quinoa jambalaya

Can you tell I’m obsessed with quinoa yet? When it comes to quick and easy weeknight meals, it is my go-to pantry staple. Despite what it might look like, it is not the only thing I eat but it sure is a favorite. Quinoa can get boring when you use it as a replacement for rice, incorporate it into a salad, or find yourself rotating the same recipes each week. So quite obviously, I am always on the hunt for a new and fun recipe to try. Enter: quinoa jambalaya. Nutrients, seafood, and spice…what’s not to love?!

Recipe serves 4. Adapted from Emily Love Food

  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • few dashes of red pepper flakes
  • 2 (or 3 in my case) large scallops per serving, can leave out if you want seafood-free
  • 1 1/2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, cut into rounds
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 pack of spicy chorizo sausage
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 bag of baby spinach

1.)  Heat EVOO in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook in a cast iron skillet over a medium heat – chuck in the onion, pepper, celery and carrots down. This should take about 5-7 minutes. Make sure you sitr occasionally to avoid the vegetables from burning.

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cut veggies

2.) While vegetables are cooking, mix spice blend. Use half the mixture with the scallops and set aside. The remaining half will be reserved for later.

seasoned scallops

3.) Add minced garlic, chorizo, and other half of spice mixture to the veggies. Mix well until combined.

4.) Add tomatoes, stock, bay leaves and Worcestershire sauce to the mixture and bring to a gentle boil. Next, add your quinoa and spinach and cover for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

tomato sauce

5.) While quinoa is cooking, hit 1/2 tablespoon of EVOO in a separate nonstick skillet. Sear the scallops for 2 minutes on each side.

6.) Serve up a bowl of jambalaya and top with scallops. I was feeling indulgent so I ate 3 scallops this time around instead of 2.

completed pot

bowlI would definitely take this to work the next day minus the scallops. Seafood is much better fresh and not zapped in the microwave. Have you fallen in love with quinoa yet? What ingredients do you add to to your recipes to make them have an extra kick?

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kale, chicken, and quinoa salad

With the arrival of my favorite season, fall, comes unhealthy eating habits — consuming excessive amounts of Halloween candy (in particular, twix bars), obsessing over all baked goods (in particular, pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream), and last but not least, holiday parties where all the dieting rules go out the window. During the week I do my best to make healthy choices and say no to the second glass of red wine (sometimes). This is the perfect entrance for my kale, chicken, and quinoa salad. The combination of these 3 very ingredients will leave you feeling full even though you’re technically eating a salad. It all means it will be easier to fight off those pesky cravings I mentioned earlier.

Recipe serves about 2-4. Adapted from Aida Mollenkamp

kale preparation

  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste

dressing

  • 1/4 cup 2% greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 sprigs of mint (fresh from mom’s garden)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pinch of sugar
  • 2 pinches of red pepper flakes ( i like everything with heat)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped

salad extras

  • 1/2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 cup shredded chicken
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (tri-color might add some color to your plate)
  • 3/4 cup cannellini beans
  • 1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 persian cucumbers, diced
  • 1 oz or so of crumbled feta (add a little extra if you are a cheese lover)

1.)  Prepare your kale by removing the center rib and chopping the leaves into bite sized pieces and place into a plastic/ceramic mixing bowl. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper and gently massage the kale with your heads until he starts wilting. You may need to use the other half of your lemon. Once you are done massaging your kale, put to the side for 10-15 minutes while you prepare your dressing and salad extras.

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2.) In a food processor, combine all dressing ingredients until smooth. Be sure to add additional herbs/seasonings to taste. I like doubling the dressing recipe so that I can add an extra dollop to my salad, guilt-free or use it the next day as a dip for carrots, or turkey kebabs.

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3.) Heat your EVOO in a pan and add your ground cuimin until you can smell its aroma. Pour this on top of your shredded chicken and add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Mix well.

4.) Plate your kale and each layer of salad ingredients — chicken, quinoa, garbanzo beans, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers. Top your salad off with your yogurt dressing and feta cheese.

