Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sometimes Veggie Soup and Sandwich Nights are THE BEST!

Alright, so A LOT has happened since my last blog entry!  I did write one entry after returning from Costa Rica, but I have fallen way behind!  Here are a few pictures of me and Abby on our Costa Rican adventure!  We met while studying abroad at Oxford and discovered we LOVE traveling together!  She is one of my favorite people in the whole world!:)

We started our Contiki tour at the Poas Volcano!
It was a bit windy up there!

One of my favorite places in Costa Rica was the COFFEE TOUR!
(I also loved the Chocolate Tour....shocking, I know!)

One of the most beautiful places we went to was the Cloud Forest in Monteverde.  It was amazing being above the tree line walking on the suspended bridges!  We even got to do a zip line tour!  I think my ears are still ringing from someone's screaming! ;)

Alright, so Costa Rica was one reason I have been a procrastinator, but another reason is that I have been enjoying my little buddy!  I have been the nanny for my niece for almost six months and it has been one of the best two jobs (working at a summer camp was the other!) I have ever had!  We have so much fun going to parks, cooking together (she stirs her own eggs, smushes Rice Krispie Treats, and has even made cookies with her Grandma!), and generally enjoying what the city has to offer an amazing two year old!  Another reason I have been slacking with the blog is that my job for next school year came through!  It is an amazing opportunity, but I will miss my little buddy a bunch and am trying to make sure we have the best summer ever!  Finally, I have been getting back in the groove reading and working out, and that takes up some time, too!
Sooooo....there is my life update and a few of the many reasons I have not posted in a while!
This recipe is from a Wednesday in May.  The reason I knew it was a Wednesday without even looking at the dates on my pictures is because there were so few pictures of me and Lisa doing fun stuff together since she had "school" that day.  Lisa began school in April and absolutely loved it!  She went once a week and will go back to school again this fall.  

Here is my little buddy all ready for school asking,
"Why do you take so many pictures, Embalee?"  
After a fun time with Lisa hanging out after her nap, I went home and cooked some delicious soup and Jeffy made these delicious cauliflower grilled cheese sandwiches by Daphne Oz (we did not make the ketchup butter) to go along side the vegetable soup.  

The basic recipe for this soup came from another The Chew's Michael Symon....


September 6, 2015....

For real.  I am back to it.

So this recipe is based on Michael Symon's Spring Vegetable Soup, but I switched up the veggies to make it simpler and based on what I could actually find at our beloved Trader Joe's!

You begin by creating a roux.  This means you mix a fat and flour.  I used whole wheat flour because that is what we had and it is delicious (and would not mess up this recipe!).  We only buy salted butter because we love it with our popcorn, so I also used that instead of unsalted butter for my fat.  To create the roux you begin by melting the butter in a large pot (I used a non-stick soup pot because it is slightly smaller than our pasta pot and we did not need that whole big pot!), then whisk in the flour until it looks like wet sand.

The wet-sand texture of the roux.  I used whole wheat flour, so it is darker than yours might look.

After cooking this for a minute or two, you begin adding the stock.  You do this slowly to ensure proper mixing of the roux and liquid.  I add about three cups of stock while whisking, then when it has fully assimilated, I add another three cups while whisking, then finally the last two cups are incorporated into the mixture.  Bring the soup up to a boil and add salt and a tablespoon of ground nutmeg (or grate it straight in if you have fresh nutmeg!).  After it has boiled, turn the heat down to low and continue to cook while stirring occasionally for 30-40 minutes.  

After the first third of stock is added you need to whisk it in to ensure the roux is incorporated into your soup base.  (Otherwise you may end up eating lumps of flour instead of a smooth, velvety soup, which sounds kind of gross!)
 While the soup simmers away, begin cooking the vegetables in a sauté pan.  Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil over medium heat.  Chop an onion and add that to the pan and cook until it becomes slightly tender, then add asparagus chopped into bite-sized pieces.  Cook this together for a few minutes, then add any other vegetables you have!  We were able to buy some fresh English peas (NOT FROZEN!), so I added them.  I have also made this with some sugar snap peas that I just sliced into small pieces (and removed that tough string, of course!).

My mixture of onions, asparagus, and English peas cooking in olive oil.
To the back left you can see the onions cooking away for Jeffy's take on Daphne Oz's DELICIOUS Cauliflower Grilled Cheese!

