Peanut Butter Chili

Who doesn’t love chili? It’s seriously everything I could want in a bowl… sauteed onions, beans, spice… yum. The different combinations that can be thrown into a big simmering bowl makes chili even more appealing to me. When it comes to spices, there are a ton of directions you can go in too. Only recently did I discover the wonders of adding a dash of cinnamon. I found this recipe on Serious Eats, back on National Peanut Butter Day. So, as you can imagine, there’s peanut butter in it. That’s right, peanut butter in chili!

I wasn’t too sure how this was going to come out – I mean, peanut butter in chili? It smelled amazing, and even though there was a solid amount of peanut butter used in the recipe, the taste was really just a compliment to the other flavors in the dish. I didn’t have tomato paste, and I also didn’t have two cans of kidney beans, so there were some modifications. I used a little less vegetable broth so as to not make it too watery since the tomato paste wasn’t there to thicken it up. Also, I threw in a can of pinto beans to keep the bean numbers the same, and it added a nice variety as well.

This is a pretty quick cooking chili, too. A lot require a solid 45+ minute simmering time, but this one, once all combined, takes 20 minutes with 15 minutes of sautéing required beforehand. So, it’s definitely a chili you can make on a weeknight, which I always appreciate. I decided to make the entire recipe (except I only made enough rice for what I thought we’d eat), and we had five very large servings over the course of three days!

Peanut Butter Chili via Serious Eats
– Serves 6-8 –

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Two (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
One (12-ounce) can tomato paste *I omitted
2 cups vegetable stock *Only used 1 1/2
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (preferably unsweetened) *I used chunky
Two (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained *I did 1 kidney, 1 pinto
One (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
One (15-ounce) can white beans, rinsed and drained
One (15-ounce) can whole sweet corn, rinsed and drained
4 cups cooked white or brown rice (for serving)
1 cup coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (for serving)

1. In large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes.
2. Add diced tomatoes and their liquid, black pepper, salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, and red pepper flakes to pot. Let simmer for 5 minutes and then add tomato paste, vegetable stock, and peanut butter. Stir until tomato paste and peanut butter are well incorporated. Let simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to low and add all beans and corn. Let simmer for 20 minutes.
4. To serve, place a half cup of rice in large bowl and add two ladles of chili. Top with cheddar cheese and chopped scallions.

Pumpkin Soup and a Kitchen Farewell

About a year ago Serious Eats reviewed an instant pumpkin soup by Maggie and Mary, so I jumped at the chance to buy it. Yes, it took me a year to do so, but I finally tried it. Being our last real night in our soon to be old apartment, I wanted to keep it as simple as possible, so along side the soup we had grilled cheese. I sautéed some leftover red onion from the Spicy Quinoa we had, but that was the extent of my culinary adventure for dinner.

The soup was okay. I’m not sure if it’s because of how long it sat in my cabinet, or if it’s really just because it was powdered soup. It would probably be a whole lot better if there were some veggies thrown into it (maybe carrot, celery, even potato). But for something so quick and easy (add 4 cups of water and simmer for 20 minutes) I can’t complain too much!

My co-worker and bridesmaid’s birthday is Friday (happy birthday Kierstin!), and she absolutely loves pie. So, I figured instead of doing my typical cupcake, I’d make her a pie! I went ahead and dug up an easy favorite – Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Pie! I made it on Pi Day this past year, and being it requires no baking and the mixing of only two ingredients, it was perfect. Hopefully she shares, so I can enjoy a sliver after we have our celebratory Thai birthday lunch!

My Coworker and I in our Best Friends Costume!

After we finished up with dinner and dessert, it was time to finally pack up the kitchen. All that’s currently left is our coffee maker (like we can move boxes without coffee!) and some perishables in the fridge. My parents have been kind enough to help us out, so they’re bringing over a cooler Saturday morning that we can put our refrigerated items in for the move. That’s the great thing about moving only 15 minutes away – we didn’t need to completely clean house in the food department. I have to say, our new kitchen is A LOT smaller, but it also has a dishwasher, which will be great for my fiancé. It’s overall a nicer place, too, so I have to take that into consideration. In the end I don’t think I’m really losing any counter space, though, which for me seems to be the most important anyway.

