Monday, January 31

Weekend Review: DineLA

Burrata & Beet Salad at Joe's

We're in the middle of some of my favorite weeks of the year - DineLA restaurant week . For those of you who aren't familiar with DineLA, it's a promotional deal where some of the city's best restaurants put together a three-course meal at a special rate for two weeks only. It's a great opportunity to try a new place, but I can't help re-visiting some old favorites as well. On Thursday night, my boyfriend and I went on a double date at AOC. It had been on my list of places to try for almost a year, and it definitely lived up to the hype. We ended up ordering off the regular menu so we could share as many different plates as possible. On Friday we went to one of our favorite local restaurants, Joe's. Joe himself was working the room and making sure we enjoyed our dishes. As usual, his food looked and tasted great.

Market Fish with Potatoes, Mushrooms & Green Garlic at AOC
Pork Tenderloin Crepinette with Wild Mushrooms at Joe's
Roasted Root Vegetable & Burrata Salad at AOC
Chocolate Crunch Cake with Hazelnut Praline at Joe's

Friday, January 28

Beyond the Sink: Food Inspiration

It's easy to get stuck eating the same thing over and over again, so whenever I find myself in a rut, I check out some of my favorite cookbooks and foodie magazines. I've been subscribing to Bon Appetit for a few years and still have almost every issue I've received from them. It's easy to forget all the recipes I've wanted to try, so lately I've taken to writing them down on a sticky note. I also have a friend who tears out recipes from her favorite magazine, Food & Wine, and keeps them in a three-ring binder. Cookbooks are a little easier to flip through (I'm slightly obsessed with Ina Garten), and I love looking through ones I got as a young girl. Alice Waters' Fanny at Chez Panisse is still a great source of food inspiration after all these years.

Thursday, January 27

Roasted Butternut Squash

I don't always have a lot of time to cook after work, so sometimes I'll focus on making one dish and buy everything else at the store. I had a rotisserie chicken in the fridge and some leftover kale from this recipe, so I made some roasted butternut squash to round out the meal. Peeling, seeding, and chopping a butternut squash can be an infuriating task, so I took extra help and bought it pre-cut at Trader Joe's. I seasoned the squash with some rosemary I picked in my garden, but that was almost all the prep work it required. The whole meal came together quickly and was impressive enough to serve for a friend.

Rosemary-Roasted Butternut Squash:

  • Peel, seed, and chop one small butternut squash into 1/2 inch cubes (or buy it pre-cut at the store).
  • Arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet* and toss with 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tbsp. chopped rosemary, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook squash in a 400°F oven for 30 minutes or until slightly browned on the outside and tender inside.

Serves four (side dish)
* I line my cookie sheet with foil to save on clean-up time.

Wednesday, January 26

Spaghetti with Kale

Whole wheat pasta tossed with kale, garlic, parmesan, and red chile

I've been a fan of kale for a long time. Once considered hippie food, my favorite vegetable is now showing up on menus at gourmet restaurants around the country (see it served with the mahi mahi I ordered on my recent trip to Boulder, CO). When I lived alone and had more unusual eating habits, I would polish off a bowl of sauteed kale and call it dinner. Now that I have to please two of us, I've gone back to my recipe for Spaghetti with Kale. It's such a crowd-pleaser that I often make double the amount so we can have it for dinner a second night.

Spaghetti with Kale:

  • Cook 1/2 lb. spaghetti* according to package instructions.
  • Meanwhile, tear out the ribs from two bunches of kale** and roughly chop.
  • Heat one tbsp. of olive oil in a large saute pan. Add kale,1 tbsp. chopped garlic, a pinch of red chili flakes, and season with salt and pepper. It might seem like a lot of kale, but it will wilt down quickly.
  • Cook kale for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even cooking.
  • Add 1/2 c. white wine to the pan and continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes. Add chicken stock if liquid dries up.
  • Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 c. pasta water to add to the sauce.
  • Toss pasta, pasta water, and a handful of Parmesan cheese with the kale mixture.
  • Divide into serving dishes and enjoy.

