Graze – Quick Review

In our day of emails and texts, real mail is fun to receive. That being said, I’m a huge fan of boxes. I’ve been receiving Birchbox for about a year now and have never been disappointed. I also enjoy Julep, which sends fabulous nail polishes monthly. My newest box to try is graze; originally from the U.K., graze is a snail mail box-delivery providing snacks. The company launched in the United States in December 2013 and have had huge growth as a result. With a price tag of just $6/box, I decided to give it a whirl.

You get to decide how often you receive your snack box, whether it be weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. You also get to rate snack items; doing so determines what you’ll receive. They offer great variety of options, with both sweet and savory items well-covered. I received my first box today at my office and love it. The snack sizes are just perfect and everything tastes great. I always try to include ‘healthy snacks for work’ in my weekly grocery shopping but oftentimes end up forgetting my tasty treats in my pantry at home, completely defeating their purpose. A weekly graze box takes care of that. Since they’re snacks of the no-refrigeration-required variety, I can just pop my box in one of my desk drawers (or leave it in the office kitchen). It’s easy, everything is super tasty and I don’t have to do a thing but rate snacks on their site.

FullSizeRender_1My favorite from this box would be the apple and cinnamon flapjack. Although like I said, it’s all delicious. I also really like that they include nutrition facts in the little booklet. If you’re into boxes and food, this is definitely worth trying out.

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Kimchi, Cucumber & Avocado Salad

While I was in college, I worked at Japanese sushi restaurant. Like most Japanese restaurants in the U.S., the place at which I worked was owned and operated by a Korean family. Before each shift, all employees and the owner (who was also the head chef) would sit down for a meal. This meal was usually interesting, sometimes a little strange and always very Korean. It’s not surprising then that kimchi was such a common occurrence on the table. Strange to me at first, kimchi became something I crave quite often. I go through spurts when I eat it just about daily and while I don’t make my own, the store bought variety fits the bill just fine for me.

My favorite way to eat kimchi is simply as a salad topper.

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ingredients
1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
1 t fish sauce
1/4 c kimchi
1/2 T basil, chopped
Dash black pepper

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Pumpkin Macaroni & Cheese

Fall has become synonymous with pumpkins – anything and everything pumpkin imaginable. There are many other flavors and foods I enjoy in the fall months but the obsession with pumpkin does hearken to seasonality. Not only are pumpkins in season but so are brussels sprouts, carrots, sage, rutabagas and a myriad of squash and gourds. Early fall is a time for a shifting of gears from tomatoes, cucumbers and the like to the fall crops.

That being said, I do love pumpkin. We tend polarize it more than other squash varieties by relegating it to pies, breads and lattes; rather than restricting this gourd, we should let it’s versatility shine. Many years ago, I remember watching Food Network’s Ellie Krieger put together a beautiful macaroni and cheese in which she incorporated squash puree to sneak in vegetables. After stocking up on pumpkin puree this dish came to mind and I decided to try my hand at a pumpkin macaroni and cheese. With classic Southern mac & cheese in mind, I put together what I thought would a full-bodied pumpkin version and I was not disappointed. The result was deliciously creamy, cheesy and rich albeit not low in fat by any means but that’s okay with me;

Finished Product (2)

Ingredients

10 oz whole wheat elbow macaroni or mini penne
1 1/2 c pumpkin puree
1/2 c dry white wine
1/4 c unsalted chicken stock
1 c milk
1/2 c cream
2 oz. pancetta, choppped
1/2 shallot, chopped
1/2 c ricotta
1/8 t cardamom
1 t dijon mustard
1 pinch salt
1/4 t chili powder
1 t rosemary, finely chopped
1 c sharp cheddar, finely grated
1/4 c Jarlsberg, finely grated
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 c shaved Parmesan
2 slices deli cheese, provolone or swiss

Instructions

Heat oven to 375F.

Cook pasta until al dente, drain and set aside.

In a small pan, saute chopped shallot and pancetta. Set aside.

Chopped Pancetta Chopped Shallots

In a large saucepan, bring white wine and chicken stock to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and stir in pumpkin, milk, ricotta, shallots and pancetta. Allow to cook over medium for about 15 minutes; stir in cardamom, dijon, rosemary, chili powder, salt and pepper. Temper beaten eggs with sauce (so as not to scramble); then add to sauce.