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Have you incorporated kale into your diet? If so, what is your favorite go-to kale recipe?

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the best tapas in nyc with my best friend

When your Best Friend (yes, I made this a proper noun) comes to visit you know you have to pull out all the stops and that includes going down memory at the best tapas restaurant in the city.

LOCATION
Alta
64 W. 10th Street (Between 5th and 6th Ave.)
http://www.altarestaurant.com/

Hidden along 10th street amongst shrubs, trees, and plants,  Alta definitely deserves all its fame and glory. There is always a crowd outside on the sidewalk and plenty of folks waiting at the bar for a table in their intimate two-floor restaurant. Beautiful candles light up the place. It is perfect for a date, and it was even more perfect to reminisce with my Best Friend about our first international trip together, Spain. I’ve mentioned this before but tapas restaurants are kind of my thing for a few reasons: I can order multiple dishes and not feel like pig, there is always sangria on the menu, and last but not least, you get to share with your fellow diners. Remember people, sharing is caring.

There are 3 staples on the menu that you must order….no matter what.

Fried Goat Cheese – 4 fried goat cheese balls are served on a stick on top of a lavender infused honey. When I laid eyes on this dish on the menu I knew this would end up being a happy marriage. Goat cheese and honey are still going on strong. The floral note adds a nice sweetness with the tangy, creaminess of the goat cheese. This is not a light cheese dish in any shape or form so be ready for the crispy, smooth, sweet, deliciousness that is to come.

goat cheese

Bacon Wrapped Dates and Olives – 6 delectable treats came just in time for us to enjoy our first glass of red sangria. These are stuffed with almonds and provide a balance of sweet and savory. Salty, chewy, sweet, and crispy. It takes skill to get all those adjectives in one bite. I enjoyed the olives more than the dates only because it was my first time having them paired with bacon. I should have known….bacon anything is always good.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts – These are the best Brussels sprouts I have ever had. in life. hands down. There is absolutely no competition in sight.  This is one the most popular dishes at the restaurant so don’t skimp on these because you are afraid of green vegetables. They come with Fuji apples, creme fraiche, and pistachios. The apples added some bite and freshness to the dish. The pistachios enhance the crispiness. The creme fraiche provided a sour note that creates balance. This is the type of balance that makes you vow to never give the stank eye to Brussels sprouts again (for all the Brussels sprouts haters out there) or to place an order for 2 helpings next time you visit (for all the Brussels sprouts lovers out there). Here are the before and after shots. It is important that you mix thoroughly so that every bite is amazing.

brussels     brussels 2

This is Best Friend approved. Look how happy she is!

bf

Which of the 3 dishes do you think you would enjoy the most? I think you can tell which one mine is!

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east side eats

I’ve been doing a lot of eating and not so much of the writing but my break from chit. chaat. chew is now over!

An east side girl for almost 9 months now, I have obviously fallen in love with two of the quirkiest neighborhoods near by — the east village and the lower east side.  Here is a collection of some of my current favorites and what to order at each.

LOCATION
Fonda
40 Ave. B (Between 3rd and 4th Street)
http://www.fondarestaurant.com/

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Whenever you go to a Mexican restaurant it is important that you check out the margarita menu. I went with the house specialty, their signature Hisbiscus Margarita. It is available frozen or on the rocks. My preference is always to go the frozen route so it was a no brainer. It comes with silver tequila, hibiscus, orange liquor & lime juice with our own hibiscus rim. This is one the most refreshing margaritas I’ve had. It was strong (when is a margarita not strong?), but the orange and lime flavors was the right amount of citrus with the hibiscus. The hibiscus rim was a nice touch, I preferred it over any salt or sugar.