Serves two
*Any shape of pasta works here. I use penne just as often.
** I like to use black or dino kale. It has flat leaves and a dark green color.

Tuesday, January 25

Beef Stir-Fry

I've mentioned this before, but some of my favorite weeknight dinners are Asian stir-fry dishes (I featured orange chicken and fried rice in older posts). They are quick, easy, and usually pretty healthy. I've made this recipe a couple times and it's always been a big hit. It's a great alternative to take-out and takes virtually no time to prepare. It does require some specialty Asian ingredients (you should still be able to find them at most supermarkets), but they are definitely worth buying because you will want to make it over and over again.

Beef, Mushroom, & Snow Pea Stirfry:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. vegetable oil in a large, non-stick skillet.*
  • Add 3/4 lb. sliced shiitake mushrooms** and 1 tbsp. minced ginger.
  • Cook mushrooms for 3-4 minutes, then add 1 lb. slice top sirloin.
  • Stirfry the beef until brown, about 2 minutes.
  • Add 1/2 lb. of snow peas, 1 tbsp. sliced scallions, and 2 tbsp. chopped cilantro.
  • Cook for a minute, then add 1/4 c. hoisin sauce,*** 2 tsp. chili-garlic sauce, salt, and pepper.
  • To serve, divide beef onto plates, garnish with extra scallions and cilantro, and serve with brown rice.

Serves four
*Or wok.
**If no fresh shiitakes are available, substitute white button.
***Asian barbecue sauce, found in the Asian foods aisle of most grocery stores.

Monday, January 24

Weekend Review: Boulder, CO

Grilled Steelhead Trout at Jax Fish House (of Top Chef winner Hosea Rosenberg fame).
"The Chook" and Tomato Soup at Dish Gourmet.
Wild Mushroom Flatbread at Forest Room 5.

I'm a California girl at heart, but I spent four years going to college in Boulder, Colorado (recently named "America's Foodiest Town" by Bon Appetit). I just came back from a long weekend there with my boyfriend, where I introduced him to some of my favorite restaurants. We also spent some time shopping and eating in Denver's Highlands neighborhood. It was a wonderful trip, and I'm already craving another sandwich from Dish Gourmet.

Lemon & Garlic Mussels at The Med's Happy Hour.
A variety of sushi at Hapa.
Oysters Jax: sauce mornay, pancetta, pickled porcini.
Boulder BBQ Brisket sandwich from Dish.
Grilled Day Boat Mahi Mahi at Jax.

Thursday, January 20

Grilled Chimichurri Shrimp

I come from a foodie family, and a lot of our get-togethers center around good meals. I had dinner at my parent's house this past weekend and my dad grilled skirt steaks in a chimichurri sauce* (he used this recipe). They sent me home with the leftovers, and I used the rest of the sauce as a marinade for grilled shrimp. I served it with roasted broccoli and rice to soak up the rest of the sauce.

Grilled Chimichurri Shrimp:
  • Marinade 1lb. peeled and deveined shrimp in chimichurri for an hour. Make sure to reserve a small amount of marinade to sauce the shrimp once cooked.
  • Preheat grill or heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.
  • Grill shrimp for 3-5 minutes, flip, and grill for another 3 minutes on the other side.
  • Remove the shrimp from the grill and spoon remaining sauce on top. Enjoy.

Roasted Broccoli:

  • Toss broccoli florets with 1 tbsp. olive oil, the zest of one lemon, and salt and pepper.
  • Roast in a 400° oven for 10 minutes, until tender and caramelized. Enjoy.

Serves two - three
*Chimichurri is a herb-based sauce commonly found in South American cooking. I like to think of it as a South American pesto.

Wednesday, January 19

Vegetable Hash

I'm going on vacation in a few days and needed to clean out my fridge, so I made a hash. It's a great way to use leftover ingredients (so is the fried rice I made here), and I like making a dish that's versatile enough to serve for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I used the veggies and eggs I had in the fridge, but you could make hundreds of different variations of this recipe using whatever items you have on hand.

