Well, hey there. Long time no blog.
I hope you’ll forgive my absence. It has been THE craziest two weeks since returning from a month in Texas, but at least it was worth it, since I just took over the lease for my New York City apartment! One of its many amazing attributes is a redone kitchen with LOADS of counter space, and new, FULL SIZED appliances. Such a find is only slightly unheard of, and I’m more than slightly in love. I’ve been told that it’s not possible or legal to marry a kitchen, but together, I truly believe our love can conquer.
Now, BEFORE meeting the kitchen of my dreams, I spent the month of June making music day in and day out. I mean that literally, because I was in rehearsal or practicing every day from when I woke up until I climbed into bed. And I also mean “climbing” literally, because my bed frame was set too high, so getting into bed required climbing onto my desk first. (Short people problems…) In my limited spare time, I was feeding my foodie soul, and feeding it well. Sure, my usual meals consisted of salad or oatmeal in the dining hall (which did, if you’re wondering, get old horribly quickly), but the rest of my meals resulted from convincing my oh-so-patient car-owning friend to drive me to some the best food joints in Houston.
I miss being at the festival and making great music with friends (I also miss the Mexican/Tex-Mex food in Houston – it’s kiiiind of the best – I’m talking to you, Torchy’s Tacos), but it’s quite nice to be back where the temperature is consistently below 100˚F. I REALLY have a whole new appreciation for summer on the East Coast. I got to relive the Texan weather a bit last week while running all around NYC in humid 95˚ heat, but otherwise, it’s quite luxurious to be able to walk from place to place outdoors without fear of melting. It’s also great to be back in the kitchen – not having one readily available is the slowest form of torture for me.
So, naturally, I filled the void by dreaming up a boatload of new summer recipes just for you. And this is the first of (hopefully) many.
I haven’t had many empanadas in my lifetime, but for some reason, the idea of dipping a flaky, doughy pocket of seasoned beef into a summery, fruity salsa just seemed very appealing the other day. Also, grilled fruit is one of my favorite summer foods, and I can guarantee you that this won’t be my only recipe this summer featuring it.
This recipe is probably one of my absolute favorites to date, and I will definitely be bringing it back. My parents and brother are my best taste testers (and also the most honest), so in accordance with their approval, I’m sure this would be a hit as an appetizer at the big, fancy dinner parties that I never have. But who knows, living in New York with a dining table that can sit six (generously) might change things for me.
This recipe is labor intensive, I cannot lie. But, the fruits of your labor will be well worth it at the end, I promise! And to me, food just tastes better when a little sweat went into it. Not literally.
- 2.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 3/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1 and 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup + 1 tbs. cold water
- 1/3 cup + 4 tbs. olive oil
- 1 egg, beaten (to brush onto pastries before cooking)
- 1.5 lbs organic ground sirloin
- 1 cup cilantro, finely chopped
- 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
- 1/2-1 tsp. dried chipotle powder (depending on spice preference)
- juice of 1/2 lime
- 2 yellow peaches
- 1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 lb. tomatillos
- 1/4 white onion
- 1/4 cup cilantro
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 450˚F.
- In a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Alternate adding cold water and olive oil slowly, pulsing the food processor until a solid ball of dough is formed.
- Chill dough just until firm and ready to use, about 30 minutes-1 hour.
- While dough is chilling, brown the beef in a pan over low-medium heat. Break up the meat with a spoon until it's crumbly and browned on all sides.
- Add the chopped onion and cover until the onions are translucent.
- Add the lime, cilantro, and chipotle powder and stir to combine.
- Remove from heat.
- Separate chilled dough into 12 equal balls. Roll out each ball of dough into a thin, flat circle about 4.5 inches in diameter. Fill each circle with 2-4 tablespoons of filling. Fold dough over the filling to create a half moon. Pinch the edges with a fork, or fold over the dough from the corner to create a "twisted" edge.
- Arrange on a baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until golden.
- Quarter both peaches and remove the pits.
- Place peach slices onto a hot grill or grill pan, and cook until soft and the skins are easily peeled off. Remove from heat. Once cool enough to touch, remove the skins.
- Remove the tomatillos from their husks and rinse, and then cut each into quarters.
- Sauté the tomatillos until they become very soft and form a "jam." Let cool.
- In a food processor, combine grilled peaches, tomatillos, and remaining ingredients (except salt and pepper). Pulse until the salsa is at your desired consistency.
- For smaller, snack-sized empanadas, create smaller balls of dough and use less filling per each.
- For a spicier salsa, leave the ribs of the jalapeño pepper intact.
The other day, while browsing Wegmans, I stumbled upon a pumpkin. A beautiful, perfectly shaped, tasty looking pie pumpkin.
