Butternut Squash and Kale Quesadillas

butternut

It’s almost fall. Can you believe it!? Where on earth has 2013 gone? I’m very sad about saying farewell to rosé wine, white jeans and tank tops, but am so looking forward to the delicious delicacies of the season. I can almost taste Pumpkin Spiced Lattes. In celebration of the slight change in temperature, I thought I would offer a transitional recipe combining some of my favorite ingredients: cheese, kale and butternut squash.

Everyone who follows this blog is aware of my kale obsession. I didn’t jump on the kale bandwagon two years ago when some Iron Chef decided to make it popular. I’ve been eating the stuff since college. Besides being cheap and easy to cook its also incredibly good for you. Packed with nutrients, it’s rich in vitamins C and K as well as beta carotene. Kale also contains a chemical called sulforaphane, which has potent anti-cancer properties.

Let’s talk about squash. If you don’t like butternut squash, or any squash for that matter, then I think you are crazy. Butternut and Spaghetti are my favorite varieties, but I’d rank B-nut as number one. If it exists, I think I could eat a Gerber baby food jar of butternut squash, I’m not kidding. Is that weird? No but seriously, I think butternut squash contains some sort of dopamine-elevating drug similar to chocolate.

Finally, there’s cheese. I don’t even know where to begin. So I’ll just stop here…some things are just better left unsaid.

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 1/2 whole Butternut Squash, seeded, peeled, chopped ($2.50)
  • 1 tbs olive oil ($.10)
  • 2 tbs butter ($.10)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Pinch of Black Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Chili Powder ($.05)
  • 1 bunch Kale leaves, torn ($2.00)
  • 8 flour tortillas ($2.00)
  • 1 tbs Butter For Frying
  • 2 cups grated Monterey Jack Cheese ($2.50)
  • Sour Cream For Serving ($.50)

Total: $9.75

Instructions

Heat 1 tbs butter and oil. Add B-nut squash and season with chili powder, salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, or until squash is deep golden brown and tender. Remove and set aside.

Melt 1tbs butter over medium-high heat and add in the kale. Toss and cook it for 4 minutes. Add in the cooked squash and gently toss together. Set aside.

In a separate skillet, melt additional butter and lightly brown 1 quesadilla. Add a layer of cheese topped with a layer of the squash/kale mixture, topped with a second tortilla.

Brown the quesadilla on both sides, adding more butter to the pan if needed to ensure the proper crunch and golden color.

When the cheese is melted, remove each quesadilla from the skillet and cut it into four wedges.

You will end up with four quesadillas. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, if desired.

 

 

Tebasaki Chicken Wings

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I travel to Japan quite frequently for work and am fortunate enough to enjoy the some of the most amazing food on earth. Sushi, tempura, Kobe beef, you name it. While my travels normally take me to Tokyo, last year I had business trip in Nagoya, which is in central Japan. You can find most typical Japanese dishes in every city, but there are some delicacies that can only be found in certain regions of Japan.

My first Japan trip was actually to Nagoya a little over a year ago. It took about 16 hours to get there and I think I landed around 10 pm. By the time I made it through customs, took a taxi to the hotel and checked in it was almost midnight. And I was STARVING. I set out to find anything that was open and wound up in a quaint little restaurant with servers and chefs that didn’t speak a lick of English and menus written completely in Japanese. With no pictures!

The server luckily knew two words- “Ramen” and “Pork”. At this point I would’ve eaten the menu so I nodded and muttered “Hai”, which is Japanese for yes.

I was expecting a bowl of noodles in some sort of broth and maybe a piece of bacon or a pork chop? Well I got the first one—a bowl of noodles. But do you know what the pork dish was? A PIG’S BRAIN! WHY would I want to eat the brain of a pig! They aren’t even smart! I felt bad, so I cut it up and moved it around on my plate so it looked like I at least tried it. I’ll tell you one thing—the sight of that meal cured my hunger.

So anyway, I was very hesitant to break out and try anything crazy after that experience. I ended up speaking with the concierge and telling him about my run in with the brain. He laughed, and said the chefs were probably trying to play a joke on me. He told me if there’s one thing I should try in Nagoya it’s Tebasaki chicken wings. Chicken wings sounded safe to me so I was on my way to the nearest place that served them- Yamachan.

Yamachan is actually a chain with most branches in Nagoya, 34 to be exact. Based on my three visits to this joint, it’s a quite popular post-work hangout for Japanese businessmen. They serve cold, cheap Kirin or Asahi beer and wings by the dozen. You can’t miss the logo- it’s a cartoonish looking man dressed in a bird suit with a peace sign.