My next post will be from the new place, and I’m so excited to share it with you! It’ll take a few days before I’m fully settled to get cooking again, but I’ve got some really yummy recipes queued up!

Spicy Quinoa Salad

Promising myself two legitimate dinners in the kitchen this week, I went for a Spicy Quinoa Salad and paired it with just some chicken breast we had hanging out in the freezer. I’m trying to use as much of any perishable items I can, which is why I decided to pair this with just some plain ole chicken.

I actually had a hard time spotting Quinoa at the grocery store on Sunday. I found Bob’s Red Mill right away in the organic section, but it was $8! I know, I know, that’s not much. But for a grain I’d never had before and wasn’t sure what else I’d be using it with, I just couldn’t plunk that down. We also try to stay under $75 a week, and I knew we wouldn’t if I grabbed it. I headed over to the rice and pasta aisle, and spent a solid 5 minutes staring at all the different rice trying to find it. Turns out I had my back to where it was, and after almost giving up, I found a nice box for $3.50! Sure, it wasn’t whole wheat or organic, but sometimes you just have to cut corners.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I struggle with cutting onions. Over the summer I had the great idea of using my swimming goggles to help combat the tears, and it works. I thought it was about time I shared a little treat with my readers. So here’s a picture of me from my Macbook in the kitchen (I bring it with me to read off recipes), post run and gleefully holding a red onion and a knife while sporting my goggles. Laugh away!

The recipe was super easy, and quick, which in these final packing days has been much appreciated. Trying to finish up packing and cleaning, doing homework, and trying to finally get back to running has jam-packed my week. I was able to tackle 2 miles on Monday night, and another 3 Tuesday. It’s definitely on it’s way to recovery, and feels a lot better than it did when I tried to start running last time. I’m really hoping I can be smart about this one. At this point, I’m not concerned about PRing the Disney Half Marathon, rather I just want to be able to finish the 13.1 pain-free. I’ll set my sights on a PR for the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon in April.

This was my last “real” dinner in this kitchen. In retrospect, I’ve really come into my own here. I started off making burritos and stir-fry, and really blossomed to making intricate desserts, scrumptious dinners, and just having a lot of fun. I’ve also given my fiancé plenty of opportunity to work on his camera skills (thanks babe)! Aside from making my work BFF/bridesmaid a sweet birthday treat on Thursday night which I’ll be sure to post about, next week’s food blogs will be from a new kitchen. How exciting!

I didn’t have any good pictures for the recipe, so head over to Serious Eats for a picture, which is where I got this glorious recipe!

Spicy Quinoa Salad
– Serves 4-6 –

1 cup quinoa
Kosher salt
2 cups diced cucumber (about 2 medium)
2 cups finely diced tomatoes (about 2 medium)
1 to 2 jalapeño or serrano peppers (to taste), seeded if desired and finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus several sprigs for garnish
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, finely minced (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 avocado, sliced, for garnish

1. In a large bowl, cover the quinoa with cold water and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Drain in a strainer and rinse until the water runs clear, then transfer to a medium saucepan. Cover with 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste (1 teaspoon or so), reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes until the grain becomes slightly translucent. Drain off excess water, cover the pot with a dish towel, replace the lid, and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
2. In the meantime, combine the cucumber, tomato, cilantro, and olive oil in a large bowl with a pinch of salt. In a separate bowl, combine the onion, lime juice, and vinegar. Allow to sit while the quinoa finishes cooking.
3. Combine the vegetables and toss to coat, then stir in the quinoa. Season to taste with salt, oil, and/or more lime juic, and serve immediately with sliced avocado.

Spicy takes on a whole new meaning: Curry Udon Stir-Fry

I’ll be the first to try something spicy. It takes a lot for me to really think something is spicy, and even more for me to have it be at an unbearable level. Well, my friends, I may have met my match last night.