I knew its destiny was to end up in my kitchen, but I’ve never cooked with a whole pumpkin before. It’s only a squash, so I knew how to prepare it. Mostly, it was the myriad of options I had for using it that left me somewhat clueless. After careful thought, I decided on chili. I’m a huge fan of making chili from scratch because you can adjust the heat and flavors to your exact liking. Also, store-bought seasonings tend to contain a lot of sodium, where you can cut most of the salt out by assembling the seasoning yourself.
Then, I thought of a way to use up the dates that have been sitting around in my pantry. Cornbread. Healthy cornbread. Healthy maple cornbread. Healthy maple date cornbread…. Oh, dang.
For this recipe, I prepared the pumpkin by cleaning it and cutting off the top, then splitting the pumpkin in half lengthwise.I scooped out the seeds and pulp, (Tip: Special grapefruit cutlery [grapefruit spoons and those double-sided knives] are great for scooping out squash pulp!) and then cut the pumpkin into 3/4-1 inch thick wedges. I then scraped off the remainder of the pulpy bits and peeled the skin off of each wedge with a potato peeler.
The great thing about this recipe (besides its deliciousness) is the amount of food it makes – I filled a HUGE tupperware container full of chili, which makes this a great recipe for families and meal-preppers alike. Plus, most of its bulk is from the vegetables and squash, not the meat, making this chili lean, filling, and easily adaptable for vegetarians/vegans.
- 4 cups cubed pumpkin (~1/2 large pie pumpkin)
- coconut oil spray (or any type of oil spray)
- 1 medium bell pepper
- 1 white onion
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 3 cups chopped kale (Tip: You can buy kale pre-washed and pre-chopped by the bag, making preparation much easier)
- 1 lb. lean ground turkey
- One 15 oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- One 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes, mashed or chopped
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. oregano
- 1/4 tsp thyme
- 1/4 tsp rosemary
- 1/8 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- cayenne pepper, to taste
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 425˚F.
- Prepare pumpkin by halving, removing seeds and pulp, cutting into wedges, peeling, and then dicing into small chunks.
- Arrange the diced pumpkin onto a baking sheet that has been greased with oil spray. Season if desired with salt, pepper, and a bit of pumpkin pie spice. Roast for about 10-15 minutes, or until fork tender.
- Finely dice your bell peppers and onions and set aside.
- In a large pan, warm your olive oil over medium-low heat and add the minced garlic. Add your diced peppers and onions, stirring occasionally until the vegetables start to become soft and the onions are translucent. Add the roasted pumpkin and kale to the vegetable mixture, and cover.
- Once the kale has wilted, remove your vegetable and pumpkin mixture from heat, then transfer to a pot.
- In your smaller vegetable pan, mash and brown the ground turkey until it no longer appears pink anywhere, then remove from heat.
- Add the turkey, beans, and tomatoes to the pot and keep over low heat. Stir well.
- Separately assemble and add your seasoning mixture. I recommend assembling everything but your cayenne/salt and pepper, and adding those last to taste. (Note: Paprika can also contribute a lot of heat depending on what kind you have. If you're not a "spicy" person, I would recommend starting with less paprika in your mixture just to be safe, and then adding it in small increments to your liking once the seasoning is mixed in with the chili.)
- Garnish with plain greek yogurt and avocado slices. Serve with Maple Date Cornbread (recipe link below).
If you read my last post, you know how hard I have been working on completing the two term papers I have due. Well, one of them is done and the other is in the works (grant me strength, O’ Oprah) and I finally got a little time to prep my meals for the next week. So I made a completely from-scratch Chicken and Squash Stew. And this recipe will surely last me more than a week. In fact, I will probably have to freeze most of it!
Why stew? A few reasons:
1) Stew is gooood.
2) While writing my paper on the culinary culture of Sephardic Judaism (stop it, I know I would) I found a recipe for Argentinian “Cazuela Gaucho.” It is a hearty chicken and vegetable stew created by the Russian immigrants that settled as gauchos, or cowboys, in Argentina. The recipe that inspired me can be found here, although I did not follow the recipe verbatim while making mine.
3) My soul needed some Chicken Soup. Obviously, the events on Marathon Monday were horrible and upsetting. Plus, on top of that AND all the stress I’ve been dealing with academically, I had to make a decision I’ve been avoiding. I had to approach my teacher about cutting back on my jury repertoire, for a second time. My personal philosophy up until now has been working SO well, which is that if I play pieces that are doable but out of my comfort zone for each jury, I will gain confidence. Now, I would have been able to pull off all the new repertoire that I wanted to do, had I not weighed myself down with so much academic work. So, to save myself from an almost certain total meltdown (I already had a partial one on Monday), I decided to bring back the first section of my concerto and just play the last section on my studio recital instead. Although I am admittedly disappointed in myself for taking the easier way out, I feel much more at ease mentally and physically now.
