Cuban Black Beans

Another post from my friend, Amanda!

Aaaand we’re back with another one! But in case you missed the first, I’m Amanda, reporting with another one of my go-to meals prepared in my teeny-weeny NYC kitchen. Unlike the first, which was inspired from way too many Thai dinners and late night take-out, this one has a little history….in addition to the nutritional stamp of approval (woop woop!). This recipe was born from my mom, and my mom’s mom, and my dad’s mom, and all their moms too. You get the point. I wish I could take credit for this one because it’s good, real good, and a snap to put together during the week.

For as long as I can remember, black beans and rice have always been a staple in my house. I remember them fondly on Tuesday nights after school, at Little Havana Restaurant for Sunday family dinners and at almost every Jewish holiday. Because that’s how we roll – a little brisket, a little kugel and a little black beans. Today, if they’re an option on a menu it’s pretty much guaranteed I’ll order them, ignoring the enticing apps and entrees, and instead take the nostalgic trip back to my childhood…except now with a margarita to wash it down.

Now some of you may think that black beans and rice can’t possibly make a complete meal. Au contraire my friends. My version conveniently comes packed protein, vegetables, fiber, yadda, yadda, yadda – a complete protein they say! (I don’t know who said that but you have Google, so I’m sure you can figure out if it’s true). And it’s lucky for me that they boast such nutritious qualities because I’m pretty sure I would be eating  them regardless. Oh, and if this little “healthy” sound bite didn’t convince you, I made them for my highly skeptical carnivore-of-a-boyfriend last week for dinner as a MEAL, not a side. Not only did he complement the product of my hard work in the kitchen, but mid-way through his bowl, he stopped to exclaim how filling they were. Unprompted, I swear. I nearly keeled over with joy.

Now before you scroll down to the list of ingredients, I have a HUGE disclaimer to make. The version I made most recently, and the recipe you’ll see down below, is not the most traditional one out there so please black bean purists, don’t get your panties in a bunch (I’m just going to assume that black bean purists exist somewhere out there). This is my variation that I chose to do that day and I’ll likely make another variation next week. For those of you that want to experience the full black bean tradition, please refer to the back of a can of Goya black beans (I swear!). And even better, refer to the back of a bag of Goya dried black beans. I’m telling you, Goya knows what’s up.

Just to give you some peace of mind, this version starts with a sofrito, or a mixture of onion, garlic, green pepper and tomato. Which is pretty much the same base of every black bean recipe that exists. I just added a few things here in there to my liking. Feel free to do the same. Oh and one last thing – you can substitute any bean you like here. Baby lima beans (the dried version) happen to be another personal favorite. But that’s another blog post. Now get cookin’!

Ingredients

2 cans of black beans

1 yellow onion, diced

1 green pepper, diced

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 large carrot, diced

1 leek, cleaned and thinly sliced

2 tbsp. tomato paste

Pinch of sugar

1 tsp. cumin

1 bay leaf

½ tsp. dried oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

1 c. rice, cooked

 

Toppings

Use whatever you want here!

Cilantro

Sour cream

Avocado

1. Heat up a couple teaspoons of olive oil in a dutch oven or large pot. Sautee the onion and peppers until soft and about halfway through, add the garlic so to prevent it from burning.

2. Toss in the diced carrot and leek and let cook down for another 5-10 min.

3. Add in the tomato paste, sugar and all your spices and continue cooking until everything sort of looks like one big vegetable mush (I know, ew, but trust me this is part of it). Add in some water here and there to prevent the veggies from burning or sticking to the pot.

4.Once everything has cooked down, add your black beans, liquid and all, to the pot and let simmer for an additional 20-25 min so all the flavors can meld.

5. I like to use a hand blender and partially blend the beans and veggies up just to give it a heartier texture.

6. Serve over rice and add any toppings you like!

Healthy Eating 101- 5 Tips!

