Thursday, March 31, 2011

Modifications Are In Order

White bean chili is something I never really tried until Weston and I made some this January. I liked the recipe a LOT but now that I look back on it, the chili might have been a little on the runny side (Weston, I don't want to hear it...)

I used the same base recipe as before but made a few modifications:

1, 48 oz can Great Northern Beans
1, 15 oz can Kidney Beans
1 orange bell pepper chopped small
2 onions, and 3 cloves garlic chopped
1 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
salt, pepper, garlic powder
36 oz chicken stock
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes or leftover spaghetti sauce

Saute the onion, potato, pepper, and garlic until cooked through, then add the rest of the ingredients.

Cook over medium heat for about 1 hour until it reduces by about an inch when you look at the side of the pot. Spritz with lemon before serving, if you wish.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Searching for the Best Indian Food In Richmond

Anokha in Short Pump is one of my friend's favorite restaurants. And since I'd been craving Indian for the past, oh, 3 months or so, she planned a little outing to Short Pump. It happened to be on the rainiest day I've ever experienced in Richmond, but that didn't stop us. A packed restaurant full of kids and family gatherings? Didn't stop us either. So the four of us arrived hungry and from my end, excited to find an Indian place in Richmond which matches the caliber of Shalimar in Ann Arbor.

For $9 (the lunch special) we got a starter of soup or salad, an entree, and a dessert. I chose the daal which I highly enjoyed. The flavor was great and the lentils weren't chunky, but nice and smooth.

I ordered the Chicken Tikka Masala, apparently their most popular dish. It was very tasty - the sauce was great and perfect for dipping naan into - which, but the way, they also add at no extra cost. I had heard the heat scale was a little high, so I ordered mild - next time I'll go for medium. Apparently I can handle my heat better than I thought :) The chicken was tender, too, and the flavor had gotten into the meat. It was sooo good - I could go for a few extra pieces, in fact. I bet the dinner portions are larger. One of the nice things about Anokha is that they'll refill your rice, too - which was really great since I like a high rice-to-sauce ratio. Oh! and the $9 includes a side dish Chef's special - our day was okra and sauteed onions. It was amazing and probably my favorite thing of the meal. Nice and spicy - I snagged Emilija's since she wasn't planning on taking it home and I knew a good place for tummy.

For dessert we had a mango pudding which I didn't like very much - I am not a pudding person in general. But one of the girls who came is in LOVE with it, so it didn't go to waste!

If you have a Richmond Indian favorite, pass it along because I'd love to taste around!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cowgirl Cookies for Breast Cancer

When I was home for Spring Break my sister pulled out a jar of cookie mix that my mom had bought for a fundraiser for Breast Cancer Awareness. They were absolutely wonderful - full of mixins and they baked up gooey in the center and crunchy on the outside. I mean, just looking at that picture makes me want to whip up another batch.

The ingredients were listed, but the amounts weren't so I had to guess at those. Here's an idea of what was inside so maybe you can play around with the recipe. I modified it to include what we found in our own jar.

Cowgirl Cookies:

1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cooking oats
3/4 cup butterscotch chips
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips - I also added about 1/2 cup of milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 – 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Mix in 1/2 cup melted butter, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1 egg

Give a good stir and roll into walnut-sized balls. Place on a cookies sheet about 2 inches apart (make a tester tray to see how much they really spread) and bake for 11-13 minutes at 350 degrees.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fiesta Time! (this isn't what you think it is)

Some of the best things I have ever eaten I never would have known about had it not been for word-of-mouth. Kuba Kuba, Tastebuds, and Bev's come to mind. Chicken Fiesta, on Broad Street, is my latest addition to the list.

I don't exactly know where to begin - let's start with a little back story. I heard about Chicken Fiesta from a friend in my program and so we, along with another food-loving friend, decided to plan a trip over after class one day. I owe my friends a lot, since I'd have no means of getting to these places without their offers of transportation.