I actually just got back from Tokyo two days ago and I found a Yamachan! There is only one in Tokyo and it’s smaller than a closet, with standing room only. The atmosphere wasn’t as nice as the Nagoya branches, but it reminded me how much I love these wings. As an added bonus, they even provide you with a 5-step eating guide.

Yes that is Zima on the menu
Yes that is Zima on the menu

I’ll always have my allegiance to the buffalo variation, but these are really REALLY good. Totally different texture than your standard wing (they’re double fried), and the seasoning is unique and tasty. Thanks to a spoonful of pepper and a pinch of sugar, they have a perfect balance of spicy and sweet. Next time I will try a baked variation, but if this is your first time trying these wings—you gotta fry them.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken wings ($4.00)
  • ¼ C flour ($.10)
  • 2 tbs soy sauce ($.20)
  • 1 tbs sugar ($.10)
  • 1 tsp Japanese sake ($.50)
  • 2 tbs Mirin ($.50) – you can find this in the Asian section of most supermarkets
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder ($.05)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 tbs white sesame seeds ($.40)

Total: $5.85

Instructions

Rinse chicken wings and pat dry. Dredge in flour. Heat oil in cast iron or regular skillet on medium-high. Fry wings for 3 minutes or until light golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Mix soy sauce, mirin, sugar, sake, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Turn skillet to high and fry wings another 5 minutes. While chicken is cooking, microwave glaze for 1 minute.

Drain chicken on paper towels and brush sauce. Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper along with sesame seeds.

Serve hot.

Spaghetti Squash Bolognese

SPAGHETTISQUASH

Squash. I feel like it’s one of those controversial vegetables like brussels sprouts and broccoli. You either love it or hate it. I don’t understand squash haters and personally, I think they are making a bit mistake. Squash is so versatile. Did you know there are over 50 varieties of squash? You can also cook it just about any way– boiled squash, fried squash, baked squash, sautéed squash, squash casserole, squash pie, squash bread. I feel like Bubba from Forrest Gump. I could really go on and on about squash.

The BEST way to eat squash in my opinion is when it resembles a noodle. Conveniently, the squash king named this variety “Spaghetti Squash”. It’s genius really. A vegetable that can replace pasta! Sure, on it’s own its a little bland and boring but trust me, with the right sauce you will love it. It might even turn squash skeptics into loyal fans.

This was the first time I tried a meaty sauce with my squash noodles. Result? Perfect. Tons of protein, low carb, packed with vegetables and nutrients. It’s also pretty easy on the wallet. You really can’t go wrong. If you are red meat averse, feel free to substitute ground turkey for the beef and omit the pancetta.

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 1 large spaghetti squash ($3.00)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil ($.10)
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped ($.50)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced ($.20)
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced ($2.00)
  • 1 carrot, finely minced ($.10)
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped ($.10)
  • 4 oz pancetta, finely chopped ($3.00)
  • 1 pound ground beef ($5.00)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/4 C cheap dry red wine ($1.00)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes ($1.50)
  • 1/4 cup half and half ($.30)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes ($.03)
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil ($.20)

Total: $17.03

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400. Poke 4 or 5 holes in spaghetti squash and microwave for 10 minutes in a large microwave safe dish.

Meanwhile, in a dutch oven or stock pot sauté the carrot, onion, celery, garlic and mushrooms over medium-high heat with 1 tbs olive oil. After the veggies are cooked through, add pancetta and cook until crispy, about 4 minutes. Next, add in ground beef and brown.

Once beef is brown, drain off excess grease then add mixture back to pan. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1/4 C wine and scrape up brown bits, cook 2 minutes. Add in tomatoes, half and half, red pepper flakes and basil. SImmer on low for 35 minutes.

At this point, remove the spaghetti squash. Careful, it’s hot! Cut in half and remove seeds…try and keep in as much pulp as possible. Put both sides cut-side down on a greased cooking sheet and bake 25 minutes. Remove squash, then using two forks, pull out the pulp and separate noodles into a bowl.

To serve, add squash noodles to bowl with a hearty scoop of Bolognese. Feel free to add grated parmesan as well!

Dating and Food

katie cooking

I’ve seen it all. My friends always joke that I need to start a journal of all the interesting males I’ve encountered during my 11-year dating career. I wish that I started one years ago because I tend to press the delete button on anything that causes me grief. It’s a shame because I’m sure there are a lot of funny stories and writing material that I’ve put in a mental vault. It’s been a series of ups and downs, laughs and strange moments, and most importantly- lessons learned. You might be wondering why I’m talking about failed relationships on a food blog. It sounds funny, but I can very vividly associate food with certain phases in my dating history.