marg

We decided to order appetizers for dinner in an effort to make a tapas style dinner.  The Fish Salpicon was extremely refreshing with chopped white fish, lime juice, onions,chiles,  and cilantro. It was served with hand pressed corn tortillas. I ordered the dish thinking it would be similar to ceviche but that was not the case. I was still happy with the lightly pan fried fish as it was not overcooked and the additional lime I squeezed on top bumped up the freshness factor.  My favorite dish of the evening was the Duck Zarape, braised duck filled soft corn tortillas with roasted tomato-habanero cream sauce. This is a must when you come to Fonda. That tomato-habanero sace left me considering licking the plate clean. (I know, the image of me doing this doesn’t leave me looking attractive…but it was that good). My dinner buddy was hesitant about trying duck but its more mild flavor (tasted more like chicken) left them addicted just like me. fish

duck

Special Tip: Make sure you check into the place on Yelp. You can score free dessert. I don’t think there is dulce de leche anywhere that isn’t the most delicious thing in the world when it’s free. This scrumptious slice was devoured in under a minute.

dulce de leche

LOCATION
‘inoteca
98 Rivington Street (Between Ludlow and Orchad Street)
http://www.inotecanyc.com/

This is the place for simple yet elegant Italian food in LES. I recommend what 99% (this is a made-up statistic but basically most people) of visitors rave about — the truffled egg toast and the eggplant lasagna. We got the truffled egg toast with the bottarga on the side, which is cured fish roe. The brioche matched perfectly with the richness of the egg and cheese. The dusting on top of the toast provide a note of saltiness.  The toast was decadent in many ways and the truffle aroma took over each of our palettes.  Another favorite was the lasagnette di melanzane also known as the eggplant lasagna. The restaurant used layers of eggplant between each layer of cheese and sauce instead of the traditional noodle. Because the noodles were cooked down and then baked, the dish was bit on the messier side but the depth of eggplant flavor made up for this.

toast

lasagna

LOCATION
Desnuda
122 E. 7th Street (Between 1st Ave. and 2nd Ave.)
http://www.desnudany.com/

If you are a seafood lover, you have to check out this small winebar and cevicheria in the east village. When you walk into the restaurant you will notice very limited seating. Guests are seated on a long bar. The chef does it all — takes your order, serves you wine, makes excellent recommendations, and cooks your meal all behind that bar. With the advice of two patrons seated next to us, we ordered the specials of the day. Clams with chorizo, onions, and cilantro and the fried blowfish with lemon. Whatever you do, always go with the specials at this place. They like to do something new all the time based on what is the freshest seafood available. They also hook you up with complimentary truffle popcorn…not too shabby! I also highly recommend the king salmon ceviche. The chef presents the dish and then brûléed two sweet potatoes on both sides of the salmon. The salmon came with  red onion, oranges, and herbs so jam packed with complimentary flavors and the presentation adds just the right amount WOW factor.

winepopcorn

blowfishclams

ceviche

What is your favorite restaurant to indulge in on the east side? Have you visited any of the restaurant reviews listed in today’s post? If so, please share your thoughts!

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a taste of venezeula in the east village

In need of a casual dinner spot to take your out-of-town friend on a weekday? Look no further than Caracas Arepa Bar.

LOCATION
Caracas Arepa Bar
93 1/2 E. 7th Street (Between 1st Ave. and Ave. A)
http://www.caracasarepabar.com

Arepas are….heaven. They are a flat, round, South American pita pockets made from ground corn dough or flour. They are stuffed with delicious goodies like juicy meats,  cheeses, avocados, plantains, and much more. A good meal all wrapped in one, the arepas at Caracas Arepa Bar have become a East Village staple. It seems all the good places to eat in this city don’t take reservations. Expect a decent wait (we waited about an hour for a table) but don’t fret, there are plenty of bars on the block.

menu      kitchen

This is what you should order:

Guasacaca and Chips – guacamole with some house made chips was a necessary move. One order would have been perfect for 4 people. The chips were crispy and the guacamole was the right amount of creaminess. Combined with the corquetas we were heading towards a night of food indulgence.