While grocery shopping last weekend, I scoured the asiles for a red chile. When ShopRite came up empty handed (no surprise there), I picked up a bag of Jamaican hot peppers, and hoped for the best. The bag itself gives no indication on what type of peppers they are, but there was some red, green, and orange, so I figured I would just use one of the red ones in the bag. I needed the pepper for a recipe I had found last week on Serious Eats, a Curry Udon Stir-Fry. The recipe has a great combination of Indian, Thai, and Japanese flavors that work really well together. The recipe also called for Garam Masala, which I realized is really just a combination of spices. After talking with a co-worker, she told me I should just look up a recipe and make it myself, since everyone makes it differently, and while they sell it mixed, it’s best fresh. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any cardamom, so the Garam Masala was out. It was still really great though!

It was an easy recipe, but required a lot of attention – quite a few things were going on at once (making the roux, sautéing the vegetables, cooking the noodles). But if you don’t mind multitasking and trying to keep everything going, you’ll be fine! I also had the luxury of using my newest obsession, thanks to Shelby over at Eat, Drink, Run. I’ve been on the prowl for a decent online recipe cataloging-styled system lately, and she suggested KartMe. Well my friends, so far, so good! I currently have two categories of carts – Dinner Recipes and Baking/Dessert Recipes, but you can make carts and lists of anything. I’m a fan!

So a word to the wise would probably be to not buy a random bag of hot peppers if you don’t want to sweat during your meal. However, if you’re like myself and my fiancé and think that’s fun, then go for it! We sweat throughout our meal, had stinging tongues and lips, and actually grabbed some milk (a first for both of us). My stomach was warm for quite a few hours afterwards also. But it was definitely worth it. Maybe next time I’ll use half of the pepper, though. Now that I have an entire bag of hot peppers, I guess I should start scouring the internet for some yummy recipes I can throw into my KartMe list. Any suggestions are welcome!

Curry Udon Stir-Fry
– Serves 2-3 –
Adapted from The Kitchn.

1/2 pound fresh udon
4 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
3/4 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons sugar
1 large yellow onion, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 red bell pepper, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 hot red chile, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
1/2 pound broccoli florets, chopped
3 tablespoons soy sauce

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the udon according to the directions on the packaging. Drain, and then rinse well under cold water.
2. Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil into a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the flour. Stir well, and cook until the roux browns, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the curry powder and garam masala to the roux, cook for another minute. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of the vegetable stock. Continue whisking, and add the sugar. When the sauce is thick, turn off the heat and set the saucepan aside.
4. Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil into a large non-stick skillet set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 to 6 minutes. Then add the ginger, red bell pepper, and chile. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add the broccoli, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes.
5. Add the udon noodles to the pan. cook for about a minute, and then pour in the soy sauce. Cook for a minute.
6. Whisk in the remaining vegetable broth with the curry roux. Pour this sauce into the pan with the noodles. Stir well, and cook for another minute or so, until warm.

So today I’m going to leave you with a question: Do you like spicy foods? What’s the spiciest food/meal you’ve ever had?

July Fourth means 4 miles of agony and rum and coke brownies!

Ahh yes, the fourth of July. The day of America’s birth, and an awesome excuse to relax, drink, barbecue, and enjoy fireworks.

Sunday was Cranford’s annual Firecracker Four Miler race, which just so happens to be the first running race I ever competed in, last year. The race starts at 9:30am in Nomaheagan Park, and by the time we got there at about 8:45a it was already a good 80 degrees. Most of the race is in the sun, and since it’s 4 miles instead of the usual 5k (3.1), they didn’t have a water station until 2 miles in. Needless to say the race was a struggle from the beginning, but I somehow managed to beat least year’s time, and PR my 5k time in the process at just under 26 minutes.

For signing up early, we got a t-shirt and a sweet pint glass, just as we did last year. We’re starting a nice collection! In the end, I finished in just under 34 minutes, with the “official” (the timing system was a little shotty) time of 34:50, about an 8:40/mile pace, and my fiancé finished in just under 32 with 31:45 (also a PR). I think we wound up spending the rest of the day trying to rehydrate, which was probably unsuccessful.

