Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy 1st Anniversay, My love! By: N

Happy 1st Anniversary, My love!




Well the Thanksgiving season has a special meaning to me this year because its also my 1 year anniversary since my move to the Bay area.  This move was special and this year has been blissful, difficult and amazing.  It had its ups and downs.  There is something to be said of a relationship thats formed where there is an amazing connection, happy highs and scary lows that allows you to really form a bond.  And its safe to say that I feel a bond with the Bay area :)  I’m probably not the first East coaster to say this but I think I’ve always strived to be a Californian but now I’m just doing it IN California.  I’ve appreciated the California mentality.  Now I don’t understand and never will understand some things (hipsters?)!  But the chill attitude along with a strong ambition is MY type!  Let me tell ya!   

Sunday, November 23, 2014

# 303 Goat Cheese Filled "Five-Spice" Chicken, By: V

On Friday night, my roommate and I hosted a group of twelve of our friends for a game night. The usual rules, we provide the food and two bottles of wine, everyone else was asked to bring dessert or a beverage of their personal preference.  

We hunkered down on this incredibly cold night with a gorgeous cheese plate.  The plate included parmesan, havarti and goat cheese.  I also took a brie and covered the top with a bit of thyme and honey, baked it till it was gooey and delicious.  We made a slow cooker queso recipe, which included canned tomatoes, green chilies, Velveeta cheese and ground chicken.  You simply place the mixture in a slow cooker and let it stay on warm during the evening, so everyone can enjoy the hot queso.  It's basically like your own personal fondue.  I think this was everyone's favorite!  It was warm, gooey and delicious to scoop the sliced French bread into.  Since we bought so much French bread we though we'd pair the bread with not just the cheese, but some bruschetta topping and olive tapenade.  Of course taking some assistance from the grocery store with some premade tapenade and bruschetta topping.  After a long day of work, you can't expect homemade everything! 

A few of our friends brought games with them to share with everyone.  We spent the night playing Scene It and Cards Against Humanity, but most of the night was spent talking.  The major topic of discussion was the Serial podcast.  If you haven't heard of it, it's definitely one to check out.  It involves the question of wrongful conviction, and is full of suspense.  A nice evening in, after a long work week :)  

A quick shot as we were getting the food ready...

The delicious queso...

In last week's post I made a  Pickled Carrot and Cucumber salad.  I mentioned pairing this with a "five spice" chicken.  Five spice is a spice mixture most commonly used in Chinese and Vietnamese cooking. There are many variations of the spice powder mixture which include licorice, orange peel, ginger root or cardamom, but the most common version includes: (1) star anise; (2) cloves; (3) cinnamon; (4) szechuan pepper; and, (5) fennel seeds.  I call my version "five-spice," because it is a variation of the typical powder, including nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, pepper and paprika.  It should really be "five spice +" for that matter, because of the addition of sriracha sauce (or rooster sauce) to the mix.  

In Vietnam the rub is most commonly used in cooking broiled chicken, and so I got the idea for this "five spice" rubbed chicken.  The goat cheese addition is certainly not traditional to Vietnam, but I thought this change would give an interesting modification to the dish and a surprise when you bite in.  Hope you all enjoy!

"Five Spice" Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts - Serves 2


2 chicken breasts
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
11/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tsps coconut oil
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt 
2 tbsp goat cheese


  1. Flatten out the chicken breasts by placing on cutting board with a sheet of plastic wrap over the chicken.  "Hammer" down with a can or rolling pin, in a "hit and roll" type of motion.  Do this until each breast is about 1/4 inch thick.
  2. Place 1 tbsp of goat cheese on each breast and spread to cover one side of the breast.  Fold or roll the chicken over so that none of the goat cheese is exposed, and instead it is all held in the inside of the rolled chicken breast. 
  3. Melt coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl on high for 20 seconds.  Then to the melted coconut mixture add the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, and pepper (the "Five Spices") and also add the Sriracha or Rooster Sauce.  Mix this together with a spoon until well blended.  
  4. Place each stuffed chicken into the oil and spice mixture.  Roll around so the chicken is coated in the  mixture on all sides.  
  5. Place the chicken on an aluminum foil lined pan.  
  6. Bake the chicken in a 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes.  Turn the oven off and let sit in the heat for 5 minutes.  Then you are ready to serve.  