Chicken Fiesta is in a little strip mall and a bit unassuming. To be completely honest, I would never have gone in had I not heard such good things; the chicken on the front looks a little, um, chain-store-esque... The place is super chill - wooden tables and benches and a food counter to order. When you walk in, there is a rotisserie chicken fire pit and this, my dears, is why Chicken Fiesta has such a great reputation.

I don't know what the spice rub is, but their chicken is sinful. The skin is crisp and flavorful and so is the chicken meat itself. It's not low-cal for sure, and your fingers turn shiny moments after you pick it up, but we all deserve a treat once in a while. I ordered a half chicken which came with 2 sides and it cost a little over $8. The sandwiches are about the same price and quite tasty - my friend let me try some of hers. Side note: Emilija, thank you so much for always letting me sample for blogging purposes.

So, as far as sides go, I got the pinto beans and yucca fries, which the reviews were raving about. They did not lie - I am hooked on yucca fries. So crispy on the outside, a nice soft interior, and more filling than you'd think. The beans had huge chunks of slow-roasted pork and were super flavorful. Chicken Fiesta is also known for a famous yellow sauce which comes in a tiny dipper container. It was really yummy, but I think it might have been mayo and Dijon - with a little citrus, maybe lemon. But who knows, it was delish. And they also gave a little green chili sauce which I was a HUGE fan of. We also got a side of plantains which were sweet and had a little crust, just the way I like them! I could have eaten a whole plate of them, but I contained myself.

So, I realized I basically just broke down a really, really good "fast food" restaurant, but hopefully I convinced you to try it for yourself - and feel free to take me with you ;)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Liquid Energy for the BusyBody

Looking for a way to squeeze a few more servings of fruits and veggies into your diet? Whip up a smoothie! And I don't want to hear any excuses about how you don't do this because you don't like cleaning the blender. That's just sad, y'all...

To become the king or queen of healthy smoothies, here are a few tricks:

  1. Stock up on frozen fruits. Mango, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, peaches. Those are in my freezer right now. I like having them frozen because they make the smoothie cold and frothy. Berries have great nutrients in them, so get an extra bag of those. And feel free to throw these into oatmeal in the morning - they are perfectly wonderful!

2) Fresh bananas. I like to add about 1/3 to a 1/2 of a banana in my smoothies. It's a great emulsifier and adds potassium and sweetness. Use a little over-ripened banana so you get full flavor without that, you know, brown taste. My secret trick here, since bananas all turn ripe at the same time, is to wait until they are perfect and cut them into the size I'd normally put in a smoothie. Then freeze them. 20 seconds in the microwave allows me to buy bananas in bulk and use them whenever I need them. And since they're already cut, I don't have to wrestle with a frozen 'nana.

3) Okay, do NOT be scared of the following picture. It was delicious! The green comes from spinach and here's probably one of the best pieces on news I have for you: you can add a cup of spinach to every smoothie and never taste it - considering you pair it with fruits. Kale or other dark leafy green works, too. But try this, for real, it's an excellent way to get more vitamins into your diet and a heck of a lot easier to sit by the computer with a smoothie than a sloppy salad you've drenched with dressing.

4) Add nut butters or nuts or wheat germ or flax seed. Again, these add more nutrients. And if you have a Vitamix (I do not, but I've used my Aunt's), you have no excuse not too because that thing pulverizes anything!

5) My final tip for you is to use almond milk. Vanilla is my favorite. It adds a bit more sweetness, because if you've noticed, I don't list sugar as an ingredient. Plus, almond milk doesn't go bad so you can stockpile if it's on sale. Experiment with brands you like - I am a fan of Silk Almond Milk myself.

Here's what I typically put in my smoothies. I try and drink one a day: as a breakfast boost, an afternoon revitalizer, or at night for dessert. Something good about drinking it at night is that I've done all my eating by then and I have an idea of what I missed. If I feel I didn't get enough antioxidants, then I make a berry smoothie.