BUT BACK TO THE STEW.
Here’s how you make the best chicken stew ever. No, that’s not an assumption. This is the best chicken stew ever:
Hearty Chicken and Squash Stew (Servings: ??? We’ll go with… A crap ton.)
- 1 box (4 cups) no-salt-added chicken stock
- 3 large boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cut into large chunks
- 1 kabocha squash, seeds removed, peeled, and cubed (Note: You can use whatever squash you like, the kabocha yields about 2 cups)
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced thick
- 1/2 lb. green beans, cut
- 1 bag frozen peas
- 1/2 bag frozen corn
- 1 white onion, sliced
- 3-4 cloves minced garlic
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp. curry powder
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- Optional: 1-2 cups pre-cooked quinoa
Prepare the seasoning mix (paprika, cinnamon, curry, and garlic powder). Feel free to tweak the seasoning as you wish, but the cinnamon is the magic ingredient! 😉
In a pan with a little olive oil, sautée the onions and minced garlic until onions are translucent but tender. Combine the squash, sweet potato, and all the remaining vegetables together into a large soup pot that’s been coated with a bit of olive oil. On medium high heat, cook vegetables for about 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add all of the chicken stock and put heat on high. Bring to a boil, then reduce back to medium-high and add the seasoning mixture, cooking until the squash and sweet potato are cooked through. Reduce to simmer.
In the same pan you used for the onions, add the cut up chicken and cook over medium heat until mostly cooked through. With a slotted spoon (to keep unnecessary fat out), transfer the chicken to the soup pot. Allow the chicken to finish cooking in the stew pot, or about 10-15 minutes on simmer. At this point, you may add 1-2 cups of cooked quinoa. I happened to have some in the fridge, and it not only helped soak up the liquid, but added great texture!
TIP: To make this recipe vegan, substitute the chicken with beans such as chickpeas or kidney beans and use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.
This is one of my favorite recipes to date for a few reasons. First of all, it’s really good. Like, SERIOUSLY good. Second of all, it WON me a recipe contest on one of my favorite Instagrams/blogs, Spoonful of Fit! As a result, I got hundreds of new followers on my dinky little Instagram, which now has almost 500 followers. That may not seem like a lot to someone who’s “Internet famous,” but to a random girl taking pictures of her lunch on her iPhone hoping to get recognized, that’s a sizeable step in the right direction!
When I made these, I was looking for a way to jazz up my meal prep for the week and do something special by entering the recipe contest, but I tried to keep it as simple as possible.
Turkey Sausage and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers with an Avocado “Cream” (Makes 6-8 servings)
- 1 cup plain, uncooked quinoa
- 2 cups vegetable stock (no salt added)
- 1 tsp olive or coconut oil
- 5 cloves minced garlic
- 5 links lean turkey sausage
- 2 cups spinach
- 3-4 medium-large bell peppers
- 1 avocado
- 1 container plain, fat free Greek Yogurt
- Garlic powder
Bring quinoa and veggie stock to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce to simmer and add 2 cloves of minced garlic when the broth is about halfway absorbed. Once the liquid is mostly absorbed, reduce heat all the way. In a separate pan, cook the turkey sausage (just the meat, no skins) on medium heat with 3 cloves minced garlic in a teeny bit of olive or coconut oil to keep the garlic from burning. Season with whatever you like, I used black pepper, a pinch of thyme, and Trader Joe’s South African Smoke Seasoning. Once the sausage is mostly cooked through, add the spinach until it wilts. Drain the fat and liquid, and add the sausage mixture to the quinoa. Stir, and let sit for a few minutes.
Cut each pepper in half lengthwise and remove the seeds/stem/ribs. Fill each half with the mixture and bake at 375˚ for about 25-30 minutes.
To make the avocado cream, mash the avocado and yogurt and add garlic powder to taste.
TIP: You can make this recipe Paleo and barely notice the difference!
How? Replace the quinoa with 2 cups riced cauliflower (raw, do not add extra liquid). Add extra seasoning if you’d like to make up for the flavor from not having veggie stock, and/or use a pre-seasoned sausage (I used a tomato basil variety for this version) for more flavor. Cut out the yogurt from the avocado cream and just use mashed avo and garlic powder! And if you’re vegan, replace the sausage with your favorite meat substitute, seasoned tofu, or some roasted veggies, and use almond milk or soy yogurt!
You should definitely go make this recipe as soon as you can. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, ask the people on Instagram who have already tried it and loved it 😉