Tempering Eggs

Slowly stir in sharp cheddar and Jarlsberg until combined. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce.

Adding Cheese to Sauce

Combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Set aside. Pour pasta and sauce into a 9×9 baking dish. Tear apart slices of deli cheese and add place on top of pasta. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and Parmesan over top.

Cheese Breadcrumb Topping

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and golden. Serve hot.

Finished Product

Servings Given

Black Bean Espresso Chili

Well I believe it’s safe to say that fall weather is officially here in South Carolina, which means late spring temperatures in the afternoon and winter temperatures at night. With that said, our low here in the Lowcountry was in the forties Sunday night and into Monday morning. When the weather turns chilly, what better to warm you up than soup or stew, or how about chili? I decided to go the chili route.

The wonderful thing about chili is that is that it’s infinitely adjustable and this recipe is something I scrapped together from my pantry and took very little effort. The espresso adds a mysterious smoky zip that’s complimented by a dash of cinnamon. The pumpkin doesn’t stand out on its own, but rather works to add thickness and depth (no, it won’t taste like pumpkin spice chili). I added a little more spice than I recorded, simply because my hunny loves him some hot chili. The way it’s recorded is more to my taste but it’s equally good extra spicy. I have to admit this was pretty addictive – I already have requests to make this again.

 Served with Shrimp

Black Bean Espresso Chili

3 T olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 16 oz can unseasoned black beans, drained
1 17.64 oz box rustic chopped tomatoes, undrained
1 c pumpkin puree
1-2 c water
1 1/2 T instant espresso powder
2 T chili paste
2 T cayenne
1/4 t cinnamon
1 t cumin
3 T fresh cilantro, chopped, plus extra for serving
1/2 t black pepper
1 1/2 T Sriracha
Plain Greek yogurt to serve, optional
1 1/2 T green onion, chopped, to serve, optional
In a large saucepan, cook red onion over medium heat until just softened. Add garlic and cook until golden.

Sautee Onion

Add black beans, tomatoes, pumpkin puree and water; stir well to combine and bring to a low boil for about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and ad espresso, chili paste, cayenne, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, Sriracha and cilantro.

Add Tomatoes

Add Chili Paste

Cover and allow to simmer for 30-45 minutes, checking for sticking and stirring every few minutes.

Serve topped with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, cilantro and green onion. I added sauteed shrimp to mine as well, you know for extra protein and just because I love me some skrumps.


Served with Shrimp

Blue Cheese-Balsamic Roasted Cauliflower

I had no intentions of making anything blog-worthy for supper last night: I marinated a large salmon filet in orange juice, bourbon, soy sauce and honey, topped it with fresh dill and broiled. This is served quite often in my home. The particularly great part of supper was not this salmon, although it is always more than satisfying, but was this cauliflower dish I threw together in a rather haphazard manner.

Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that everyone loves to hate. I’ll admit that it usually not presented in the best way. As a child, cauliflower was rarely served and when it was, it was typically mushy and slathered in some yellow-orange ‘cheese sauce’ or on vegetable trays with copious amounts of ranch dressing. When I decided on last night’s vegetable, I was almost hesitant to use the big white bunch staring up at me from the crisper but I washed it and went about dissecting it. From that point, I just threw together a few ingredients from my refrigerator and cupboard. The result was almost too good to let go to the oven – I ate a good 25% of it uncooked because it was just so darn tasty. The finished product had just enough creaminess, just enough crunch and the balsamic resulted in just the right amount of caramelization. Also, cauliflower is chock full of vitamin C, K, B6 and omega-3’s, among other vitamins and nutrients, so eat up!

Blue Cheese Balsamic Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower, washed and separated in florets
3 T olive oil
1/4 red onion, chopped
2 T or a good drizzling balsamic vinegar
1 T herbes de Provence
1/4 c blue cheese crumbles (blue cheese dressing would work well and lend creaminess)
1/4 c shredded Romano or Parmesan, optional.

Heat oven to 450F.

In a large bowl, toss cauliflower florets and chopped red onion with olive oil. Toss in herbes de Provence and blue cheese.

Drizzle in balsamic and stir to combine.

Place in 9×9 glass dish and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and top with Romano; return to oven for 5 additional minutes.

