Lunch and Dinner

Spring Time Comfort Food: Mashed Sweet Potato

April was definitely a sweet potato month for me. Spring arrived, but let’s be real. It was damn cold several days this month, and there weren’t nearly enough Spring goodies at the farmers market (though I was delighted at the arrival of spinach). But sweet potato is amazing anytime of year.

I had never heard of Irish colcannon, but when I saw this healthier adaption of it, I had to whip some up for myself. Mashed sweet potato with kale mixed in, topped with crumbled crispy bacon, fresh rosemary, and a nice pat of butter…heaven. I made a meal out of it.


A Sticky/Sweet/Boozy Goodbye

A few months ago, I came across this recipe for Sticky Spiked Double-Apple Cake with a Brown Sugar-Brandy Sauce. How sexy does that sound? I had been meaning to make it for ages but, I don’t know. As much as I would love to, I’m not the type of girl who whips up a decadent dessert for no reason. Cookies, definitely. Cake? Not so much.

Finally, an opportunity arose. My friend Celine announced she was leaving the country, on very short notice. Like, I’m-leaving-forever-in-two-weeks short.  I invited the girls over for a Tuesday night dinner–it would be my last chance to see my friend before she moved to the other side of the world. The cake was actually not fussy to assemble at all. I popped it in the oven to bake for a little over an hour, while we drank wine and ate a simple but tasty dinner I fried up: chickpeas, spinach, and salami topped with browned breadcrumbs. I prepped the brown sugar brandy sauce right before serving. Divine. And with all the fruit and pecans in this cake, we didn’t feel too guilty about having seconds. Trust me, you will need seconds.

Goodbye, Celine! Super jealous of your move to Hong Kong. I wish you the best of luck. We’ll have cake together again sooner then you know.

Everyone else: don’t wait for a special occasion to make this amazing cake.

Growing Food

My Apartment Garden: Rosemary Bites the Dust

It’s been three weeks since my first post about the beginnings of my apartment garden. I thought it would be a good time for a quick update. I bought a rosemary plant a few weeks ago that was absolutely delicious to harvest and use in recipes. Sadly, my little rosemary wasn’t strong enough to weather the weird changes in temperature in April and died, boo.

Now for the good news! I’ve been giving the rest of my plants about an ounce of water almost everyday. One of my strawberry seeds sprouted. I set up my EarthBox and plan on moving the strawberry seedling there once it’s a little bigger. It’s been warming up here in NYC, so I moved the thyme and arugula out onto the balcony last weekend. Two arugula seeds sprouted in one plant pot, but none in the other. Out of fear of the two seedlings duking it out, I carefully removed one and placed it in the larger, empty pot. I was so worried I was going to kill it as its roots are fragile, but it’s already got four little leaves and is looking strong and healthy, woohoo! I’d say this is a pretty successful start. Tomatoes and zucchinis soon?


A Hearty Brunch: Sunday Sweet Potato with Onions, Sausage and Eggs

Breakfast is a luxury for me these days, which makes me SO sad because it’s my favorite meal. Unfortunately, because I’m a go-go-go person and like to maximize the little sleep I do get, I rarely have time to eat a real breakfast, let alone a lazy Sunday brunch. It’s unacceptable that I’m so inexperienced at making my favorite foods. So, a couple of Sundays ago, I was determined to make brunch happen. Never mind that it was almost 3pm and we had to rush out in 2 hours–we were going to sit down and eat brunch.

I was inspired by a recipe for Sweet Potato Hash with Caramelized Onions, Sausage & Eggs on the Kitchn. I get extremely excited when I see recipes for pretty much anything topped with a runny egg, but sweet potato, onion, sausage? Music to my ears. Because of our time constraints (facial appointment, holla!), I made a slightly quicker, down-sized version. The result? A seriously delicious, nourishing meal that we couldn’t help but scarf down within minutes.

Sunday Sweet Potato with Onions, Sausage and Eggs
Makes 4 servings
About 600 calories per serving

Adapted from The Kitchn

2lbs unpeeled sweet potatoes, washed and scrubbed
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound fresh chorizo or Italian sausage
1 large onion, cut into thin slices
Kosher salt
4 large farm fresh eggs
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat the oven to 450°F.

Chop the sweet potato into 1/2-inch cubes. Put the sweet potatoes, garlic, rosemary, olive oil, 1 tablespoon of salt, and pepper in a large bowl and mix to combine. Set aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Remove the sausage from its casing and into the skillet. Cook for about 10 minutes, breaking it up with your spatula as you go along, until browned.

