My Little Thoughts

Curry Kale Chips

Kale is nothing new. It’s becoming the trendiest green in all the land, and for good reason. It’s insanely good for you, versatile, not too strongly flavored, and since it’s heftier than most other leafy greens, can stand up to just about anything, which means a lot in the winter when all you want is a hearty bowl of soup.

But I’m not here to talk about soup. I’m here to talk about chips! Again, the heft of the kale makes it the perfect candidate for a crunchy, healthy chip. You can use any kind of kale: curly, Lacinato, even red Russian. I chose to go with Lacinato, or Tuscan kale, because it has a smoother texture than curly kale, has a thinner stem so you can basically eat the whole thing, and has larger leaves, perfect for big chips and dipping.

photo 1

Kale wilts down a lot. It is full of water so when you add heat, the water evaporates (duh). I cut up my kale chips pretty large because I know they’ll shrink. Plus, who wants dingy little one-bite kale chips? Not me.

photo 3

I add a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and curry powder to the leaves before I put them in the oven. This way, everything sticks, and I can always add more seasoning if needed when they’re done cooking.

photo 4

See? Look at how much they shrunk down!

My favorite part about kale chips is you can eat the equivalent of an entire bag and not feel guilty. Add a great salsa or dip and you have the perfect snack or appetizer. I found this amazing sweet potato salsa that actually has both kale and curry in it, so I knew it would go perfectly with my chips (and it did!).

photo 5

Check out the salsa here.

INGREDIENTS

1 bunch Lacinato kale, rinsed and chopped into 3-inch squares

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1-2 tsp. curry powder, depending on your taste

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a baking sheet, toss kale with olive oil, salt, pepper and curry powder. Arrange leaves in one single layer and bake 12-15 minutes, until crisp. Enjoy with your favorite dip or salsa! How easy is that??

Advertisements

Foodie Gift Guide 2012

Since just about everyone and their mothers is making a gift guide this holiday season, I decided to hop on the bandwagon. Of course, all of my favorite and most lusted after gifts revolve around food, but each is specifically tailored to a different type of foodie or food lover. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to get your foodie friend one of these awesome gifts, and friends/ family if you’re reading this, please take the hint!

1. For the adventurous foodie who puts Sriracha on everything: KimKim, $10

photo copy

We all have that one friend who never thinks “spicy” is spicy enough. They may be addicted to sriracha, but I’ve found a new miracle sauce. KimKim is a Korean hot sauce made in Richmond, Virginia. I discovered this sauce at Union Market and after one sample, I was hooked. Its not as spicy as sriracha but has a hint of buffalo flavor. It’s perfect for dipping (plain or mixed with greek yogurt or sour cream), marinating (chicken, fish, steak, you name it) and drizzling over eggs, and your friend with the atomic palate will thank you dearly.

2. For the hardcore baker: Cuisinart Artisan Stand Mixer, Boysenberry, Williams-Sonoma, $349.95

Screen Shot 2012-12-07 at 1.12.12 PM

I have literally had this mixer on my wish list every year for the past 5 years. It does everything you could possibly ask out of a mixer, and if you get the right attachments, you could be making fresh pasta, ice cream and even juice! Your options are endless, and I love the boysenberry color for the holidays.

3. For the hardcore baker who has already baked their way through Martha Stewart and Carol Walters: Bouchon Bakery Cook Book, Amazon.com, $24.99

photo

I just purchased this book for myself and I’m already so excited to work my way through it. Bake some of Bouchon’s most popular pastries, cookies and breads, and you’ll feel like you’re learning from Thomas Keller himself!

4. For the student or YoPro in need of some lunch money: sweetgreen gift card, in stores or online, $15- $100

viewer

Sweetgreen just introduced gift cards and as a hardcore sweetgreen fan, I felt particularly obliged to endorse them. If you live in the D.C. or Philly area, grab one for your friends, coworkers or teachers. They’ll definitely thank you for it.