This is from one of my sister’s best friends, Sarah. She is interested in pursuing a career in nutrition and wanted to share some of her knowledge on the blog! Thanks, Sarah 🙂

With the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year approaching, our schedules tend to get busier and the days of long, lingering suppers get shorter. Don’t let this fall be the unraveling of that healthy summer diet. Here are five easy ways to keep up with your healthy eating routine in any season.

Add Acids. While the past few months have seen lemons and limes as the main attraction for many summer drinks and desserts, citrus and acids have many other cooking advantages. Acids (think vinegars) and citrus (think lemons and limes) act similarly to salt in that they help bring out the nature brightness of food and work to meld flavors together. Make a quick salad dressing with lemon juice and zest, or red wine vinegar and a smidge of oil… with such a bright taste you won’t even realize summer is over.

Texture, Texture, Texture. Add texture to your meal. A healthy meal doesn’t have to mean mushy baby food or raw veggies. Mix and match your textures for a little smoothness here and a nice surprise crunch or pop there. Make a fall grain salad using quinoa to experience the little ‘pop’ of the kernels, then add some crunchy raw veggies like kale or peppers, beans or avocado for that silky, buttery feel, and some craisins for something to chew on.

Herb It Up. While the summer months are fading, they leave an abundance of fresh garden herbs in their wake. Nothing helps bring a little extra life to a meal or dish than some fresh herbs while not adding any fat or calories. Next time you harvest or buy fresh herbs (such as basil, cilantro, rosemary, or thyme), give them a good chop and oil mix them with a little oil. Add some of your herb-infused oil to veggies or meats before grilling, and store the rest in ice-cube trays in the freezer for a ready to use marinade or seasoning all winter long!

Spice and Everything Nice. While herbs are usually used while fresh, spices tend to be dried and jarred, enabling you build a diverse spice rack collection over time. Spices are another great way to add flavor and character to a dish without the added calories and fat from sauces. Use the new school year to try a palate of new spices. Warm up on a chilly autumn night with a roasted acorn squash stuffed with cumin couscous, an earthy and robust taste to help rink in the fall.

Taste the Rainbow. Summer isn’t the only time for rainbows and sunshine. How can you tell a healthy meal by looking at it? Just count the colors! Thinking of foods as a color wheel, we draw nutrients from the whole spectrum – reds and oranges, dark greens, blues and purples, and lighter colors. Roast some fall harvest crops with a little olive oil in the oven – beets, squash, eggplant – and serve over kale for an eye popping side dish. A well rounded, healthy meal is scrumptious to eat but also beautiful to look at.

Coconut Curry Soup

Hey guys! I’m Amanda, one of Jamie’s friends and I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to write a little somethin’ somethin’ for StudioEats! Like Jamie, I’m another NYC lady who has a big love for cooking and a teeny tiny kitchen to boot. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like trying to strategically place your pots and pans on a stove top that looks like it might have been invented for hobbits. It definitely makes for an experience.

As an avid foodie and inspired home cook, I’ve learned how to use a little imagination to make the best of things I already have on-hand in my kitchen. I would love to attribute my busy lifestyle for the impromptu meals that come together only after I’m already in the kitchen cooking. But if I’m being honest, it’s my true inability to follow a recipe and my clear obsession with all things food TV and reading related, that inspire most of the things I make. This usually means that no dish gets made the same way twice and heaven forbid I remember to write any of it down!

This Coconut Curry Soup is a perfect example of just that. There is no recipe, no measuring and no standard ingredient list. If the curry paste seems intense, use less of it. Tofu not your thing? Use chicken, beef or keep it veggie. And if you’re like me and can’t get enough of the spicy stuff, I just end up topping everything with a ridiculous amount of sriracha in the end.

Most of the items are usually things I already have in my fridge, freezer and cabinets (unless it really is a crazy work week) so I would encourage you to be creative and use what works for you. As with most folks in studio kitchens, I’m usually cooking for one or two so feel free to adjust accordingly.