Vegetable Hash:
  • Chop peppers, onions, fennel, and potatoes into small, uniform pieces.
  • Heat one tbsp. olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add vegetables and season with salt and pepper.
  • Saute vegetables for 10 minutes and add 1/2 cup chicken broth. Scrape any bits from the bottom of the pan and continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes, until vegetables are very tender.
  • Stir in 1 tbsp. chopped parsley and remove vegetable mixture from the pan.
  • Crack two eggs into the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook to desired doneness.
  • Place eggs on top of hash mixture. Season with hot sauce. Enjoy.
 Serves two -three

Tuesday, January 18

Arctic Char with Pesto Rice

L.A. was in the 80's the past few days, and the warm weather had me craving summertime food. My boyfriend walked down to our local fish market to grab some steelhead trout, but they were all out so he came back with arctic char. I'd never cooked it before, but it's closely related to the salmon and trout that I cook often. I served it with pesto rice and a Greek salad.

Arctic Char with Pesto Rice:
For Fish
  • Season two 6oz. fillets of arctic char with salt and pepper.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over high heat.
  • Add fillets, skin side down, and cook for 5-7 minutes until skin is crispy. Turn over and cook another 2-3 minutes until just cooked though.
For Rice
  • Cook brown rice according to package, or use microwavable brown rice like I featured here.
  • Mix in pesto. I made my own, but there are several good store-bought varieties.
  • Season with salt and pepper.

Serves two

Monday, January 17

Apple Tart

I had some friends over Friday night for dessert and a movie. Baking can be labor intensive and I didn't have much time, so I took some help from the store and bought frozen puffed pastry. I've made other simple fruit tarts before (such as this one), but I think I found a new favorite with the quick and easy apple topping.

Apple Tart:
  • Defrost one sheet of frozen puff pastry and place on a greased baking sheet (or line with parchment paper to save on clean up time).
  • Peel and thinly slice 3-4 Granny Smith apples. It is important to keep the apples the same size and shape to ensure even cooking.
  • Toss apple slices with the juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 c. sugar*, and 1 tsp. cinnamon.
  • Arrange the apples on top of the puff pastry, fanning them into neat rows. Dot the top with butter.
  • Bake at a 400°F oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle the top with honey. Bake for another 5 minutes.
  • Cool for a few minutes and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Serves six
*I keep a vanilla bean in my sugar canister to give it an added vanilla flavor.

Friday, January 14

Beyond the Sink: Vintage Hutch

I inherited this vintage hutch after my parents remodeled their kitchen a few years ago. Since the counter space at my apartment is limited, it's the perfect fit to store some of my small appliances and the utensils I use most often. I cook with my saute pans, salt, and pepper almost daily, so it's great to keep them arms length from my stove. I also like to showcase some of my latest kitchen finds, such as these ceramic flower measuring cups and these cat-shaped oven mitts.

Thursday, January 13


Cooking fajitas is a great way to use leftover ingredients. I incorporated the extra chicken and onions from this meal and added some more veggies and a simple marinade. In the past I've made versions using mushrooms, shrimp, and steak which were equally simple and tasty.

Chicken Fajitas:
  • Marinade 3/4 lb. of sliced, raw chicken in a mixture of 1 tsp. cumin, 3 cloves of fresh garlic, several dashes of hot sauce*,  the juice of one lime juice, 1 tbsp. olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Heat grill pan or large non-stick skillet over high heat. Add chicken, onions, and bell peppers and cook until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender (about 8-10 minutes).
  • Remove chicken and veggie mixture from pan. Add tortillas and warm through on the grill.
  • Assemble fajitas and serve with desired toppings (i.e. grated cheese, avocado, sour cream).
Serves two - three
*I like Cholula.

