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Quick and Easy Kale Chips for Andrea

31 Jan

My friend Andrea is an Ivy League smartie but is a total dumbass in the kitchen!

In an effort to save her from a lifetime of yogurt and frozen dinners, I am trying to teach her how to cook extremely simple and easy dishes so that she doesn’t starve.

Kale chips, yum!

Ok Andrea (and others) for the kale chips you need:

  • Kale
  • Olive oil
  • Good sea salt such as Maldon
  • Red pepper flakes
  • A baking sheet (that flat pan you make cookies on)
  • An oven heated to 400 degrees

Now that you have your supplies, rip up the kale into palm sized pieces. The kale will shrink in the oven a bit so don’t make them too small.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Don’t overcrowd or layer the kale pieces or they won’t cook as evenly or get as crisp.

Rip up your kale and lay it flat on a baking sheet.

Next drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and red pepper flakes.

Toss the kale with your hands so that all pieces are coated evenly and then spread back out.

Put baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Kale should be crispy and may be brown or even black in some parts. That’s ok!

Lookin crispy

Now you have an easy, delicious and nutritious snack that is also quasi-addictive. Next week I am going to teach Andrea how to boil water and then move onto advanced scrambled egg making.

Resolutions for the Year of the Dragon

4 Jan

According to a random website I googled about Chinese Zodiac signs, 2011 was the year of the rabbit.

2011 was cute, furry and a little gamey. This year it is all about the dragon; a fire-breathing, ass kicking, but hopefully not scaley, dragon.

Last year my resolutions were ok – blog, travel, feel proud of myself, blah blah blah. While I achieved many of these goals, I unfortunately failed to even attempt my most basic resolution which was to learn how to poach an egg. Its ok though, poached eggs were so the year of the rabbit, for the year of the dragon my resolutions are:

  • Workout twice a week (ha, yea right…except I already went to Pilates and just signed up for a non-refundable boot camp so breathe my fire!!!)
  • Do not buy any clothing for the first 3 months of the year
  • Eat more oysters, sushi, and vegetarian dishes
  • Travel, travel, travel. Fingers crossed for a big trip to Greece and Turkey, or to Spain.
  • Update this blog once a week at least. Last year I had a few gaps but definitely an improvement from 2010 (the year of the tiger)

So if you see me in 2012, hopefully I will be wearing the same clothes as last year, looking fit, and slurping down an oyster on the Aegean sea.

Happy New Year!

Niffy’s Nifty Gifty

21 Dec

Since most people do their holiday shopping last minute, why not do a last minute gift guide? Presenting Niffy’s Nifty Gifty…

For Your Sister Who Is Very Beautiful, Smart and Funny

For the smart, funny and beautiful sister I recommend getting her something that you want so that you can borrow and or steal it at a future date. If you are like me and inventoried your sister’s entire wardrobe, then you know the pieces she is missing and the holidays are the perfect time to fill those holes. This year I filled the “everyday day to night black bag” hole.

On sale at Barneys, click to buy

Alternative to the black bag is a Clarisonic (which I got her last year) and she got me this year. See – buy things you want for others and they may come back to you!

Clarisonic Mia in Jaguar, click to purchase

For the Parents Who Have Everything

Shopping for my parents is hard – they always say they don’t want or need anything. Even the most obscure gift, like the oyster shucking knife I was going to buy my dad, is shot down because he already has two. This predicament makes gift giving especially challenging so this year I decided to give them the gift of memories in the form of a holiday calendar filled with old family photos.

Wall calendar from Pinhole Press, click to purchase

Alternative to the old photos calendar is matching pajamas for everyone in my family which I have done in years past. It seems dopey but its actually really fun to sit around all wearing the same outfit, its like a cult!

