Thursday, March 29, 2012

Food Porn: Belga Cafe

When I started this blog, I knew there would come a time when I just wouldn't cook enough to keep up with posting two times a week, yet I knew I'd never go hungry. So this week I've been working through a lot of leftovers and thought it would be a good time to debut the restaurant review concept which I initially intended to utilize to compensate for weeks when I just didn't cook as much. But rather than go on and on about a restaurant, I'm going to keep this short and sweet, giving you a visual that's pleasurable and never fails to satisfy. I shall call it Food Porn.

Belga Cafe's Belgian Waffle with Cinnamon Apples

I remember when 8th St. or Barracks Row in Cap Hill was two restaurants and a few bars. The area has exploded in the last 8 years to offer a lot of awesome dining choices, including Belga Cafe. I have been here a few times, for Belgian beers and awkward dates. But I had yet to have brunch until last weekend. Well worth the wait. My friend who is from Louisiana tried a bite of this dish and called it an apple fritter described as a belgian waffle. Whatever it was, it was awesome. I also ordered a bucket of bacon...because everything is truly better with bacon. So if you get a chance to make it down there, I highly recommend the brunch. It just melts in your mouth and makes you feel good at the moment, but maybe a bit bad afterward. Just like porn.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Homemade Marinara Sauce with Meatballs

There are some recipes that you've had for years and it doesn't turn out the same way each time. This is one of those recipes. I acquired this from my aunt who married into an Italian family. The ingredient list only sparingly includes measurements (i.e., it indicates "three cans of tomatoes," but doesn't specify size) and omits certain seasonings in the ingredients list, but mentions them in the body of the directions. In any case, it's easy to experiment with this recipe and it still turns out fabulous. I had a few friends over to watch the season premiere of Mad Men and this traditional, Italian meal was a hit. Even if I made it up as I went along. Be sure to allow some time for this, because I think it's best for the sauce to simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours. And invite friends,  because it makes a ton (but lucky for me...freezes very well!) My apologies for the bad photo...I was too busy drinking wine and ogling over Jon Hamm to remember to take a decent photo.

Homemade Marinara Sauce with Meatballs (serves 8 hungry people)


  • Olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • fresh chopped parsley (guesstimate, I have no idea how much I ended up using)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 TB oregano
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Fresh basil (approximately 1/4 cup)
  • 3 (28 oz) cans of crushed tomatoes (plum, preferably) in sauce
  • 1 (15 oz) can of tomato sauce
  • 2 carrots (cut up)
  • 1 TB salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 3 sweet Italian sausage links (optional, but I think add great flavor)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Put olive oil in lagre cooking pot, put enough in to cover the bottom of the pan. Put the chopped garlic and chopped onions in and simmer until light brown color.

Add the 3 cans of tomatoes in sauce. Also add tomato sauce and mix. Add the cut up carrots, which help cut the acidity in the sauce.

Next add the salt and chopped parsley. Add basil leaves and oregano to the sauce. Add bay leaves and 1/2 tsp sugar in the gravy. Simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours.

Meanwhile,  in a large bowl combine the ground beef, eggs, parsley, bread crumbs, 1/2 tsp salt and a little pepper. Sprinkly in the garlic and onion powders. Mix up and make into meatballs. Put the meatballs into a frying pan (coated in olive oil and brown each side. Then add meatballs to the sauce.

Brown sausage if desire and then add to the sauce. The meat can probably sit in the sauce for up to 1 1/2 hours as it simmers. Enjoy over your favorite pasta. I like to serve with fresh shredded parmesean.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Chicken and Chorizo Stew

It’s getting hot in DC. While it’s not unheard of for temperatures to reach into the 70s in March, some days we’ve hit 80. The warm weather will definitely impact the way I cook over the next several months. No more hearty chilis, soups, and stews. More fruit, salad, and lighter options. This of course is probably a good thing, but before I surrendered to several months without warm your soul meals, I decided to use up some items in my freezer and cupboard, namely chorizo and saffron. So here’s a great cooking light recipe for my last stew hurrah of the season.

Chicken and Chorizo Stew (serves 4)

  • 2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 2 (6-oz) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 6 oz chopped Spanish chorizo
  • 3 cups cubed red potato
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 TB minced fresh garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp saffron threads
  • 1 1/2 TB sherry vinegar
  • 2 TB chopped fresh parsley

Combine first 6 ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 14 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken, reserving cooking liquid; cool. Shred chicken. Strain cooking liquid through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids.

Wipe pan with paper towels. Sauté sausage over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add potato, onion, and bell pepper; sauté 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and next 3 ingredients (through saffron); sauté 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add reserved cooking liquid; bring to a simmer. Simmer 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add shredded chicken; simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vinegar. 

