Quick Trip to Santa Monica and L.A.

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I went to LA and Santa Monica last week with a friend and was able to work from our LA office. In my short time there I was able to explore some new restaurants! Check out the reviews below.

Estate, Santa Monica

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It was out first evening in Santa Monica, and we wanted some good food! After a full day of traveling cross country and working non-stop, we deserved a nice cocktail and delicious meal. I asked a good friend of mine for some recommendations, and he pointed me to Estate 1519, which was walking distance from our hotel. It was very new and seemed as though it offered Asian-fusion food. Now, I’m usually skeptical of “fusion” cuisine, because I generally find that the food is confused and ultimately not good. However, I trusted that In SoCal, Asian was probably a safer bet. It is generally thought that Asian and Mexican cuisines are very good here.

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Some Quick Rates:

Quick Rates (1-10, 10 being the best):

  • Food: 7
  • Beverages: 9
  • Service: 8
  • Ambiance: 8
  • Price: 6

Beverage:

Matcha Piccu: Gin, Lemongrass, Matcha Green Tea, Fresh Lemon Juice.

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I’m generally a huge fan of gin in cocktails – it blends really well and doesn’t overpower the other ingredients, but still gets the job done (if you know what I mean). I LOVED this cocktail – I loved match green tea and gin so that combination was fabulous. It tasted like I was drinking an adult green tea. It had a balanced flavor of sweet and tangy.

Food:

Farmers Market Flatbread: sweet cherry tomato / weiser farms peewee potato / yellow & red bell pepper mozzarella / kale.

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This “small plate” was a great size and they even added thinly sliced fresh jalapenos on it without me asking (maybe it was because I emphasized while ordering that I want the spiciest thing in their kitchen. Must’ve given it away). This was a great combo of fresh veggies, small dollops of goat cheese, and roasted fingerling potatoes. I would’ve preferred more of a sauce on it – maybe a kale pesto? Otherwise, it was very good.

Pad Thai: fried tofu / eggs / onions / red bell pepper / roasted peanut / lime.

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I would like to think by now that I’m a Pad Thai connoisseur. This dish was quite deceiving. When it came, we instantly thought it was a small portion and were annoyed. However the bowl was deep. I actually really enjoyed this dish – it was full of flavor and the ingredients were very fresh. The tofu was lightly pan fried – not oily and chewy like tofu in pad thai generally is. They also provided me with Thai chili powder and fresh jalapenos, so obviously that improved my experience.

Dessert – Green Tea Tiramisu: Chocolate-Almond Cookies.

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Next to the cocktail, I think this was my 2nd favorite item. It was tiramisu with an Asian twist. Creamy, light, and packed with the delicious green tea flavor and served with a matcha green tea sauce. The cookies were unnecessary though – didn’t think it added much to the overall dish.

Tinga, LA

I was taken here for lunch on recommendation of my colleagues in LA. It was casual and when you walked in, it felt as though I was at a roadside taco hut in Mexico, and I liked that. Some Quick Rates:

Quick Rates (1-10, 10 being the best):

  • Food: 7
  • Beverages: – (drank water)
  • Service: 8
  • Ambiance: 7
  • Price: 7

Tres Salsa Tasting: two salsa and guacamole.

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Wasn’t the biggest fan – for all those who know me, know that i absolutely hate raw onions. Which means I couldn’t eat the guacamole or the pico de gallo in this dish. So this “Two Salsa and Guacamole” dish really became “One Salsa” dish for me. The salsa was good, but definitely not the best I’ve had.

Elote Especial: grilled sweet corn, lime, crema, chili, poblano puree.

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I generally love Elote – in a bowl or on the cob. This was really good and I loved the poblano puree, but it had a little too much lime for my liking and also wasn’t spicy. However, they were able to provide me with grilled serranos and a homemade habanero sauce, which fulfilled my spice craving.