Finally, I added shredded cabbage along with some more olive oil (another tablespoon or so) and some salt.  Allow this to cook together until the cabbage is tender and delicious.

Veggie mixture with cabbage cooking away!
Once your vegetables are just fork-tender and tasty, add salt and pepper according to your preference (even if you skimp on the salt because you are watching your sodium intake, add fresh ground pepper because it really does elevate the flavor of these vegetables to even greater heights!).

To assemble the soup, place a ladle-full or two of the liquid mixture (that has continued to simmer for about 30 minutes) into a bowl.  Top it with the vegetables and some more fresh ground pepper.  These two parts remain separate for the entire cooking process and even for storing so that they retain their own separate tastes even upon serving.  The mix of the velvety-smooth liquid and the crunch of those fork-tender vegetables is amazing!  

Add some of the vegetable mixture on top of a ladle or two of the velvety-smooth soup and top with fresh ground pepper.

Finally, serve an amazing bowl of this soup alone or along side a tasty sandwich like these that Jeffy made!

Jeffy has mastered the art of creating a perfect panini using our Jorgé (George Foreman grill).  

Fresh Vegetable Soup

- 4 ounces of butter (we use salted because that is what we always buy, but either salted or unsalted works)
- 4 ounces of flour (we use whole wheat flour, but white works well, too)
- 8 cups of chicken stock (here we use low sodium because we add salt ourselves in various ways)
- 1 tablespoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
      - Your choice of vegetables, but I recommend the following
- 1 onion, chopped coarsely 
- 1 pound asparagus, cut into one-inch pieces
- 12-16 (or more!) ounces peas (we use fresh English peas, but chopped sugar snap peas and frozen peas work well, too)
- 1 to 3 pounds shredded cabbage (we love it, so we add a lot!)
- olive oil
- salt and fresh ground pepper 


1.  Create a roux in a large soup pot by melting the butter and then whisking in the flour.  Once the flour has fully assimilated and it becomes a wet-sand texture, add one-third of the stock and whisk together.  When the flour is fully combined with the liquid, add another third of the chicken stock and whisk together.  Add the final third of the stock and bring to a boil while adding the nutmeg and a pinch or more of salt.  When it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for 30-40 minutes while stirring occasionally.  

2.  While the soup cooks down, heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.  To this you will add your vegetables.*  Add the onion and cook until it begins to become tender.  To that add the asparagus and peas and cook for a few minutes until the asparagus begins to change color to a more vibrant green.  Then add the shredded cabbage, another tablespoon of olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Cook this for several minutes until it becomes fork tender and delicious.  

3.  Serve by ladling some of the soup liquid into a bowl, then top with the vegetable mixture and fresh ground pepper.  It goes great alongside a panini (we recommend these cauliflower grilled cheese sandwiches we make using our Jorgé/George Foreman Grill).  

*Again, the vegetable choice is yours and depends on what you have available seasonally.  I used what was available and what we know we like!  I made this soup for my niece and they loved the veggies so much that they ate them separately from the soup, too!  The vegetables are super simple, healthy, and delicious - just make sure to add salt and pepper!   


Friday, May 29, 2015

Sometimes We Really Hate Clean Up - Salmon in Parchment Paper with Asparagus and Mushrooms and a Garlic Caper Butter Sauce

**Sorry for the delay in posting this recipe!  I wrote half of this blog post on April 30, but then I went to COSTA RICA FOR TWO WEEKS!  I am just getting back into my groove and should have another two recipes (as in we already cooked them, now I have to write!) soon!  Thanks for checking out my blog and enjoying our story and recipes!**

Alright, that's a little misleading - WE ALWAYS HATE CLEAN UP!  Our kitchen is a little small, so we have to make sure we stay on top of cleaning the dishes or else the sink is unusable.  Thus is the life in our adorable fifth floor walk-up.  We love it!

It started out as a typical Wednesday.  Take my little buddy to "school" followed by a quick coffee shop run to Irving Farm to get our fave treat - pretzel sticks!

Little buddy practicing driving.  Might as well
get good at backing up because she will need to know
how to parallel park as a city baby!