Pajamas from J.Crew for the whole family, click to purchase

For The Boyfriend Who JUST Signed Up For Gilt Groupe

There comes a point in every girlfriend’s life when she asks herself, “am I willing to date someone who wears mesh shorts in public or am I going to have to buy him some pants?” For me that question came four years ago and now I am dating a consistently fashionable guy. Since I have created this monster, feeding the beast is important in order to consistently reach new sartorially heights. A sporty yet stylish jacket is the perfect gift that harkens back to those mesh short days without actually reverting to them.

Arc'teryx Jacket, click to purchase

Alternative to the spiffy jacket is a re-imagined movie poster of one of his favorite films in an updated style.

Topgun movie poster from Moxie Creative, click to purchase

For The Best Friend That Continues To Abuse The Blue Mercury Samples Policy

Best friends are easy to shop for because you just get them what you want since you are so much alike and bff forevaaaaaaaaa! But seriously there are so many eligible best friend gifts its hard to pin them all down. Below are a smattering of choices for the special gal in your life.

Lip scrub and balm from Blue Mercury, click to purchase

Pom pom beanie that coordinates with her hair color from Calypso, click to purchase

Cuisinart immersion blender for winter soups, click to purchase

For Everyone Else on Your List

Don’t know what to get your landlord/mailman/professor? This apple. Trust me. It is delicious, impressive, inexpensive and all around incredible.  One year (ok every year) I have ordered myself one and its my favorite holiday tradition.

Giant caramel apple from Williams Sonoma, click to purchase

Hope everyone has a very happy holiday season and enjoy all your gifts both material and immaterial!

Thanksgiving Dos and Don’ts

23 Nov

Last year my sister and I took on the task of cooking Thanksgiving for our family. Prior to this endeavor I had never made a turkey, stuffing or gravy in my life, but thanks to hours of research on epicurious, food network and any other source I could find we honed our recipes and came up with a turkey day game plan timed to the minute.

The finished bird. Notice the photo behind me where I am doing the same hand on hip 20 years earlier (and on a dude ranch)

This year we are prepared to do it all again with some valuable lessons learned from last year’s inaugural effort. Below, a list of dos and don’ts to get you through cooking your Thanksgiving meal:

Thanksgiving Dos:

  • Do pick out all your recipes ahead of time and create a schedule based on oven time and temperature
  • Do prepare a cohesive shopping list for your dad so that everything is purchased in advance
  • Do brine your turkey
  • Do have one blow up fight with your sister early on in the cooking
  • Do delegate dessert to others so that you are not completely overwhelmed

Thanksgiving Don’ts:

  • Don’t listen to your sister when she says your 20lb turkey is done after 3 hours of cooking
  • Don’t lug your ice cream maker from DC to Philadelphia on Amtrak – just buy some Haagen Daaz and call it a day
  • Don’t forget the wine
  • Don’t make “an extra mac and cheese just in case”
  • Don’t you dare think you ever have enough herb butter

This year we are going with a smaller bird, but we will definitely be using the same recipe from Tom Colicchio. It was super juicy and fairly simple once my sister pointed out that I had confused the breast side from the back of the bird (oops!)

Buttering and stuffing your bird may require an extra pair of hands

Make sure you give constant attention to your bird

Monitor temperature

Let your turkey rest a bit before carving

In addition to the turkey, we will also be serving:

I can’t wait for this gluttonous feast and I am grateful that I get to spend another year with my family and friends who I love very much.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Supper Club

20 Oct

For almost two years, I have been involved in a weekly supper club. Each week a group of friends gather for a home cooked meal, wine and a gabfest.

Roasted asparagus from last night's dinner

Not everyone can make it each week, but the act of sitting down during a hectic schedule and eating a meal with your friends is really wonderful. Over these past two years I have had homemade enchiladas, roast chicken, meat and potatoes, Vietnamese pho and soft shell crabs to name just a few of the memorable meals I have devoured. Each week, one person cooks the entire meal and everyone else comes over and gobbles it up.

