Easy Caprese Salad

Easy Caprese Salad Recipe This will probably be the shortest post and recipe I’ll ever write here, but it’s pretty fitting for the topic at hand. After all, a Caprese salad is one of THE most simple dishes you can make. It’s a dish that’s so, so simple yet so unbelievably delicious. It’s comprised of just 5 key ingredients: fresh mozzarella, ripe tomato, and fresh basil with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt. While you can certainly add pepper and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, the most basic Caprese salad is still bursting with flavors that make it anything but basic. If you can find a local or homemade fresh mozzarella, even better – it makes all the difference in the final product.

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Cheesy Chicken & Artichoke Cauliflower Casserole

Cheesy Chicken and Artichoke Low-Carb Cauliflower Casserole

For my fellow artichoke lovers out there, this recipe is for you. While one of my favorite artichoke-focused items is the namesake slice from Artichoke Basille Pizzeria, it’s safe to say that an artichoke slice is nowhere near healthy. So I sought to create a low-carb dish that was easy to make and on the lighter side while still providing a ton of cheesy artichoke flavor, which led to this Cheesy Chicken and Artichoke Cauliflower Casserole. While you could easily swap the cauliflower out and make this a baked pasta dish, you really just need a vehicle for all the toppings. So in my mind, you may as well use cauliflower to create a healthier alternative. Cauliflower itself makes a really tasty base for this casserole, since it’s first briefly roasted to bring out more flavor before it gets combined with the rest of the ingredients.

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American Flag Pizza with Bacon

American Flag Pizza with Bacon

I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July! First off, apologies for the brief hiatus in posts, but I’ve been quite busy with a new job (promotion, heyyy!), as well as NYRR races, the Governor’s Ball music festival, and a recent trip to Napa and Las Vegas (for which you can expect a few retrospective posts!). But to kick things back into gear, I wanted to post a recipe for perhaps the most American thing I’ve ever created: An American Flag Pizza with BACON. After all, nothing smells more like the USA than delicious, greasy food and bacon, right? Right.

This flag pizza is actually relatively easy to make, as it’s a standard cheese pizza that just uses strips of bacon as the red stripes on the flag. The most difficult part is cutting stars out of cheese, which you could probably skip and still get a good looking final product. As for the blue, there aren’t many kinds of food that are naturally blue, but luckily blue corn tortilla chips work perfectly to create your blue rectangle. Frankly, the chips are purely just for show – we ate them off the pizza right after we took photos, so the verdict is still out on how tortilla chips actually taste as a pizza topping.

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NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon 2014 – Race Day Essentials, Personal Records, and Plenty of Eats

NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon 2014 Race Shirt and Medal

I’ve been quite busy of lately thanks to loads of running as part of New York Road Runners’ 9+1 marathon program, and of course, lots of subsequent eating. A few weeks ago, I ran and set personal records for my 10K and 5K respectively during NYRR’s UAE 10K and 4 Mile Japan Run. But those were all in preparation for my biggest race of 2014: the Brooklyn Half Marathon on Saturday, May 17. As someone who years ago couldn’t even run a single mile straight through, it’s pretty awesome to be able to say I’ve now completed two 13.1 mile races. As such, I wanted to recount my experience at The Brooklyn Half here for anyone else who is thinking of committing to running and signing up for a race.

NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon 2014 Finish Line Photo

It’s certainly grueling, but at the end of the day, the sense of accomplishment you get PLUS all the opportunities to eat everything with no shame (hello, carbo loading!) definitely make the physical exertion worth it. For the Brooklyn Half in particular, the course itself takes you past a ton of the main landmarks in Brooklyn, resulting in an amazing rush that comes from running down the Coney Island boardwalk to cross the finish line that is unlike most other experiences you can get.

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Spaghetti alla Carbonara with a Yolk on Top

Spaghetti alla Carbonara Topped with Yolk Recipe

Oh Carbonara, how I love thee. This creamy pasta accented by Parmesan or Pecorino cheese and bacon is rich and delicious, but until I started to learn how to cook myself, I had no idea that the thick and heavy version I’ve been used to eating is actually not the real deal. Authentic carbonara uses no cream at all – instead, raw eggs are quickly stirred into the piping hot noodles with grated cheese to create that creamy sauce carbonara is best known for. In preparation for the Brooklyn Half marathon over the weekend (more on that in a later post!), I decided to try out making spaghetti alla carbonara with pancetta as part of our last carbo loading session the night before the race, and it came out to successful results. I also made it again just last night with thick cut bacon and a fresh bucatini from Di Palo’s in Little Italy (one of my favorite places in the city) so you know this recipe is tried and true.