We are excited about pretzel sticks!  
After my fun day with the munchkin, Jeffy and I decided we wanted to cook something healthy and easy.   We also picked a recipe that requires basically no clean up, which is pretty amazing.  We wrapped all the ingredients in parchment paper, tossed the individually wrapped meal on a baking sheet, and let it do some magic in the oven.  Alright, so there was a little pre-cooking of the mushrooms, but that was it and we used the pan again to make the sauce!  A single pan clean up and baking sheet wipe-down is pretty darn good for a gourmet meal!

We began preparing our fancy looking meal with my sous chef Jeffy slicing the lemons into rounds while I cooked the mushrooms in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil.

Next we trimmed the asparagus.  I always tear it at the vegetable's natural bend so we do not end up eating any of the woody ends.  Yuck!  We layered the asparagus over Jeffy's nicely sliced lemon rounds.

Then I showed off my lovely asparagus mustache and wild hair.  Man, I need a haircut and a keratin treatment!

The next step was layering the cut salmon (thank you, Jeffy!) over top of the asparagus bed and adding salt and pepper.  Finally, you add the precooked mushrooms!

Then we wrapped the salmon into its parchment and flipped it so the lemon was on top and could ooze deliciousness all over the whole packet!

Jeffy chose to wrap his in a little tin foil because the parchment was just a little too small, which totally works, too!

We cooked this creation in the oven for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees.  While it was cooking I made a garlic butter caper sauce in the same pan I had prepared the mushrooms.  I added two cloves of minced garlic into a pan on medium heat along with about four tablespoons of butter.  After letting that marinate together for a moment I added salt, fresh ground pepper, and one to two tablespoons of capers. 

After the fish was done and unwrapped it looked like this....

To which we added the garlic butter caper sauce (you could totally add more lemon, I just forgot to when I made this version!) to get this final product!  (Photo credit:  Jeffy and his new fancy camera!)

So the only dishes we had to do were the ones we ate off of, and the skillet and spoon!  Hooray for easy clean up during the week!

Here is the recipe.  It's super simple and you will be extremely happy not to have to clean up much!

Salmon in Parchment with Asparagus and Mushrooms and a Garlic Caper Butter Sauce

- Salmon portions (around 4-6 ounces per person, but we each use half of whatever package we buy!)
- Asparagus (around 4 - 8 pieces per person, trimmed)
- Lemon, sliced into rounds
- 12-16 ounces of mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (for mushrooms)
- 4 tablespoons of butter (we prefer salted, but that's because we also use it on our popcorn!)
- 1-2 tablespoons of capers
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper
- Parchment paper

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.  Cook mushrooms in a skillet with olive oil.  While the mushrooms are cooking, trim asparagus by snapping the ends off at their natural breaking point.  
3.  Prepare parchment paper for each salmon portion on a baking sheet (or two if more than two servings!).  Place the lemon rounds on the bottom and layer the asparagus next.  Add the salmon and salt and pepper it.  Finally, top with the cooked mushrooms.  Seal the parchment with your hands and flip it over so the lemon side is facing upward and place in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes depending on your preferred level of doneness.
4.  While the salmon is cooking, use the same skillet you prepared the mushrooms in to make the sauce by adding the garlic and butter at medium heat.  After the butter has melted a moment, add the capers and salt and pepper.  Let it cook together for another minute and then remove it from the heat.  
5.  Take the salmon out and serve it lemon side down.  Top the whole thing off with a spoonful or two of the caper sauce.
6.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Sometimes We Go Along With Made Up Holidays - National Grilled Cheese Day!

Someone squirreled away in some office somewhere has had a great time inventing made up "holidays."  The social media world exploded with pictures of people when they were young and incredibly adorable (not that you all are not still adorable, but you were cuter at age seven and you know it!) for "National Sibling Day" on April 10th.  Later that weekend, on Sunday, April 12, a "holiday" I could really get behind happened.  (I love my brother and we just had a great time this past weekend when he brought his whole family along with my parents to the city for a visit, but I did not feel the need to share pictures of me looking adorable and him looking awkward - he is six years older than me, so he hit that stage right in my prime cuteness years.)  Sorry about that aside, I felt it was important to discuss.  Back to the "holiday."  Apparently someone decided to make the next social media "holiday" National Grilled Cheese Day and I was THRILLED!  Who wouldn't love a day in which one melts cheese between two delicious pieces of bread and decides to overshare with the world??