Last night I made chicken marsala, polenta, roasted asparagus and an apple galete for dessert. I had checked the weather before planning my meal and knew it was going to be cold and rainy so I wanted something comforting.

Cooking down mushrooms and onions for chicken marsala

Chicken marsala with polenta and fresh parsley

An extremely "rustic" apple galete

Supper club used to be only 3 people but the group has since ballooned to 8 people on any given night. Cooking for that many people can be hectic, especially on a week night. I have tried to fine tune my supper club skills to a science so that when it is my turn to cook it doesn’t involve into kitchen chaos. Invariably I forget something, but here are a few of my tips for cooking a big meal for a large group:

  • Check the kitchn, epicurious, milk and mode, smitten kitchen or food network for an inspiring recipe
  • Shop for the food the day before (two days is even better)
  • Do prep work the day before and make things ahead including dessert.
  • On the day of try to cook things at the same temperature or at the same time
  • Use disposable plates (eek I know, not very green, but much easier to clean up)
  • Wine will make any meal better

The best part is obviously sharing a meal with friends, but homemade whipped cream also helps.

Delish!

Unfortunately most times I am cooking for Supper Club I do not have time whip out my iPhone and snap photos, so the evidence of my previous meals is all in my belly. However here are a bunch of recipes from meals past that I really enjoyed.

Hopefully you make a meal for a few buddies soon!

Breezing into the Windy City

10 Oct

Sometimes you visit your friends because you miss them, sometimes you visit because you are hungry and other times you visit because you happen to love the city they relocated to, but don’t want to visit during the 8 imminent months of bad weather.

Luckily I was able to check off all three of these reasons on a recent trip to Chicago to visit my best friend.

Classic bean shot at Millenium Park

Dinner at Girl and the Goat

I have been to Chicago once before and had done most of the touristy stuff (blech, deep dish pizza), so this trip to Chicago was all about maximum fun. Other than rekindling an important ladymance there were several highlights, mostly consisting of eating our way through Wicker Park and Lincoln Park.

A few of the things I ate that I loved:

  • XOCO – See picture for the chilequilles, basically a breakfast nacho feast. Make sure to get there early and don’t miss the churros!
  • Big Star Tacos – Get one of everything, trust me.
  • Girl and the Goat – Dinner was delicious but by far the foie gras marshmellow was the most heavenly thing I have ever eaten. It sounds disgusting and it kind of is…in a good way.
  • Publican – Fresh off a harrowing train ride from O’hare I went straight to this meatapalooza.
  • Crisp – Best Korean fried chicken EVER!
  • Maude’s Liquor Bar – My enjoyment of my drink was slightly hampered by an older fat gentleman toppling off his bar stool. The drinks are that good!

Chilequiles at Rick Bayless' XOCO

One non-food related highlight was the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s boat tour. The tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and taught me a lot about different architectural styles, however it was her handling of a drunk passerby that really impressed me.

View of the famous Corn Cob buildings from the Architecture Foundation boat tour.

As we passed under one of Chicago’s many bridges a clearly inebriated man flipped our boat the double bird and began screaming obscenities. With great aplomb our docent smiled and said, “I have been doing this for a long time and that has never happened to me before. Anyway, where were we? Ah yes, Mies van der Rohe and his right angles…” Gotta love a professional!

One last look at the Chicago skyline

Can’t wait to visit again (but not until the city is over 60 degrees and sunny)!

Dupont Circle Burger Crawl

8 Aug

One of my original DC friends is moving to New York and to send her up north in style we decided to sample our neighborhood’s finest burger joints. The Dupont burger crawl was born out of the fact that we loved to meet for lunch at various burger emporiums throughout the city, and finally decided to put them head to head in a ground meat death match.

Burger crawl participants eagerly awaiting their final burger at Black and Orange

What originally started out as a modest group of 3 friends ballooned into 12 people participating in a meat lovers march.