After the race, we rushed home so I could get started on the treats I was going to bring to our next barbecue adventure. This time, I went with a recipe I had found on Serious Eats, from a book called Boozy Baking. Seriously, I need that book. I love bringing alcohol infused desserts to parties where drinking is involved, because it’s just so fun. These particular brownies were called Cuba Libre Brownies, but I prefer to simplify the name, and just call them Rum & Coke Brownies. Yes, there is rum, coke, lime zest, and bittersweet chocolate in these bad boys – and they were awesome! The lime zest was really refreshing, and they’re definitely the booziest treats I’ve made so far, so keep that in mind if you decide to take a stab at them!

Rum & Coke Brownies (aka Cuba Libre Brownies)
– serves about 24 brownies –


For the brownies:
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup carbonated cola
1/4 cup white rum

For the frosting:
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/3 cup white rum
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
Freshly grated zest of 2 limes

1. To make the brownies, position a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan or spray it with nonstick spray. Dust with flour and tap out the excess. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.
3. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Stir constantly until the chocolate is almost melted. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
4. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the melted chocolate and beat until well incorporated, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
5. With a wooden spoon or a spatula, gently stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture just until combined. Gently stir in the cola and the rum; then pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it to the edges.
6. Bake the brownies until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool the brownies in the pan completely.
7. To make the frosting, in a large bowl beat the butter, cocoa powder, and rum with an electric mixer until smooth. Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition.
8. Spread the frosting over the cooled brownies. Sprinkle with the grated lime zest, cut into squares, and serve.

Breakfast for Dinner: Monte Cristo style!

I had my first Monte Cristo sandwich my freshman year of college. We were on a training trip to Mission Veijo, California and in between practices one day a few teammates and I ventured to a restaurant near the hotel called Sugar Shack. After we discovered that place I think at least 5 members of the team were there for lunch every day.

University of Scranton Swim Team '04-'05 in California

*Sorry guys, I just had to post this. Just a little nostalgia!

I was never a big breakfast person, but it’s slowly been growing on me. The Monte Cristo is a good middle ground dish; it’s a little breakfast with the French toast style bread, and also lunch/dinner-like with the ham and cheese.

I found this particular recipe on Serious Eats‘s “Dinner Tonight” section and took out the strawberry preserves and mustard. I’d never heard of either on that particular sandwich, and I’m not big on jelly and my fiancé won’t eat mustard (or mayo). I also couldn’t find gruyere cheese at ShopRite – their cheese display is confusing. I did, however, find chipotle Gouda so I snagged that. I know Gouda isn’t the best for melting, but since it’s my all time favorite cheese, I didn’t care.

After a solid 3.1 miles regretfully on the treadmill (thanks a lot mother nature!) I set to work on the sandwiches. The recipe didn’t specify what type of bread to use, so at the store on Monday I grabbed a big crusty loaf of Italian bread. I cut the slices on the thicker side, to make it a little gourmet looking. I cut a few slices of the chipotle gouda, and added about a slice and a half of smoked ham. In terms of the French toast part, I followed the instructions for the mixture and ran with it. Since I know gouda isn’t the best melty cheese (thank you Bobby Flay’s Throw Down episode on grilled cheese), after I cooked them on each side to a golden crisp, I threw them in the oven for 5 minutes to assist in the melting.

We paired the sandwiches with some tater tots and a salad, and we were stuffed. We had plans to tackle another cupcake from Monday, but we were just too full.

Even though I’m not a huge breakfast fan (gasp!) I would absolutely make this again. It’s definitely the type of recipe you can play with in terms of different ham and cheese types, and I like that flexibility! Now if only I could transfer that flexibility to my legs. Boy they’re tight!

Monte Cristo
– Serves 2 –

4 slices bread
6 slices ham
2 slices gruyere cheese
2 eggs
2 tablespoon milk
Pinch of cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons strawberry jam

1. Smear some mustard on two slices of bread. Top each with three slices of ham, one slice of cheese, and a slice of bread.
2. Whisk together the egg, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla in a shallow pan.
3. Dip each sandwich into the egg mixture, making sure to evenly coat both sides.
4. Add the butter to a large skillet set over medium heat. When melted, add the sandwiches and cook on both sides until browned.
5. Sprinkle with the sugar, and serve with the strawberry jam.

Happy breakfast, lunch, and dinner nomzing!

Crisp Noodle Cake

Happy Earth Day!