The Disappearing Man

DC is quite possibly the worst city on earth for dating. You see, it tends to be a transient city and when people are here they are usually focused on one thing—getting ahead. You have the stereotypical Hill staffer, The Georgetown frat boy, or the “I’m too busy” type TRIPLE A attorney. Oh and then sometimes you have a wildcard (don’t get me started on that one). I’ve given them all a chance. Success rate? Zero.

So the first recipe I’d like to share is called the Kiss of Death a’la Shrimp Scampi. This recipe alone has caused three DC men to vanish into thin air. The main ingredient is cyanide. Just kidding. In all honesty though, I am the toughest critic of my own recipes and I consider this one to be excellent. It’s the kind of dish that I make for company or when I want to impress someone.  So how could it be that it caused three gents to run away and never speak to me again? Who knows, maybe I had parsley in my teeth. I promise you this recipe is amazing. Just maybe think twice before making it for that special someone.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb linguini ($1.50)
  • 4 tbs butter ($.50)
  • 4 tbs olive oil ($.20)
  • 2 shallots, minced ($.50)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced ($.25)
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb shrimp peeled and deveined ($7.00)
  • Juice of 1 lemon ($1.00)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 C dry white wine ($2.00)
  • 1/4 C chopped parsley ($.25)

Total: $13.20

Instructions

Bring water to boil and cook linguini. While pasta is cooking, melt 2 tbs of butter and 2 tbs olive oil. Cook shallots, garlic and red pepper flakes about 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper-seasoned shrimp and cook until pink. Remove from pan and set aside. Add wine, lemon juice and tbs butter and tbs olive oil. Bring to a boil then simmer 2 minutes. Add shrimp and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add in cooked linguini then serve, with grated parmesan if desired.

Cheese Therapy

Rejection. We’ve all been there and it sucks. Everyone handles it differently and clings to different coping mechanisms- exercising, talking WAY too much about it, sleeping, drinking, and not eating. Well for me, it’s cooking an excess amount of food. For myself. I don’t necessarily cook anything in particular when I have the blues, but I can remember the time I made two trays of Mac and Cheese from scratch for little ‘ol me. I didn’t eat it in one sitting but over the course of seven days. And after those seven days guess what? I was over it! The guy that is. This is comfort food at its finest, ladies.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz box macaroni ($1.50)
  • 4 tbs butter ($.50)
  • 4 tbs flour ($.05)
  • 1 C milk ($1.00)
  • 1 C cream ($1.00)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 C cheddar cheese, shredded ($3.00)
  • 1/2 C breadcrumbs, buttered ($1.00)

Total: $8.05

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook and drain macaroni ; set aside. In a large saucepan melt butter. Add flour mixed with salt and pepper, whisk until well blended. Pour milk and cream in gradually, stirring constantly. Bring to boiling point and boil 2 minutes (stirring constantly). Reduce heat and cook (stirring constantly) for 8 minutes. Add shredded cheddar little by little and simmer an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese melts. Add macaroni to the saucepan and toss to coat with the cheese sauce. Transfer macaroni to a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake 18 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Instructions

Silent Salad

So one time I offered to make dinner for my 3-week boyfriend before we went out to see Jersey Boys in DC. Now, typically when you go to shows you dress up a little. At least that’s what I always thought. I actually really liked this boy so I broke out one of my go-to date dresses and I even made the extra effort to get my hair blown out. Now when this fellow knocks on my door I look in the peep hole and couldn’t believe my left eye. I really wish I had a picture, but let me just give you a mental image: slicked back hair, Wrangler jeans and white sneakers. Now here’s the worst part:  a black MOCK NECK, Long-sleeved, moisture wicking Underarmor turtleneck! Like the kind of shirt football players wear under their jerseys. WTF? Are we like going on a run?

So anyway, I made one of my favorites: Caribbean Cobb Salad but as we sat at the dinner table I didn’t know what to do. Instead of being a nice person and letting the wardrobe choice slide, I said something like “you have something to change into right?” And then I took it a step further and asked if he got dressed in the dark. Apparently this really offended him. Not one word was uttered during the rest of the meal and maybe three or four the rest of the night. Needless to say we did not continue our relationship. Sigh.

Ingredients

  • 2 Chicken Breasts ($3.50)
  • 1 Tbs Jerk Chicken Seasoning ($.10)
  • 1 Head Bibb Lettuce, chopped ($2.00)
  • 1 Head Romaine Lettuce, chopped ($2.00)
  • 1/2 Cup Pine Nuts ($1.00)
  • 1 Mango – Cut in chunks ($1.00)
  • 1 Avocado – Diced ($2.00)
  • 1 Cup Cherry Tomatoes ($2.00)
  • 1 Can Hearts of Palm – Cut into 1″ pieces ($1.50)
  • 3/4 Cup Blue Cheese Crumbles ($1.50)
  • Citrus Vinaigrette or Balsamic ($.40)

Total: $17.00

Instructions

Grill chicken, combine all ingredients and serve.