Papas Brava Tacos: Mashed bashed and smashed potatoes with pasilla rajas, pickled peppers, queso fresco and “ Mother in Law” salsa.

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I’ve never had potatoes in tacos, so I thought why not give it a try? This totally reminded me of a classic Indian dish we have called Aloo Tikkis, but with a tortilla. It was basically potatoes that were mashed with some spices, onions, peas and then made into a patty and pan seared on each side. Placed into a fresh tortilla – which was very good, had great texture – topped with creama, queso fresco and the poblano puree. It was very good, but I do think the mashed potato patty could’ve used more flavor. Maybe some garlic, cumin, and cilantro would’ve done the trick!

Candle Cafe, Venice Beach 

We walked from Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica to Venice Beach, which isn’t a bad walk! But of course, we worked up an appetite. To our dismay, nothing was open at 9pm on a Thursday evening! I understand cities outside of NYC aren’t open 24/7, but Venice Beach? Come onnnn. Since it was a little chili, we found the place with the most heat lamps and sat right next to one. This happened to be at Candle Cafe.

Quick Rates (1-10, 10 being the best):

  • Food: 4
  • Beverages: 6
  • Service: 7
  • Ambiance: 6
  • Price: 7

Beverages: Instead of ordering 2 glasses of wine, which were $9 each, we order a bottle of white wine for $30 – that’s how they always get you. Obviously, this was like a $10 bottle, that they were charging 200% more for. However, it was fine for the evening.

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Food:

On-The-Side Nachos: Topped with Fondue Cheese and Jalapenos. Salsa, Guacamole, Black Beans, Sour Cream.

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So this is probably the most inaccurate description. It was basically tortilla chips, topped with processed nacho cheese, served with all the sides.

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Don’t get my wrong, I happen to love ghetto nacho cheese, especially the kind we get at movie theaters, but don’t fool me by saying “fondue cheese”!!! Also, they were pretty skimpy with the cheese, so we had to request for more “fondue cheese” on the side (see below). The best part in this whole dish was the avocado, which wasn’t even a part of the dish. I had ordered it on the side. Hit the spot though.

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Side of Avocado: come on, I can’t go to SoCal and not eat some fresh avocados!!

Ice Cream & Homemade Chocolate-Chip Cookies as a Sundae: Another completely deceiving description. Basically two small cookies served with a bucket of vanilla ice cream – no sundae fixins’! Either they forgot, or California people eat really WEIRD sundaes. Disappointing.

Blu Jam Cafe, Hollywood

I met an old colleague here on his recommendation for breakfast. It was pretty casual – I think it was equivalent to a diner.

Quick Rates (1-10, 10 being the best):

  • Food: 6
  • Beverages: 8
  • Service: 7
  • Ambiance: 6
  • Price: 7

The menu is extensive. I love and hate large menus – there are enough choices for a picky person like myself, but also confusing like an indecisive person like myself. I settled on a savory breakfast item. I was in SoCal, so I couldn’t leave without eating a breakfast burrito!

Beverage: Dirty Chai: Espresso with Spiced Chai. This was actually awesome – a huge mug filled with frothy chai and espresso sprinkled with cinnamon. It was really good and not filled with overpowering spice, such clove and cardamom. I was a huge fan.

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Wrap On Fire: Fresh eggs scrambled with spicy chipotle peppers, black beans, cilantro, tomato, red bell peppers, and cheddar cheese rolled up in a large grilled flour tortilla, served with sour cream and grilled potatoes.

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Of course I altered this by asking for egg whites and jalapenos and chipotle sauce on the side. I was served the burrito and noticed that it was not egg whites, but because we were pressed for time, I figured I’d just hush up and eat it. But then as I kept eating, I realized there were no jalapenos! Noooo. I informed the waitress, and she told me that in fact they had served me the wrong burrito. I got mine with egg white and jalapenos, and what I liked most about the dish was the fact that the burrito was grilled crisp on all sides. It was pretty good, but definitely needed more flavor. They didn’t overfill it was cheese and the chipotle sauce on the side added some yumminess. The crispy rosemary home fries were very good.