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Pan-Seared Lebanese Lamb Chops and Roasted Eggplant with Toasted Hickory Nuts

I don’t believe that I’ve yet to rave about my love for this highly under appreciated meat. Growing up, lamb was never cooked in my house; my mom said it made her sad to think of cooking the lamb of God. I find that idea to be pretty ridiculous since in my line of thinking, all creatures are of God and I happily consume others, so why leave out the lamb?

My first introduction to lamb was at a wonderful Greek restaurant that is sadly now closed. The place was in North Charleston and looked a bit dingy on the outside but once you walked in, the smells were intoxicating. I remember going as a little girl and marveling at the two gigantic fish tanks in one of which a huge eel slowly crept. North Towne, as it was called, had the best of just about anything you’d expect to find it your standard Greek restaurant. Most people probably don’t know this but Charleston has a large and long-standing Greek population; our local cuisine has been graced with that of the Greeks for well over a century. That being said, I owe it to Charleston Greeks for introducing me to lamb as a young child who refused to order from the lacking kid’s menu. The subtleties of its taste are outstanding. Provided it is properly prepared, lamb is tender, succulent and bursting with flavor. I would gladly denounce beef for the rest of my life it was reasonable to replace it with lamb. As it is, lamb is not the easiest meat to come across in the U.S. Americans don’t seem to appreciate it like so many other regions of the world.

With my introduction to lamb being Greek, it’s not surprising that my favorite preparations tend to be Mediterranean. When people think of the Mediterranean, they’re usually thinking of Europe – Greece, Italy, southern France. However, the Mediterranean is vast and includes the Middle East and Northern Africa. With borders touching Israel, Jordan and Syria, Lebanon is right on the Mediterranean. Among my cookbook collection is a small, old Lebanese recipe collection, much like one that you’d have from any of your local Baptist churches. The recipe I am sharing today borrows heavily from these Lebanese antecdotes.

I also have to add that hickory nuts are particularly delicious with the eggplant, although you could just as well use walnuts, pecans or even hazelnuts. I happen to have more hickory nuts than I know what do with at the moment because I ended up a collecting a very large bucketful during an unsuccessful dove hunt this past weekend.

Served

Pan-Seared Lebanese Lamb Chops

5 shoulder lamb chops
olive oil
sea salt
2 T cumin
2 T cinnamon
2 T oregano
1/2 T paprika
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 mint leaves, chopped
1/2 c fruity dry red wine (I used my favorite red blend – Save Me, San Francisco’s Drops of Jupiter)
1 T tomato paste
1/3 c lemon juice

Ingredients

Place lamb chops In a 9×9 glass baking dish. Rub both sides of each chop with sea salt (salt as you like, I use very little). In a small bowl, combine cumin, cinnamon, oregano and paprika; rub lamb with seasoning mixture on each side. In another small bowl, whisk together garlic, mint, wine, tomato paste and lemon juice; pour over lamb. Marinate lamb for at least one hour, flipping once halfway through.

Marinating Lamb Chops

Once marinating has completed, place lamb chops on a meat cutting board and pat dry. In a heavy pan, pour just enough olive oil to coat the bottom; bring to high heat. Once heated, sear lamb chops for about three minutes on each side. Lamb should be rare to medium rare, depending on your taste. Be very careful to not overcook lamb, as it becomes dry and tough. Also remember that the meat will to continue to cook once removed from direct heat.

Drying Marinated Lamb ChopsSearing Lamb Chops

I served with a red wine reduction and the roasted eggplant included below.

Roasted Eggplant with Toasted Hickory Nuts

1-2 large graffiti or regular eggplant
olive oil
sea salt, to taste
herbes de provence
herbed chèvre
15 hickory nuts, chopped

Heat oven to 375°F.

Slice eggplant in half lengthwise. Slice halves once more so that there are four eggplant slices about 1/2″ thick each. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste and liberally sprinkle with herbes de provence.

Prepared Eggplant 2

Roast for about 10 minutes. While eggplant is roasting, place a small pan over medium-high heat and toast hickory nuts until fragrant and lightly darkened. Nuts should have slightly more crunch than before.

Toasting Hickory Nuts

Remove eggplant from oven and top each slice with desired amount of crumbled herbed chèvre and an even amount of toasted hickory nuts. Return to oven for three more minutes.

Finished Eggplant

And there you have it. I made this to serve two with enough for leftovers to bring to work for lunch. This meal would be great for entertaining guests or for a  romantic evening. I just really wanted lamb.