Mexican Aficionados

This post would be incomplete without a throwback. My college boyfriend, who will undoubtedly read this, has an obsession with Mexican food. I will never forget our first date. He picked me up (didn’t come to door, just beeped the horn) and I opened the passenger car door in horror. The horn beep was one thing but his outfit crossed the line. Not to sound completely judgmental but I asked him what on EARTH he was wearing. The poor kid had on a teal horizontal striped polo (two sizes too small), brown and red plaid shorts and Nike sneakers. After two hours of primping, trying on every outfit I own and hoping to be whisked away by prince charming…let’s just say I was a bit let down. So anyway, he made a solid comeback by taking me to the BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT ON THE PLANET, Las Margaritas in Gainesville, FL. I really hope that place still exists.

Over the course of our 2.5-year …ok maybe 3-year relationship we visit Las Margs at least 50 times. Not joking. The place was putting a dent in our college student wallets, so we started cooking and making fajitas on the reg. He manned the beef, peppers and onions while I did all the rest. This of course included my all-time famous guacamole. As corny as it sounds, there’s not one time I pull out my molcajete and don’t think of him. Funny how you can associate avocados with a person huh? Back then I was dealing with the connoisseur of all things Mexican so I can assure this recipe has been tested and approved.

Ingredients

  • Two ripe avocados ($4.00)
  • 1 tomato, seeded and chopped ($.50)
  • 1/4 C chopped white onion ($.25)
  • 2 tbs chopped cilantro ($.10)
  • Juice of 1 lime ($.40)
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder ($.03)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced ($.10)

Total: $5.38

Instructions

Seed both avocados and remove the edible part, cut into chunks before scooping it out. Add all other ingredients, mix in molcajete or use a bowl and mash with the back of a fork to desired consistency.

Salmon Cakes

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So apparently “Salmon Patties” are a staple from the 1970s. I guess its something Marsha Brady made on the reg– canned salmon, mayo, breadcrumbs and a few dried seasonings. As easy and cheap as that sounds, that really doesn’t appeal to me all. It’s 2013 and it’s time for new twists on the classics.

I’ve never actually had a salmon cake before, probably because the only seafood cake around DC is a Maryland crab cake. Don’t get me wrong– I LOVE crab cakes, but honestly they can get a bit expensive, especially if you’e  been spoiled with jumbo lump crab meat like me. I was in search for a crab meat alternative and salmon happened to be on sale today.

DSC_0724

I wanted to kick up the flavor of my cakes so I added several vegetables that I bought for the week– red onion, bell pepper. parsley and celery. Feel free to play around with the vegetables you choose to add. This is where you can get creative with the recipe. The result was AMAZING. I served mine with a side of sauteed spinach but I really think these would be great on top of a mixed green salad too. If you’re not concerned with carbs, they would also be awesome on a bun.

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I served mine with a simple tartar sauce– light mayo, lemon juice, relish, capers, salt and pepper. Perfect!!

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 1/2 lb salmon ($5.50)
  • 3 tbs butter ($.25)
  • 1 small red onion ($.75)
  • 3 celery stalks ($.50)
  • 1 red bell pepper ($1.50)
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley ($.20)
  • 1 tbs capers ($.50)
  • 1/4 tsp hot sauce ($.10)
  • 1/2 tp Worcestershire sauce ($.20)
  • 1 1/2 tsp old bay ($.10)
  • 3 slices stale bread, crusts removed ($.20)
  • 1/2 cup light mayo ($.75)
  • 2 tsp Dijon ($.20)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten ($.50)
  • Salt
  • Fresh Ground Pepper

Total: $11.25

Instructions

1. Pre-heat oven to 350. Rinse and pat dry salmon. Put on baking sheet, skin side down and brush with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake 15-18 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Wrap with aluminum foil and put in fridge until cold.

2. Which salmon is cooking melt 1 tbs butter and 1 tbs olive oil in skillet. Add onion, pepper. celery, parsley, old bay, capers, salt and pepper. Cook 10-50 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Set aside to cool.

3. Toast the stale bread then add to food processor until it resembles bread crumbs

4. Once salmon is cooled, flake it with two forks

5. In a bowl, add salmon, breadcrumbs, mayonaise, and dijon. Stir in vegatable mix. Let mixture set in fridge at least 30 minutes (covered).