The French Crepe Co., Farmers Market LA 

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It was my last day in the office and my colleagues were nice enough to take me to the Farmers Market in LA right next to The Grove shopping center. There’s tons of options to choose from – Mediterranean, BBQ, creole, Korean BBQ, Italian, you name it, they got it. I opted for The French Crepe Company – they seemed to know what they were doing.

Quick Rates (1-10, 10 being the best):

  • Food: 8
  • Beverages: -
  • Service: -
  • Ambiance: 7
  • Price: 7

Sweet Nutella Crepe with Strawberries & Side of Dulce de Leche:

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I really judge a crepe based on its color and texture – a good crepe should be slightly golden brown and lightly crisp, not soggy. Really, the ingredients inside don’t really matter, because most of the time they’re not homemade, i.e., Nutella. This crepe was delicious – thin, crisp and wasn’t soggy at all. I saw them make it – layered tbsp upon tbsp of butter and sugar while cooking, which I think helped it gain it’s golden color and texture.

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The dulce de leche was also equally delicious. And they didn’t over stuff the crepe, which is always lovely.

Warm Goat Cheese Salad: With Mixed Greens, Olives and Sundried Tomatoes Served with French Dressing.

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This was definitely the weakest dish of our meal. The portion was great – enough for 2-3 people, but it was lacking in flavor. The only part of the salad that was good were they toasted crostinis topped with warmed goat cheese. Otherwise, a rather lame and unflavorful salad with an out-of-the-bottle dressing. 

Il Pastaio, Beverly Hills 

For our last evening in LA, we decided to go with my friends suggestion and dine at a rather “bouji” Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills. It had all the makings of a quintessential Beverly Hills restaurant – small in size, packed, rather long wait, and tons of rich folks with plastic faces. Yup, Beverly Hills. But for some reason even with that, it still gave me a homey feeling. Also, this restaurant had an awesome selection of vegetarian options!

Quick Rates (1-10, 10 being the best):

  • Food: 9
  • Beverages: -
  • Service: 8
  • Ambiance: 7
  • Price: 6

Timballo di Zucchine: Zucchini Soufflé Served over Roasted Bell Pepper Sauce and a Touch of Truffle Fondue.

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I wanted to try something that I would’ve normally get at home. However, that’s probably the hardest thing I can do when traveling, because I can get everything in NYC. However, this was a very unique dish I spotted and it was totally vegetarian! It was a delicious light and soft zucchini souffle floating in a bath of yellow bell pepper and truffle fondue sauce. It was absolutely delicious and I wish I had some right now.

Agnolotti: Homemade Green Ravioli Stuffed with Mushrooms; Cheese Fondue and Truffle Sauce.

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I love truffle, and in actuality, I wanted to order the black truffle special, but unfortunately it was $50+ per dish (WHAT!). So I opted for the “cheaper” option. And I’m glad I did! I love Agnolottis in general – they tend to have a lighter dough and aren’t swimming in sauce. This was delicately draped in a creamy and truffly sauce which was so good that I actually finished my entire dish – I never finish my entire dish! So good.

Cameo Bar, Viceroy, Santa Monica 

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It was our last night in the hotel, and we’ve been told by many friends and colleagues that our hotel – Viceroy – has a cool bar scene on Friday nights. We decided to have a drink at the Cameo Bar. I generally loved the Viceroy here – there wasn’t much space, but they utilized it so nicely. We each had a Spiced Strawberry Sangria, which had red wine, spiced strawberry liqueur, lemon juice, and fresh strawberry. It was really nice – refreshing but warming at the same time because of the spice. All in all, lovely experience.

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Deconstructed Olive Oil Cake Parfait

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A couple of years ago I received the Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller (it was actually from my old boss during our Secret Santa gift exchange!).

