Minestrone Soup: Dinner of the Week

Miss Yunks’ new dinner plan is to make enough of one recipe to last for a whole week. Sometimes the work week is too busy and unpredictable to make a new recipe each night, and I hardly want to start cooking after a long work day. I’ve never really been into leftovers, but lately it’s a big relief to come home to dinner just waiting to be reheated.

Two weeks ago, I made Cara’s Wagon Wheel Taco Pasta Salad. I was waiting to photograph it until my avocado ripened, but it wasn’t a good week for my avocado so that photo didn’t happen. But, I will say that this was a perfect recipe to make to last a week. Not only does the recipe make enough to last, the flavors meld together and taste better each day. I just squirted more lime juice over my serving each night to refresh the sauce.

So what’s another recipe that gets better with time? Minestrone soup.

We had just stopped in Portland, Maine over the weekend and popped into Standard Baking Company. I got a morning bun, which was sticky and delicious that afternoon, and a loaf of dark sour dough bread. I wanted a recipe to pair with the thick crusty bread and minestrone soup sounded like a simple solution. The great thing about minestrone soup is you can use whatever vegetables or beans you prefer and alter the quantities and spices to your taste.

Minestrone Soup

olive oil
1 bag of baby carrots, sliced
green beans, sliced
kale, teared in small pieces
1 can of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
1 can of cannellini beans
6-8 cups of vegetarian broth
oregano, rosemary, salt and pepper to taste

1. Pour about 1-2 tsp olive oil in large pot over medium heat.  Put sliced carrots in first and let heat for 5 minutes.
2. Add in green beans, kale, tomatoes, and cannellini beans, stirring with wooden spoon.
3. Add in broth and spices.  Stir soup together and let simmer for 30 minutes.
4. When vegetables are tender and some liquid has reduced, soup is ready to serve.

I served it with an Italian blend of cheeses and the sour dough bread. While the soup was simmering, I made pasta in a separate pot.  I served the soup with a small amount of pasta. When I stored the soup for the week, I stored the pasta in a separate container so it wouldn’t absorb all of the broth.

I had a healthy and hearty dinner each night last week and was able to eat within minutes of arriving home.

What are your favorite work-day dinners?

Posted in Healthier Option, Italian, Recipes, Vegetarian | Tagged | 2 Comments

Liquiteria Juice Cleanse

Sorry for the radio silence…TFAW have been busy ladies. Oh, and A-Tooch has been juice cleansing. Womp, womp.

Since I am currently sipping my last official juice while I type, I figured I’d entertain you with the details. That’s six juices per day plus a weekend of no meat and a day of only raw foods. The raw situation may actually be worse than the juicing itself. Just like the last time, the girls and I did the “cheap lady’s” BluePrintCleanse. It’s about half the price and so convenient since Liquiteria (amazing) delivers. I decided to man up and go for a full three days this time instead of two.

If you’re overwhelmed with all of the juice cleanse options, Groupon deals, and varieties currently out there I’d highly suggest this one. It is a (fairly) manageable three days and guaranteed you won’t even want to eat that bag of fries by the end. Send us an email if you want some more details!

Have you done a juice cleanse? How did you feel before, during, and after?

Posted in Healthier Option | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Secret Recipe Club: Cinnamon Buns

This month for the Secret Recipe Club, we were assigned the blog We Heart Vegan. Not a bad assignment for a vegetarian and a carnivore who will try anything! We Heart Vegan blog is full of delicious vegan recipes – we both agreed on that! The only problem was that most of the recipes call for ingredients that we don’t regularly have in our kitchen pantries. Carrot Blueberry Muffins sound hearty and delicious, but we don’t have hemp seeds, flax, or buckwheat flour. I was tempted to go buy all of these ingredients for vegan baked goods, but instead I opted for a little digging around the blog and found a recipe that was easier based on my pantry stock.

