes into little squares (about 1 inch wide).
  5. When finished, lightly coat each little morsel of gnocchi with a dusting of flour. At this point, you can either cook the gnocchi or freeze it. If freezing, place the baking sheet with gnocchi into freezer and freeze for about 2 hours until the gnocchi are hardened. (If your freezer is tiny like mine is, use a plate or smaller flat surface to balance the gnocchi on). After 2 hours, transfer the frozen gnocchi to a plastic container or resealable bag. When you are ready to cook the gnocchi, simply remove from the freezer and follow step 6.
  6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ricotta gnocchi and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes or until the gnocchi begin to float. Using a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi and set aside.