Tuesday, July 29, 2014

#292 Lunchtime: Kale Chicken Caesar Salad - By: V

Last week I went to grab dessert with my roommate, S, and a friend of our's, B, at our neighborhood McCormick & Schmick.  While McCormick's is known for their seafood and steaks, I soon came to find out they're known for their apple pie too.  

After we downed our burgers and fish tacos, we all felt the need to satisfy our sweet tooth with a dessert to share, when my roommate, S, piped in that McCormick's has THE best apple pie.  We even asked the waitress what the best dessert was (we were in the midst of an apple pie vs. creme brulee showdown - S on the side of apple pie and B on the side of creme brulee, and me happily in the 'I'll take any dessert you put in front of me" zone), and she happily chimed in "it's THE best apple pie I've ever had," so we were quickly won over, and boy was I happy with the decision! 

The biggest surprise is that there apple pie is an upside down candied walnut apple pie.  The pie itself is baked twice with a candied walnut crust and then topped with a warm caramel sauce and served with cinammon ice cream.  Talk about a great flavor combination...and, what better than to have this warm apple dessert with a small glass of bourbon.  The balance of the bourbon with the cinammon and apple worked perfectly.  

Now after downing this dessert it's natural for a bit of guilt to set-in, particularly when someone wants to ask "I wonder how many calories we just ate?."  Not exactly what you want to hear after you've thoroughly enjoyed yourself and gone to town on your dessert.  So, I decided to go home and make myself a healthy lunch to take to work the next day.  I decided to make a kale caesar salad with chicken, green olives, and red cabbage.  Here are some pictures of the end product as I munch down on it while I work.

Ingredients (for one lunch serving)
Caesar Dressing - I'm partial to Ken's, but you can buy whatever you prefer OR make your own
Garlic Croutons - 1/3 cup
Red Cabbage - 1/2 cup
Kale - 2 to 3 cups
Green Salad Olives - 1/2 cup
Avocado - 1/2 chopped or a whole chopped
Grilled Chicken Breast - 1 chicken breast

First grill your chicken in the oven.  I kept my chicken's seasoning simple -- some garlic salt and lemon pepper on both sides (about a 1/2 teaspoon of each per side).  The salad itself has so much flavor, it doesn't really matter how much marinade or spice you put on the chicken itself.  It's better to let the other flavors shine in the salad's ingredients on this one.  Let the chicken breast bake on a sheet of aluminum (tin) foil for 15-20 minutes in a preheated 400 degree Fahrenheit oven. You don't even need to add oil.  

In the meantime, chop up fresh kale into the container you plan to take to work.  Then add in the red cabbage, green salad olives, and Caesar Dressing to taste.  Close the lid to the container and shake it around a few times. Then open the container and top the avocados.  

I pack the croutons in a sandwich bag and the chicken breast I cut up and place in a separate container, that way I can heat up the chicken and top my salad with the warm chicken and throw in crunchy croutons when I'm ready to eat.  If you dump everything into the container and let it sit overnight you'll just meet with a salad at noon that has soggy croutons and cold chicken.  

This is a rather basic recipe, and honestly, you can add as much or as little of each ingredient as you would like. But, let's try to keep things in moderation, so we can make room for those desserts we all love! :)  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Konnichiwa Japan - By: V

V's Post..................
This is V.....Last month I went to Japan to visit my best friend, K, and her husband C.  K has been living in Kyoto for the past year as a part of her PhD program.  She'll be returning to Virginia in August and insisted that I visit before her return.  So, off I went, for a week in Japan, with a good friend of mine, Z. 

First stop, Tokyo.  We landed on my birthday!  Definitely a birthday not to forget.  To celebrate we went to this great hole-in-the-wall Ramen Shop in the Shibuya neighborhood of Tokyo.  Shibuya has several universities and is filled with young college students.  I ordered a traditional pork ramen and asked for a spicy broth.  It was delicious!  And, the young man working there was extremely helpful in explaining each ingredient in all of the ramens.  I downed it with some nice cool Japanese beer, Asahi.  Definitely a lighter flavor than most beers we're use to.   