guac

Corquetas – divine. The are made from yuca, chorizo, corn and cilantro . 4 of these bad boys are served with their signature chimichurri sauce which was packed with intense flavor. I think chimichurri is going to be added to the my shelf of condiments in my refrigerator (next to the 4 bottles of hot sauce, 3 jars of mustard, and the steak sauce.) They came out fresh of the frier which made them a nice balance with our glass of red sangria.

croquetas

La Surena – This arepa combined all my favorite things: chicken, chorizo, avocado slices, and that amazing chimichurri they gave to me earlier. I devoured it. The meats were balanced with the freshness of the avocado. The chimichurri provided the right kick the arepa needed.

arepa

This meal was easy on the wallet with arepas costing less than 10 bucks a pop. A gem in my new favorite neighborhood in NYC. East Village, you never disappoint me.

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the meatball shop – chelsea

Scene – a beautiful spring evening in Chelsea

Cast – My favorite couple to 3rd wheel with, Shivangie Hira, and myself

I’ve heard from countless people that non-New Yorkers have the preconceived notion that the only way to enjoy an amazing meal is to pay an arm and a leg (another leg). The Meatball Shop has proven this theory completely false.

LOCATION
The Meatball Shop
200 9th Ave (Between 22nd and 23rd– 3 Other Locations in NYC)
http://www.themeatballshop.com/

WARNING: If you go to any of The Meatball Shop locations during prime-time dinnertime, you are going to have to wait. However, they are quite tech saavy. Put your name down with the host, provide them your cell number and they will text you when your table is ready… you got to get there in 5 minutes though so speed walk from the bar down the street.

We got seated at a large family style table between two different parties. Though it was a bit tight, it didn’t effect how great our waiter was. He was lively, funny, and extremely through reviewing the menu with us. What’s even more exciting is you get to write with a dry erase marker on your menu to place your order. I was a bit indecisive which led to a lot of writing and erasing.  Here are some the favorites of our meal:

Naked Balls – Four meatballs served with your choice of sauce and a stick of focaccia bread all for $7! I ordered the classic beef with the classic tomato. I think it was important to try the classic dish to ensure they knew what they were doing. If you mess up an oldie flavor combo, you are doomed in my book. The Meatball Shop nailed ut. It was perfection. With the creamy mashed potatoes underneath my balls, each bite was delectable. Mashed potatoes and meatballs – hello comfort food!

Market Salad – The restaurant as several specials listed one of which was a salad of romaine, asparagus, pecans, and blue cheese dressing. The perfect accompaniment for the balls. One salad was good for 2 people to share. Only $5 dollar a bowl.

Ice Cream Sandwiches – Make sure you save room for dessert. They serve a humungous scoop of ice cream between two freshly baked cookies. This was also shared between 2 people ($2.50/person – 5 dollar a piece). We went the classic route once again and got vanilla ice cream between a chocolate chip cookie and the special cookie for the day, gingerbread. However, if you want to be more adventurous they have it all – peanut butter, snickerdoodle, brownie cookies and they even have exciting ice cream flavors – carmel, mint, and their special for the day, banana.

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We went out with a double win. A fulfilling, comforting meal that costs pennies! Go to the meatball shop NOW.

What is your favorite cheap but delicious comfort food spot?

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neighborhood exploration: hell’s kitchen and tapas

For a girl that lives on the east side, dinner on the west side is a rarity BUT for tapas, I will do anything…even take the bus!

Tapas are known as Spanish small plates. I love them because you have the opportunity to have a small taste of many different dishes and of course, share with the people you are enjoying your meal with. Because of the popularity tapas has received here in the U.S., non-Spanish restaurants have embraced the concept. You can find a tapas place in almost every type of cuisine very easily: Asian, Mexican, Italian…the list will go on.

With the company of a great friend, we set out on our very own mini tapas tour of two of the top-rated tapas bars, according to Yelp, in Hell’s Kitchen. These tapas bars were not traditional Spanish cuisine however, they were still tasty, overall.