Coconut Curry Soup

(Apologies for the approximate portion sizes – I warned you I don’t write anything down!)

 

1 tbsp oil (canola or vegetable work best)

1 small to medium onion, finely diced

1 tbsp garlic, minced

1 tbsp grated ginger

1 ½ tsp red curry paste (for medium/hot heat)

3 c. chicken or vegetable stock

½ 14-oz can of regular or lite coconut milk

1 heaping tbsp of brown sugar

5-6oz firm tofu

1 c. carrots peeled and sliced into thin rounds

1 red pepper, sliced thin

1 c. mushrooms, sliced

1 handful of string beans, cut in half

1 bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped

1 lime wedge

Sriracha to taste (optional)

 

Slice the tofu into cubes whatever size you fancy – I usually try to stay between a ½ and 1inch. Remember the smaller they are, the faster they cook. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil that is generously sprayed with cooking spray (trust me, you’ll thank me later). Spread the tofu in a single layer on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Pop in an oven around 400 degrees and bake for approximately 20 minutes depending on how chewy and crisp you like your tofu. If substituting beef or chicken, cook off in a skillet prior to adding to the soup.

Heat up oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add your aromatics including onion, garlic and ginger and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add curry paste and “mash” together with onion mixture until combined. Stir while cooking for another minute or two. Your kitchen (or studio, as the case may be) should now smell like a Thai restaurant.

Slowly whisk in the coconut milk and broth and reheat to a low boil. Whisk in brown sugar and any other seasonings you like (salt, sesame oil, thai basil if you can find it!). After a few minutes, drop in the cooked tofu and let reheat. About 5 minutes before serving, add in all of your sliced veggies including carrots, red pepper, mushrooms and string beans. I like my veggies on the crisp side and definitely not mushy so I like to wait until the last minute to add.

Ladle soup into individual bowls and top with chopped cilantro and a big squeeze of lime. If your senses aren’t on overload yet, don’t forget about that extra squirt of sriracha! Enjoy!

 

Battle of the Breakfasts: Chobani Flagship vs. Oatmeals

This if from my friend Beth who was set on trying out two new breakfast pop-ups in NYC!

I set out to determine which of the two latest breakfast pop-ups would reign as breakfast champion.  Drumroll please… And the winner is! Chobani! (On account of an Oatmeals‘ forfeit.  More on that technicality later.)

If you love breakfast as much as I do then you were equally “geek-cited” to hear that Chobani opened a flagship store in Soho.  My imagination raced, what kind of wondrous things could they do to spice up my every day yogurt??!  Upon looking at the menu online I thought it must be a teaser of all the bountiful yogurt concoctions in my dining future.  Surely they’ve put more thought into this than 10 items?? Lo and behold, I was mistaken, and that’s the entire menu.  (Is that a deflating tire I hear?)

Lackluster menu aside, here are my thoughts…

I ordered the Plain Chobani & Cucumber which contains “Creamy Plain Chobani, Fresh Cucumber, Sea Salt, sprinkled with Fresh Mint, and served with Pita Chips.”  Mine actually did not have mint. They added olive oil, which I preferred.  I must say, as judgmental as I’d been on the store & menu, it was delicious.  Yogurt and cucumber doesn’t sound nearly as impressive as it was. It definitely packed a memorable taste-bud punch!  So much so, in fact, that I’ll probably never return to the store to pay $4 for it, but I will recreate this tasty treat on my own.  Slice up some cucumbers, grab a Cho-Go (Chobani to-go, stay with me people), and add some pita chips… voila – perfect work snack!

So the consensus is, I recommend you go at least once to try it out.  If the purpose of their beautiful, prime SoHo real estate is to increase grocery store sales, then their purpose is well served.  If the point of their smiley handsom wait staff and nice glass containers was to keep me coming back, then they fell fairly short of the mark.