While the sausage is cooking, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in another skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sprinkle with a little Kosher salt. Sauté for a few minutes until the onions are soft.

Remove the cooked onions and sausage from their skillets and stir into the large bowl of sweet potatoes. Spread out the sweet potatoes evenly in a 9×13 baking pan. Roast the sweet potatoes for about 30 minutes until soft.

Remove the pan from the oven and lower heat to 375°F. Crack 4 eggs over the potatoes, giving them enough space in between so that the egg whites don’t run into each other. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 10 minutes until the eggs are cooked but still runny. Sprinkle eggs with parmesan and salt, if you wish. Serve immediately.

Eating Out in the Dirty City

Eating Out in the Dirty City: Takashi Restaurant Review

I don’t plan on writing too much about eating out because part of my clean eating philosophy is that we should prepare most of our food and buy high quality ingredients. I don’t sweat it too much when I eat out because I only do it about once or twice a week, but at the back of my mind, I know I’m not giving my body the best fuel I can.

However, once in a while I come across a restaurant worth writing about, like Takashi. Located in the West Village, Takashi is dedicated to clean carnivore food that tastes amazing. It’s run by a chef of the same name–a third-generation Korean from Japan whose food reflects his cultural background. Here’s the thing about Takashi: aside from a few appetizer or sides, everything on the menu is beef. All beef. And all different bizarre and glorious parts of the cow. Most is meat you grill yourself at the table, but there’s also a raw section of the menu. Before you protest that this hardly sounds like clean eating, Takashi is actually listed in Clean Plates, a restaurant guide dedicated to healthy, sustainable, and tasty food. Takashi hand-picks where each cut of beef comes from, using only sustainably-raised cattle with no antibiotics or hormones from New York state, Kansas, and Oregon farms.

We started with complimentary cabbage salad, bean sprouts, and kimchi. Mmmmm love kimchi.

We ordered the Yooke from the raw section. This is a raw thinly-sliced chuck eye tartare in sauce and a quail egg on top.

This is what the Yooke looked like after the waitress mixed it up for us. This was definitely the best thing we ate all night. Man, it was sooo good.

Another item from the raw menu: Mino-Yubiki, flash-boiled first stomach with ponzu sauce. We debated which stomach to get (first, second, third…), not knowing the difference. Then the film The Human Centipede popped into my mind. I insisted on first stomach. (If you haven’t already heard of that movie, DO NOT LOOK IT UP. SAVE YOURSELF!)

We also got some ribeye, beef belly, and liver to grill. The ribeye and liver was good, but beef belly was definitely our favorite of the three. There was an item on the menu called “The Tongue Experience” that got me all curious. Maybe next time!

Quick Notes

  • Takashi doesn’t take reservations for parties of less than four people.
  • If you don’t have a reservation, be prepared to go early, put your name down, and hang out at a bar nearby for an hour or two (I recommend Little Branch). They’ll call you if a table opens up earlier than they estimated, which is awesome.
  • Two raw items + three grilled meats was enough to satiate two people with medium appetites, though they suggest more.
  • The service is great and our waitress was happy to explain everything and make good recommendations.
  • You will leave with happy stomachs and happy hearts that you got in touch with your primal nature. Meeeeeeeat.

456 Hudson St
(between Morton St & Barrow St)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 414-2929

Party Food

Rusty Chef Cook-Off Round 3: Mexican-Inspired Eats

On Sunday March 11th, I, Chef Snake VK, competed with my buddy and former roommate, Katie (aka Chef KoHo) to see who could whip up the best Mexican-inspired three course meal. AND THEN WE FOUGHT TO THE DEATH.

OK we didn’t fight to the death. We couldn’t even look angry at each other in this photo. A little background: my boyfriend’s roomie, Chef Homeboyardee, challenged me to a cook-off late last year. We had a blast and the scores were close, but I ultimately won that round. He challenged me to a rematch. I won again. Chef KoHo, who was participating as a judge, challenged me to Round 3. We decided on a cuisine that neither of us knew much about but liked to eat: Mexican. The event went down at my place. We had seven guests/judges armed with bottles of wine and a huge appetite.

Chef Snake VK’s Entries (me)

Bacon-wrapped jalapeños stuffed with cheddar, cream cheese, and scallions. Clearly not authentic but hey, we said Mexican-inspired, right? Get the awesome recipe here.