Alright, so I learned about this "holiday" after running my second race in two weeks - this time just a four miler.  I ran a nice #slowbutsteady pace and beat my goal time, so I was proud.  I was also proud I had not run myself into the ground by trying too hard and not being able to do anything else that day even though we had gone on a GORGEOUS hike the day before!  (Yes, I had to skip my soccer game because I was somewhat tired, but I also had to save my legs for the half marathon I was running the next weekend!)

The view from our hike up Bald Mountain (same area as Bear Mountain)
in New York.  #nofilternature
Taking a break and being goofy after completing a very steep climb!
The most adorable husband ever enjoying our hike!
Post-hike we were looking for something delicious to eat in the area and found Foodies in Fort Montgomery, NY and it was AMAZING!  Look at that pizza!  Racing strips of mozzarella, pesto, and their house tomato sauce!  Soooooooo good!

Hiking in the Bear Mountain area?  Go to Foodies.  Get a pizza.
Thank me later!:)
Back to Sunday/the best fake "holiday" ever (aside from National Talk Like a Pirate Day0.  After the race Jeffy (best husband/fan section a girl could ever have!) and I went to our gym and grabbed some smoothies while we wrote a grocery list.

Proud I finished the four miler, still felt good, and ready for smoothies!
We made it to our beloved Trader Joe's (TJs) by 11am and it was the calmest shopping experience there EVER!  Also, they had everything we wanted for all of our recipes, so we did not have to make any substitutions!  Apparently Sunday morning shopping with the slightly older crowd is the best time to go because the shelves were FULL!  Let's keep the Sunday morning uncrowded/fully stocked shelves thing a secret between you and me, alright?  Thanks!

Post-shopping I needed some couching time and we hung out for a while before heading out on a walk to stretch our legs and say goodbye to Jeffy's amazing Spring Break relaxation week (during which he worked incredibly hard at his new hobby - computer programming - and earned a seat at an amazing programming school/"computer camp" for the summer!  So proud!).

Walking in Riverside Park.  You can see the
George Washington Bridge in the background.
Ask Jeffy to tell you a story about that bridge!

Enjoying the blue skies!
Oh, I guess here is where we actually get to the cooking part!  You never thought I would get there, did you?  Well, here we are!

My favorite grilled cheese ever is at a coffee shop in the West Village called Grounded Coffee.  I have dragged several friends here and done countless hours of lesson planning and grading here while enjoying a delicious chai latte and a grilled brie and apple on multigrain bread.  It is AMAZING.  So that is what I decided to do for my made up "holiday" sandwich.  I used a light brie from TJs, Granny Smith apples because that tartness is delicious, a drizzle of honey, and some arugula on a multigrain bread.  For anything we "grill" in our house - whether it is burgers (except for these ones, which we cooked in a pan) or grilled chicken or panini sandwiches to go on the side of delicious soup or simply toast like we did for this recipe - we use the George Foreman grill (lovingly called Jorgé).  So we grilled these panini-like grilled cheeses on the Foreman, but you should use any technique - baking, pan cooking, or even a fancy-schmancy panini press - that you prefer!

Here are the photo-instructions for how to create an amazing grilled cheese/panini!

Jeffy is the best sous chef ever and sliced those
Granny Smith apples nice and thin!
Action shot of the brie slicing!  Go Jeffy! 
I drizzled olive oil on the side of the bread touching the grill,
then I layered the slices of brie and apple on the pre-warmed "grill". 
Next I added a drizzle of honey to add a little sweetness to
counteract some of the delicious tartness of the apple.
Finally, I added some arugula.  I liked the arugula, but you
might like it best as a side salad rather than in your sandwich!
Of course I added another layer of bread at this point with some
more olive oil drizzled on top.
The final product!  

Here is the recipe - tweak it to whatever combo you like best.  Maybe add some berry jelly instead of the arugula and use the arugula for a side salad with a honey vinaigrette!

Brie and Apple Grilled Cheese

- Two slices of our favorite type of bread - I used a multigrain
- A few slices of brie cheese, sliced about 1/8" to 1/4" thick
- A few slices of apple - I prefer Granny Smith for the tartness, but most types work well - also sliced flat and the same thickness as the cheese
- A drizzle of honey
- A drizzle of olive oil for each piece of bread
- Several leaves of arugula (you could also use this as a side salad instead of on the sandwich!)