5. For the mixologist: Patron XO Cafe Dark Cocoa

Screen Shot 2012-12-07 at 1.14.36 PM

This is the newest addition to the Patron family, and I’ll be the first to tell you it’s going to become the favorite child. On the rocks, mixed into coffee or a frappe, the dark cocoa flavor is present enough to satisfy your sweet tooth while still feeling like you’re sipping on something sophisticated and special.  Serve it at your holiday party, or just keep it for yourself on those cold winter nights.

6. For the chocolate lover: Whole Foods Peppermint Bark, $8.99

Diptic

I love this peppermint bark because it has just the right amount of white and dark chocolate compared to peppermint. Its easy to break into any size piece and is great for those nights after you’ve eaten a heavy meal but want something sweet. This bark is the sole reason I fell in love with mint-chocolate.

7. For the entertainer: C Wonder Snow Flake Coasters, $12

Screen Shot 2012-12-07 at 1.14.54 PM

How cute are these?! If you’re from the northeast you can probably get about 4-5 months of use out of these coasters before it becomes seasonally inappropriate. If you live on the west coast or in the south, these coasters will at least help you feel like you’re celebrating a white Christmas or the first snowfall.

8. For the foodie who basically has everything: Gourmet Attitude Truffle Honey, Gilt Taste, $19.95

Screen Shot 2012-12-07 at 1.15.31 PM

The first time I had truffle honey I was in Florence and I fell in love. I was so happy to see this product on Gilt Taste. It goes great on cheese with crackers, or even drizzled over ice cream. Plus, your friends will think you’re super sophisticated and well-traveled.

9. For the wino: Architect Air Dry Wine Glass Drying System, Amazon.com, $14.35

Screen Shot 2012-12-07 at 1.15.45 PMI found this product on BuzzFeed’s 30 Gifts for Winos, and I immediately ordered one for my dad- the ultimate wine connoisseur. Its sleek, portable, yet amazingly useful for drying wine glasses, and goes well in any kitchen or bar.

So there you have it- my nine favorite products of the season. Happy gifting, and happy holidays!

A Letter to NYC Restaurants

Dear New York City Restaurants,

Hello. My name is Lauren and I am a food blogger. While I have had some fabulous dining experiences spendng my summer in NYC, not all is fine and dandy in my book. Don’t get me wrong; I have eaten like a queen. I have experienced new flavors and textures that I am officially in love with (Momofuku’s Pork Buns, Devi’s Manchurian Cauliflower and Southern Hospitality’s Pulled Pork, to name a few) and have been reintroduced to some of my pastime favorites (Cafeteria’s Truffle Risotto and Mayahuel’s Croquetas bring me straight back to my time in Spain). However, being a food blogger, I am always thinking about my next post, which is where you, New York City Restaurants, pose a problem.

I have been braced with the curse of dim lighting. Lighting so dim, I can barely see the menu, let alone what I’m eating. I understand the appeal in the ambiance of dim lighting, but for a food blogger, it’s our worst nightmare. As the iPhone 4S has been ranked as one of the best cameras for food photography, that is what I use for most of my work. However, I am always forced to make that awkward decision to either turn my flash on and create a lightening bolt-like scene for the whole restaurant to stare at me, or to keep it off but have poor quality photos that require way too much editing… or no photos at all. Luckily, Instagram has aided lightening up dark photos with the “add sunlight” feature, but not enough to the point where your dim lighting can slide.

So please, New York City Restaurants, you are the food capital of America. You possess more amazing restaurants within a square mile than my hometown of Cleveland has altogether. Don’t lose your impeccable restaurant experience rep due to food bloggers’ complaints. And for the sake of all of us, please turn the lights on.

Yours Truly,

Lauren

Product Review: Archer Farms Chile Lime Grilling Sauce

Let’s rewind about 5 months ago. I was applying to summer internships in the food/journalism field, and one particular job asked me to submit a few food writing samples, including a product review. I began to panic, because I had never written a product review and was in Sevilla, unable blog about anything relevant to what I had been asked.

Now, fast forward to about a month ago, when I started my internship at Every Day with Rachael Ray Magazine. One of the benefits of working at a magazine is all the free stuff you get when companies want you to feature their product. My editor has been very generous with sharing her freebies with me, including a bottle of grilling sauce by Archer Farms. At first, I was hesitant to accept the sauce because I do not have a grill and couldn’t see myself utilizing it. But then, I began to think back to my lack of product reviews on my blog and figured this could be the perfect opportunity. I’ve already used the sauce twice as a marinade for both tofu and chicken, and I want to share with you the outcome.