Second stop, Lake Kawaguchiko.  This is one of the five lakes surround the Five Lakes region by Mount Fuji. Completely beautiful.  Very touristy.  Great views of the mountains, lake and Mount Fuji.  However, the only quick stop for food in our one-day there wasn't a very pleasant experience.  Perhaps because it was such a touristy place the food wasn't very appealing?  Anyway, our final stop provided Z and I with some wonderful dishes to try!

Third stop, Kyoto.  This was the final stop during our week-long adventure in Japan.  This is also where K and C live, so they were perfect hosts and took us to the most delicious food spots.  On our arrival, C took us to a sushi place right around the corner from there apartment.  I decided on a nigiri plate filled with an array of fish options, including octopus, eel, tuna, egg, and salmon.  For those of you that might not know, nigiri is where you see raw fish laid on top of a molded piece of rice, sushi is rice and fish wrapped in seaweed.  While in the U.S. we're used to dousing our sushi/nigiri in soy sauce or a mix of soy sauce and wasabi, my plate came with no wasabi and you are only supposed to lightly dip your sushi/nigiri in the soy sauce.  

That evening K and C took us to what they said is the BEST gyoza place in Kyoto, and after a quick Google search, apparently the world (or at least Trip Advisor) agrees.  Anzukko is the name of the restaurant:  http://www.anzukko.com/sp/en/.  We ordered a Set which included several courses:  steamed shrimp and scallop gyoza, pork gyozas, noodles with beef and almond ice cream for dessert.  My favorite was the pork gyoza, which I can hands down say was the best gyoza I've had.  

The next day Z and I headed out early to explore Kyoto.  We wandered the many many temples that Kyoto is known for - both Shinto and Buddhist.  One of the temples was known for its fox shrines.  Fushimi Inari-taisha is a Shinto shrine, and foxes are believed to be messengers.  There were statutes everywhere.  It was beautiful.  At the base of the mountain that leads you to the Inari shrine, is an open air market with all kinds of food vendors.  C told us to try Takoyaki.  What is takoyaki you ask?  Well, they are fried octopus balls.  And the lady that made them did an amazing job!! I took a video so you can see the level of skill it takes to make these things :) She puts the batter into the molds and then drops a small piece of octopus into each mold, as they cook she starts rotating them.  Once they're done she places them in a styrofoam dish and tops them with a spicy teriyaki-style sauce, Japanese Mayo, and dried fish flakes.  Japanese Mayo was found as a topping on several street fare and other dishes.  Japanese Mayonnaise is made with apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar, which gives it a different flavor from the mayonnaise you find elsewhere which is made from distilled vinegar.  

As our final send-off before leaving Kyoto to head back to Narita International and fly back to Virginia, K and C took us to have one of the traditional dishes that Kyoto, Japan is known for...Okonomiyaki.  Okonomiyaki is a traditional, savory Japanese pancake that is cooked directly at the table.  There are a wide variety of toppings you can get.  I ordered a pork and kimchi okonomiyaki that was topped with leeks and several different spicy sauces along with Japanese Mayo.  Donguri is a famous restaurant in Kyoto known for Okonomiyaki, and there's was wonderful as well as super heavy.

And, with that, we headed back to Virginia the next morning.  The different food of Japan was truly something to experience...and now, I'm excited to think about where I'll go next and equally as important, what I'll EAT next ;) 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Traditional Thai for V 's Birthday!

This is Malli..................
While the family planned to take V for a nice restaurant dinner in honor of her Birthday, I was out watering my plants and sinking in the Summer sun. V heard about an authentic family owned Thai restaurant in Washington DC and N made reservations so drove down to DC for this authentic meal.
I am so very excited to share with you our experience at the restaurant situated in a row house on Florida Avenue. The place is called Thai Crossing and unlike the usual restaurants we visit more often.  Alcohol is not served at the place but they encourage customers to BYOB or wine. Now, there are no menus to order from -they just bring out whatever the cook decides to make that day as a 4-5 course meal.

