Apple, Walnut and Feta Salad

This is an awesome salad with a lot of possibilities. Though I’d definitely call it a summer salad, I’ve been enjoying it all winter long with no complaints. It’s perfect to pair with a sandwich at lunch or even a homemade pizza for dinner (Trader Joe’s dough! Trader Joe’s dough!), and the tanginess of the balsamic vinaigrette and the feta mixed with the sweetness of the apples is a great combination. If you want to switch it up, I love making it with dried cranberries or halved green grapes instead of apples.

Let’s toss it up!

Russian Tea Cakes

Russia holds a special place in my heart. After my grandma returned from living in Moscow (yes, grandma in Moscow) she came bearing gifts–beautiful matryoshkas and wooden childrens toys with tiny chickens on strings that pecked when pulled, a child’s apron with a Russian doll that I still find excuses to wear and ornaments exquisitely painted at needlepoint with minute detail. I discovered Ayn Rand in high school and enjoyed Dostoyevsksy in college, but after failing to make it to Russia on my first and second trips to Europe it remains on my ever-growing bucket list.

I somehow doubt these cookies have anything to do with Russia, though they do pair well with tea. These are, however, my mom’s all-time favorite Christmas cookie. I’m talking seven-in-one-sitting favorite. This year I made them alone, and I found that they were surprisingly simple, one-bowl cookies that require very little time or cleanup. The longest step is coating them twice with powdered sugar, but any task involving powdered sugar isn’t half bad in my book. So, whether it’s Christmas or Tuesday or you want tasty cookies to impress those non-chocolate lovers in your life, this cookie is for you.

Check it out!

Oven Roasted Cauliflower

Cauliflower is awesome. For twenty-two years now I’ve eaten it one way: with cheese on top. Make that melted Velveeta cheese on top, which I recently found out isn’t actually a cheese. What, not a cheese? It’s true. The Wikipedia article on the subject (I love Wikipedia and I’m not ashamed to say it!) refers to Velveeta as:

“…a processed cheese product having a taste that is identified as a type of American cheese.”

So there’s the shocking truth. Or not so shocking, you decide. But, back to cauliflower. I recently found out (thanks to Gojee, an amazingly handy food site with a wonderful network of food bloggers) that a lot of health-conscious cauliflower lovers enjoy it roasted in the oven with a host of other simple ingredients. The result? Delicious cauliflower, perfectly seasoned and cooked to perfection in one dish. It’s a truly easy and healthy way to enjoy cauliflower.

So let’s get roasting!

Chewy Iced Gingerbread Cookies

Oh, Brussels. Land of frites, sprawling parks, quaint little Bruges, and Herman Van Rompuy. I had the amazing opportunity to spend a summer in Brussels during college, and boy did I have a blast. One of my favorite parts of spending time in any new place is sampling the local foods, and in Brussels that means two things: frites and speculoos. While I still sometimes dream about a massive pile of frites smothered in samurai sauce, it’s the speculoos that truly made me fall in love. Speculoos are thin, crispy cookies sold in supermarkets across Europe. They permeate all aspects of culture–you’ll find them served as a treat alongside a cappuccino at a sidewalk cafe or as speculoos-flavored ice cream and paste known as “Speculoospasta.” Can’t get enough speculoos? Some people smeared speculoospasta on the crispy cookie for a double hit of flavor.

So how does gingerbread comes into play? Speculoos have a vaguely gingerbread-y taste, which converted my formerly “take it or leave it” opinion on gingerbread cookies to full-on love. Now, gingerbread cookies make me think fondly of the Belgian-speculoos-eating frenzy I enjoyed that summer, and with this recipe you can share in my Belgian love affair or, if you prefer, bite the heads off of little gingerbread men at your leisure. So give these cookies a try, dip them in a chai latte, savor the season, and dream of Belgium. Well, that last part is just for me.

Let’s get baking!

Mayfair Salad Dressing

Once upon a time my mother was a young waitress, and she worked at a restaurant called Ziggy’s. The restaurant made a delicious, garlicky take on Mayfair Dressing with a kick that all the patrons loved. Ziggy’s is no more and my mom is all grown up, but the dressing remains a staple anytime we want to put in a little more effort than a creamy ranch or balsamic vinaigrette. So if you want to impress some guests with a house-made dressing that adds some zing to any salad, look no further.

