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.

veggies

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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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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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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