Now on to Oatmeals and their fatal breakfast challenge faux-paux.  I really wanted you to win Oatmeals, I really did.  You even named your sweet section “Happy Endings” which got a chuckle.  Don’t even get me started on your “Hot & Bothered” section.  Sexual innuendos paired with oatmeal is no easy feat.. the ‘ship was yours for the taking!

So what went wrong? Oatmeals – you must be open to partake in the challenge.  For a breakfast oatmeal bar that serves both breakfast and savory dinner-esk oatmeal, I expect the store to be open at the wee hours of the morning, and well into the night.  Kind of like Starbucks, you just know they’ll always be there.  Not to mention they are located on MacDougal Street where 99% of the population are late-night munchie fiends!  I made two separate trips to the quaint, easily-missed store. Once was slightly before 6pm closing on Wednesday, only to be greeted by dark windows. I then arrived this morning at 6:57 only to be told that you will be opening in 15 minutes! 15 MINUTES! I know, I know you don’t care about my guest blog-post, but New Yorkers don’t wait 15 minutes for oatmeal… Starbucks has it next door.  (Although I’ll probably be back, your menu spoke to my sick humor. You live to be reviewed another day Oatmeals…)

Have any of you tried Oatmeals?? Post comments if you think I should make a 3rd trek! 

Cherry-Chipotle Chili- Beware of the Heat!

As I mentioned, I am in Greece so am having my lovely friends post this week! This is from one of my best friends, Romy. Romy tries to maintain a Gluten Free diet so this may be good for anyone interested in GF recipes!

I don’t often cook directly from recipes, but a recipe for Cherry-Chipotle Chili from Self.com intrigued me with the spice and fruity sweetness it promised. It also looked easy, so I decided to give it a try 🙂

First, diced carrots and onions are browned in EVOO with lean ground turkey, chopped garlic and some salt and pepper.

Then comes the first bit of spice with chili powder, adding in canned diced tomatoes, cherries, chipotles and bay leaves. I chose to use frozen dark sweet cherries. Now, I enjoy some spice…however, either I made a mistake using canned chipotle “peppers” instead of canned chipotle “chilies”, or this recipe is meant to be very, very spicy because I just about died from the heat when I tasted what was in the can! I only used half a can (instead of 2) of the peppers plus the juice, so I would say add the peppers/chilies carefully. The final produce turned out spicy enough for me with just that amount.

I was concerned by how much liquid was in the pot, but after 15 minutes of boiling then simmering, it was the perfect consistency. I added cannellini beans and let it thicken more.

The final product tastes much more delicious than it looks, and the cherries made it really delicious. I am always trying to add sweetness to what I cook so this was a perfect way to sneak it in – and it only took 30 minutes. Cherries also apparently “jump-start your immune system and mop up free radicals”. Sounds good to me! Hope you enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lb lean ground turkey
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (preferably kosher)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups pitted black cherries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 canned chipotle chilies, diced, plus sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 can (15 oz) white beans (such as cannellini or navy), rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt (optional)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Preparation

  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook turkey with salt and pepper, stirring, until browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Add carrots, onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in chili powder. Add tomatoes, cherries, chipotles, bay leaves and 1/2 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cook, stirring once or twice, until chili thickens, 10 to 15 minutes. Add beans; cook 2 minutes. Flavor with chipotle sauce to taste. Remove bay leaves. Divide chili among 4 bowls. Top each with 1 tbsp yogurt and garnish with cilantro, if desired, before serving.

Off to Greece & Turkey

Hey guys!

In just a few hours I’ll be boarding a plane to Athens where I’ll be spending 10 relaxing days with two of my best friends, Deva and Katie. We will be in Santorini, Mykonos and then spending a few days in Istanbul on the tail end. These last few weeks have been a whirlwind for all of us, and this trip couldn’t be coming at a better time. I can’t wait to be outdoors, hang out in a bathing suit all day, see the sun, eat amazing Mediterranean food, and explore the sights.