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I decided to FINALLY make something from it for Mothers Day this year! I probably made the simplest recipe from the book, but of course I jazzed it up and put a Chef Priyanka twist on it.

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I made a relatively heavy brunch that day, so I decided to make a rather light and summery dessert. I used Bouchon’s Olive Oil cake recipe and make a deconstructed parfait with fresh whipped cream and homemade strawberry coulis. Check it out!

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Deconstructed Olive Oil Cake Parfait:

  • 1 Olive Oil Cake – baked and cooled, cut into 4 inch wide squares
  • 1 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 2-3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp fresh orange zest
  • 1 cup of strawberries – quartered
  • 3-4 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • squeeze of lemon juice (from about 1/2 a lemon)
  • 1-2 fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnishing (optional)
  • good extra virgin olive oil for garnishing (optional)

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To make the fresh whipped topping:

1. In a clean and cold bowl, add in your chilled heavy cream. Begin whipping on medium speed and slowly add in your 2-3 tbsp sugar and orange zest. Switch speed to high and whip until medium-firm peaks are formed. Spoon into an air tight container and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the Strawberry Coulis:

1. In a small-medium sauce pan add in your berries, 3-4 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp orange zest, lemon juice, and 1-2 fresh mint leaves. Place over a medium-low flame and cook until reduced and thick, stirring occasionally. Amount should reduce slightly, and mixture should be thick and deep red in color. Place in an air tight container and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To assembler parfait:

1. In small plates or bowl place one square of olive oil cake, spoon on about a tsp of whipped cream, tsp of strawberry coulis, top with another cake layer and top with some more whipped cream, strawberries, garnish with a sprig of mint and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Repeat until all components are finished.

 

Crispy Mexican Hash Browns

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Crispy Mexican Hashbrowns:

  • 5 Idaho potatoes – cleaned, peeled, dried
  • 1 serrano pepper – minced
  • 2 stalks scallions – minced
  • 1-2 tsp no salt/low sodium Mexican seasoning
  • 1 tsp dried Oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • pinch of cumin powder
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • PAM Original Flavor

1. Grate the potato into a cheese cloth, and once all the potato is grated, tie tight and squeeze out the excess water. Place into a medium bowl. Toss in the minced serrano and scallions. You want to mix in the remaining ingredients 5 minutes before cooking.

2. Spray a large non-stick skillet with PAM and place over medium-high flame. Add the potato mixture, making sure to spread it out evenly all over the pan – you want it to be a thin layer so it crisps up. Cook on 1 side for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Then try and flip to the other side (or flip over in sections) and cook for a few minutes until browned. Remove and place on a serving dish. Garnich with a generous amount of chopped scallions. Serve!

Serves 2-4 

Mexican Street Corn

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The first time I ever ate charred corn on the cob with spicy Mexican mayo and crumbled queso fresco was in Acapulco, Mexico nearly 10 years ago. Ever since then I’ve been in love. I’ve made several Mexican Street Corn versions since then, but I must say this was probably one of the best variations I’ve made. I made this corn this past Sunday for a Mother’s Day Brunch and it was a super hit with my family! Try it for yourself…

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Mexican Street Corn:

  • 4-5 fresh corn on the cob – de-husked
  • a little less than a 1/4 cup softened butter/margarine – I used Light Butter with Canola Oil
  • 1 tbsp no/low sodium Mexican seasoning – I used McCormick 
  • 1 Serrano chili – minced
  • pinch salt
  • pinch black pepper
  • pinch finely chopped cilantro
  • squeeze of lemon/lime juice from a quarter lemon/lime
  • 1/4 cup shredded Queso Blanco
  • fresh chopped cilantro for garnishing

1. In a small bowl, mix together softened butter, seasoning, chili, salt, pepper, cilantro, and lemon juice. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until ready to use.

2. Char the corns either on an open grill or directly on the flame on the stove top for about 5 minutes on each side. Corn should be charred and completely cooked through. Using a very sharp knife, cut each cob in half.