LOCATIONS:

Ardesia – 510 W 52nd St (Between 10th and 11th Ave.) http://ardesia-ny.com/

Casellula -401 W 52nd St (Between 9th and 10th Ave.) http://www.casellula.com/

Ardesia

The restaurant definitely has a romantic vibe going on but, it is also perfect if you are looking to have some tapas with a friend, coworker or family member. A versatile restaurant is important.. The host seated us in the lounge area which included comfortable couches and small tables to snack off of. We each ordered a glass of the Malbec. I recently started drinking red wine after years of being a white phanatic (haha a little Philly love for some of my readers!). What made me realize what I was missing ordering glass after glass of Riesling or Pinot Grigio? A trip to Spain (more about that later.).

The Malbec we ordered was from Argentina, where it has become their signature grape. Malbec is known for having a medium to full-body and high levels of tannin as well as ripe fruit flavors like plums, black cherry and blackberry. All you really need to know is that I loved it and I think you should order it. After some wine, it was onto the food. Since we anticipated going to another tapas place, we only ordered a few things. Here is what I thought:

Quail Egg Toast – It came with house-cured bacon, a perfectly fried quail egg, and a simple but wonderfully done, hollandaise. It was a taste of brunch at dinner. The quail egg was cooked with a runny yellow center which complimented the hollandaise. I highly recommend ordering this when you visit.

quail egg toast

Shrimp – It came with chorizo, garlic, and a white wine broth. They served with some of Amy’s Bread. This was a simple dish and tasty but, nothing you cannot find at any other tapas bar here in the city. The bread was phenomenal so I did a little more research to find out where I can get some in the future. Amy’s Bread has 3 locations in the city currently (Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea Market, and the Village). They have it all: cakes, pastries and of course, bread. Another place to check out that I have now added to my list.

shrimp

Pulled Pork Sliders – When I saw this arrive at the table, I was not impressed visually. Instead of using a typical roll or bun, they decided to go with what reminded me of those sandwich thins you buy at the grocery store when you are trying be healthy. If I am drinking wine, I am not looking for sandwich thins. However, when I took my first bite, my opinion changed drastically. The pickled cipollini onions added a perfect crunch and the there was just enough sauce to keep the pulled pork soft and juicy. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this tapa but I did. Kudos to our waiter for recommending this dish to us.

pork sliders

Casellula

After our initial tapas, we walked down the street to tapas bar #2 on our tour of Hell’s Kitchen. Casellula mimicked the same romantic vibe as Ardesia but you will find a lot of non-couples in the res truant as well. Since it was very busy, we decided to sit at the bar and I am glad we did. Sitting at a bar is sometimes even better than getting a table while dining out. You get to see the hustle and bustle of the kitchen and chat with the bartender. To stay consistent with our beverage choice, we ordered another glass of Malbec and again, I was left very happy. We got a little menu happy at this place and ordered more than we could eat (this tends to happen to me…) and ended up making it a very pork-filled meal. This was not our intention.

Bacon Butter Popcorn – Sounds pretty awesome, right? It was not. It came with bacon, sherry vinegar, and chives. Flavorless and oily is what we got. I reached for several handfuls hoping that it would miraculously taste better and it continued to leave me disappointed. Do not waste your time ordering this.

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Mixed Green Salad – I love vegetables so I was in need of some so I ordered some greens. It was a standard salad with tomato, red onion, and Chèvre (goat cheese). The herb vinaigrette was perfect. Nothing special but it was definitely necessary after all the pork we ate.

salad

Pig’s Ass Sandwich – The best thing on the menu. If we weren’t so full, we would have been able to devour the whole thing. The cheese provided the right amount of creaminess with the pork, the pickles gave the panini-like sandwich crunch and the chipotle aioli, a little kick. All around, the pig’s ass was a win.

pig sandwich

Mac and Cheese – I wasn’t impressed. Design having lardons, small cubes/stops of pork fat, there wasn’t enough salt. Seasoning is key.

mac and cheese

Do you have a favorite tapas bar in Hell’s Kitchen or another neighborhood in NYC? What is your go-to tapa to order? Please share your answers, thoughts, or questions in the comments area.

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