I decided on Golden Cinnamon Buns. This recipe looked simple, quick, and sweet enough to fit right into my schedule. When you read this, I’ll have spent the weekend in Maine with my cousins and can promise you we enjoyed these cinnamon buns.

Cinnamon Buns, adapted from We Heart Vegan, adapted from Joyful Baker adapted from Here in America’s Test Kitchen.

I adapted the recipe to use what I had on hand and therefore these buns are not vegan.

Ingredients for Dough
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 T sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon (I may have doubled or tripled this amount)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 T white vinegar + enough almond milk ( I used unsweetened vanilla) to make 1 1/4 cups, combined and sat for 5-10 minutes
2 T butter melted, and 2 T butter softened
Ingredients for Filling
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon (I used 1-2 T cinnamon)
sprinkle of salt
1. Preheat oven to 425 F
2. Line baking sheet with parchment paper
3. Whisk dry bun ingredients together in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center.
4. After you’ve let the vinegar and almond milk sit for 5-10 minutes, stir in melted butter.
5. Pour liquid ingredients into well in center of dry ingredients and mix until dough forms
6. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead a few times.
7. Use a rolling pin to roll dough out to a large rectangle (12 x 9 but I didn’t measure)
8. Spread 2 T butter over dough
9. Mix filling ingredients together and spread evenly over butter dough.
10. Starting at one end of the rectangle, begin rolling slowly, evenly, and tightly.  The dough is very stick so add flour as to your hands and working surface as needed.
11. Slice roll into as many slices as you see fit.  I got 8 thick slices.
12. Nuzzle slices together on baking sheet and bake in oven for 20-25 minutes.

The recipe called for a Golden Syrup, but I made a glaze instead. I mixed 1 cup of confectioners sugar with 3 T hot water and 1 tsp. vanilla. I poured the glaze over the hot buns.

These buns took about an hour to make. The hardest part is rolling out the sticky dough and then rolling the sugared dough into a log, but it wasn’t that hard that I wouldn’t do it again. The dough is more bready than flaky and the filling is perfectly sweet and cinnamony. I plan on making these buns again the next time I host a brunch. Thanks for a great recipe, We Heart Vegan!

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Cookie Swap Party

A-Tooch loves a good reason to get the girls together to booze catch-up. Although a cookie swap is really a little too ‘girly’ for her, it seemed like the right fit for a winter event on a school night.

Since we’re not the real housewives of NYC and work pretty long hours, I new I’d have to be a little flexible in the rules. Here’s what I asked of the ladies:

1. All cookies should be homemade. No cookie mixes. You can make any kind of cookie, brownie, bar, etc. you’d like. Be creative.
2. You will need to bring at least three dozen cookies. This ensures every guest will swap for three cookies from each of the other guests.
3. BYO tupperware to transport your collected cookies home in.
4. Bring a dozen printed out copies of your cookie recipe to the party or email it to me at least one day in advance. (Nobody did this, including me. Oops.)
5. If you don’t have time to bake or burnt your cookies, but still want to attend, you must go to a real bakery and buy three dozen delicious cookies. What you lack in time spent baking you must make up for in expense! (ahem, momo milk bar?)

Turned out great! I made plain and nutella-dipped shortbread cookies, which joined peanut butter brownies, oatmeal cookies, two types of ginger snap cookies, and more.

A box of wine, two bottles of champagne and a round of carb and cheese appetizers later, we were ready to dig in and sample everything.

I had leftovers for days and shared with my much-approving doormen, bf, cousins, coworkers, etc. The cookies were even just in time to make an appearance at the Super Bowl feast later that week.

Posted in Cookies, Events | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Costa Rica Coffee Tour

In January,  Missy Yunks vacationed in Costa Rica.  She ate a lot of rice and beans and fresh fruit and drank a lot of coffee.  She also saw a gorgeous waterfall, zip lined over trees with a volcano in the background, hiked a crater, and relaxed in hot springs – but you’re more interested in the food, right?