I brought the grilling sauce home on a Monday, meaning it was Meatless Monday, and opted to use it as a marinade on tofu for stir fry. First, I cut the tofu into cubes and patted them dry to get rid of most of the water (tofu is like a sponge- it loves to hold on to water).

Then I let it marinate in the grilling sauce for about half an hour. It was about a quarter block of tofu and 4 tablespoons of marinade.

Meanwhile,I chopped up some peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli and corn and began to sauté them in olive oil.

I added the tofu to the hot pan and let the sauce caramelize on the cubes.

After the tofu and veggies had been cooked through, I added a little more sauce for flavor and ate it piping hot (I was starving)!

The chile lime sauce has a bit of a tangy kick (hence the name, chile lime) and its an interesting sensation eating stir fry, expecting something salty and savory, and tasting something sweet and acidic. The tofu didn’t really suck up the flavor as much as I had wanted; maybe next time I will let it marinate for longer.

A few days later, I decided to try the sauce as a marinade on chicken. This time, I let the chicken marinate for two hours. I used 4 chicken breast tenders in 4 tablespoons of sauce. Again, I sauteed the chicken and let the sauce caramelize.

I ate the chicken hot and cold, and my results were much  more successful. The sauce really soaked into the chicken, keeping it moist, spicy and flavorful. The flavors were a great accent to rice and black beans, and it really tasted like an authentic south American dish. It was such an easy and unique way to flavor your average chicken breast, and I would definitely use it again, even to impress my friends!

A Culinary Guide Through Amsterdam

Last weekend I had the great pleasure of visiting what has become my favorite city while abroad thus far, Amsterdam. Now I know what you’re thinking- red light district and legal weed. But if you’ve learned one thing about me it should be that my first and foremost priority while visiting an unknown city is to scope out its food scene. And scope out I did.

The Dutch may be known for their pancakes, chips (or french fries in America), and cheese- and believe me we got our fare share of that- but Amsterdam has plenty of international cuisine to offer, too. Every meal was truly delicious, and I can only thank my lucky stars that I am not studying there for the semester, because I’m pretty sure I would be obese by now (half kidding…).

We arrived in a ravenous state and found a cute little lunch shop on one of the ‘De Negen Straatjes’ or Nine Streets, known for their shopping and restaurants. Mokka, as the sign suggests, serves coffee, lunch and lasagna. Perfect for starving tourists. Chelsea and I shared a beautiful salad of smoked chicken, tomatoes, avocado and pine nuts with a light yet savory balsamic-y citrus-y dressing.

Michelle ordered a sandwich on rich, sweet whole wheat bread with pesto, roasted red peppers, pine nuts, avocado and olives

Both dishes were delicious. Speaking of bread, Holland has this truly incredible bread called Waldkorn bread. It contains a ton of cereals and grains, and is dark in color, like pumpernickel. I had it as toast one morning and I have been obsessed ever since. You should google it and find out where you can buy it. I know I will. Moving on…

Now for some meals that are more familiar to Holland- omelets, pancakes and yes, those heavenly chips.

Amsterdam has pancake restaurants on about every street corner, but we were advised to go to Pancake Bakery by a friend who went the previous week. It is a very warm and welcoming restaurant with dim lighting and an open kitchen. The food goes along just perfectly with the atmosphere and we were definitely full until lunch. Chelsea and I shared a ham, cheese and tomato omelet (we have been craving omelets since we arrived in Spain!) which had the perfect balance of creamy, gooey cheese, sweet juicy tomato and salty ham.

We satisfied our sweet tooth with an apple and banana pancake covered in cinnamon and powdered sugar. Dutch pancakes are very, very thin- thinner than crepes! They are crispy and a little burnt on the edges (just how I like ’em) and go well with pretty much everything. The bananas gave the pancake the classic Jack-Johnson-Banana-Pancakes flavor and the apples were perfectly cooked and went perfectly with the cinnamon.

