Orange Tofu Stir-Fry

It was one of those “what random stuff can I throw together for dinner/I need to go grocery shopping, but don’t want to” sort of days. I peered into the fridge to take inventory and discovered some extra firm tofu. I have no idea what I bought this for originally, but it’s what worked for this meal in particular! I grabbed the tofu, some veggies, rice and an unopened orange sauce. Voila! I shall create an Orange Tofu Stir-Fry!

Ingredients:
• 1 14oz package of extra firm tofu
• 1 broccoli head
• 1 handful of baby carrots sliced up
• 1tbs of sesame oil
• 1 cup of dried white rice
• Orange sauce (or teriyaki, if you prefer!)
• Salt n’ Pepper to taste (optional)



Preheat your oven to 400F.

While your oven is heating up, remove the tofu from the package, wrap it up in a clean dish cloth or thick paper towel and weigh it down with a book or heavy pan. This will help dry up the tofu a bit.



Now that the oven is at 400F, slice up the tofu into cubes or strips.



Place the cubes or strips onto a cookie sheet with parchment paper and then bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning once half way through baking. This will further dry out the tofu. Drying the tofu makes it more porous, which will make soaking up flavor easier.

Once the tofu is finished baking, set it aside to cool, while you get to cookin’ on the other goodies.



Cook your rice as directed on the packaging.

Then heat your sesame oil over medium heat.

While the oil is heating up, chop up your broccoli head and carrots.

Toss the broccoli and carrots into the oiled up pan, sprinkle with salt n’ pepper (if you want) and cook for a good 5-7 minutes.



Now throw the tofu into the same pan and mix everything well.

Pour the desired amount of orange sauce into the pan and make sure everything is evenly coated and continue to cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.



By the time you’re finished cooking the veggies, tofu and sauce, your rice should be done. Place your rice and tofu stir-fry into a bowl or on a plate and enjoy!

Salsa Verde Crockpot Chicken

Salsa Verde Crockpot Chicken is a staple meal in my household. I first got the idea from an old friend of mine that came to work one day with some leftovers. As soon as she reheated it in the microwave, I had to ask “what is this glorious smell?!?!” She went into detail about the ingredients that she threw together in her saute pan and I knew immediately that I wanted to create it at home; however, I’ve done some tweaking over the past couple years and I have now perfected the recipe to my taste.

What’s even better about this recipe is that it is quite healthy and versatile! I typically serve this meal as a bowl, which includes quinoa and lettuce. But again, you can switch it up to your liking, it’s great on it’s own, in a wrap, with rice or in a salad.

Ingredients (4 servings):
• Two boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• Your favorite jar of salsa verde
• Ground cumin
• Cayenne pepper
• 2-3 Garlic cloves, minced
• Oregano
• 1 cup of plain greek yogurt or sour cream (I used greek yogurt)
• 1 15oz can of beans of your choice (I typically go with black beans or great northern beans)
• Fresh cilantro
• Lime



To get started, bring out the ol’ crockpot, place the chicken breasts into the crockpot and pour the salsa verde over top until the chicken is covered (leave some leftover salsa verde to drizzle on top in the end!). Now sprinkle your desired amount of cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic and oregano on top of the salsa verde dressed chicken.

Turn the temperature on high for 3.5 hours or on low for 6 hours.

This is when your house starts smelling incredibly good.

Now that the chicken is cooked through, open up the crockpot and use two forks to shred the chicken.

Mix in the greek yogurt (or sour cream) and the can of beans (drained and cleaned). Stir everything up nicely and then place the lid back on the crockpot to cook on low for another 15-30 minutes. Use this time to prepare the other parts of your meal (this is when I cooked my quinoa, washed the lettuce, etc.)



Once the salsa verde chicken is ready to go, I placed the deliciousness into a bowl along with freshly cooked quinoa, lettuce, fresh cilantro and freshly squeezed lime juice.

This recipe also makes great leftovers that will last in the fridge for about 3-4 days in tightly closed tupperware. Enjoy!

Lasagna Rollups With Meat Sauce

The beauty of cooking is experimentation. Grabbing ingredients you know/think/hope will work together in a perfect, harmonious dish is my favorite part about cooking! Sometimes you create a masterpiece that will be dubbed a new household staple or the dish that you always have to bring to special occasions. There are also plenty of times that the experimentation did not go as planned, but it was just in good fun and you learned a thing or two.