1/2 cup - 1 cup spinach leaves
4 strawberries
3 slices peaches
1/3 large banana
1/2 cup almond milk
(you can even add a few tablespoons of Chobani flavored yogurt in here)

Pulverize and feel good that you're doing something for all your little cells :)

After I'm sure the smoothie is smooth, I use the froth setting to aerate it a bit - you get into a groove after a while and kind of know the consistency you like best.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Saucy with a Kick

Barilla Spicy Marina is my new favorite sauce base. Sometimes you - gasp! - don't have to make your own pasta sauce in order to have a wonderful accompaniment to pasta. Here's my super simple cheat, which I don't really consider a cheat, because I've had homemade sauce and this recipe blew it out of the water.

Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil and add one minced onion. It doesn't HAVE to be minced, just finely chopped. Let brown and then add the pasta sauce. Season with pepper and oregano (if you'd like, I usually don't because I think it overpowers). Dilute the sauce by rinsing out the jar with water (about a half cup) and then adding that to the pot. Waste not, want not. Add a few tablespoons chopped parsley, but reserve some to sprinkle over the final product. It doesn't just add color, it also adds flavor in two dimensions. Cooked parsley has a different taste than fresh.

Cook down for about 10-15 minutes and you're good to go. You can dilute it more and keep cooking it down if you want, too.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Snack Time!!! Garlic Feta Spread

This was lunch today - YUMMY!!!

All I did was crumble some feta, add a minced clove of garlic, pepper, and some parsley.

Pair with pretzels for the most amazing snack combo.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mango Lassi - for Vi :)

Okay, Vi, assuming you're reading this, here is a super fast way to use the mango puree I was telling you about. I don't have any on hand right now, so sorry for the lack of my own pretty pictures.

Mango lassi is an Indian yogurt smoothie, basically, and my version has a little Persian flair because I add the rose water. Use this ingredient sparingly, because it can overpower.

Mango Lassi:

1 can (15 oz) mango puree
2-3 cups plain yogurt, stirred so there are no lumps
5-6 Tbs sugar (use as needed)
1-2 Tbs rosewater (start with one and work your way up as needed)

Mix in a blender until frothy and well-combined. If it is too thick add a bit of milk to loosen it up - if it's too loose, add more yogurt.

Stick in a festive straw and enjoy!!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Urban Farmhouse - Local RVA Goodies

This past week I had the chance to see what all the talk is surrounding Urban Farmhouse. This restaurant/coffee spot proudly serves local, fresh ingredients. I and two friends from the program headed over for lunch to see a friend who was coming in from Norfolk with her husband (we miss you, Christina!).

Urban Farmhouse is a very relaxing place although it gets quite hot around lunchtime with all the griddles running full-steam. I ordered the Farmer's Grilled Cheese: Gruyere with Truffle oil and found there to be a lot of cheese, which I very much enjoyed. But for $8 it was on the expensive side. I am all about buying local, so maybe I'll check out one of the many RVA Farmer's Markets and pick up some fresh cheese myself and experiment a little. I mean, a little arugula salad dressed with lemon would have elevated the flavor profile nicely - and cut through allll that cheese. The sammies are served with chips, which I really appreciated because I could take them home to munch on later, and 3 spears of carrot, which were a little awkward on the plate, but a welcome addition since I loooove carrots.

Also at the table we had sandwich orders of: Curry Tuna Salad, Turkey, and one Cubano (I'd suggest heading to KubaKuba if you want the real thing - they use Cuban bread and shave the meats super thin). Another person ordered the beet salad which did look very delicious sprinkled with goat cheese and a light dressing. Although I didn't have the chance to try a beverage, I feel that's where Urban Farmhouse shines: just reading the coffee menu made my mouth water. And they have some pretty amazing brownies, nice and dense with a deep chocolate flavor; stop in around 11:30 for a free sample.