Tonight’s dinner was an Earth Day celebration; a nice crisp noodle cake and TONS of veggies!

I had this particular recipe on my radar for awhile, but wasn’t able to incorporate it into my weekly meal planning until today. I was also a bit hesitant about the recipe in general. My fiancé tells me I need more confidence, since I’m always afraid my adventures in the kitchen are going end disastrously. He constantly reassures me that everything I’ve made has been delicious, and the few things that haven’t, have been at least passable.

That being said, I found this recipe on Serious Eats. It is, however, a Martha Stewart recipe. It seemed pretty basic, and really only called for a few ingredients; one of which was ginger. I personally have no aversion to ginger, but I know a lot of people (cough, my dad, cough) that loathe it. Because I don’t care either way, instead of getting the fresh ginger, I went with sushi ginger. That way, I can have it to throw into other recipes in the future, without needing to worry about it going bad as quickly. I’ve been avoiding scallions for no particular reason. Up until this recipe, if I was making something that called for it, I left it out. This time, however, I knew it was an important part of the meal, so I buckled down and bought some.

Once you get past the ingredients and mix everything together, you’re kind of left with a giant slop of egg, ginger, bean sprouts, scallions, and noodles, as you can see here:

I was unsure of the best way to grab the concoction and transfer it from the bowl to the bubbling hot oil. I decided to grab some with a fork, carry over the ends with my fingers, and as neatly as possible (without getting burnt) place the blob into the oil. Believe it or not, I managed to get it into a cake-like shape, without getting burnt!

While the noodles were cooking away, I decided to sauté some typical stir-fry vegetables as a side; broccoli, carrots, and sugar snap peas – yum! I doused them in some soy and teriaki sauces for flavor.

I don’t really know what about this recipe made me so nervous. When I broke it all down, though, it turned out to be really simple. The cakes were super crisp on the outside, and tender on the inside. To agree with Blake Royer over at Serious Eats, it was a kind of like a “noodle frittata, crisp and crunchy and yet still custardy on the inside.” There was just the right amount of ginger without being overpowering, and the scallion added a nice touch. I could definitely see adding some sautéed onion into the mix next time. It was also really great to have Sriracha as a dipping sauce.

If you’re ever in the mood for a basic Asian inspired crispy meal, I would definitely recommend this. My girl Martha knows what she’s talking about, as does Serious Eats!

Crisp Noodle Cake
[Serves 2]


3 ounces rice vermicelli or angel hair pasta
3 ounces soybean sprouts
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 scallions, sliced very thin
2 large eggs plus 1 egg white, beaten
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 cup neutral oil, such as canola or safflower
1/4 cup pea shoots (optional)
Soy sauce and sriracha (or other chili sauce) for condiments


1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook the noodles until just tender; drain and rinse under cool water. Add to a bowl with the sprouts, ginger, scallions, salt, and eggs and toss to combine.
2. Heat the oil in a large (12-inch) skillet until very hot and shimmering and almost smoking (if it’s not hot enough, the cakes can be greasy), then lower the heat to medium. Divide the noodle mixture into 4 portions, then place each in the pan, pressing to flatten into a cake. Cook until golden brown, 6-7 minutes, then flip and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Turn out cakes to a plate lined with paper towels, then toss the pea shoots into the skillet to wilt.
3. Blot the cakes with paper towel and serve with the soy sauce and Sriracha.

Happy nomzing!

A Failed Attempt at Cupcake Camp NYC Still Ended Sweetly

This past Friday was the second annual Cupcake Camp NYC. You may find yourself asking, “What is this camping cupcake nonsense?” Well, yes, there are cupcakes, but no, there isn’t any camping. It’s basically an ad-hoc gathering for cupcake lovers alike. From bakers to writers and bloggers, and everyone in between, it’s an event to get together and mingle with other cupcake nerds. And Cupcake Camp happens all over the WORLD!

Having heard about the event awhile ago, I was pumped and ready to go. When the tickets were finally made available in March, I made sure to get myself and my fiancé a pair. Since they were free, I was more than ecstatic at the mere thought getting to see (let alone eat) some awesome cupcakes, and potentially brush shoulders with some seriously important cupcake people. You know, like my favorite blog Cupcakes Take the Cake. Or the owner of Buttercup Bake Shop! So once the day rolled around, my fiancé and I made sure to leave work 45 minutes early to get into the city as soon as possible.