You also can’t cross many streets without encountering at least one chips stand, and we couldn’t resist the temptation (hey, when in Amsterdam, right?). These aren’t any ordinary chips, though. They are fat, juicy steak fries overflowing a paper cone, doused in whatever condiment of your choosing. From basic mayonnaise to more exotic toppings such as- well I’ll let the suspension hang for a little- anything you dip these chips in is superb, and somehow works wonderfully.  The first cone of chips we got had mayonnaise, onions and a curry ketchup. The ketchup was both sweet and savory, with a little spice from the curry and gave me a huge craving for Indian food. The mayonnaise was rich and creamy but not artificial tasting like we have in the States, and the onions- while I usually cringe at the sight of raw onions- were the perfect tangy bite.

The following day our chips craving was back. We kept passing people on the streets with purple paper cones of chips, so we sought them out, assuming they had to be the best. We assumed correctly. We chose the following condiments per the cashier’s recommendation: mayonnaise, onions and- wait for it- peanut butter! Strange, right? When the cashier first told me that this combination was their most popular, I made a face of disgust. However, after some deliberation and the reminder that You Only Live Once (my generation’s new favorite catchphrase, in other words, YOLO), we went for it. The sweet peanut butter worked so wonderfully with the creamy mayonnaise and spicy onions. It reminded me a little of a Thai or Chinese dish with peanut sauce. I know I tend to like really weird combinations of food (you’re talking to the girl who puts curry in her guacamole, scrambled eggs, chocolate!) but in all honesty, I think anyone would have liked this. I can only hope I will get another chance to eat these heavenly chips again.

So now that I was officially craving Indian food, we did some research and landed upon the most fantastic Indian restaurant in Amsterdam. Indian food in Amsterdam? I know it sounds a bit strange, but it was by far the best Chicken Tikka Masala I have ever tasted. It was nutty, but sweet, but spicy, but smooth. The chicken was tender and rich. Words do not to this meal justice. The meal was a bit pricey, but well worth it if you like Indian food. Now I would like you to take this opportunity to drool a little. (From the bottom left going clockwise: chicken tikka masala, basmati rice, naan bread, grilled vegetables, chicken curry)

By this point you’re probably thinking that I literally ate my way through Amsterdam, but we got some sight seeing in, too. Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, Vondelpark and, last but not least, the Heineken Museum! This was my favorite tourist attraction, not just because of the culinary aspect but also because it was interactive, fun and came with three free beers! From learning how the beer is made, to seeing the actual vats and horses, to playing DJ cames and taking Face in Hole photos, the museum was fun and lively. I also learned a thing or two about beer, and have a new appreciation for Heineken (being newly 21 and all, how can I resist?).

This is a mixture of malted barley liquids and water, called wort. It tastes like liquid toast!

Heineken bartender pouring up the glasses!

And finally, two of my favorite foods from my favorite food group, dairy: cheese and frozen yogurt. Amsterdam was chock full of cheese shops, offering a wide variety of herbed, smoked, and pure goat, sheep and cow’s milk cheeses, and, oh yeah, TONS of samples. There was cheese…

On cheese…

On cheese

And we basically ate our weight in it. It was heaven.

Finally, after roaming the city for a good two hours, we found our beloved frozen yogurt at a shop called Frozz. The yogurt was tart and creamy, but not watery how you find it in some shops. They also had stroopwafel and carmelized, chopped nuts as toppings. If you have never tried a stroopwafel go to your nearest Trader Joes and buy them now.

Strawberries, bananas and caramelized nuts!

Altogether, my experience in Amsterdam was superb. The culinary scene exceeded my expectations and I hope to return soon!

Restaurant References:

Wok to Walk

Chipsy King

Memories of India

Pancake Bakery

Jamin

Frozz

Sevilla & Malaga: an Ode to Travel Guides

It is quite humbling to refer to a guide book for a city in which you’ve lived for over two months. Consider this my public service announcement: sometimes those guide books can be more helpful than you’d ever imagine. Last week, my two best friends from college spent their spring break with me in Sevilla and Malaga. One of them, Rachael, insisted that she buy PHAIDON’s Wallpaper Guide to Sevilla. After much hesitation, explaining how I had already picked out some fantastic restaurants to show them, I gave in. Needless to say, even I hadn’t managed to find all of Sevilla’s hidden gastronomic gems, but our Wallpaper Guide certainly did.