3. Once the corns are slightly cool, spread a generous amount of butter on each, making sure to roll around so all the kernels can seep in the flavor. Top each with the shredded queso blanco and chopped cilantro. Serve!

Feeds 4-8 people 

Nutella Cupcakes

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Do these really need an intro….?

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Nutella Cupcakes:

  • My moist chocolate cupakes
  • 1 small jar of nutella
  • cream cheese frosting
  • chopped hazelnuts

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees. In a regular cupcake baking sheet, fill each lined cup 1/2 with batter. In each put a little less than 1 tbsp of nutella into the middle. Bake for about 20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove and let cool.

2. Top with the cream cheese frosting and drizzle a generous amount of nutella on top plus chopped hazelnuts.

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Creamy Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1 8oz bar of reduced-fat cream cheese – softened
  • 1 stick butter – softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4-5 cups sifted confectioners

1. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla extract and mix. Then slowly add in the sugar until incorporated and switch mixer to high until light and fluffy. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Open Faced Crispy Eggplant Sandwich

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I love eggplant parm, but just like any other foodies, I find it to be a bit boring. My mom makes these delicious thin and crispy eggplant cutlets once in a while, which remind me of eggplant parm. So I decided to use those and whip up something that was similar to an eggplant parm, but just jazzed up. I think this recipe is great for a weekend brunch!

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Open Faced Crispy Eggplant Sandwich:

  • 1 large Italian eggplant – thinly sliced (1/8 of an inch thick)
  • couple tbsp course salt
  • 1 cup Italian style breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup lowfat buttermilk
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • olive oil
  • 2 ciabatta rolls – each roll should be sliced in 4 thin slices
  • 1/4 cup lowfat mayo
  • 3-4 tbsp pesto
  • 1 bell pepper – thinly sliced
  • 1 large red onion – thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeño – thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic – thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat shredded mozzarella
  • 1 beefsteak tomato – finely chopped
  • salt
  • black pepper

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1. First lay the eggplant slices in a colander (or baking sheet with holes) sprinkle generously with the course salt and let sit until all the moisture seeps out. About 30 minutes.

2. Set up an assembly line with the buttermilk in a shallow dish and the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish. Take the salted eggplant slices and first dip in buttermilk on both sides and then coat with the breadcrumbs on both sides, making sure to pat in the breadcrumbs until they adhere. While you’re preparing the slices, heat a large non-stick skillet over medium flame spray with PAM and pour in olive oil to coat the pan. Place the slices into the pan and pan sear on both sides until the breadcrumbs are dark brown and the eggplant is cooked through. Set aside.

3. In a small bowl, mix together the mayo and 2 tbsp pesto. Set aside.

4. In the same skillet that you cooked the eggplant in, remove an access/burnt crumbs and set over medium flame. Spray with PAM and add in the bell peppers, onions, jalapenos, and garlic. Saute for about 2 minutes. Add in the oregano, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Continue to saute over medium-low flame until vegetable begin to soften and caramelize. While that’s cookies, mix together remaining 2 tbsp of pesto and chopped tomatoes in a small bowl. Set aside. Once veggies have cooked and become soft, remove from the pan.

5. Spray both sides of each of the slices of ciabatta. Place on the same pan to toast until golden brown. While the slices are still sitting in the pan (I just did 2 at a time), spread with about 1 tbsp of pesto mayo, place 2 slices of crispy eggplant, top with a generous amount of sauteed veggies, top with shredded cheese and heat over low flame. I place a steel bowl over it so the cheese melts. Remove from the pan and place on a serving dish. Top with pesto tomatoes and a smear of pesto-mayo on the side. Delish!

Mediterranean Orzo

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I think orzo is underrated. It cooks really fast and acts and taste just like regular pasta, which means its absorbs any of the goodness you add to it. I also think it’s really versatile, which means it doesn’t have to be just Italian. That being said, I made a super simple Mediterranean Orzo with ingredients that you probably already have on hand.