We decided to dine at 3 establishments: BGR, Shake Shack and Black and Orange (formerly Rogue States). The rules were simple – order your ideal burger to share or horde depending on your hunger level, and dig in. After each stop the group caucused to discuss the pros and cons of each patty. Our evaluations were based purely on the burger. Accessories such as fries, milkshakes and spirits were consumed but not evaluated to keep the judging fair.

The categories for judging are as follows, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest:

  • Bun – Is the bread tasty?
  • Toppings – Are the extras fresh?
  • Burger – Is the meat cooked to my liking? Juicy? Flavorful?
  • Ambiance – Is this a fun place to hang out or is it like Five Guys at 3am on a Saturday night? (not that I have been…)
  • Sum of its parts – This category is less quantifiable but the most important. Everyone knows that a good burger hinges on all the ingredients coming together to form a tasty meal that is more than just a few ingredients on a bun.

First Stop – BGR

BGR is the grand doyenne of Dupont burger palaces. It was one of the first to lay claim in my neighborhood and to this day it is still one of the best. The burgers are BIG and very juicy and can be configured in a variety of styles, sauces or proteins (turkey burger, pulled pork, etc.) To make the comparisons easiest, I went for the simplest burger and split it with a friend to keep an open mind and relatively open stomach.

Hello baby

I like my burgers medium rare and this particular sandwich was cooked perfectly. The bun was tasty, the lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions were all fresh and crisp. It was extremely hearty and though I was temped to eat more than my half, I didn’t want to have an angioplasty at the age of 25 so I stopped myself. One thing to note that in the early days of BGR the restaurant was insanely smokey but they have fixed this problem and hanging out inside was a delight. I also enjoyed the neat buzzers that let me know when your burger is ready.

Second Stop – Shake Shack

Shake Shack opened at the beginning of the summer to much fanfare and thus far it has not disappointed. I always order the single Shack burger which I view more as a snack than a full meal.

Come to mama

Full disclosure: I got my own burger but in the interest of the greater quest, did not finish it and donated it to my friend who showed up late. The bun is buttery and the shake sauce is a powerful weapon. The burger is on the thinner side and points are docked because you cannot order it medium rare – just medium, rare or well done (blasphemy!)

Nevertheless, there is something about the Shack burger that is indescribable, but for those that have not had it the closest description I can give it is that it melts in your mouth. It reminds me of Webber’s, a drive-in near my house in Philadelphia that was always a treat growing up, although Shake Shack is even better because I don’t have to go to New Jersey to get my burger. I really enjoy the design of Shake Shack as well, particularly my ability to watch the burgers being made assembly-line style.

Third Stop – Black and Orange

Black and Orange was originally called Rogue States, but changed it after a protracted legal battle with law firm Steptoe & Johnson almost put them out of business. Apparently lawyers don’t enjoy the smell of burgers wafting into their $1,000/hour offices…FOOLS!  A more apt name change might have been Black and Blue because I can still taste the bitterness, legal fees and frustration in the burger. I was excited to make it the final leg on our burger crawl since I had not been back since the restaurant reopened. Unfortunately I was disappointed.

What a let down

The bun tasted like cardboard, the meat was dry and toppings cost extra. I know you have to pay your lawyers but sheesh, cut me some slack! I didn’t even finish my burger half, and I was still plenty hungry. ‘Nuff said.

The Results

Ultimately it came down to two very strong competitors and a distant third that was barely in the running.

My personal favorite was Shake Shack due to the aforementioned melt-in-your-mouth combination.

However, BGR is delicious and a close second. It really comes down to whether you are in the mood for a big juicy burger or the backyard burger of your dreams. Either way you can’t lose and luckily I live within easy walking distance to both establishments. All in all, the burger crawl was a great way to send off a wonderful friend in style, albeit with slightly elevated cholesterol. I’ll miss you Kate!

If all that red meat made you want to get a colonic, check out my earlier review of Dupont salad joints.

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