Cupcake Camp was held at Happy Ending on Broome Street on the lower east side. When we were approaching our destination, my heart sunk. The event started at 7pm, and it was only about 7:10. The line was not only out the door, but down the street, and around the corner. I mean, I knew it was going to be crowded – everyone loves cupcakes. I couldn’t help but think to myself; “I got my tickets a month early! I love cupcakes way more than these people! I’m even wearing my cupcake necklace! My fiancé and I have mushy gushy cupcake love! THIS ISN’T FAIR!”

The dreaded line
The dreaded line

After whining in my head till the end of the line, we got in line, and waited. We waited and waited, and we didn’t actually get in until just a bit after 8pm. On the way in, we heard a few people echoing “There aren’t any cupcakes left!” while they walked out with boxes of leftover goodies. I sincerely hoped they were lying, but my hopes were dashed once I finally got inside. Any cupcakes that were left were already spoken for by others. There were a few authors selling their cupcake books, and everyone was just mingling and enjoying one another’s company. The bar was so packed, it was nearly impossible to move. After making our rounds, my fiancé and I left, a little disappointed, and very hungry.

I am utterly shocked at how many people were there! It was truly impressive. I mean, I know cupcakes are the “it” trend right now, but man! I suppose the word “free” might have played it’s part as well. I’m definitely going to make an attempt at next year’s gathering. But I think some camping might be involved this time. Forget about leaving work 45 minutes early – I’m going to need to take the whole day!

After that fail, we decided to head over to Dos Toros Taqueria, a place I had read about on SeriousEats. They compared it a lot to Chipotle, so as a burrito fanatic, I was in. When we got there, though, we faced our second fail of the evening. It’s an extremely small place – only one window bench with about 4 seats. And, the line was out the door. Since it was a bit chilly and windy, we decided to save that deliciousness for a day we could really enjoy it. We settled on the Thai restaurant Spice. We passed one of their other locations en route to Dos Toros and had already perused the menu, so we figured that would suffice. I really think Friday was the night of the foodies. We walked past Momofuku‘s Milk Bar and that line was even more outrageous! [I still need to get in on that chicken dinner!]

When we got to Spice, we were told we’d have about a 20 minute wait, which isn’t so bad for 9pm on a Friday in the city. Thankfully, we only wound up waiting about 10 minutes, and we were brought upstairs to our table. We decided to get an order of the spicy calamari to share. It wasn’t spicy so much as it had a nice crisp black pepper taste. The dipping sauce was sweet, tangy, and peanuty with a little kick all at the same time. I really enjoyed it.

Spicy Crispy Calamari with Sriracha honey chili sauce

For our entrees, I went with the Drunken Man Noodles, and my fiancé went for his go-to Pad Thai. The Drunken Man Noodles were broad rice noodles (my favorite!) with chicken, shrimp and squid along with chili, egg, and green beans.

Drunk Man Noodle

Our food came quickly, and it was actually really good. Being the spicy lovers that we are, we asked for extra spice. Surprisingly, despite the restaurant’s name, the food wasn’t spicy. That would be my only gripe about the place. The service was friendly, but they didn’t check-up on us once. It worked out since everything was fine, but if it hadn’t been, I wonder if we would have had trouble flagging someone down. At any rate, for a $30 dinner in the city, I really can’t complain.