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Mediterranean Orzo:

  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 red onion – diced
  • 1 clove of garlic – minced
  • 1 zucchini – diced
  • 1 yellow squash – diced
  • 1-2 jalapenos – diced
  • couple tsp dried oregano
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 10 pencil asparagus – diced
  • 1/4 cup canned chickpeas – drained and rinsed
  • handful of kalamata olives – diced
  • red crushed pepper
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • a little less than 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey-dijon mustard
  • 1 heaping tsp of honey
  • 1 tsp dried oregano

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1. In a large pot add water, drizzle a little olive oil, sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and set over high flame to bring to a boil. Add in the orzo, and boil for about 8-10 minutes or until al dente. Strain, reserving the water and set the orzo aside.

2. In a large skillet, add in a tbsp of olive oil and heat over medium flame. Add in the onions and garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes. Then add in the jalapenos and the rest of the veggies. Saute for a few minutes until slightly soft. Add in the oregano, red crushed pepper, salt, and pepper and chickpeas. Saute for another 5-8 minutes until all the veggies are tender, but not soft and mushy. Remove from the stove.

3. In a large serving bowl, mix together the red wine vinegar, mustard, honey, oregano, some more salt and black pepper. Drizzle in about 2-3 tbsp of olive oil until emulsified. Add in the cooked orzo and sauteed veggies. Mix altogether. Also add in the chopped olives and toss, making sure the pasta is completely coated with the dressing. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Serves 3-4 

Oil n’ Garlic Spaghetti with Caramelized Onions & Parmesan

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I think if someone asked me what my favorite simple pasta dish was I’d probably say Oil n’ Garlic (or vodka or pesto or pink sauce, etc etc..EVERYTHING). No, but really – I love Oil n’Garlic pasta. It’s garlicky, and smooth and when topped with parmigiana cheese -adds just the right amount of salt. One night my mom and I were craving some, so I whipped up this simple dish with the addition of caramelized onions.

Oil n’ Garlic Spaghetti with Caramelized Onions:

  • 1 large white onion – thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • sprinkle of salt
  • couple tbsp olive oil – good quality
  • 4-5 cloves garlic – lightly smashed
  • red crushed pepper
  • 1/4 box of Thin Spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmigiana cheese
  • good extra virgin olive oil

1. In a medium non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low flame. Add the sliced onions and saute. Once the onions start turning translucent, reduce the heat to slightly above low and continue to cook. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt and the 1 tsp of sugar. You want to cook these onions for about 10-15 minutes until super soft and golden in color like caramel. Remove  from the skillet and set aside.

2. In a large pot bring water to a boil – sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and add a tsp of olive oil. Boil until al dente, then strain, but reserve the starchy water. Set aside.

3. In the same medium skillet, add a touch more olive oil and set over medium-low flame. Add in the garlic cloves and red crushed pepper. Saute for a 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add in the cooked pasta and a couple of tbsp of the reserved pasta water. Toss and add in a little more reserved pasta water if it seems to be getting dry. I added about 1/4 cup of the water in total. Toss in the reserved caramelized onions and the parmigiana cheese. Toss and place in a serving dish and top with more cheese. Serve!

Serves 2-3 (or 1 depending on how hungry/hangry you are) 

Chile Relleno

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A lot of what I make is based on what’s good in the grocery store that day. Earlier this weekend, I went to the grocery store just to get 2 items. But of course, I cam out with 5 bags full of unnecessary (but very necessary) items. I found some beautiful fresh Poblanos and instantly thought – Stuffed Chili Rellenos. But, I wanted to make them healthy – althought the cheese stuffed, deep-fried restaurant version is great, I can’t be eating like that when I have to expose myself in a bathing suit next month. So, I whipped up a low-carb, low-fat Roasted Chili Relleno dish. It came out very good! See below…