Ladle about 1 cup stew into each of 4 bowls; top each serving with parsley.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Honey and Lime Glazed Salmon with Warm Corn Bean Salad

This week I decided to go back to an old favorite. With the weather getting warmer, I wanted something light to start off the week. Plus, I was having company for dinner and when that happens, I usually like to stick with something familiar that I know to cook very well. This is one of those recipes, from my Rachel Ray's 365 No Repeats cookbook. I haven't made much in this cookbook that I'd repeat on a regular basis, but this is one recipe I've made at least a dozen times.

Honey and Lime Glazed Salmon with Warm Corn Bean Salad (serves 4)

  • 2 TB extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium limes, juiced
  • 3 TB honey
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • Four 6-ounce salmon fillets
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
  • 10 oz box of frozen corn, thawed
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 TB freshly chopped cilantro
  • 6 cups baby spinach (one bag of spinach)

Preheat large skillet over medium heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onions, garlic, red pepper flakes, cumin, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.

While onions are cooking, preheat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat with remaining tablespoon olive oil. In a shallow dish, combine juice of 1 lime, honey, chili powder, salt and pepper. Add salmon fillets to lime-honey mixture and toss to coat thoroughly. Add seasoned salmon to the hot skillet and cook until just cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes on each side. Cover for quicker cooking.

To the cooked onions, add bell peppers and corn kernels and cook for 1 minute. Add chicken broth and continue to cook for another 2 minutes. Add the black beans and cook until the beans are just heated through. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the juice of the second lime, the cilantro and the spinach. Toss to wilt the spinach and then taste and adjust seasoning. Serve the lime-and-honey glazed salmon on top of the warm black bean and corn salad.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Maple-Mustard Glazed Chicken

So I've been a bit quiet on the blog this week as I've gone back to my social butterfly ways after a quiet February, which has made it harder to keep up with regular posting. But I assure you I have been cooking per usual, even making my stout cupcakes again this evening for St. Patty's Day festivities tomorrow. Earlier this week I made this recipe, which is pretty easy and relatively healthy. Of course, it probably doesn't hurt that I served it with steamed asparagus. I made enough for several lunches this week which always comes in handy when you have a few liquid dinners during the week. :)

On a side note, I really feel that the grain mustard is what makes the dish. I'm sure you could use regular dijon mustard, but the grittiness of the ground mustard gives it a nice texture.

Maple-Mustard Glazed Chicken (serves 4)


  • 2 tsp olive oil 
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 TB cider vinegar
  • 1 TB stone-ground mustard


Preheat oven to 400°.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat.

Sprinkle chicken with pepper and salt. Add chicken to pan; sauté 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from pan.

Add broth, syrup, thyme, and garlic to pan; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add vinegar and mustard; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Return chicken to pan, and spoon mustard mixture over chicken. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes or until the chicken is done.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Beer-Battered Tilapia with Red Chile Mandarin Orange Sauce

A few months ago I moved into my new condo but before doing so, I had to get rid of a few items that wouldn't fit into my new place. One of them was a big couch. After dropping the price considerably on Craigslist, I came up with the idea of giving it away for a six-pack of decent beer. I received several offers from group houses who were more than happy to take the couch for this steal of a deal. Unfortunately, I should have shopped around. What I ended up with was a six pack of Michelob Ultra. Not one to waste anything, I've been using it for cooking purposes because you couldn't pay me to drink this for pleasure. And if it's any consolation, I don't think the guys who took my couch and carried it several blocks down the street managed to fit it into their new place as I saw it out on the corner a week later. Guess they should have shopped around as well. I served this with couscous and a spinach salad.

Beer-Battered Tilapia with Red Chile Mandarin Orange Sauce (serves 4)

  • Olive oil
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2/3 cup beer
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tilapia fillets, about 5 ounces each
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 TB fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp red chili paste
  • 1 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 TB chopped fresh cilantro leaves


Heat enough olive oil, to shallow fry the fish, in a large skillet over medium-high heat

In a shallow dish, whisk together 1/2 cup of the flour, beer, egg, and baking powder. Place remaining 1/4 cup flour in a separate shallow dish.

Season both sides of the fish fillets with salt and black pepper. Dredge fish in flour, turn to coat both sides and then shake off excess flour. Dunk fish in beer mixture and turn to coat both sides.

Add fish to hot oil and cook 2 to 3 minutes per side, until cooked through and opaque. Remove fish from oil. Place on a paper towel lined plate.