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I feel like I'm looking forward to it this year more than last, can't wait to gobble down all the turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed garlic potatoes, cornbread stuffing, and more :)  Of course, I'll have pictures for you all next week! HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

#302 Pickled Carrot and Cucumber Salad, By: V

This was quite a week for my belly!  I checked out three new restaurants, went to my first Washington Wizards game and went on my first excursion to a golf driving range.  Friday was S's birthday so I had a weekend planned which included hitting some balls at Hilltop Golf Club in Alexandria, dinner at Filomena's, and homemade NY Giants cupcakes.

It all started on Tuesday.  I had the day off from work, so I checked out two happy hour spots with my roommate and two of our friends.  Del Campo and MXDC both have delicious Mexican food and margaritas.  Here are a few pictures of our food from Del Campo.  My favorite was the Hanger Steak Crostini with Burnt Onion Jam and Blue Cheese (bottom picture).  We also tried out the delicious Peruvian Chicken Salad Sliders with Aji Amarillo Aioli, the Grilled Tomato, Anchovy and Goat Cheese Crostini, and the Wagyu Skirt Steak Empanadas.  I think both restaurants will be seeing me more often :) 

On Wednesday night I went to my first ever Wizards game with S.  He managed to get great tickets.  It's a shock that I've grown up in this area and it took me THIS long to make it out to a Wizards game. Before the game we grabbed a drink at Rocket Bar, but since the bar only provides beverages and no food, we quickly went over to Bar Louie to down some buffalo chicken flatbread and chicken quesadillas before the game started.  And maybe a martini or two to wash it all down.  

The game was great!  The Wizards beat the Detroit Pistons in a final score of 103-107 with all the Wizards fans up on their feet.  Two of my friends, who are from Michigan, joined us, so there was definitely smack talking going on, most of which got heavier toward the final minutes of the game.  

Then, Saturday I took S to a birthday dinner at Filomena Ristorante, one of my mom's favorite D.C. restaurants.  I had never been before and since S loves Italian food so much and insists he can't get the same type of Italian down here as he can back home in New Jersey, I thought I would try this one out on him.  Unfortunately I didn't get good shots of the food we ate, but we both agreed that we have never had Italian food this good outside of Italy.  S had a dish that is heralded on the dinner menu as Bono's (yes, of U2) favorite at Filomena, and he apparently asked for seconds when he first had this dish.  And, trust me, after having a bite I fully understood why.  The Penne Con Salisicce is penne pasta with a hearty Abruzzi (Abruzzo is a region of southern Italy) style tomato sauce made of roasted & ground Italian sweet sausage, sautéed mushrooms, onions, herbs and Chianti wine.  The dish is topped with three large sausage links made by the Chef himself. I had the Gnocchi Della Mama which is a dish of potato based dumplings tossed in a tomato based Bolognese meat sauce with ground beef, veal, Italian pork sausage, vegetables, Chianti wine.  Both were phenomenal and we decided this may be our go-to spot for all special occasions.  

In continuing the birthday celebrations I prepared these birthday cupcakes for him.  Let's be clear, these don't make me any less of a Washington fan! 

Definitely a busy week, and I also made Pickled Carrot and Cucumber Salad!

The Vietnamese sandwich, or Banh Mi, are absolutely delicious, and in the northern Virginia area the best place to get them are at the various Vietnamese bakeries in Eden Center. These sandwiches are most commonly made with pork placed atop a French baguette. They are then topped with cilantro and a pickled carrot and daikon salad.  This week I had a taste for those crunchy pickled vegetables, and decided to make a pickled carrot and cucumber salad.  This is likely not a traditional brine recipe, and generally when brining, you have to boil the liquid solution first, but, this was my quick and easy version.  The tartness offsets the sweet and earthy flavors of the "five-spice" chicken I prepared with it, which will be featured on next week's post.