(please excuse the iPhone 5 pics, ugh)

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Roasted Chili Relleno:

  • 4 poblano peppers
  • 1 yam/sweet potato – boiled until for tender then diced
  • 1 medium white onion – diced
  • 1-2 jalapeños – diced
  • 1 yellow (or any color) bell pepper – diced
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 tbsp unsalted taco seasoning
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic – smashed and minced
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 lime
  • 3-4 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp reduced fat sour cream
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar – if vegan, use vegan cheddar
  • couple of slices of Cabot Habanero Cheddar – omit if vegan
  • handful fresh cilantro – chopped
  • 1/4 cup grape tomatoes – diced
  • olive oil
  • PAM

1. Char 2 of the poblanos directly on the flame on the stovetop until very soft and completely charred all around. Remove and let cool.

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Next char the remaining 2 poblanos on the flame but not as much – you want them to be slightly charred all around and JUST fork tender. Remove and let cool.

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2. Meanwhile in a large skillet spray with Pam and heat about 1-2 tbsp of olive oil. Add the cumin seeds and let them become fragrant about 30 seconds. Then add the onions, bell pepper, garlic, jalapeños, and diced yams and sauté. Add the taco seasoning, sprinkle of salt and pepper and the 1 tsp of oregano and continue sautéing. Add the spinach and mix in. Sprinkle in some water in the mixture. You want to cook this for about 10-15 minutes until all the veggies (especially the yams) are cooked through. Taste for salt and seasoning. At the last moment right after you shut off the flame, mix in a couple tbsp of the chopped cilantro. Set aside.

3. To make the sauce: Take the 2 very charred poblanos and remove from the stem and seed pods. Add to a blender with the sour cream, about 3 tbsp water, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp chili powder, juice from 1/4 of the lime, and 1-2 tbsp of the chopped cilantro. Blend on high until very smooth – you may need to add a little more water. Set aside.

4. Quick Pico de Gallo: Mix together the chopped tomato, 1 tbsp of the chopped cilantro, lime juice from 1/4 lime, pinch of salt and set aside.

5. Assembly: Make a slit in the middle of the remaining 2 slightly charred poblanos. Place on a baking sheet. Remove some of the seeds of the poblano and discard. Stuffed generously with the vegetable stuffing all the way to the top. Top with the cheeses and broil for a few minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove. Place each one on a serving dish and top with a generous amount of the sauce and the pico de gallo. Serve!

Serves 2 

“Fancy” Grilled Cheese

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Do you ever get a craving for a simple grilled cheese sandwich? Something gooey and delicious and full of carbs and cheesy goodness? Yah, I get these cravings all the time, but if I ate what I craved all the time, I’d probably be a beluga whale. But I do like to reasonably indulge from time-to-time. I was craving a grilled cheese the other day, but I wanted something tasty and not too fatty. Thus, the “Fancy” Grilled Cheese was born.

“Fancy” Grilled Cheese:

  • 2 slices multigrain/whole wheat bread (I used Pepperidge Farm Brand)
  • 2 slices part-skim American Cheese (I used good ole’ Kraft)
  • 1 slice reduced-fat Pepper Jack Cheese (I used Sargento)
  • 2-3 slices beefsteak tomato
  • 3-4 slices fresh basil
  • Black Pepper
  • PAM Olive Oil Flavor

Pesto Aioli:

  • 2 tbsp reduced-fat mayo
  • 1 tsp basil pesto
  • sprinkle of red crushed pepper

1. Layer the ingredients evenly between the 2 slices of bread. Spray both sides of the outside of sandwich with PAM.

2. Pesto Aioli- stir all ingredients and set aside.

3. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat and spray with PAM. Grill both sides of the sandwich for about 4-5 minutes until golden brown and the cheese is melted. Remove from the skillet, and slice in half. Serve with Pesto Aioli.