My Costa Rica tour began in Monteverde, the cloud forest, and my first full day began at El Trapiche. El Trapiche is a family owned farm that grows coffee beans and sugar cane.  We saw the whole process of how coffee is made and how sugar is made.

The family has some coffee beans growing in this special box so visitors can see the plants up close.  I learned that coffee beans really look like this:

The bean actually has seven layers.  Half of the layers are peeled off and the coffee beans are set to dry out.

Once the beans are dry, they pass through two machines to peel off more layers and sort the beans.  Some beans look like peanuts with two halves attached together, and some beans are smaller and round.  The smaller round beans sell for more money because they’re richer in flavor.

The actual bean is really small.  During the roasting process, air gets puffed into the bean and they expand.

Quiz time! Which beans contain more caffeine? Dark roast or light roast?

Think about it while you check out the view from the farm.

If you guessed dark roast, you’re wrong.  Light roast beans have more caffeine.  The caffeine is in oils that get burned off during roasting.

After we saw the coffee bean process, we saw the sugar cane process.  A farm that produces coffee and sugar sounds like a great combination to me.  If only it was a dairy farm too!  We tasted fresh sugar cane chopped right out of the ground.  Sugar cane is 50% water and 50% sugar.  Sucking on it tastes like eating liquid sugar.  To get the sugar out, the sugar cane gets pressed by a machine.  A long time ago, ox used to power the machine.

They walk in a circle and a lever presses the sugar cane.  We could see liquid dripping out of the cane.  Later, they learned this machine is inefficient and now use an electronic machine to press the sugar cane.  When we saw this machine, so much liquid poured out of the cane that the cane was completely dry after it went through the machine.

Next, we saw where they heat the sugar and pour it into molds to make brown sugar.  We also had the opportunity to play with some sugar and make taffy.

At the end of the tour, we tasted coffee and a special Costa Rican dish.  Arracache is a plant that grows in Costa Rica.  Cooked Arracache is a special dish usually only served at special occasions, like weddings, because it takes a long time to prepare.  We were so lucky to taste this dish.  The savory vegetable is mixed with meat and served on a corn tortilla.  It can also be prepared vegetarian and our tour guide admitted that the vegetarian version tastes better than the meat!  BF agreed when he tasted both.

This small bite made it into “The Best Things I Ever Ate” list.  I won’t say it paired well with hot coffee, but the coffee was also really good.

They were a few coffee tours available in Monteverde and I’m so glad that we picked El Trapiche.  The family owned farm made the experience feel special and it was really interesting learning all about coffee and sugar cane.  If you ever travel to Costa Rica and want to go on a coffee tour, I recommend this one!

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Banana-Nutella Muffins

There is no contesting it – bananas and nutella are an amazing combination. Per usual, A-Tooch had a rotting over-ripe banana in her kitchen and quickly put it to good use.

I halved a combination of a few recipes for banana muffins and banana chocolate chip bread. Voila!

Banana-Nutella Muffins
(Makes 6)

1 over-ripe banana
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 egg
2 tbsp softened butter
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp Nutella
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350º and line a muffin tin with paper cups. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy (about 1-2 minutes). Add the banana, then the egg and blend thoroughly. Slowly beat in the flour mixture until incorporated.

Distribute the batter evenly among the muffin tins. Carefully drop 1/2 tbsp. of nutella on top of each muffin. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick entered in center comes out clean.

Despite how delicious nutella is, it unfortunately doesn’t have the best melting and baking properties. It will solidify a bit in the center of your muffin and won’t be as gooey as other fillings. However, it’s still a delicious surprise.

Posted in Featured, Recipes | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Ski-cation 2012

You may remember the ski trip-turned-food fest that A-Tooch and friends took last year. This year we went to the Poconos, upgraded to a house with a hot tub and ate even more food…if that is humanly possible.