Pickled Carrot and Cucumber Salad

1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsps honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp Tamari/Soy Sauce
1 tsp crushed red chili flakes
3 medium sized carrots, julienned or sliced
1 large cucmber, julienned or sliced


1.  In a bowl pour in fish sauce, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce and chili flakes.  Whisk together.  

2.  Pell and julienne or thinly slice the carrots and cucumbers.  

3.  In microwave safe dish place honey and microwave for 20 seconds on high. While whisking pour the melted honey into the liquids. 

4.  Add the vegetables and toss throughly to coat veggies with liquid.  

Chill in refrigerator and serve when you're ready to eat.  The longer this stays in the fridge, the better the taste.  Ovenright is best.  Next week I'll show you a goat cheese stuffed chicken breast recipe with a "five-spice" dry rub that paired perfectly with the sweet, tart and briny flavors of this dish.  

Sunday, November 9, 2014

#301 Mexican Quinoa and Salmon, By: V

Two things that I thoroughly enjoy and could happily eat everyday:  mexican food and seafood.  So, any opportunity I get to incorporate tex-mex flavors and fish into my diet I'll take! Not only is this dish full of smoky spicy flavors, it's also extremely healthy. This was my first delve into spicing up my quinoa.  Generally I boil the plain stuff or buy a boxed quinoa dish with its own dry spice packet to mix in.  But this time I decided to try incorporating my own flavors to create a sort of "mexican" quinoa.  

The other healthy component of this dish is the salmon.  Now, I recently read that it's extremely beneficial to incorporate one portion of fish into your diet EVERY DAY.  This can certainly be hard to do everyday, so I try to incorporate it into my diet at least as often as I can.  I typicall grill salmon or bake it, but this time I coated the salmon in a flour, garlic and chili powder spiced mixture and pan fried it in coconut oil.  I know you're thinking, "ok V, I thought this was supposed to be HEALTHY, and now you're talking about frying?," but let me just say it was more of a two tablespoon coconut oil kind of fry.  Not, the deep fry you think of with fried chicken or fish and chips. 

But don't we all need a good dose of deep fried something ever now and again? On that note, yesterday my mom and dad surprised me by showing up at my front door with fish and chips! Eammon's Dublin Chipper in Old Town Alexandria is home to my mom's favorite fish and chips, so she brought some by for me to give it a go...and, I gotta agree with her opinion on this one.  I wish I had taken a photo for all of you, but was busy demolishing the delicious crispy fried cod and homemade french fries to come up for air and take a photo or two.    

Friday night I had dinner at Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar in Vienna.  Now, this restaurant is relatively new and I had been wanting to try it out.  The menu offered a wide variety of food options, but I have to say I thought the two dishes we shared were on the salty side, although the spicy guacamole was delicious and I love that it was served with a blend of plantain, yucca, malanga AND tortilla chips.  I had the Feijoda Stew, and the chorizo in it was probably the best I've had.  I also tried the Jalapeno Spiced Lamb Stew which was good but, my only complaint was the saltiness of the food.  Not quite sure I'll be rushing back.

Well, there's my weekend restaurant reviews, now for the recipes.

Mexican Quinoa (serves 2-3)

2 tbsps coconut oil
2 chopped garlic cloves
½ cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup quinoa
1 cup chicken broth (can use vegetable or beef broth as well)
½ 15.5 oz can of black beans
1 medium red tomato, diced
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder

½ cup chopped jalapenos
¼ cup chopped cilantro

  1. Add the coconut oil to a pan on high heat.  Once melted lower the heat and add the garlic and onion to the pan.  Let this combination slowly cook down and become translucent.
  2. Once translucent, add the uncooked quinoa.  Stir to coat the quinoa in the garlic oil and onion mixture. 
  3.  Add the chicken broth, black beans, and tomato.  Add the spices:  nutmeg, paprika and chili powder.  Stir everything together and turn the heat back up to high. 
  4. Bring to a boil.  Then reduce to simmer, cover and let cook for 20 minutes.  This is enough time to allow the quinoa to cook.  NOTE:  Keep an eye on the dish, if it looks like the liquid has not fully evaporated, take the lid off and let it continue  to cook until the liquid is gone.  We don’t want soupy quinoa!
  5. Once the dish is cooked transfer to a dish and let it cool.  Right before serving top it with some chopped pickled or fresh jalapenos and chopped cilantro (optional). 
  6. Another optional idea is to served with avocado or lime. 
Pan-Fried Mexican Salmon (Serves 2)