The trick to no cream carbonara isn’t so much about technique as it about timing. So long as you time things right and get everything else prepared by the time your pasta is done cooking, even a truly amateur cook can create a perfect spaghetti alla carbonara.

Bucatini alla Carbonara Topped with Yolk Before After

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Gruyere Grilled Cheese with Garlic Kale Chips and Rosemary Mushrooms

Gruyere Grilled Cheese with Kale Chips and Rosemary Mushrooms Sliced Side View

Okay, okay, so I know I said that my Rosemary Candied Bacon Grilled Cheese with Balsamic Apples was the best grilled cheese I’ve ever made, but this Gruyere Grilled Cheese with homemade Garlic Kale Chips and White Wine and Rosemary Mushrooms may be my new favorite grilled cheese ever. When I started this grilled cheese series, I knew that I had to highlight one of my favorite cheeses,  Gruyere. This sweet, salty, nutty cheese from Switzerland brings a fancy upgrade to so many kinds of cheesy foods, from mac and cheese to a ham and cheese sandwich. But one of my favorite preparations of Gruyere is in a fondue, which served as the inspiration for this grilled cheese. Rather than just making fondue and sticking it into between two slices of bread, I broke down the recipe for a classic fondue into its components: Gruyere, another Cheese (usually Swiss and/or Aged Cheddar), dry white wine, and garlic. After eating all that rosemary candied bacon, I wanted to make a grilled cheese at the complete other end of the spectrum – entirely savory and using vegetables instead of meat to complement the rich and nutty Gruyere. So that’s where the kale chips and mushrooms came in perfectly, with each vegetable cooked with the garlic and white wine respectively to provide an insanely delicious combination of flavors reminiscent of fondue.

Gruyere Grilled Cheese with Kale Chips and Rosemary Mushrooms

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Kamayan Night at Jeepney – An Epic, Bare-Handed Filipino Feast

Kamayan Night Jeepney NYC Aerial View of Whole Table for 10 Bicol Express Adobong Hipon Dampa Fry

Growing up in a traditional Filipino family, the kamayan style of eating with your hands is nothing special. There’s no utensils involved – you use just your bare hands to make a tiny mountain out of rice to act as a vehicle for the meat and other food items available. While certain cultures also eat with their hands, it’s still not your typical dining experience, and you would certainly get looks if you were to ditch your fork and knife at your average establishment. That is not the case at Jeepney in the East Village of NYC, a Filipino gastropub from the Maharlika crew that brings Kamayan Night to their restaurant twice a week, serving up a variety of Filipino food on banana leaves for a bare handed, family style feast. After months of wanting to try it out, I finally got a group of friends together and booked us a table for 10 to get down and dirty with some Filipino grub.

Even though the majority of my group was Filipino, it’s still quite the experience to sit down to a table covered in food. Jeepney has a pretty well-oiled machine in terms of their food set-up operation, as they fire the food right as your party arrives, that way the food is nice and hot once they seat you. This is the point when you should probably whip out your camera or phone to snap some pictures since once you start eating, there will be no way you’re going want to grab any kind of device with your hands.

You’re given a warm towel to wipe off before you dig in and if you aren’t Filipino, you’re also given an explanation by the waiters of exactly what you have in front of you so you know what you’re about to put into your mouth. Then there’s a moment where everyone looks at each other and it’s decided that it’s feasting time, which plays out EXACTLY LIKE THIS (and yes, I am a Harry Potter nerd #hatemenowbutiwontstopnow):

 

Jeepney’s Kamayan Night requires an advanced reservation of at least 4 people and costs $45 per person, which gets your table its choice of 2 appetizers and 3 main entrees, plus rice, sweet longganisa pork sausage, ensalada cucumber salad, and halo-halo for dessert, allowing for a great way to sample different kinds of Filipino dishes. Some items, like the Dampa Fry whole market fish and the garlic fried rice instead of white rice require a supplemental fee of $4 and $1 per person respectively, so if you opt for these (as our group did) the Kamayan Night meal costs $50 per person, turning into $65 after their 18% gratuity, 2% administrative fee, and tax.