Meet Deva:

Deva and I met in the Summer of 2007 during an internship we had. She’s a ball of sarcasm and wit and is a no bullshit type of friend.

And then there is Katie:

Katie and I have been best friends since we were 11. We grew up together, went to college far away from each other, and are now living in the city 3 blocks from each other. She has nonstop energy and is always looking to have a good time.

Since I won’t be blogging, I asked a few of my friends if they’d like to put up a post and a few of them jumped on board. I’ve lined up some excellent posts for the next several days. Thank you again to my amazing friends! I know that you guys will be entertained while I’m gone. So until next time… have a great next 10 days!!

Reflections on the Healthy Living Summit 2012

When I last posted, I was on my way to Boston to attend my first Healthy Living Summit. This is the fourth time that one of these conferences has been held, and after reading about the three prior, I was so excited to finally attend for the first time.

I decided not to do a whole chronological recap, but instead I wanted to share a few of my reflections and takeaways. So, as someone who is new to blogging and new to these conferences, here are some of my post- HLS reflections:

Taking Risks Can Be So Worth It

It was intimidating going into a weekend with about 200 women my age from all over the country knowing nobody. It was intimidating rooming with 3 strangers, randomly walking up to so many people and introducing myself, speaking up about my opinions, and introducing myself to the various brands that were there. It doesn’t come easy to me, but I did it anyway.

My roommates were incredible. After literally 3 minutes of meeting each other, we were drinking wine together, trying on clothes, getting dressed up, talking about our backgrounds, laughing and swapping stories.

(Roomies! Shannon, Ashley, Me, Melissa)

Everytime I sat down in a new place, at a new table, in a new session, I tried to introduce myself to my neighbors. I tried to be open. It started to get easier and easier, and I made a lot of new friends.

Of course it’s hard to step out of your comfort zone, but every now and then, taking that risk can really pay off.

Be Authentic. Be Authentic. Be Authentic.

If there is one lesson I learned from the Healthy Living Summit, it is this. I try to be real and genuine and authentic in everything that I do, and it’s something I strive to live by every single day. I was SO happy to hear that this message came across by so many women this weekend. Whether it be with blogging, or just life in general, being true to yourself is key.

The message that came across is that when blogging and creating a name for yourself, be authentic. Don’t write about things you don’t believe in. Stand up for what you do believe in. If you want to write a long post about your dog, write it. If you want to write about what you ate for breakfast, write it. If it feels right to *you*, then do it. That is what your readers will appreciate and that is what will ultimately lead you to success in whatever you’re trying to do. I can’t agree with this more and I was so happy to hear this message reiterated so many times at the Healthy Living Summit.

(My roomies (same as above) + our 5th adopted roommate, Kristin)

I think that this is so important to stick to when meeting new people as well. Your blog doesn’t need to fit a certain mold, and neither do you. Be yourself, and nothing can be better than that.

Be Patient

As a blog newbie, this was an important lesson for me. Your blog, your brand, or anything in life takes time to build. Things don’t happen overnight, so just learn to enjoy the journey, take small steps toward your goal and have fun along the way.

Biggest Newbie Mistake

No Business Cards!- Do the Business Card thaanng. Silliest mistake I made was not having Business Cards. Next time I will be prepared!

The Healthy Living Blogging Community is Amazing.

For me, anyway. I felt like I had so much in common with the people I met.  Before leaving for the weekend, I was telling some of my home friends that I felt like I was going to be around “my people”. People who had similar visions, similar passions and liked to carry out similar lifestyles. Although there was a TON of variety among all of us, I definitely felt at home within this community. The people I met are so fun, incredibly passionate, and just flat out nice people.  They are also very supportive and helpful. We are all pursuing something similar, and helping each other get there. The amount of resources that I walked away with to help me grow is amazing.

(Melanie and Caroline)

And that’s about it for now. Thank you again to Julie, Meghann and Heather for hosting such a well-rounded, influential Summit. You all definitely pulled it off!