 The service was excellent and we were most courteously asked if we were vegetarians or had any allergies to food. We gave our choices and options and the food came out exactly as requested. The day we were there the special menu included the following :

. Tom yum shrimp soup
. Papaya salad
. Chicken with black mushrooms
. Pork with five spice gravy
. Salmon curry
. Pumpkin curry
. Tofu and bean sprouts stir fry
. Flat noodle pad Thai
. Steamed rice
. Mango with sticky rice

Needless to say  every dish was patiently constructed adding beautiful layers of flavor over the main ingredient. But the star dishes were the Papaya salad, soup, salmon and the best Pumpkin curry ever that made the mark!  R and I have been taking brisk walks this summer and being actively involved in exercise programs. We walked the streets of Downtown DC after dinner since days are so much longer and it gets dark after 8:00 pm. This gave us a time for watching tourists along the monument and museum sidewalk holding cameras and bag packs across their shoulders. Children slurping ice cream from the neighborhood Fro Yo and those sipping milk shakes and slurpees.

 I have to be completely honest that this past weekend we were committed to staying outdoors most of the day. Hot summer days such as this, remind me of my childhood. Those sweltering hot days in India when friends and I would fill balloons with cold water and throw them at each other for fun. Then, after  the heat and exhaustion tired us out, we would go into the kitchen for tall glasses filled with ice cold lemonade or some of Amma's fresh homemade mango squash. Yikes, a few months back I could not have imagined a sunny day outdoors such as this so no complaints! Gone are the days when I was forced into wearing layers of warm clothing, shivering until my car was well heated and driving to work sometimes through the ocassional snow. Summer could be so much fun when you're with family enjoying a warm sunny day outdoors. Would it be wrong to ask for this weather all year long? Whether the weather be fine, whether the weather be not, whether the weather be cold, whether the weather be hot, we all need food to make us happy and satisfied!! this time it was hearty and delicious.....

Sunday, July 6, 2014

#291 Lima Bean Hummus with Mint and Cilantro

Hello everyone, I've been away for a long time catching up on chores and out on new ventures.
But, today I've popped my head in  to say Hi!!  In today’s burgeoning world of blogs and online social media, it didn’t take much coercing for me to share a dip that some of you may find interesting. A Mediterranean puree of chickpeas with added flavors has gained so much popularity these days in all healthy cuisine. You probably have an idea what I am talking about- you guessed right it is the delicious and versatile dip aka "hummus"!!

Hummus is quite the favorite dip in my household and it's pretty easy to put together if there is a can of chickpeas available in the pantry. Roasted pepper hummus is the most popular, since it is widely used as a sandwich spread for roasted veggie wraps.  Veggie hummus wraps are easily tucked away in lunch totes or hummus can also be filled into celery sticks for a snack.  While trying out different beans for hummus, I ran into the Lima bean---- a nutritious bean full of folates, Vitamin B and to top it all a high percentage of protein. Although I think this bean does not get the attention it deserves a hummus is an easy way to get a heavy dose of all that nutrition! With an abundance of leftover herbs in the fridge I threw in Mint and cilantro and the resulting hummus was bright green and aromatic. So I had to share it with you. Here's how to make this royal green hummus.................

Ingredients: 1/2 lb cooked Baby lima beans 1 cup Mint leaves 1 Bunch Cilantro 1 Tblspn Tahini paste 1 Tblsn Lemon juice 2-3 cloves garlic 3 Tblspn EV Olive Oil 1 Green chili Salt and pepper to taste Water if needed.

Method: Add all of the ingredients except EVOO to a food processor or blender and slowly process the ingredients using 1 Tblspn of olive oil at a time add a little water if necessary. Do not blend or bring it to a smooth paste. Mix well when coarsely ground. Taste and season if needed with additional salt, pepper and top with extra EV Olive Oil. Enjoy!!

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