Let’s get blending.

Holiday Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauceUntil recently, cranberry sauce was, to me, a canned food that was chilled, sliced, and set on the Thanksgiving table to enjoy. I had never even eaten a fresh cranberry (a big mistake, don’t try this at home!) or really connected it with the cylindrical mass I enjoyed so much on Thanksgiving. This year, I found a tried and true recipe for homemade cranberry sauce that was both delicious and easy to make. The faint popping of the cranberries in their sugary bath seemed perfect for the festive mood, and as I stirred I wondered why I hadn’t done it like this all along. This experiment, along with my homemade applesauce recipe, proves that going homemade is way better than store-bought if you just give it a try.  So spice up your holiday table with some tasty cranberry sauce, and show your friends and family what they’ve been missing.

Let’s get popping!

Flip… Flip… Flipadelphia

This past week I spent a long weekend in Philadelphia, and the city’s reputation for being a foodie heaven did not disappoint. From dim sum in Chinatown to calamaretti in the suburbs, Philadelphia is full of gems–whether you want fancy fare offered up on white tablecloths or food cart phở complete with plastic utensils. So here’s a glimpse of my food-filled weekend in photos.

  1. Egg custard tart from a bakery in Chinatown. Not pictured: the very live fish market.
  2. To-die-for-delicious soup dumplings and scallion pancakes from Dim Sum Garden.
  3. Reading Terminal Market–what I picture heaven to be like.
  4. Brisket hoagies with sharp provolone (who knew?) and broccoli rabe from DiNic’s, a sandwich Adam Richman referred to as “transcendental.” Need I say more?
  5. Chicken phở at a food truck on the Temple University campus.
  6. The tile mosaic at Market East Station.
  7. Mushroom and duck quesadillas and smoked fingerling potatoes with herbed crème fraiche at Triumph Brewing. Not pictured: house-brewed framboise (oh, Belgium!) and hoppapalooza beers. Good, but not soup dumplings good.

Of course my long weekend didn’t even scratch the surface, and I can’t wait to go back to get my wine and cheese on at Tria and my hipster-watching fix at Continental. Philadelphia, I miss you already.

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

Beef and broccoliI realize that I don’t seem to cook a lot on this blog. Maybe it’s because whipping up lemon poppy seed muffins or enjoying the smell of fresh-baked zucchini bread is so much more rewarding. However, I do eat more than just muffins and pies and bread, so here’s an easy beef and broccoli stir fry recipe to prove that I do in fact cook. This recipe calls mostly for ingredients that you probably already have on hand like white wine, soy sauce, corn starch and broccoli. While searching for organic buckwheat Soba noodles required trips to three different stores, I like to think they made the meal. The real pleasure in this meal is that it tastes just like Chinese take-out but without the high levels of hidden fats, sodium and MSG.

Ready for some stir fry? Let’s get cooking.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

muffinsThese muffins are wonderful for two main reasons. One: they are only 95 calories and 2 WeightWatchers points each. Two: they contain chocolate. A few members of my family wondered about the marriage of chocolate and banana, skeptical about the combination’s tastiness. I defended it. What about the Bluth banana? What other example of chocolatey-banana goodness do you need? If it’s good enough for the Bluths, it’s good enough for me. Filled with bran, oats and banana, these muffins are the kind that make you feel good both while you’re eating one (because they’re so tasty!) and afterward. Even if you’re the only one eating all 15 of them. Wait, what was that last part? Nevermind.

Ready to enjoy some banana-and-chocolate goodness? Check out the recipe!

Pecan Pie

Pecan pieI probably should never have discovered my love for pecan pie. My dad likes to say that he had never even heard of the pie before he met my mom; meaning, I suppose, that it’s a rural or down-home recipe that city folks don’t indulge in. But when the leaves start turning, pecan pie comes to the forefront of my mind as the fall pie. With a few modifications, this recipe is classic Betty Crocker, followed from my mom’s original, fading and flipped-through copy of Betty Crocker’s Cookbook. While pecan pie seems meant to follow fish fry dinners or heaping plates of turkey and mashed potatoes, even health lovers should find a reason to indulge in a pie this good once a year.

Let’s make a pie! Check out Betty’s recipe.