Yeah, sometimes I just don’t want to do any of that… Whenever I want to try something new, without having to think too hard or waste ingredients for the sake of experimenting, I check out my cookbooks and Pinterest. This was the case for this weeks dinner! I took a gander at my “Stuff For My Belly” board and came across some Spinach Lasagna Rollups. I hit the jackpot. I made this a few months back and they were so simple and delicious, but I wanted to mix it up a bit this time. This was a great vegetarian recipe, but I wanted to beef it up a bit…. get it? Beef!



I started off by preparing my homemade marinara meat sauce and then I got the roll up ingredients together.

The Ingredients:
1 lb. lasagna noodles
15 oz. ricotta
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 large egg
Salt and Pepper to taste



Preheat oven to 400F.

Cook the lasagna noodles as directed on the box.

Once the noodles are cooked and you’ve strained them, the faster you get the noodles lying flat, the less likely you’ll be stuck with funky/creased noodles. I laid my noodles onto some paper towels to help them from sticking to the countertop.

I axed the spinach for the rollups all together. I combined the ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan and 1 large egg in a bowl, then evenly and thinly spread the mixture on each cooked lasagna noodle.



Then you simply roll them up, seam facing down. Then I sprayed my glass baking dish with some Pam and plopped the rollups onto the dish.

I evenly coated all of the rollups with my sauce. Make sure to cover all of the rollups, including the edges, as this will ensure the noodles stay soft while they bake.



Place the dish into the preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes. Serve them hot and they keep up very nicely in the fridge for a few days!

Food in New York – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

During our time in New York, we ate out… a lot. It’s the thing you do when you’re in New York. There’s an absurd number of eating establishments, it’s amazing to have the luxury of trying something new, but it can also be overwhelming (and expensive). Considering we were in New York for almost two weeks, we obviously didn’t go to spiffy restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day or we would be bankrupt.

I decided to keep track of the food we had and give my opinion of same. Hopefully this will be useful to those heading over to the concrete jungle in the near future. I apologize ahead of time for the lack of photos… ok, there are no photos… just food talk!

Birch Coffee – Chris and I both drank several lattes from Birch Coffee. Seriously one of the best lattes ever. You can taste the quality, reasonably priced and the staff was always genuinely friendly.

Angelo’s Pizza – We actually ordered from this pizza joint twice because it was super close to the apartment and was convenient for the snowy evenings. The first time we ordered a large pizza with half cheese and half everything, which we picked up and took back to the apartment. It was actually pretty good, but it was $20 for the large pizza (pretty steep).
The second experience was one of our last nights there and we didn’t want to go anywhere, so we ordered for delivery. We ordered a garden salad and a half cheese/half pepperoni pizza. It was not nearly as tasty, the pizza was a small pizza for $17. We meant to order the large, but apparently there was a miscommunication. Either way, $17 for a small pizza is outrageous. The salad was just not good. Overall an inconsistent experience.

Fusia Asian Cuisine – Chris had the Pad Thai and I had the Chinese Fried Rice with Chicken. Both of us agreed that the food was bland. It was unfortunate because the service was great, everyone was very friendly and attentive. We ordered the food and it was brought to our table within 3 minutes, which was a tad concerning to begin with. The food was not bad by any means, just not what we were hoping for. We only tried those two items though, I noticed another table ordered soup that smelled incredible and they seemed to enjoy it. I wouldn’t mind trying the place again just to see if the other items on the menu are more promising.

Sojourn – We made reservations at this place for 9:00 p.m. on a Friday night, even with reservations, we stood in a massive crowd in the entrance and bar area for 25 minutes. However, once we were seated, the magic happened. Probably one of the best meals we’ve had in New York.
It’s mostly tapas and small dishes, so we ordered a few things to try together. We ordered the Burrata, Ricotta and Swiss Chard Ravioli and Pesto Gnocchi. First, the Burrata… ooooh, the Burrata… it was delicious. It was served over a roasted tomato, almond pesto and basil oil puree, Chris and I agreed that we would bathe in the puree if given the opportunity. The Ravioli was very flavorful and creamy, I would have eaten the entire plate if Chris didn’t jump in and grab a few bites. The Gnocchi was also very soft, tasty and decadent. Highly recommend this place.

Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria – This was our Valentine’s Day brunch spot. We could not have chosen a better place. We started off with some coffee, which was unbelievably good and then we moved on to mimosas. The mimosas clearly included freshly squeezed juice, which made them even tastier! We ordered the bread basket, which came with three different types of bread, jelly, butter and goat’s milk brie, all of which were tasty and fresh.
For my brunch, I got the Eggs Al Forno, which included amazing, fresh eggs and prosciutto. Chris had the Waffles with a fresh fruit compote on top. We were both very impressed with this establishment. Not only was the food, drinks and coffee incredible, but the restaurant was beautiful, rustic and modern and the service was great. I definitely recommend checking this place out!

Tony ‘The Dragon’ Dragonas – Holy delicious Mediterranean food truck! This food truck is always nestled on the same corner (62nd Street and Madison Ave). My boyfriend goes here almost every day for his lunch because it’s ridiculously close to his office and ridiculously good. I got the chicken platter, while my boyfriend has tried everything else. We both agree that anything you select from this truck will blow your mind. The grilled chicken on the platter was seasoned beautifully, grilled perfectly, juicy, tender, everything grilled chicken should be. The rice and veggies that came alone with the platter were top notch as well. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, get all the food from Tony’s.

The Plaza Food Hall – This place is a great spot to hit for lunch, there are several options to choose from and everything looks great! Chris and I tried some flatbread sandwiches from Piada, which were so fresh and tasty! The seating area is very cute as well, rustic bar with a chalk board sort of feel. The best part about the flatbreads was that they had few ingredients, but it didn’t matter because the few ingredients were very high quality, plus you could tell that the flatbread was freshly made. Definitely check out Piada at the Food Hall.
On another day, we gave Ora di Pasta a shot. This place didn’t leave us as dazzled as Piada did. It’s basically a fancier, pricier pasta version of Subway (create your own pasta combination). Neither of us were impressed with our dishes, everything was quite bland and not special.

Red 58 – This place was quite convenient for us because it was on the same block as our apartment. We fell into this place at about 9:30pm on Valentine’s Day. Chris and I already had a lovely brunch, a stroll around the city and come relaxing at the apartment, but then we decided that going somewhere for a few drinks would be great. We walked by the few spiffy looking bars/restaurants on 6th Avenue, but they were completely packed. We were thinking our idea to grab drinks at this time on Valentine’s Day may not happen, when we took a look at Red 58… only a handful of people were in there. At first, this seemed like it could be bad, I mean, the one restaurant in New York that was not packed?! Not to mention, the entire interior is black, red, dark and romantic, I would have assumed it would be the place to be. Either way, our concern for it being almost empty faded away quickly when we realized how nice it will be to actually hear each other speak in a New York restaurant! So, we grabbed a high table in the bar area, grabbed some cocktails and ordered the truffle fries. We ended up staying there for a good 2 – 2.5 hours, just enjoying our drinks, eating some truffle fries and talking sweet nothings. It was great! The drinks were moderately priced (for New York) and the fries were delicious.
We decided to check it out again on a different night, hoping that their entrees would be good too…. eh, not so much. Chris had the Red 58 burger and I had the buffalo chicken salad. Chris described his burger as bland, plus it only had two toppings. My salad was just not good. It was big chicken strips drenched in buffalo sauce on top of a spring salad with a vinaigrette dressing. The vinaigrette dressing just did not work with the buffalo, it was an odd combo. So, this place is nice for drinks and appetizers, but we were not impressed with our entrees.

810 Deli Cafe – This is a nifty little place. Usually a cafe with 100 items on the menu scares me because it just feels complicated and unnecessary. This place proved me wrong. We went here a handful of times because it was priced pretty well, had a big variety of items to choose from and it was all tasty! Everything tasted fresh and we were never disappointed in any of the items we were ordered during our visit.

