Weekly Wish List

With yet another impending snowstorm for the D.C. region, most of my plans for this Saturday include the following: my couch, fuzzy socks, a cozy blanket, and various snacks.

So far, I’ve started the morning with a little online window-shopping. Check out some of my favorites below.

Hope everyone stays safe and warm out there!

 

Wednesday Wish List

Roasted Eggplant Dip

Roasted Eggplant Dip

Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables, especially when it’s roasted. It’s simple to make and I love the deep, nutty flavor. My favorite part of roasted eggplant is when some of the edges have caramelized and the middles of the eggplant pieces are creamy. When this happens, I have to stop myself from eating it with my hands as it comes out of the oven.

I usually roast one each week and use it as a side for almost any dinner during the week. But last Sunday, eggplant roasting took a backseat to Super Bowl (commercials) viewing. And a few days later my eggplant was a little close to being overripe, which is how this delicious dip came about.

Roasted Eggplant Dip

Ingredients

  • One medium eggplant
  • ¼ cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro
  • Salt and pepper
  • za’atar, a pinch for garnish, optional
  • Pita bread or crackers to serve with dip

Prepare

Preheat oven to 350°F. Wash and dry the eggplant. Cut into uniform, ½-inch pieces. Place in a large bowl and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add salt, pepper, and cumin seeds. Toss or use your hands to mix and ensure all pieces are evenly seasoned.

Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 35-40 minutes or until the eggplant is lightly brown and soft. Allow the eggplant to cool slightly so you can safely work with it, about 15 minutes.

Place cooled eggplant in a large food processor. Add the chopped garlic, lemon juice, Greek yogurt, the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Pulse 3 or 4 times to blend, being careful to avoid over mixing.

 Place dip in a serving bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, garnish with a pinch of za’atar and chopped cilantro. Serve with toasted pita bread or crackers.

Chicken Curry With Brown Rice

For me, chicken curry is a go-to recipe in the winter months. Served with rice or naan, it’s a hearty, warming dish that’s perfect for this time of year.

Chicken Curry

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1–inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 jalapeño, finely chopped and seeds removed (optional)
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup plain whole-milk yogurt, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro

Prepare

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add in the cumin seeds and allow them to cook until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Add the chopped onion and cook until browned, about 10 minutes.

In the meantime, chop the tomatoes and reserve ¼ cup. Set aside and place remaining tomatoes in a food processor or blender. Add the garlic cloves, ginger, jalapeno (if using), turmeric, coriander powder, chili powder, and garam masala and puree until uniform.

Once the onions have browned, add the tomato mixture plus the reserved ¼ cup of chopped tomatoes to pot and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Then add the chicken and mix to coat all the pieces of chicken with the tomato mixture. Cook for about 5-7 minutes.

Add the chicken stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium low and allow to simmer (uncovered) for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened slightly.

Once chicken is cooked, remove from heat. Slowly stir in the yogurt and chopped cilantro and mix to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If desired, top with additional chopped cilantro for garnish and serve over rice or with naan.

Double Chocolate Brownies with Pecans

Double Chocolate Brownies w Pecans
If it’s not clear from the title of this post, I did not make any New Year’s resolutions regarding the limiting of desserts. And if I had, I would have fallen off the wagon this weekend.

These brownies are decadent and sweet and dangerously simple to make. I’m usually a little apprehensive when it comes to baking, with all the precise measurements and accurate baking times, but I have made these twice in the last week (one batch is for a friend, I promise!) and both times they came out perfect.

Double Chocolate Brownies with Pecans

Ingredients

  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup pecans (chopped)
  • ½ semi-sweet chocolate chips

Prepare

Pre-heat oven to 350 °F. Prepare a 8″ x 13″ baking pan.

In a medium bowl, add oil, sugar and eggs. Beat to combine. In another bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, stirring to combine until all ingredients are incorporated. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.

Place in oven for about 13 minutes or until brownies are starting to set, but are still uncooked. Remove from oven and quickly sprinkle chopped pecans and chocolate chips on top. Press toppings lightly into batter with a spoon.

Return to oven for about 8 additional minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the brownies comes out clean. Allow to cool before cutting.

NYC & The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

NYC Taxi

There are few things I love more than visiting New York City during the holidays. To be honest, I love visiting New York any time of the year, but between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, with the city dressed in its holiday best, it’s even more breathtaking.

Central Park turns into a winter wonderland with millions of twinkling white lights blanketing the trees and red bows and mini wreaths adorn the horse-drawn carriages. The department store windows on Fifth Avenue are dressed for the holidays (literally!) and food carts sell roasted chestnuts on every corner. Rockefeller Center transforms into a magnificent display with trumpeting angels illuminating the path to the enormous ice-skating rink and iconic 80-foot Christmas tree below.

In short, it’s magical. And I was over the moon to take an impromptu weekend trip to Manhattan earlier this month.

Below are some of the highlights of my visit. I will share more details in the next post. Hope you enjoy!

Plaza Hotel

Plaza Hotel TreeThe gorgeous tree in the lobby of the iconic Plaza Hotel gave the entire room a soft, golden glow.

We stopped by the Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel for a cocktail before dinner at Gramercy Tavern. The Palm Court is a beautiful dining space near the front of the Plaza Hotel with a domed back-lit stained glass ceiling, plush seats, and a round marble bar in the middle.

Cocktails at the Plaza Hotel

I had a glass of Seven Falls Winery Merlot and B had the House Cider Rules with Don Julio Reposado tequila, agave nectar, lemon juice, fresh apple cider, and cinnamon powder. The House Cider Rules tasted exactly like autumn in a glass. Delicious!

The Winter Village at Bryant Park

The Winter Village at Bryant Park includes a large ice-skating rink and pop up collection of 125 boutique holiday shops featuring artisans who offer everything from local foods, handmade jewelery, and decorative items throughout the holiday season.