I have a group of serious foodie friends so we kick the emails off a few weeks before with meal planning. I claimed dessert for the weekend, of course. The challenge is always to bake something that is transportable from my NYC apartment, to my office and then up to the mountain. Plus, it needs to be delicious and stay fresh for a few days. Enter: chocolate chip banana bread. Two of the greatest sweet ingredients you can combine — too-ripe bananas and chocolate chips.

The other dessert item that made the journey was these O’Henry Bars that were such a hit the last time I made them. If you travel with these, be mindful of your car’s floor heaters which can melt the bars into oblivion.

My friends, R+T, prepared a quesadilla bar with about two dozen toppings. Amazing.

A few things worked the year before and we kept those staples — drunk fondue with expensive gruyere and a pot that can handle 6 fondue sticks at once, and bacon and eggs for breakfast. Lots of it.

Yep, that’s all bacon.

In fact, there was so much bacon we decided to wrap our chicken with it for dinner the next night and throw it on the grill. Not a wise idea: check out this clip for the result.

What are your favorite items to cook on a ski trip?

P.S. Happy Groundhog Day! I don’t know about you guys, but it nearly hit 60 degrees in NYC yesterday so regardless of what the groundhog sees, I’m pretty sure spring is already on its way.

Posted in Events, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria – New Haven

OK New Englanders: you may have heard of Frank Pepe’s legendary pizza in New Haven, CT, but A-Tooch had not. Until this past weekend, that is. Why would a New Yorker need to know anything about “famous” pizza outside of the city?

On our way back from snowboarding in Vermont, the bf suggested we check out Frank Pepe’s, right off the highway in New Haven and very well known, apparently. I had never heard of the place but did some research and it appeared I was way behind the curve on this one. So we went. My friend warned me there may be a 1-2 hour wait. (For pizza?! I don’t even wait that long for Lombardi’s.) Lucky for us (and lucky for the extremely rude bus boy/host) we were seated in under 30 minutes.

The famous pie at Frank Pepe’s is the White Clam Pizza – fresh clams with grated cheese, olive oil, fresh garlic and oregano. We ordered a small pie plus a small Original Tomato Pie w/ mozzarella, bacon and onions. Made up this combo on the fly and it was pre-t-ty tasty if I say so myself. Then again, it’s bacon. How can you go wrong?

After a full day of skiing/snowboarding, we proceeded to each house an entire pie. The verdict — not bad. There was no skimping on the clams and for $12.50, it’s a fair price for what you’re eating (at least by NYC standards). I may have an Italian bias, but when I saw fresh garlic in the description I expected some heavy garlic. That was absent. With all of the seasoning, clams and cheese the pie was pretty salty. MAN was it salty. Top it off with that bacon pie and we were chugging water for the rest of the night.

A slice of the famous White Claim Pizza

We actually preferred the original pie with red sauce better. It really is difficult to give a fair assessment since pizza is such a matter of personal preference. In true Neapolitan style the pizza was very thin crust, slightly burnt around the edges. The original pies at Frank Pepe’s are served without mozzarella — you must request this as a topping if you’d like it included on anything.

Interesting fact — Frank Pepe’s has been serving Foxon Park sodas since 1925. While they also have Coca-Cola fountain products on tap, it’s hard to resist an old school bottle of this kola.

Would I go back? Only if in the New Haven area. While the pizza was tasty, it is not so unique that I would find myself craving it and making a New Haven road trip. I call it one of my “Been there, done that” spots — like the Empire State Building or Famous Ray’s Pizza. These are staple spots that you go to say you’ve been, then quickly forget about.

*Editor’s note: On its site, Frank Pepe’s notes it “is one of the oldest and best-known pizzerias in the United States.” It may be one of the oldest but it is not the oldest, apparently. Lombardi’s in NYC cites it is “America’s First Pizzeria.” You be the judge!

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana on Urbanspoon

Posted in Italian, Pizza, Recipes, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment
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