Now as you can tell by my first picture, you are getting a sh*t ton of food for your money. For the 10 of us, the spread of food spanned the length of 3 whole tables. We actually saw the staff set up a table for 10 coming in after us, and seeing everything in giant bowls also makes you realize just how much food is going on the table. I did, however, go with a table of mostly hungry Filipino guys, so unlike the tables around us that brought home plenty of leftovers, we successfully cleaned off all of the food. So if you’re aiming to bring some food home at the end of it all, maybe try to bring a few more girls with you.

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Totally Grool Pink Clothes and Accessories to Wear for Mean Girls Day

Quite possibly the greatest movie to reference of all time, Mean Girls was brought into our world by Tina Fey a surprising 10 years ago. Has it truly been that long that we’ve been trying to make fetch happen and practicing our Jingle Bell Rock choreo for every holiday season? In any event, the movie is celebrating 10 years today with Mean Girls Day, a celebration of wearing pink on Wednesdays and 10 totally grool years.

Luckily for those who want to partake, the color pink has actually been having a bit of a moment in the fashion scene. It started with pink topcoats appearing all over the Spring Summer 14 runways, and now that we’re fully into spring, pale pink hues are totally on trend, showing up in everything from dresses to bags to ankle booties.

 Matching the pink decor at The Venetian Vegas
Nasty Gal Sweater | Rebecca Minkoff Mini MAC Clutch | H&M Leopard Shorts (similar)

I rounded up my picks for clothes and accessories in the girly shade – all of them would make for great options for any Wednesday. And don’t worry, these retailers carry more than just sizes 1 3 and 5.

 

Rosemary Candied Bacon Grilled Cheese with Balsamic Apples

Rosemary Candied Bacon Grilled Cheese with Balsamic Apples

Guys, I may have just made the best grilled cheese of my life. This grilled cheese was the result of attending The Big Cheesy a couple of weeks ago, as I left the event inspired to do a grilled cheese series featuring my own cheesy creations. I have a few different ideas swimming in my head, but this Rosemary Candied Bacon Grilled Cheese with Balsamic Apples was the first to come to fruition simply because I was most excited to make the candied bacon. I’m so happy I did because it turned out so, sooooo good.

Rosemary Candied Bacon

I first discovered rosemary candied bacon during brunch at a now-closed Italian spot near my old apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, and it was love at first bite. Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs and the earthiness went so perfectly with the crispy, caramelized bacon, so I wanted to make a grilled cheese highlighting this gift from the pork gods.

Rosemary Candied Bacon Grilled Cheese with Balsamic Apples Sliced Side View

This rosemary candied bacon grilled cheese features melty Brie and buttery Gouda to complement the sweetness of the bacon, and the addition of Granny Smith apples cooked in balsamic vinegar provides tartness to balance things out so it doesn’t end up being overly sweet. The end result is a rich, utterly indulgent, crazy delicious balance of sweet, savory, buttery, cheesy goodness.

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Easy Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Pasta

Easy Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Pasta Recipe

It’s officially spring, but Winter is apparently a psycho ex that won’t go away as it’s been hovering in the realm of 40s and windy the past few days in NYC. In times like these, I skip the kale and quinoa and go for the comforting stuff, especially after a hard workout when my metabolism is still running wild. Indeed, after trekking back from the gym in the frigid cold, all I wanted was something warm and gooey, and if it’s got some heat, all the better. Since I had a block of low fat cream cheese stocked, I decided to fulfill my comfort food craving with this creamy, spicy, cheesy buffalo chicken pasta.

This bowl of pasta may not look the most appetizing, but that’s only because crumbled blue cheese, while delicious, isn’t the most photogenic food item (that honor probably goes to eggs). But if you’re a fan of the blue stuff like I am, don’t let its looks stop you from adding a healthy dose of blue cheese on top of your pasta – it adds that perfect amount of salt and tang to the chicken, hot sauce, and cream cheese in the pasta to provide the flavors of classic buffalo wings with blue cheese dressing. In retrospect, I probably could have added the blue cheese into the sauce while it was cooking so it’s masked in the sauce (and you can certainly do this if you choose) but I personally like seeing and choosing exactly how much of the cheese goes into each bite.

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