3 salmon filets 
2 tbsps unbleached white flour
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp paprika
1/4 tbp salt 
1/4 tbsp thyme
2 tbsps coconut oil

  1. Prep your salmon as you prefer - take the skin off and make sure there are no bones in the filet. 
  2. Take all the dry ingredients and place them on a plate.  Be sure they are mixed together well.  
  3. Heat up a pan on high heat and melt the coconut oil in it.  Once hot take the salmon filet and flip it in the dry mixture ensuring that both sides are covered, then place into the oil. 
  4. Let cook on each side for 4 minutes.  Cover for one minute and then you can take off the heat and get ready to eat.  
  5. Optional:  A squirt of lime over the top of the salmon before serving would be delicious!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

#300 Slow Cooker Citrus Lime Chicken, By: V

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!  Yes, a bit late, but I hope you all had a great Halloween.  Every year I miss the opportunity to hand out candy to the kids in my building, because both my roommate and I are always out at a Halloween party, and the same thing happened this year.  But, I did get a moment to carve my first ever pumpkin!  

This Halloween I attended a Halloween party hosted by a close friend and her boyfriend. I dressed up as a gumball machine!  I'll refrain from showing you a picture, but you get the general idea -- a red skirt with the 25 cent slot and multicolored cotton balls (the "gumballs") covering a t-shirt I wore on top.  All in all a quick and crafty costume, for someone pretty far from crafty! 

Then, on Sunday I went out to my parents place for Sunday lunch.  My mom (Malli) cooked a fantastic lunch.  I was too hungry to remember to take a picture of everything, but I did get a picture of this delicious layered salad and her desserts:  oreo cupcakes, almond joy mousse and an apple pie with a bacon crumb topping.  Needless to say I packed enough leftovers to last a week or two.

So, in the middle of my weekend, on my lazy Saturday (post Halloween extravaganza of a night) I decided to make this Citrus Lime Chicken. If I haven't made it clear already, I'm a big fan of the slow cooker.  My mom bought me one when I was in law school and while it slowly collected dust on my kitchen counter then, now, I use it time and time again.  

I usually do slow cooker meals when I know I'll be home for a few hours at a stretch.  What can I say, I'm just not comfortable leaving something plugged in and on while I'm away from my apartment.  This is another one of those "levels of flavor" dish, but I can't take all the credit for the flavors in this dish - Grill Mates Baja Citrus Marinade does add the brightness to this dish, but if you can't find it I imagine a squirt of one lime will do the same!


15.5 oz can kidney beans
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 yellow onion chopped
14 oz chicken
2 tbsps cocnut oil
McCormick Baja Citrus Marinade
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 tsp salt
2 tspns Mexican-style chili powder (chili peppers, garlic, cumin, salt and oregano)
1/4 cup chicken broth

  1. Remove all the fat off your chicken.  Feel free to cut or not cut as you desire.  You can use tenderloins, chicken thighs, or breast for this dish, but I’d recommend taking off the skin and extra pieces of fat. 
  2. Rub the Baja Citrus Marinade on the chicken.  Turn the slower cooker on high and add the coconut oil.
  3. Once the oil has melted place in the chicken.  Top the chicken with the onions, bell pepper, kidney beans and diced tomatoes. 
  4. Then add the salt, Mexican style chili powder and chicken broth. 
  5. Stir thoroughly.  Cover with a lid and cook on high heat for 1 ½ hours
  6. Then take the lid off, rotate and rest on the crockpot so that about half the pot is uncovered.  This will allow for some of the liquid to evaporate off.  Cook for another 30 minutes and you're ready to eat!

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