Wednesday, January 12

Orange Chicken Stir-fry

A lighter, healthier take on the famous Chinese dish

Not to sound cliche, but my boyfriend and I are trying to eat a little healthier in the new year. One of his greatest weaknesses is cheese, so I try and avoid it altogether by cooking Asian-inspired dishes. That way the lack of cheese isn't so obviously missed. I've made this spin-off on orange chicken from Bon Appetit a dozen times and it's always delicious. I serve it with brown rice instead of white to make it extra healthy.

More Stir-Fry Recipes:

 Orange Chicken Stir-fry:
  • In a bowl, whisk together 1/2 c. fresh orange juice, 2 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. honey, and 1 tsp. orange zest.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. canola oil in a large wok.*
  • Add 1/2 thinly sliced red onion and a generous pinch of red chili flakes and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add 1 lb. thinly sliced boneless skinless chicken breast, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes, or until chicken is almost cooked through.
  • Add 1 8 oz. package of trimmed  snap peas and cook another minute.
  • Then add juice mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes, until sauce thickens.
  • To serve, divide onto plates and serve with steamed brown rice.

Serves two - three
*A large skillet works too.

Tuesday, January 11

Penne with Turkey Sausage and Vegetables

On nights when I don't feel like doing much cooking, I reach for one of my favorite pasta sauces from Williams-Sonoma, which I keep stocked in my pantry for fast weeknight dinners. I've been a fan of their Artichoke & Lemon Pasta Sauce for a long time, but the Rustic Vegetable has become my new go-to. They're great on their own, but I like to keep things interesting by adding hot turkey sausage.

Penne with Turkey Sausage & Vegetables:
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt, and cook one package of whole wheat penne according to the label.
  • Meanwhile, take 3/4 lb. of hot turkey sausage out of the casing and crumble into large saute pan. Add a few pinches of crushed red chili flakes and cook until brown, breaking up sausage into small pieces as you go.
  • Add a jar of Rustic Vegetable pasta sauce to the sausage mixture and let simmer while pasta finished cooking.
  • Drain pasta and place back in pot. Add sauce and a handful of parmesan cheese; toss with the noodles. Enjoy!

Serves four

Monday, January 10

Weekend Review: Blue Plate

I usually spend most of the weekend curled up on the couch, but I'll leave the house for a good meal. This Saturday my boyfriend and I had brunch at one of our local favorites, Blue Plate. They have an expansive menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and their food is always delicious. They serve self-named "healthy comfort food" - my boyfriend went for healthy and got the egg-white frittata, and I went for comfort food and got french toast. Of course, Blue Plate gets bonus points for being just a few blocks from our place.

Friday, January 7

Greek Shrimp with Tzatziki Sauce

I had some Greek Yogurt lying around from a recipe I made last week, so I put it to use in a Tzatziki Sauce to go on grilled shrimp. This was my first time making the sauce, which I adapted from this recipe, although I've eaten it plenty of times at different restaurants. I served it along with the leftover couscous I made here.

Thursday, January 6

Chicken and Mushroom Fried Rice

Bowl: Williams-Sonoma

Last-minute tickets to the Clippers/Nuggets game threw a wrench in the dinner I had planned, so I whipped up one of my favorite go-to meals: fried brown rice. I stuck with traditional Asian flavors this time, but the dish is versatile enough to incorporate any ingredients you might have in the fridge. Cooking Light even did a feature on this in their January edition (apparently something "fried" can be healthy too).

Chicken and Mushroom Fried Rice:
  • Lightly scramble two eggs in a large non-stick skillet. Remove eggs from pan and set aside.
  • Heat a tbsp. of sesame oil in the pan and add sliced mushrooms with grated garlic and ginger. Saute for 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
  • Add cooked brown rice*, cooked shredded chicken, and any leftover veggies. I used leftovers from this meal.
  • Stir in two tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce and Sriracha hot sauce to taste. Add the scrambled egg and enjoy.

Serves two
*I save time by using Trader Joe's Organic Microwavable Brown Rice - Whole Foods has a similar option