To end our night on an even higher note, we headed over to 16 Handles. My fiancé and I actually went here on our fourth date, after dining at the Telephone Bar which is sadly now closed. 16 Handles really is as great as it sounds. There are 16 different flavors of frozen yogurt that you get to choose from yourself, followed by a plethora of toppings. It’s all done buffet style, so you get to pick your cup size, yogurt and topping choices, and then pay by weight. They have everything from sweet to tart flavors, non-dairy and low fat options, and both fruity and candy-like toppings. Being the sweets junkie that I am, I went for red velvet, cookies & cream, New York cheesecake and peanut butter yogurt (just a dollop of each!). I then topped it off with some cookie dough bites, brownie bites, crushed graham crackers, crushed Oreo, and mashed Reese’s peanut butter cups. Oh. Yes. Take a look at the masterpiece!:

16 Handles of deliciousness

So all in all, despite not getting a cupcake, I think I had a successful foodie evening. And I made up for the lack of cupcakes by getting a Crumbs cappuccino and half baked cupcake Saturday. Plus, I’m on Sunday I was able to whip up some peanut butter cupcakes from my 500 Cupcakes recipe book! Maybe next year I’ll be adventurous and bake my OWN cupcakes for the event! We’ll see 🙂

Eggplant Enchiladas – A Labor of Love

Why is it that almost all types of delicious food are labor intensive? Specifically, all the types of food I like to eat? Furthermore, it seems that anything remotely healthy is somewhat cumbersome to make as well. To be fair, I would have enjoyed my enchilada making experience if it were on say a Sunday afternoon. However, on a Monday night after a long day of work, spending two hours was less than fun. But I stuck with it, and was rewarded with some seriously delicious enchiladas!

When making the recipe, prepare yourself for A LOT of veggie cutting. I had no problem with that until of course the onion, which makes me cry uncontrollably to the point where I can’t open my eyes. Writing about it now is making me tear up. Aside from that, the rest of the recipe doesn’t call for too much work. It’s a lot of sautéing and waiting.

I found the recipe on Serious Eats, who always impresses with their daily recipes. I’ve found they often post Spanish and Mexican dishes, which I absolutely love – like the Chilaquiles Frittata I made (also a lot of little steps).

Once I got past all the slicing and dicing, and waiting for the veggies to cook, I was able to fly through the rest of the recipe. I added a 1/4 of a teaspoon more cayenne pepper to give it a kick, and boy did it have a kick! It was just the right amount of spice for me, before it reached the unpleasant threshold. For a lot of people, though, I think it would have been too spicy.

I also left out the almonds. So, instead of eggplant and almond enchiladas, they were just eggplant. I didn’t miss them, though. There were so many other flavors (green pepper, onion, cumin, garlic, tomato, etc.) that I’m not sure what the almonds would have added.

The recipe says it’ll make 12 enchiladas, but I only got 10 out of it, and they weren’t even fully stuffed! I went with the fajita size tortillas, but I’m not sure if there are smaller, and if so, if I should have used them (the recipe didn’t specify).

This is a great alternative to a meat-filled enchilada. Eggplant is a pretty meaty and filling vegetable, and definitely adds some serious flavor to the meal. I can only surmise it’s pretty healthy too; a whole bunch of veggies and spices, just a bit of cheese, and some tortillas. A great way to get your Mexican fix in lighter and less fattening way, at home!

I’d definitely make this dish again, just not on a week-night. It’s better served on a Saturday or Sunday. Maybe even a Friday night. But not sitting down to dinner until 9pm on a Monday night was a little stressful.

So next time you’re looking to make a meat-free Mexican meal and you have some time, why not give this a try? You’ll be glad you did!

Eggplant Enchiladas
-Serves 4-

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups onion, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3 cups tomatoes, chopped
6 cups eggplant, diced (about 1 large one)
salt and black pepper
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 cup jack cheese, grated
12 corn tortillas
Canola oil for frying

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour half of the olive oil into a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add half of the onions and a pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the cumin, chili powder, and cayenne. Stir well, and cook for 5 minutes.
2. Dump in the tomatoes and 1 cup of water. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes. Halfway through cooking add half the garlic, and black pepper to taste. Puree the sauce when done in a blender when it has cooled slightly. Be careful.
3. While the sauce is cooking, pour the rest of the olive oil into a large skillet or pot over medium heat. Add the rest of the onion and cook for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the eggplant and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The eggplant should be soft.
4. Add the garlic and green bell pepper. Stir well, remove the cover, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Turn off the heat, and then add the cheese and almonds. Stir well.
5. Pour enough canola oil into a skillet to cover the bottom. Turn heat to medium high. Fry each tortilla for just a few seconds on each side. You want to cook them until they become leathery, not until they crisp up. honestly no more than 3 seconds a side. Transfer each to a paper towels, and remove as much oil as possible. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
6. Place about 1/4 cup of the filling into each tortilla, and then roll up. Place them seam-side down in a baking sheet. Pour the sauce over. Place in the oven and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until warm. Serve.