Slow-cooked Chili El Pastor–a recipe I got from Food52. The first time I bought a whole pineapple…fun!

I found this recipe for Caballeros Ricos while Googling Mexican desserts. Described as a bread pudding souffle, I found it more to be a baked French toast kinda dish. But dang, that almonds and cinnamon syrup was delicious.

Chef KoHo’s Entries (the competition)

Chef KoHo’s approach was to cook a mexican-inspired dinner using ingredients many people can find in the bodega or supermarket. And to cook it quickly, in case somebody has work.

Elote w/ spicy lime mayo, crumbled white cheese and chili powder

Beer & chocolate braised pulled pork tacos w/radish & lettuce slaw.

Chili chocolate pudding with cinnamon whipped topping.

The wine was flowing…

…and the judges judged…

…but finally, I WON. Barely. (Chef KoHo reminded me to emphasize the word “barely”.) But hey, a victory is a victory! But clearly, the true winners were the guests who got to eat two three-course meals without lifting a finger :) All in all, a fantastic, delicious night.

Growing Food

My Apartment Garden: Yelling at Seeds

All right, folks. Spring is here. I’ve read my first two books on growing vegetables. I’m ready to get started with this apartment garden! This is what I have so far. Two small pots with arugula seeds and two little seed cups I made from newspaper with strawberry seeds. I also bought an English Thyme plant at the farmers market, ’cause I needs my herbs now and I’m too lazy to start them from seeds. I covered the seed pots in plastic wrap to keep them warm and moist. All I’m doing to try get my seeds to germinate (and my thyme to continue living) is putting them by a sunny window and giving all of them a little bit of water everyday.

The first couple of days I impatiently checked on them constantly. I was so worried that they wouldn’t sprout that I resorted to repeatedly yelling “c’monnnnnnn” at them. The boyfriend didn’t think this was a helpful gardening technique. But guess what happened within a few days:

How exciting! The smaller arugula pot has a little sprout already. THIS IS THE FIRST LIFE I’VE EVER CREATED. Let’s hope I don’t let it die before it gets to grow into a big beautiful plant…that I will kill and eat in a salad with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

It’s still a little chilly right now, but I will probably set all this stuff up on the balcony soon and move whatever sprouts outdoors. C’monnnnnnnnn, plants!

Eating Out in the Dirty City

Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dogs for Dinner? I’m OK with that.

It’s hard eating clean in the dirty city. There’s just too many damn good eats in New York. While there are some places that make healthy meals and use high quality ingredients, let’s face it: we usually crave the nasty stuff. Sometimes what you want is a big New York-style slice dripping with oil. Or nachos. Or anything with pork belly.

I try not to eat out more than twice a week. I usually go for a healthier option and save half my plate for lunch the next day. Why not just eat out and order healthy food everyday, you ask? Because, even then, you really don’t know what you’re getting when you don’t prepare your own food. You can’t be sure how much oil they used, where they get their beef, or whether they do the right thing when they drop part of your meal on the floor (I have heard insider horror stories!) To take control of your health, you need to know what you’re putting in your body. And that means getting in the habit of making your own food.

That said, I love eating out. And I love eating everything. You can’t let the fear of not knowing how nutritious your food is stop you from going out to dinner with friends and enjoying what life has to offer. There’s no point in living in this city as a food lover if I don’t take advantage of the amazing food scene. I went to Crif Dogs a couple of weeks ago for date night dinner. I loved my bacon-wrapped dog with sour cream and avocado (pictured above). With some tater tots on the side. And a lot of ketchup. I didn’t feel one bit guilty about it. Ok, ok, maybe a tiny bit, but only because I’m so used to having veggies with every meal that it felt weird to go without.

Does it make me a hypocrite to write about clean eating and then gobble down a hot dog for dinner? I don’t think so. You don’t need to be an extremist, or deprive yourself to be a healthy eater. What you do once in a while doesn’t matter nearly as much as what you do most of the time. If you’re preparing high quality balanced meals and get your vegetables in, go ahead and enjoy the few times you eat something deliciously unhealthy, guilt-free. Don’t give it a stupid name like “my cheat meal”. Savor your disco fries. Or Philly cheese steak. Or Buffalo wings. Just not everyday!

What are your takeout or eating out habits? Do you struggle with eating healthy when you’re at a restaurant?