We first utilized the guide book at lunch on Sunday, at Puerto Delicia. This beautiful outdoor patio was mentioned in the book for its location, as it sits right on the Guadalquivir River, overlooking the beautiful architecture of Sevilla. The food, however, impressed us just as much as the view. Sitting underneath the beaming sun with a slight breeze, we enjoyed a tomato and mozzarella salad, accompanied by field greens and pesto vinaigrette. The dish was just as beautiful as it was flavorful, and I would return to Puerto Delicia solely for that salad. We also had paella, with a perfect balance of salt, saffron and seafood, what I would consider the holy trinity when it comes to paella. Finally, our salmon a la plancha, or grilled salmon, was juicy and flavorful. We were stuffed until dinner.

¡Que Deliciosa!

We used the Wallpaper Guide twice more in Sevilla for dinner, at Contenedor and Eslava. Contenedor was well off the beaten path, but worth the walk. Here, the chef changes the menu twice a day and uses locally sourced, sustainable ingredients. While on the pricier side, I managed to legitimize my empty wallet with the fact that I was eating fresh hake, caught that same day, in a wonderfully flavored broth with fresh, local, perfectly cooked swiss chard. I will definitely be bringing my parents back to Contenedor. Meanwhile, Eslava truly gives you a bang for your buck. The three of us shared six tapas, a bottle of wine and a dessert sampler platter, for about 13 euro per person! The Wallpaper Guide recommended the duck confit, which, naturally, we ordered. I am not particular to duck confit, but this was an exception. It melted in my mouth with so much flavor, accompanied by the perfect pan sauce and roasted potatoes. I felt like I was back in DC at Founding Farmers. Ironically enough, Eslava was also ranked as the #2 restaurant (out of 611!) in Sevilla by Trip Advisor, which brings me to my next point….

Since Malaga didn’t have its own version of Wallpaper Guides, we referred to Trip Advisor while we were there. We ended up at the #1 ranked restaurant, El Tapeo de Cervantes. A Trip Advisor review gave us the head’s up for how small the restaurant would be- literally, it was a closet, with tables on both sides and about 4 feet in between each, just enough for a waiter to sneak by and deliver plates. However, the quality of the food instantly distracted us from the tight squeeze. We started with a salad of arugula, goat cheese and a compote of frutas del bosque, or fruits of the forrest (more or less, berries). I have been longing for arugula since my arrival in Spain, and this salad definitely filled my void. It was so refreshing, with many different textures and tastes. I could have eaten a second helping all by myself. Another one of my favorite dishes was the mushroom and squash risotto. When I say mushroom, I don’t mean tiny little button mushrooms. These were full on, whole, wild mushrooms. They were so tender and buttery, I felt like Alice in Wonderland. The squash, another ingredient I have been missing since being in Spain, was just as tender and flavorful. Rachael gave me all of her squash because she could tell how much I was enjoying myself.

After a week of dining out for every meal, I was happy to return to my kitchenette and cafeteria. However, I will never forget the amazing meals I had the pleasure of enjoying in Spain with my friends from home, and will continue to refer to both Wallpaper Guides and Trip Advisor for the remainder of my travels. Next Wallpaper Guides trip: Amsterdam!!

Les Patisseries de Paris

But you thought I was studying abroad in Spain? Have no fear, I’m still here, but I couldn’t bare the thought of spending four months in Europe without making a trip to the land of romance and butter. If you’ve learned anything about me by now its that I will try my very best to embrace the culture (aka the cuisine) of my surroundings. You may have also learned that I have an enormous sweet tooth, which is why this post is almost completely dedicated to all things sweet in Paris.

We arrived in Paris mid day Friday, stomachs growling. The hotel was situated a little further from downtown, but very close to a metro stop, the Moulin Rouge and plenty of restaurants. Our hunger was cured by a cute little cafe called Le Petit Poucet, offering the most fabulous ham and cheese omelette with a side salad. SALAD!!!! Oh how I have longed for mixed, leafy greens with fresh vegetables. Spain doesn’t really do salads… But I digress. This meal was just the beginning to a fabulous weekend

The best way to see the city of Paris, in my opinion, is by investing in a ticket to one of the many hop-on/hop-off busses. We opted for L’Open Tour, for 32 Euro for two days. We literally managed to see every big monument, museum, landmark, quarter, you name it. I also strategically planned to get off at certain stops in order to visit two patisseries I was told I absolutely needed to try. The first was Angelina’s. Known for they’re hot chocolate, Angelina’s is a cafe and bakery offering a wide selection of sandwiches, salads, egg dishes and desserts galore. One serving of hot chocolate will run you 8 Euro, but between that and endless macarons, we decided to make that our lunch on Saturday and it was well worth it. Prepare to drool.

chocolate perfection and homemade whipped cream. this, by the way, is one serving.

the whipped cream artfully melted into the hot chocolate

only a portion of the pastry counter

After a day full of sweets we were in need of something savory for dinner. We ended up at the Eiffel Tower around 6:30 where we witnessed the structure in all its glory. The tower is magnificent during the day but at night, when it is lit up, its breathtaking (see below: photo taken from my iPhone, NO EDITING!)

and here, during the day, Michelle and I pull a Mary Kate and Ashely as we sword fight with French baguettes

The streets surrounding the Eiffel tower are lined with eateries, and we were very happy to come across and Italian restaurant where I had pizza with one of the flakiest, crunchiest crusts ever. The mozzarella cheese was creamy and rich, and the arugula added a perfect bite in both texture and flavor to to counter the cheese. Thick tomato slices burst as I bit into them, and the sweet flavor of basil lingered as I happily swallowed, bite after bite.

Sunday led us to a typical Parisian breakfast (or so I’d like to think) of crepes:

filled with strawberry jam and sliced banana, the perfect way to start a Parisian morning

Between Versailles, the Catacombes and Notre Dame, I made sure to save time to visit the Latin Quarter, a trendy area with plenty of shops and cafes, and home to the most incredible macarons I have ever tasted (and this is coming from someone who makes them from scratch, remember?). I was told to visit Une Dimanche a Paris by a friend who studied abroad here last year. Its a little off the beaten path- you have to keep your eyes out for a rotunda hidden in one of the side streets and walk down a narrow and uneven cobblestone sidewalk before you reach it- but it is a MUST GO for anyone who appreciates a good macaron. The rest of their desserts looked incredible, too. Upon entering I was beside myself. The beautiful cakes and tarts looked like mini works of art, and the entire shop had an aroma of sugar and all things sinful. Before nearly drooling over the macarons I decided to wander around the shop. Here is what I found

like an edible museum!

chocolate covered herbs and spices- peppercorns, coriander and rosemary yum!

Alas! I reached the macaron counter. A full array of colors and flavors, the perfectly rounded, cloud-like meringues were filled with cream or jam, and artfully placed so close together, reminiscent of quarters in a coin roll. I was torn by all the flavors. Do I go classic with chocolate and vanilla? Or risky and unique with lavender and salted caramel? I couldn’t have just two- this was the place for macarons after all. So I caved and ordered three, each one more different, flavorful and purely magical than the next.

pistachio, coffee and passion fruit

Okay, I have to admit I was slightly disappointed by the pistachio. I am a pistachio fanatic and this one was lacking in true nutty flavor. There was a strong taste of almond and the texture was perfect, but the pistachio flavor was no where to be found! The others however…. The coffee macaron tasted like I was biting into an espresso bean. It was so flavorful I began to crave the drink itself! I was bewildered. The passion fruit macaron was exactly as you would imagine passion fruit tasting, but surrounded by a crunchy almond flavored cookie, it was incredible. It was sweet and luscious and mouth watering with a kiss of spice. I savored those like I was never going to eat again.

Finally, our trip came to an end with one last visit to the crepe stand. I was sad to leave such a beautiful and delicious city but made sure to bring back macarons to savour throughout the week. I loved Paris, but Sevilla is my home and I’m happy to be back 🙂