Off to the Healthy Living Summit

Tomorrow morning I am headed to Boston for the 4th annual Healthy Living Summit. As the morning gets closer, I keep getting more and more excited. The Healthy Living Summit is a weekend conference which brings together bloggers and blog readers who are all interested in healthy living. I’ve read about this conference for four years, and this year I was finally ready to take the plunge and actually sign up to go.

I am definitely a little nervous going into the weekend. I know that there will be a couple hundred girls there, and many of them already know each other. Some of them have even been in each others weddings. However, nerves don’t really matter. What matters is that this weekend will be an amazing learning experience and I know I will come out of it with unique connections to a lot of like-minded people. Aside from the people I’ll meet, everything I get out of this weekend is also going to help me grow my blog, which has become a really special part of my life. My excitement far outweighs any nerves. I can’t wait to see what the weekend brings!

(Follow me on instagram @studioeats for pics of the weekend by iPhone!)

Veggie Bowl with Pesto and Cheese

Do you ever just crave a giant bowl of veggies? No? I feel like I hear crickets out there.

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Well, I do. Every now and then all I want is a big bowl of veggies for lunch or dinner. But plain veggies is a little boring, even for me. So let’s spice it up a bit! Pesto and some real, authentic good cheese can take a healthy veggie bowl to the next level.

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Simply cook your veggies or chop them raw. Personally, I like a mix of cooked and raw veggies, so here you’ll see that I sliced up an entire zucchini and sautéed it with some S&P and olive oil cooking spray. I then added chopped 1 large raw carrot and 2 medium sized tomatoes.

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1 Tablespoon of Pesto and a couple Tablespoons of grated Asiago cheese went on top (clearly I had leftovers from my Homemade Pizza). Mixed all together, this was a healthy, light lunch. The pesto and cheese made it delicious and very satisfying, and because of the cooked zucchini, the cheese melted all over the veggies. Yum! For a little more staying power, you could top this with chicken, or any leftover protein that you have on hand.

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Enjoy!

Quite the Lunch Break

A couple of months ago I wrote about how nice it is to sometimes take a real Lunch Break from work. I wasn’t planning on taking any sort of lunch break today, but I got an email this morning from my friend Katie asking if I wanted to use a Scoutmob coupon that we had bought several weeks ago.

The coupon was $10, and it got us a sandwich, drink and chips, plus a $10 book credit at a bookstore called HousingWorks downtown. HousingWorks is stocked completely with donated books, and since her and I both love bookstores and food, we thought this would be a great purchase and a fun activity for us.

We ventured downtown and headed into the cafe.

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The book choices were really interesting, and since they were all donated, this was not your typical bookstore. Some looked new, but you could tell some had been passed along and had reached many people before hitting the stands.

It took me forever to pick out a book. I usually like to take my time perusing the aisles, but I didn’t have endless time to search since I knew I had to get back to work. I finally ended up with “Cutting for Stone” which I heard was great and Katie bought her 2nd copy of “Love in the Time of Cholera” since she lost her original copy. Since we had our $10 credit, we didn’t have to take out our wallets for these books. Sweet!

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Also without taking out our wallets, we both picked out the turkey/apple/brie sandwich on a baguette, chips, and ice waters.

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The sandwiches were heated and brought out to us. They were delicious!

We didn’t want the fun to stop there, so we headed over to Delicatessen for a dessert to share.

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(I spy Katie on the right)

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I’ve walked past this place a million times but have never eaten here. We sat outside and were convinced by the waitress to order their Dessert Special. Honey mousse on top of a raisin cake and white chocolate. Some sort of figs around the edges, and a side of cinnamon gelato that we special ordered.

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This was SO delicious. It was one of those desserts you eat in little bites and savor each one of those bites.

“Sometimes you just have to treat yourself” is what we said to each other. 80 degree weather, sidewalk seating, and a divine dessert split between friends. Quite a lunch break! And quite a way to start off the week. Now back to work 😉