6. Remove mix from fridge and form into 10 patties

7. In skillet, melt 1 tbs butter and 1 tbs olive oil. Add salmon patties and cook approx 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and keep in 250 degree oven while the others are cooking.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Protein Shake

shake

First off, I apologize for my 3-week hiatus. Between vacations, visitors and pure laziness I have been neglecting my blog.

About 6 months ago I splurged and bought a VitaMix machine. Honestly it was a spur of the moment/ impulse decision (online shopping), and I initially had serious buyer’s remorse. Who pays $400+ for a blender? This girl. I always see it demonstrated at Costco and Whole Foods and it’s one of those things that has been on my wish list for years. During one of my temporary health kicks I decided that I HAD to have it so I went online in the middle of the night and ordered it. Don’t you just hate how easy Amazon makes it to spend all of your money? That whole one-click shopping thing is dangerous.

Anyway, my guilt went away shortly after receiving the Mercedes Benz of blenders. This thing is seriously worth it. Have you ever watched YouTube videos about it? The thing can blend BRICKS. My lights literally flicker on and off when I use it and my dog always runs under my bed when I turn it on. You can use it for so many different recipes too– soups, dressings, smoothies, shakes, ice cream…the list goes on.

Enough blender talk. I’ve always wanted to find a post-workout protein drink that wouldn’t require me to plug my nose and chug. I can’t believe some of the stuff people force themselves to drink. Most of them make me gag. I set out to find something I could actually tolerate and after reading many reviews and talking to a few experts I decided on About Time 100% All Natural Whey Isolate (chocolate flavor). It was a little more than I wanted to spend ($37 bucks for 32 servings), but I was willing to pay for a better taste. It’s also much more natural than other protein powders out there– it has 5 ingredients and is sweetened with Stevia.  For a post-workout drink I would just blend with water, but for a meal replacement shake I made this awesome recipe below.

Active women need on average about 50-60 grams of protein per day and my shake will take care of half your daily protein needs. Even better– one serving of this tasty treat will only set you back about 220 calories.

Ingredients

Servings: 1

  • 1/2 banana ($.10)
  • 1.5 tbs natural creamy peanut butter ($.10)
  • 5 ice cubes
  • 8 oz water
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder ($1.09)

Total: $1.29

Instructions

Put all ingredients in blender and blend 15-20 seconds

 

Roasted Harissa Chicken

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Chicken! Oh, chicken! You don’t get enough credit. I hate when people immediately put you in the boring and blasé bucket. I know, sometimes people cook you far too long and you end up tasting like mulch.  Sometimes people dredge you in flour and lard and fry you into oblivion. You are misunderstood and stereotyped as common food. Honestly though,  you’re far too humble and should really start asserting yourself. Instead, you wait. You wait for someone to realize your true potential and elevate you to the ranks of filet mignon and Chilean sea bass.

There is nothing better than a whole roasted chicken. I think a lot of people are afraid to roast an entire bird but it’s really quite simple. You can be as basic as salt, pepper and olive oil or you can go crazy and experiment to your heart’s content. Carving does require some skill, but there are several YouTube videos out there to help any rookies in the kitchen.

I’m a huge fan of spice and lately I’ve been digging Harissa. If you aren’t familiar, Harissa is a crushed red chile paste originating from Tunisia. It’s a popular condiment in North African countries like Morocco, Libya and Algeria. Until creating this dish, I’ve never had Harissa with anything other than pita bread and/or raw veggies, but now I’ve realized its full culinary potential. It’s quite spicy, so if you are heat averse just use a little less or shop for a mild harissa paste.

This is a perfect candidate for a “one pan meal”. During the last 40 minutes of cooking, I threw in some diced new potatoes, a quartered fennel bulb and a couple sliced garlic cloves, all seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil.

Yeah, we crushed this bird.
Yeah, we crushed this bird.

Ingredients

  • 1 Whole Chicken ($8.00)
  • 2.5 tbs Harissa (for those in the DMV, I used Harissa from Cava Mezze) ($.50)
  • 1 tbs olive oil ($.10)
  • 1 lemon ($.75)
  • salt and pepper

Total: $9.35

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425. Line roasting pan with aluminum foil.

Remove gizzard bag and rise chicken in cool water. Pat dry with paper towels.

Mix harissa and juice from 1/2 lemon. Loosen chicken skin and add harissa mix between skin and chicken. Add remaining paste to cavity and place 1/2 lemon inside cavity.

Rub chicken with 1 tbs olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.

Bake for 16 minutes at 425 then reduce heat to 400 and bake another 50-55 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from oven and let rest 5 minutes before carving.