Bryant Park Ice Skating RinkThe ice skating rink at the Winter Village at Bryant Park.

We walked by on our way to Rockefeller Center and I couldn’t resist a peek in the holiday shops. Then we took a break on a bench near the Bryant Park tree with a cup of hot chocolate and a full view of the skaters and shoppers whizzing by. It was a great way to spend the afternoon.

Bryant Park TreeThe 50-foot tree at the Winter Village at Bryant Park


Holiday Window Displays on Fifth Avenue

Hands down, the department stores’ holiday window displays are one of favorite things about the holidays in New York. Anytime I am in the city between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, a walk along Fifth Avenue is a must.

One of the highlights for me this year are the Tiffany & Co. windows. Tiffany’s created various winter scenes inspired by 1950s/60s New York City, complete with moving figures and meticulously placed iconic Tiffany’s robin egg blue boxes.

Scenes include ice skating at Rockefeller Plaza, enjoying a roaring fire in a high rise with views of the Chrysler Building, and a vintage yellow taxi brimming with the spoils of a Tiffany’s shopping spree (of course). Here’s a peek at a few.

Tiffany's Holiday Window

Tiffany's Holiday Window_1

Tiffany's Holiday Window_2

Van Cleef & Arpels created its own version of winter scenes.

Van Cleef & Arpels

Van Cleef & Arpels_Castle

Bergdorf Goodman’s one-word theme for its holiday window display this year is Inspired. The retailer features a series of windows inspired by the fine arts, performing arts, and applied arts. Each window showcases a different aspect of the arts including literature, architecture, theater, painting, music, dance, sculpture and film.

These windows were some of the most extravagant. Among other things, each one featured gorgeous designer clothing and incredible attention to detail.

Bergdorf Goodman_1

Bergdorf Goodman

Bergdorf Goodman_2

Bergdorf Goodman_5

Bergdorf Goodman_3

Bergdorf Goodman_4

Bergdorf Goodman_6
That’s it for now. More from my NYC trip to come soon. I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season!

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Peanut Butter Blossoms..
I love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter. I like both separately just fine, but together, it’s something I can’t resist. So when I saw these Peanut Butter Blossoms on a cookie advent calendar, two thoughts came to mind:

Thought #1. Those look delicious and I would like to try making them.

Thought #2. I would also like to meet the ambitious baker who has actually completed a cookie advent calendar. Obviously we would bond instantly over our mutual love of holiday baked goods and I could even help test the recipes (everyone knows calories don’t count in December). It’s a win win for both parties.

So, if you know of someone who has completed a cookie advent calendar, please share. Until then, I’ll have to settle for testing recipes on my own.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups flour (I used whole wheat flour)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • About 35 Hershey’s Kisses

Prepare

Pre-heat oven to 375 °F. Mix together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

In another mixing bowl, beat the peanut butter and butter until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Add the sugar and brown sugar and beat to combine. Then add the egg and beat until completely combined. Slowly add in the flour mixture and beat until the flour has been incorporated and the dough forms.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place on baking sheet. Use your fingers or the back of spoon and lightly push down on each ball to flatten just a little bit and to form a small indentation for the Hershey’s Kiss.

Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven. Quickly place an unwrapped Hershey’s Kiss in the middle of each cookie and place back in the oven. Bake for 2 more minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before enjoying.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

This is one of my favorite fall dishes. I start looking forward to making this soup as soon as the summer ends and temperatures start to dip. It’s rich, warming, and perfect for the fall. Last year I served it at Thanksgiving dinner as the first course and it was a hit.

One of the reasons this soup is so flavorful is because the butternut squash is tossed with a spice mixture before roasting. And these spices are toasted and freshly ground for each batch of soup, which intensifies the flavor even more.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients

Spice Mixture
¼ cup fennel seeds
2 Tbs coriander seeds
2 Tbs peppercorns
2 tsp pepper flakes
2 Tbs salt
2 Tbs cinnamon

Roasted Squash
1 large butternut squash
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs Spice Mixture
½ cup chicken stock
Salt & pepper

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup onion, diced
½ cup celery, diced
½ cup carrot, diced
1 cinnamon stick
Salt and pepper
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 ½ cups roasted squash, pureed

Prepare

Spice Mixture

Toasted Spices

In a small pan, toast the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns over medium heat. Keep a close eye and stir constantly to ensure the spices do not burn. Once the fennel seeds start to turn brown, remove from heat and allow to cool.

Put mixture in a blender or a clean coffee grinder. Add the chili flakes and process until all spices are evenly ground. Place ground mixture in a bowl and add salt and cinnamon. Mix to combine. Store or freeze in tightly closed container. This spice mixture can be used in many things. I have added to acorn squash and sweet potatoes before roasting. I think it would be great on any root vegetable.

Roasted Squash
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Peel the squash and cut into a 1-inch dice. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss the squash with the olive oil and then add the Spice Mixture, ensuring the squash is evenly covered with the spices. Place in oven and roast for about 45 to 1 hour, or until the squash is very tender. Allow squash to cool slightly so you can safely work with it.

Add slightly cooled squash to a blender or food processor and process. Carefully add chicken stock as needed here. The squash should be a thick puree, do not over process or use too much chicken stock.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot and cinnamon stick and sauté for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the stock, bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 5-7 minutes. Then add the pureed butternut squash and stir until smooth. Allow to cook on low heat for about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and remove the cinnamon stick. Use a blender or a hand held blender to puree the soup. Place soup back on low heat to reheat. If desired, finish with heavy cream for an even creamier, silkier soup.

Serve in bowls with some mascarpone cheese, a sprig of sage, or pepitas.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup.