CAPER PESTO GRILLED CHICKEN + CRUSHED TOMATO PASTA SALAD WITH GRILLED ARTICHOKE HEARTS

*Sponsored Post – Italian Summer Grilling*

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If you live in an urban city, outdoor grilling can be hard to come by. Most of us don’t have the luxury of space – backyards, patios or even a balcony to perch a grill on. But, that doesn’t mean grilling is out of the question!

You CAN cook without an open wire grid iron grill. Grilling is a cooking method that uses directly applied dry heat  to food from above or below (when the heat comes from above, that’s broiling!). A branding cast iron skillet, grill pan or panini press can mimic directly applied ‘dry’ heat of a traditional, large grill.

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Nothing is more simple – or delicious – than grilling Italian style. Using flavorful Italian ingredients – like brine-y capers, luscious crushed tomatoes, herbaceous pesto, and delightfully acidic vinegars – summer grilling a la Italiana is my summer go to. I love grilled chicken and pesto, so it was only so natural to put them together for an easy grilled chicken. I used roasted garlic olive oil for extra savory flavor and crushed capers for a flavorful bite.

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My secret (not-so-secret anymore), easy to pull together dish is pasta salad. In about 20 minutes flat, I can have a large bowl of cooling pasta salad to feed a crowd, heaping with fresh veggies and tons of flavor. Instead of using bottled salad dressings, I like to make my own by using extra virgin olives oils, balsamic vinegars and (get this) crushed tomatoes. It’s like a secret serving of vegetables.

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So once you’ve whipped up your grilled meal inside, take it outside and enjoy it like I did. Hello summer!

Caper Pesto Grilled Garlic Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon Colavita Roasted Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Rachael Ray Salt form the sea grinder and Malabar black peppercorn grinder
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons Colavita capers
  • 4 tablespoons Colavita pesto sauce

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large branding cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium high heat. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken in pan and cook until golden brown and “grill marks” appear, about 3-4 minutes each side.
  2. Meanwhile, mash capers with a fork. Mix mashed capers with pesto sauce until thoroughly combined.
  3. Serve chicken with pesto spooned over the top.

Crushed Tomato Pasta Salad with Grilled Artichoke Hearts

  • 1 16 oz. box your favorite short-cut pasta, like penne or rotini
  • 1 6 oz. jar of marinated artichoke hearts
  • 1 plum tomato, cubed
  • 1/2 of an avocado, cubed
  • 1 box Cirio Italian Crushed Tomatoes with Basil
  • 2 tablespoons Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon Colavita Balsamic Glace Original or White Balsamic Vinegar
  • Rachael Ray Salt form the sea grinder and Malabar black peppercorn grinder

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil; cook pasta until tender or al dente (firm to the bite), about 8 minutes; drain and rinse under cool water. Set aside.
  2. While the pasta boils, drain artichokes. Heat a branding cast iron skilled or grill pan over medium high heat; sear artichoke hearts until slightly blackened or char marks appear. Remove from heat.
  3. Combine grilled artichokes, tomato, avocado, crushed tomatoes, olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Note: For a lighter colored pasta salad with a lighter flavor, use white balsamic vinegar. For a tinted pasta salad with stronger flavor, use original balsamic vinegar.

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BAKED TAHINI DOUGHNUTS WITH TAHINI GLAZE

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These sweet doughnuts are baked, not fried, and made with luscious tahini that gives these treats a creamier, nuttier taste and exotic flair. Eat these tahini-glazed doughnuts with a tall, cold glass of your favorite milk. Whether you choose to make classic sesame or chocolate tahini doughnuts (or both!), these cake-y sweets will go just as fast as you bake them.

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup Soom Foods Chocolate Spread or plain Sesame Tahini
  • 3 Tbsp butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup your favorite milk (almond, soy, cow, etc.)

Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 ½ Tbsp Soom Foods Chocolate Spread or plain Sesame Tahini
  • 1 ½ Tbsp milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • Toppings

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HOW TO THROW A SUCCESSFUL WINE AND CHEESE PARTY IN YOUR TWENTIES

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** This post is a paid article in collaboration with Castello Cheese. All opinions and recipes are my own. **

Gone are the days of chips left in cellophane bags and watered down beers or boxed wine. An elegant, yet easy wine and cheese party is within your reach. Here are some helpful hints to throwing a successful wine and cheese party in your twenties (and thirties, or forties…) on the fly.

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SUPERFOOD GREEK YOGURT

Lately, I’ve been indulging (read: overloading) in “superfoods.” Lord knows what that means. Superfoods are multi-tasking disease fighting foods that have a very high level of antioxidants (they fight free radicals lurking in your bod that cause damage resulting in premature aging and chronic diseases like stroke, heart disease and cancer to name a few). But this is not one-goji-berry-fits-all type of panacea: In order to get the most out of superfoods, you must eat a variety of them from a wide range of sources. But you knew I was going to say that right? Because just eating ONE type of superfood would be too easy. Popular superfoods include berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc.), dark leafy greens like KALE and my new favorites I am adding to my breakfasts: goji berries + cacao nibs.

NOTE: Cacao nibs are chocolate. BUT, they are not the chocolate you think they are. Sorry to crush your hopes and dreams, but if you think you are sprinkling a crumbled chocolate bar onto your cereal, smoothies, bowls, etc., you are going to be really disappointed. But now that the fantasy is over, let’s learn why you SHOULD eat them. Personally, I love the crunch they add to my Greek yogurt in the mornings (I am a crunch addict – please get that box of cereal, granola, whatever away from me. Thank you Cap’n) and the deep, full-bodied flavor is reminiscent of a good cup of coffee. They’ve got lots of magnesium and dietary fiber. The toasted almonds in my Superfood Greek Yogurt recipe also bump up the crunch factor while rounding out Greek yogurt’s tang with a nice nutty, aromatic flavor. And protein and good fats, duh.

Let’s talk about goji berries. Truthfully, I started eating them because Miranda Kerr does it. And there is nothing I won’t do that Miranda Kerr does (haha, just kidding, not really). They’re naturally sweet, chewy and have a tinge of a bitter after taste that doesn’t bother me one bit.  Loaded with beta-carotene, goji berries also just make your morning breakfast that much prettier, and admit it, don’t you want to eat pretty?

If you are what you eat, then I would eat Miranda Kerr if I could get my hands on her.

SUPERFOOD GREEK YOGURT

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 TBS cacao nibs
  • 1 TBS goji berries
  • 1 TBS toasted chopped almonds

Directions

  1. Scoop Greek yogurt into a bowl. Combine with remaining ingredients and serve immediately or make it look pretty and take food shots of it for your Instagram.

PORCINI THYME MILLET WITH FRIED EGG

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I love trolling the Internet for new recipes. I hate having to scroll through a million photos of food at slightly different angles and nonsensical text in blog posts to actually get to the recipe itself.

Here is the recipe.

PORCINI THYME MILLET WITH FRIED EGG

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup dry hulled millet
  • 5 cloves peeled minced garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl filled with 2 cups hot water; set aside for 20 minutes.
  2. Strain mushrooms through a fine sieve, reserving the mushroom water; pat mushrooms dry and chop.
  3. Combine millet with the reserved mushroom water in a medium pot set to boil; once boiled, reduce heat to low for 15-20 minutes or until water is absorbed and grains have “sprouted”. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 10 minutes.
  4. While the millet cooks, warm olive oil in a small skillet on medium heat. Add minced garlic, chopped mushrooms and thyme; sauté until the the mushrooms are soft and mixture fragrant, about 2-4 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Fluff millet with a fork and mix in mushroom mixture.
  6. Fry eggs using the leftover oil residue used to sauté the mushrooms; top mushroom millet with fried eggs and salt and pepper to taste.

Note: To make this dish even more decadent, I used truffled salt to add a sprinkle of richness.

CHOCOLATE CHIP SEA SALT COOKIES

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Recently, I was invited to a fancy potluck party on the Upper East Side, well-attended by professional chefs and a handful of culinary school graduates. I’ve never been to culinary school. So of course I foolishly asked what I could bring to a party filled with masters of cuisine. The host asked me to bring my “best baked good!”

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In a fit of terror, I scoured recipe after recipe of the “best” for the best – pies, tarts, cakes, sweet breads – anything within my power and skills to make to impress these decorated guests. Fingers flying across my keyboard, I discovered a food lab tested, best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever. What makes the “best” chocolate chip cookie? Is it the chips, the flour, the butter, the process? Serious Eats tackled the task of making “the best chocolate chip cookie.” Every part of the cookie process was dissected and tested – and what it boiled down to for me was THE BUTTER.

It’s all about the butter.

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For starters, God help you if you use margarine instead of the real thing. You will never achieve the cookie of your dreams that way. Real butter gives cookies that delicious, tender mouthfeel we all seek. More butter = wider spread and tender cookies. It gives cookies so much flavor, superior to other fats like shortening, lard or margarine. How you use the butter in your cookies is super important. If you like cakier cookies, cream your butter. If you like denser, chewier cookies, melt the butter. Brown the butter to give cookies nutty, caramelized flavor.

Yolks are a must. Don’t skip your yolks and use just whites. If your trying to eat a low-fat cookie, you should really be eating a piece of celery instead. Extra egg yolks make fudgier cookies ( oh god, oh yum). And don’t sub white sugar for brown just because you don’t feel like running to the store to get it – brown sugar yields moister cookies.

But if you like dry, crumbly, tall cookies well….don’t do any of the above. Not sure why you would. It’s not like your eating a cracker. Recipe + what I’m reading this week ——->

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(ACAI) BOWL SO HARD

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I’ve been completely digging acai bowls lately. Like, three-bowls-a-day digging. What is an acai bowl? It’s basically a thick smoothie in a bowl topped with freshly cut fruit, granola and a blob of nut butter. Acai itself is actually a reddish purple, inch-long berry from the acai palm tree native to Central and South America. People are losing their minds over acai because of its ridiculously high antioxidant levels (greater than that of blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, etc.). There is some anecdotal evidence that consuming acai berries promotes weight loss, but studies so far are inconclusive.

To be quite honest, I don’t go nuts over acai because of it’s flavor – I actually find it bitter, grainy and earthy. Some say it tastes like dark chocolate, but I don’t find it to be so. So why do I even bother? Because of it’s pretty purple color (yea, seriously) and it’s high antioxidant levels. It’s like throwing in a supercharged multi-vitamin into my breakfast (lunch or dinner) every day and the rest of the components to an acai bowl are super hearty and delicious.  The high antioxidant levels neutralize free radicals in our bods, and those are the little suckers that attack proteins and fats that lead to premature aging (read: WRINKLES people)  and cause different types of disease. Economically speaking, I prefer freeze dried powdered acai, like that from Navitas Naturals. It can be added to smoothies, bowls, baked goods, oatmeal, etc. Or if you are going for a thicker, ready to blend version, try Sambazon.

Bowls (or smoothies) are best enjoyed right after they are made, but they can keep well covered up to 48 hours (give it a quick stir or pulse in a blender before serving). Make is a superfood bowl by adding in chia seeds, ground flaxseeds or goji berries. I love the crunch unsweetened granola adds to the bowl and the creamy peanut butter taste.

PEANUT BUTTER VANILLA PROTEIN ACAI BOWL by yours truly

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon dried acai powder (like Navitas Naturals) or 1 package frozen acai blend from Sambazon
  • 1/2 unsweetened dairy-free milk like soy or almond
  • 1 scoop unsweetened vanilla protein powder
  • 1/2 frozen banana (use 1/2 unfrozen banana if using a pre-frozen acai blend pack)
  • 1/2 cup freshly cup fruit like banana, strawberries, blueberries or mangos
  • 1/4 cup low sugar granola
  • 1/2 tablespoon peanut butter or your favorite nut butter
  • Toppings to taste like ground flax seed, chia seeds, coconut flakes, etc.

Directions

  1. Blend acai, milk, protein powder and banana until thick and firm. You may have to scrape down the sides of the blender to fully incorporate or add extra ice.
  2. Scoop acai base into a bowl and top with fresh fruit, granola, nut butter and toppings to taste. Enjoy!