Mexican Scrambled Egg Whites.

After a night of culinary debauchery, it is only right to wake up in the morning and apologize to your body with a little detox.

They say the best way to cure a hangover is to keep drinking….. well the best way to cure a night of eating too much, is to keep eating, but eat healthy!

Spending time with one of my very good friends last night she gave me the great idea to change up  my usual egg white omelete and throw a little something different into the mix…  

Mexican Scrambled Egg Whites

3 egg whites

2 teaspoons water (or orange juice)

1 heaping tablespoon of salsa

1 handful of spinach

Dash of salt

Get your eggs seperated and in a small bowl. Add the water, or if you like orange juice, a little taste of that, and whisk them for a minute or so! That extra liquid will make for fluffier eggs…

Next, saute your spinach so that it is wilted… You can do that in a pan with a coating of olive oil spray if you wish. I think any spray like that is an awesome healthy alternative to getting your veggies properly cooked. Then get your eggs into the  mix and scramble them up!

Top it off with a heaping serving of salsa …

One of my favorite brands… find it at Whole Foods.
…and you have an awesome breakfast ready for you! Well balanced, full of protein and nutrients, and of course a serving of vegetables to start the day.

If you want, put a dash of salt over top and toast yourself a piece of healthy whole grain bread to eat it with. Perfect way to get over the pasta and meat binge from the night before…

My favorite whole grain bread! High fiber, low calories, full of grains

S’More Granola Bars (via Sweet Pea’s Kitchen)

This girl has it going on with her recipe for these S’More granola bars! Definitely great for a snowy day treat, or even a summer time snack… But then again, anything with marshmallows makes me go mmmm.

Certainly just found my weekend recipe to throw together with me and the kiddies.

Two thumbs up.

S'More Granola Bars S’more granola bars! What is the first thing that pops into your mind? Is it family camping trips, summer time? Or maybe the thought of a warm delcious graham cracker with a toasted marshmallow and chocolate bar smothered in between? Is there really anyone that does not enjoy s’mores? I mean come on, you can’t go wrong with marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers! Even though the recipe says that it is a granola bar, I would not call it that … Read More

via Sweet Pea’s Kitchen

Currently Reading: Philadelphia Magazine (February 2011)

Philadelphia Magazine. February 2011.
Thank you Mr. Postman!
With the incredible timing, Philadelphia Magazine, in all of his hot pink glory this month, found it’s way into work via an early delivery from the mail truck.
Not sure what I love more, the idea to adapt my buttermilk waffles to a red velvet variation, the awesome write-up “In Defense of Uggs” or the insanely adorable “Make Out Session” feature, which is too cute to even attempt to describe.
I love it all this month and whether my productivity likes it or not, you know where my eyes will be fixed for the next few hours….
Thanks phillymag for another awesome issue!
 
… and in other news, can you believe January is almost over?

Velvety Healthy Lemon Chicken and Penne

I love deadlines, especially when I wait till the absolute last little minute to complete the task (jokes!!).

In this case, I just squeaked in an entry to Food Network for this month’s contest, boasting the theme “Pasta”

As promised I will share with you the recipe that for the first time ever I have actually written down. Until you spend the time thinking out proportions and ingredients, recipes are mystical. When writing down the recipe for all to see, the magic escapes the mystery, but in this case, this pasta dish is so stinkin good, I should’ve shared my secret months ago!

Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing…

Velvety Healthy Lemon Chicken and Penne

Cook time: 30 minutes (chicken can be marinated overnight)

Level: Easy

Yields: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

For the chicken…

3 chicken breasts

8-10 ounces light Italian dressing (suggest: Newman’s Own brand)

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup dry white wine

Juice from 2 lemons

2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Dash of salt

 

For the pasta…

1 box whole grain penne

4 – 5 generous tablespoons soy butter (suggest: Earth Balance brand)

3 tablespoons whole-wheat flour

½ cup dry white wine

Juice from 2.5 lemons

½ cup grated parmigiano reggiano

Dash of salt

Freshly ground pepper

Chopped parsley for garnish

 

Directions:

Begin by cleaning and trimming the chicken breast. Place in a marinade of a combination of all of the liquid ingredients listed for a minimum 30 minutes or overnight.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta until it is just al dente and drain. Wave a quick sprinkle of olive oil over the noodles and toss in a bowl to cool.

Grill or cook in a sauté pan over medium heat, all of the chicken until browned and cooked through. After removing it from the heat, cut the chicken into medium strips.

Finally, in a large sauté pan, melt the butter over a medium-low heat. As soon as it is liquid, sprinkle the whole-wheat flour throughout the pan and using a wooden spoon create a roux. Do not let the mixture burn, remove it from the fire if necessary.

Slowly add the white wine and lemon juice, adding more of the whole-wheat flour if the sauce gets too runny. After combining, it is time to toss in the chicken, coating it with the sauce, and at last the whole grain penne pasta. After giving it two to three minutes to absorb the flavors, finish off the dish with a healthy sprinkle of the parmigiano and salt and pepper to taste. Feel free to garnish each serving with some freshly chopped parsley and an extra side of cheese to complete the meal!

Easy, tasty... and healthy!

Thursday’s Tasting: Chocolate Brown Butter Brownies.

Every snowy day, I always crave chocolate….. Which is all your fault Mama.