Chilaquiles Fritatta – Seriously Delicious

There are a few things that I’m a huge fan of, that if you haven’t gotten by now, I’ll spell out. One of them is Mexican food. The other is the food blog Serious Eats. Combine the two into a recipe, and you know I’m going to try it!

Last week I found a recipe for a Chilaquiles Fritatta. I’m not going to pretend like I knew what that was ahead of time. Sure, I know what a fritatta is. But what the heck are chilaquiles?! Well, it means “herbs or greens in chile broth” and basically combines left over tortillas and hot sauce/salsa. If you’re going to combine something spicy and fried, I’m sold!

The recipe itself seemed easy on the outset, but frying little tortilla strips is tedious. And apparently in my kitchen, also dangerous! While I was transferring some from the pan to my plate with a paper towel on it so some of the excess oil could drip off, I placed the plate to close to the flame, lighting it on fire. I quickly threw it in the sink and put water on it, ruining half of that batch. While I was in the process of making them, I snuck a few to sample. They would be great with ice cream. I picture them with a vanilla ice cream and some sort of apple cinnamon concoction. I’m not sure how, but I know it would work!

Aside from almost lighting myself on fire, my only other mishap was dropping an entire package of eggs. Thankfully, only four broke, and I had another package with three in them. I can’t believe the luck I had! It’s a miracle that I and my fiance got out of the kitchen alive!

At any rate, once the tortillas were done, the rest of the recipe was smooth sailing. It calls for either creme fraiche or sour cream, so I of course went with the sour cream. Whisking sour cream and eggs together makes them super creamy and fluffy. I’m not a huge egg fan, but I really enjoyed these! I also left out the scallions, as I didn’t want a huge bushel and nothing to use them with. I didn’t miss them, either. Also, it notes you need cubed queso fresco. Honestly, I had no idea what that was until I Googled it. It basically just means “fresh cheese.” I just went with some Monterey Jack.

The recipe also says it only needs to bake for 10-15 minutes. It took mine more like 25 minutes to ensure the eggs weren’t runny. I didn’t mind, but I think my fiance was starting to gnaw on his own limbs (and he wasn’t even infected with the zombie virus).

This would be great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. But I suppose that’s only if you’re one of those people that can eat “breakfast” at any time. I used to not be able to mix my meals, but breakfast is slowly making it’s way to later points of my day. Lunch has always been interchangeable for me, but dinner stays comfortably at 4pm or later (and that’s pushing it).

I really can’t recommend this recipe enough. It’s spicy (but you can add/remove spice as you need based on your salsa choice), it has fried goodness, and it’s got some serious Mexican flair! So next time you want to have a little siesta, treat your taste buds to something equally deserving!

Chilaquiles Fritatta
– Serves 4 –

Canola oil
6 (6-inch) corn tortillas, sliced into 1-inch strips
1 cup smooth salsa or hot sauce
6 eggs
2 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 chipotles chiles in adobo, thinly sliced
1 poblano chile, rib and seeds removed, diced
3 tablespoons cilantro, divided
3 scallions, thinly sliced, divided
1/2 cup cubed queso fresco cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Fill a cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet with a 1/4-inch of canola oil, and warm over medium-high heat.
2. Add tortilla strips to pan, and fry until golden, about 1 minute on each side. Drain on paper towels.
3. In a large bowl, toss fried tortilla strips with salsa or hot sauce until well combined. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of remaining oil in the pan, and discard.
4. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, crème fraîche, salt and pepper with fork until just combined.
5. Pour egg mixture into the skillet, add chiles, 1 tablespoon of cilantro and half of the scallions. Let excess sauce drip off tortilla strips, and add to egg mixture.
6. Evenly distribute cheese on top of the frittata. Bake in oven until completely set, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
7. Finish by garnishing with remaining cilantro and scallions, as well as extra hot sauce. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Happy nomzing!