1.  Warm up your grill/grill pan/oven/however you make grilled cheese.  (We use a George Foreman grill.)
2.  While your source of heat (let's call it the grill to make things easier) is warming up, slice the brie and apples.
3.  Drizzle olive oil on one side of a piece of bread and place the oiled side down on the grill.  
4.  Layer the cheese, apples, a drizzle of honey, and the arugula (if you have it/want it) on top of the bread.
5.  Add the second piece of bread on top and drizzle a little more olive oil on that.  Grill for about three minutes or until the cheese is melted and remove it from the heat.  
6.  Slice your sandwich in half and enjoy!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Sometimes I Am Really Late Writing!

So I have been a bit preoccupied with hanging out with my niece during the day and with my upcoming trip to COSTA RICA with one of my most favorite people in the world and with my attempt to get in a little better shape so I survive a half marathon after only a little over three weeks of running....this could get ugly!

Those are my excuses for slacking.  I apologize.  It will happen again, so I apologize again in advance!  Life gets busy, especially when the weather is finally nice!

Alright.  To the actual food and the awesome day before we made the delicious food.

Jeff bought a Groupon voucher for Tea at The Pierre Hotel and we went on a Sunday.  The tea started with some bubbly....delicious!    

Then we got our delicious sandwiches, scones, and cookies!  They were sooooooo good!  

Followed by our tea....both teas were delicious, but Jeffy chose best with The Pierre Blend.  You have to get it if you go!

Jeffy is a particularly adorable tea drinker!  

Then we took a goofy picture of me in the hotel....the Garmin watch goes very well with my dress, don't you think?

Finally we headed home.  We walked through Central Park back to the west side (aka the best side!) because we were so full from the goodies that we needed to stretch a bit!  We found a very steep slide and Jeffy was brave enough to go down it!

Jeffy being brave!

Then....after we walked about two miles and went shopping, we finally made it home.  We were definitely not in the mood for something heavy, so we made EGGPLANT PIZZAS!  We used the sauce I had already made the day before (Delicious Sauce Recipe!) instead of a jarred sauce.

To make eggplant pizza, you begin by preheating the oven to 425.  Then you cut the eggplant, beginning by removing the ends.  I slice mine in half so I can easily "peel" the skin off without losing too much of that delicious eggplant.  I use a knife to remove/"peel" the skin away because, although the purple skin is beautiful, it is a bit tough to eat.  

I halve the eggplant, then use a knife to slice the skin
away without losing much of the actual eggplant.
After removing the skin, you cut the eggplant into disks between 3/4 of an inch to a full inch thick.  Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt.  Bake the disks for 12 to 20 minutes depending on their width.  Ours were small and our oven was fully heated, so they only needed 12 minutes.  

Pre-cooking to remove some moisture.


Take the eggplant out of the oven and turn on the broiler.  Top each disk with a spoonful of sauce and sprinkle with either shredded mozzarella or Parmesan cheese and place under broiler for three to five minutes.  I recommend finishing each "pizza" disk with a basil leaf, but we just planted ours, so we don't have any yet!

Pre-broiling with sauce and cheese! 
Post-broiling deliciousness!

I topped mine with red pepper flakes and some oregano.
I recommend basil, but our "garden" has just started!

Here is our basil garden - we also have cilantro and I cannot wait to make some Chicken Taco Pizza!

Basil "garden" day one....

Also, this entry was proofread by Lisa, so if there are any typos/issues, please send all comments her way!

Lisa working on the blog!

Here is the recipe:

Eggplant Pizza

- Jarred sauce or THIS DELICIOUS SAUCE
- One or two medium or large eggplants 
- Shredded cheese - mozzarella or Parmesan works well, but whatever you like!
- Olive Oil
- Salt

1.  Preheat oven to 425.
2.  Cut the ends of the eggplant off, then slice it in half (or thirds if very large).  Remove the skin with a knife (picture above!).
3.  Take "peeled" eggplant and cut into disks of about 3/4 of an inch to 1".   Place the disks on a parchment-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle a little salt over each disk as well.
4.  Bake the eggplant for 12 to 20 minutes depending on size.  The purpose of this baking is to cook it through and remove some moisture.  
5.  Remove them from the oven and turn on the broiler.  
6.  Top with a spoonful of sauce on each disk and sprinkle with your choice of cheese.  
7.  Broil for three to five minutes.  
8.  Season with basil, red pepper flakes, and/or oregano.
9.  Enjoy!