While the fish is frying, in a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice and chili paste. Add mandarin oranges and cilantro and toss to combine. Serve sauce over fish.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thai Chicken Saute

Earlier this week I created fire. There were no matches, or rubbing of two sticks together. This fire was a result of Sriracha sauce and a combination of other flavors that I would have thought would have cut the spice, but for some reason, this became a great bowl of fire. Don't get me wrong, I love spicy food. But I think the fault with this recipe was that it tried to use too much spicy flavor to mask a very basic, light meal. Not one of my favorites, but for those of you who like a lot of heat, this might be right up your alley.

Thai Chicken Saute (serves 4-6)


  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast tenders

  • 1 TB cornstarch

  • 1 TB fish sauce

  • 4 tsp canola oil, divided

  • 1 cup sliced onion

  • 2 tsp bottled minced garlic

  • 1 tsp bottled ground fresh ginger

  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk

  • 2 TB Sriracha (hot chile sauce, such as Huy Fong)

  • 1 TB sugar

  • 1 TB fresh lime juice

  • 2 TB chopped fresh cilantro

  • Directions:

    Toss chicken with cornstarch and fish sauce. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Remove chicken from pan.

    Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in pan. Add onion, garlic, and ginger to pan; sauté 1 minute.

    Return chicken to pan; cook 1 minute or until done. Stir in coconut milk, Sriracha, sugar, and juice; cook 45 seconds or until thoroughly heated.

    Sprinkle each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons cilantro. Serve chicken mixture over rice.

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    Three Vegetable Penne Pasta with Tarragon-Basil Pesto

    Last week I had my friend Ben over for dinner. Ben is one of my four token vegetarian friends. (hi guys!) While I can't fathom giving up meat entirely, I do try to come up with vegetarian recipes on occasion that are a bit more substantive than pasta with red sauce. I was inspired to cook this recipe after getting an herb basket from my brother and his wife for my birthday, which included fresh tarragon. This also gave me an excuse to pulse some herbs with my mini-food processor which is always fun.

    Three Vegetable Penne Pasta with Tarragon-Basil Pesto (serves 4)


    • 1 pound penne rigate (with lines) pasta
    • Salt
    • 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed of tough ends
    • 1 small zucchini
    • 1/4 pound, haricots verts (thin green beans) trimmed of stem ends
    • 1/4 cup pine nuts
    • 1 cup basil, 20 leaves
    • 1/2 cup tarragon leaves from 10 to 12 stems
    • Handful flat-leaf parsley
    • 1 lemon, zested
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more to pass at table
    • Coarsely ground black pepper
    • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, eyeball it

    Heat a large pot of water to boil for pasta. Salt the water and add pasta to cook to al dente or, with a bite to it.

    Cut asparagus spears into 2-inch pieces on an angle. Cut zucchini into matchstick shapes. Cut haricots verts or green beans into 2-inch pieces on an angle. Add vegetables to pasta after penne has been cooking about 5 minutes. Cook veggies and pasta together 2 minutes.

    While pasta cooks, toast pine nuts in a small pan until golden, then cool. Place nuts, basil, tarragon, parsley, lemon zest, garlic, cheese and a little salt and pepper in a food processor. Turn the processor on and stream in the extra-virgin olive oil until thick sauce forms.

    Scrape pesto into large, shallow serving dish. Add a ladle of hot, starchy pasta water to the pesto. Drain penne and veggies and add immediately to pesto. Toss to coat pasta and vegetables evenly. Adjust salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with extra grated cheese to pass at table.

    Friday, March 2, 2012

    Buffalo Cheesey Bread

    Cheese. Fresh Bread. Hot sauce. And more cheese. Yep, that about sums up this awesome bread, the creation of my friend Nick of  Super easy to make, it was super hard to not want to shove an entire loaf in your mouth. With March Madness right around the corner, you'd have to be mad not to serve this up while watching the games. I'm definitely filing this one away for football season.

    Buffalo Cheesey Bread 

    • 1 loaf French bread
    • 1/2 Cup mayonnaise
    • 1 stick unsalted butter
    • 2 TB sour cream
    • 8 oz low-fat mozzarella, shredded
    • 4 oz blue cheese
    • 1/2 Cup hot sauce (Frank's is the best)
    • 1 Cup scallions, chopped
    • 4 cloves garlic
    • Fresh ground pepper

    Mix mayo, sour cream, garlic, scallions, and butter in a medium bowl. Combine well. Grate mozzarella and stir it into the mix.

    Slice French bread horizontally down the middle and toast it in the oven until it's crispy, about 5 minutes at 425 degrees.

    Spread an even layer of hot sauce on bread. Then top the bread with the mozzarella topping. Sprinkle blue cheese on top of bread.

    Broil on high for 2-3 minutes until cheese is lightly browned and bubbling and bread edges are toasted.

    Let the bread cool for a minute and then chop it up for serving.