Fika – Ok, so before anyone brings it up… I’m aware that this place mostly where you go to get the chocolate balls. I know this, but I didn’t get the chocolate balls (I don’t have a good excuse as to why!). I only came here a couple times for croissants and lattes, so this “review” is only based off of those things. First, the latte is very good, not Birch good, but good! The croissants are great, very tasty, flaky and soft, everything a croissant should be. The one thing that kills me about this place is how expensive it is. One morning, Chris and I got small lattes and one croissant each…. $17.00. Rough.

Roberta’s Pizza – So, there’s a story as to why we ventured all the way out to Brooklyn to try the pizza at Roberta’s. When Chris and I lived in Northern California, we discovered a restaurant called Oak & Rye, which is the best pizza either of us have ever had. Chris discovered that one of the chef’s used to work at Roberta’s, but then joined a new team in Los Gatos to cook at Oak & Rye. Considering Roberta’s is essentially the mother of Oak & Rye, we had to try it!
First, once we received our array of pizza’s, it was clear that this was related to Oak & Rye. There’s just a certain look and smell that Oak & Rye always had, Roberta’s was the same deal… basically, we were excited. Now, the only pizza that was the exact same pizza as Oak & Rye, was the Margherita pizza. Every other pizza had it’s own funky name and toppings. We tried the Lamb of God, La Dusseldorf, Speckenwolf, Margherita and Good Girl. They were all very unique and tasty, but… not as good as Oak & Rye. 🙂

Melt Shop – I didn’t discover this place until the second to last day that we were in town and I’m super bummed I didn’t find it earlier! It was reasonably priced, cute place and yummy food. It’s basically a fancy grilled cheese sort of joint. I ordered the maple bacon grilled cheese sandwich and the tomato soup, both were scrum-diddily-umptious! The maple bacon bacon was sweet and paired so nicely with the mix of cheeses in the sandwich. The tomato soup was clearly made in house and was quite tasty. I would have loved to have tried the other items on the menu!

Cafe Oliviero – This was my last meal in New York. I was packing up all of our luggage at the apartment and realized I needed some breakfast, but didn’t want to go out in the cold again! So, I ordered an egg sandwich and a coffee from Cafe Oliviero for delivery. Ten minutes after ordering, they were at the door. Super fast service! The egg sandwich wasn’t bad, but it filled the void in my stomach. The coffee was super hot, which I found surprising for a delivered coffee! Was the coffee great? Not really, but again, it filled a void. This place wasn’t very memorable, so I probably won’t be ordering from here again.

Overall, the New York trip was a success! We had some great food, drinks and coffee. There will be some go-to staples that we will be checking out every time we got to New York (Birch Coffee, Tony’s); however, I cannot wait to try other restaurants! What are some of your favorite places to eat/drink in New York? Restaurant recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

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Homemade Turkey Chili

Even though the temperatures in California still have not hopped on the Autumn train, I am boycotting the warmth and bringing on my favorite season anyway! I have laced up my boots, thrown on a sweater and put the dark lipstick on! I will continue to slap 72 degrees fahrenheit in the face until it’s cooler. I can’t tell you how excited I get when I see dark clouds outside, it gives me the automatic right to cook some homemade chili (which is exactly what I did).

I prefer to cook chili with ground turkey meat, kidney beans and pinto beans, but feel free to switch out per your preference! Chili is easy to put together and the leftovers are just as amazing. This recipe creates about 6 servings.

Mmmm, can you smell it?

Ingredients:
• 1 pound of ground turkey meat
• 1 8oz. can of tomato sauce
• 1 15oz. can of kidney beans
• 1 15oz. can of pinto beans
• Ground Chili Pepper
• Salt
• 1 Garlic clove, finely chopped
• Ground cumin
• Dried oregano
• Onion powder
• Ground paprika
• Ground cayenne
• 1/4 cup Corn masa flour
• 1/3 cup of water

First things first, break the turkey meat up into small pieces and cook in a large skillet over medium/high heat until cooked all the way through (it will turn white).

Pour the cooked meat into a large strainer and rinse with water to ensure the fat/grease is not invited to the chili show.

Pour the meat into a large pot, pour in the 8oz. can of tomato paste, then fill the same 8oz. can with water and toss that into the pot as well. Then you’re going to add your beans (I pour out about half of the canned bean juices and then pour the remaining half into the pot) and all of the spices! I did not include measurements because I just add as I go, taste, add some more if necessary. However, if you prefer a more mild chili, you may want to forfeit the cayenne.




Stir it all up and cook on high heat until you see it start to bubble. Lower the heat, cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes.

If you like a thicker chili, like I do, combine the corn masa flour and water. It will become a thick paste. Once you allow your chili to simmer and all the spices are exactly where you want them, pour in the corn masa flour mixture into the chili and let simmer for another 5 minutes or so.


Sprinkle some cheese on top, grab yourself some crackers and get down on some chili goodness. The leftovers can be refrigerated in tupperware for about 3-4 days.

Dinners for the Week

This week had to be an easier dinner sort of week. I’ll be making the drive from Northern California down to Southern California this Thursday to visit with family and friends! I didn’t want to buy a ton of groceries, just so the boyfriend can get take out every night that I’m gone. So, I ended up going with some easy dinners where I had the majority of the ingredients already.

This week, we’ll be having:
Sunday – Sandwiches of choice
Monday – Homemade mac n’ cheese
Tuesday – Crockpot orange chicken with steamed rice
Wednesday – Breakfast for dinner
Thursday – OUT
Friday – OF
Saturday – TOWN!

Dinner for the week of 3/10
Do you dig my artistic skills? My car looks like a turtle… oops.

I’m thinking that I’ll definitely be bringing my camera and notepad along for the trip. I’ll be staying with my parents for 2 nights and my sister for 1 night, one or the other is bound to cook/bake something delicious that will need to be captured for the Oven Mitt! 🙂

Homemade Marinara with Penne Pasta

One of our favorite meals at my parent’s house is my mom’s lasagna. She doesn’t make it often, but when she does… it’s on. Obviously what makes her lasagna so good is her homemade marinara sauce. Even though I watched her make it for years, it never occurred to me that I could make one just as good. Well, I gave it a shot, with my own tweaks and preferences and I must say, I may have enjoyed it a little bit more than my moms! My boyfriend made it clear that we’re never purchasing store bought sauces ever again, as this one took the cake. Now, the beautiful thing about cooking is that there isn’t much measuring going on when it comes to spices. Everyone feels differently about their spices and I encourage everyone to add/subtract whatever they feel will work better for their household. I didn’t measure any of the spices I put into my sauce, I just tasted as I went until it was perfect for me. There are only two of us in my home and we had leftover sauce for an additional two meals. Feel free to half or double this recipe, depending on how many mouths you’re feeding and how much leftovers you want. 🙂

Ingredients:
• 2 tsp. olive oil
• 2 garlic cloves
• 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
• 1 lb ground beef
• 1 15oz. can tomato sauce
• 2 15oz. can tomato puree
• 1 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
• 1 12oz. can tomato paste
• 2 bay leaves
• Salt
• Pepper
• Garlic powder
• Onion powder
• Basil
Ingredients for marinara sauce

To get started, sauté the red pepper flakes and garlic in the olive oil. Try not to breathe in right over the pot, you’ll have a coughing fit… like I did. haha. Also, my mom likes to sauté onions at this part as well, but I’m not a huge fan of onions, so I used onion powder later on instead. You’ll be done once the garlic cloves are soft.
Saute garlic and pepper flakes
Chop up the garlic cloves and toss them back in the pan.
Brown the ground beef, drain and rinse well. My mom likes to add italian sausage as well, but I only used the ground beef.
Add the beef to the pepper flakes and garlic.
Ground beef
Toss in all of the tomato can contents and spices.
Crunch up the bay leaves and sprinkle them into the pot as well.
While on medium/high heat stir everything well.
All is ready to simmer
Allow the sauce to heat until it just begins to boil, turn down the heat and simmer. I had mine simmering for two hours, while stirring occasionally.
You can test the taste with a piece of bread or getting a spoonful. If you feel it needs anything extra, add whatever will get you your perfect sauce.
I used some gluten free penne pasta. I was surprised that gluten free pasta doesn’t taste any different than regular pasta, definitely going to continue to purchase!
Gluten free penne
Cook your pasta as indicated on the box and toss with your homemade sauce.
I sprinkled some parmesan flakes on top and served with garlic toast.
Completed dinner
Have a good day!