Not one snow day went by when I was a kid that my mom didn’t reward our re-entry into the garage from a day of sledding, soaked ski pants and snow caked boots in tow, with a mug of hot chocolate. The same little kiddie mugs every time, and if we were lucky, she might even throw a sprinkling of mini marshmallows atop the steaming mixture of chocolate (she kept the “junk” food in low supply).  The best was when she got really creative and brewed up a saucepan full of homemade hot chocolate… If I still lived with you mama, I would love to have a mug waiting for me when I get home from work today!!

However, what I do have waiting might still serve to satisfy the craving. Well maybe.

This month’s issue of Bon Appetit (February 2011) features a larger than life serving of what they have determined are “the best ever brownies”.

 

Credit to bonappetit.com.

What does Aly do when she sees a claim like that? She takes out the butter, flour, and sugar and gets the ovens warm.

Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts

Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, chilled
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup walnut pieces

Preparation

  • Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 325°F. Line 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving 2-inch overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons water, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot). Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Stir in nuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
  • Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 25 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Cut into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 brownies. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Taken directly from the Bon Appetit kitchens, I figured if they were “the best ever”, I shouldn’t have to do anything but follow the recipe exactly. The 8×8 pan that came out of the oven could certainly satisfy a craving for brownies, but by no means do I feel that they earn the “best ever” stamp in my kitchen. Even when they were fully cooled for a couple of hours, they still felt like they were missing that little zing! that a dessert should have.

Some adaptations I might suggestion.

1 cup of HIGH QUALITY cocoa…. I used Hershey’s as we ran out of ghiardelli, big fat mistake

1 extra tablespoon of flour…. I might also suggest substituting cake flour for the all purpose. I prefer the consistency

Toast the walnuts before mixing them in…. It will capitalize on the nutty flavor, getting rid of the raw taste of the nut

Add 1/2 cup of semisweet chocolate chips…. Just because I say so. Double the chocolate? Yes, please!

At any rate, what Bon Appetit features on their cover definitely has potential to be an easy solution to stop people from buying boxed brownie mix. With a few simple steps, and still just one bowl (or in this case, saucepan)….

 

Simple, all natural ingredients.

Only takes about 1-2 minutes to brown the butter.

 

Using the foil makes clean-up and serving much easier!

crumbly, chocolatey.... brownies.

 

there can be a plate of brownies waiting for you on any snowy day!

(49) Pizzeria Stella…. The Review.

As I approached the corner of 2nd and Lombard Streets, I found myself remembering the sights of last summer. A bustling sidewalk, polka dotted by little tables accented by the deep reds of tomatoes, and crispy edges of pizza crusts, glasses of wine and beer, bowls of salad greens and patrons enjoying themselves in the scorching temperatures we never seemed to be able to escape.

Pizzeria Stella. 2nd and Lombard.

The reality of the situation was however, that the tables that once added color to the sidewalk were tucked away in storage, and I quickly had to shiver my way inside and out of my summer time fantasy world. I was finally a diner for the first time at one of Steven Starr’s latest babies, Pizzeria Stella, located on the wonderfully historical Headhouse Square.

A prime location for Philadelphia Magazine’s,  #46 on the Philly Mag 50 best, where on a week night there is ample parking and on every night the charm of Society Hill’s magical cobblestones streets, and little alleys and ins and outs amp up the appeal. This “upper crust” of pizzerias shines warmly. Literally…

The establishment is a step closer to normalcy for Starr. You feel at home. Comfortable. You don’t have to dress up to fit in with the trendy crowd and the type of ambiance that usually exhibits something from another planet due to his usual choice of wacky lighting, strange seating arrangements, overly authentic wall art, and confusing menus at most of Starr’s other creations. The flashiest accessory in the place is the glowing brick oven graced with Miss Stella’s name. It is the centerpiece to the eatery, surrounded constantly by the dedicated faces of the pizza makers, focused solely on their perfectly crafted responsibilities rotating in and out of the oven.

Stella.

Sitting in the very back corner of the dining room, I could use my hawk eyes and owl ears to take it all in. Craning my neck one way I could peep into a back entrance to the kitchen… Something one may find undesirable but I find fantastic. And opening up my ears I could hear the opinions of my fellow customers as they crunched into their pizzas or enjoyed the small silver saucers of gelato. All of my senses were fired up that is, until the antipasti arrived, and I could focus on nothing other than the upward movement of my forearm and fork from the small simple plates to my mouth. This was it;  Stella’s arancini were finally at my fingertips.

Much anticipated but slightly let down. The breadcrumbs that should provide a substantial casing for the inner creamy risotto were a hint too fine, tasting mostly like oil and less like quality Italian bread crumbs. And once my fork found its way inside each golden fried tasting, the risotto was overcooked, stepping from the territory of perfectly manipulated riso to a hybrid between oatmeal and overcooked pasta. The flavors were certainly there, I loved the use of the ricotta to add to the creamy consistency, but nothing can be done to redeem something overcooked, not even the absolutely ridiculously flavorful tomato sauce that the arancini were bathing in.

Arancini at Stella.

Maybe I love these little golden masterpieces too much to not notice the imperfections, but luckily my guest and I also chose a few other dishes to begin our meal.

The grilled octopus. A must sample. Octopus with that unmistakably charred taste, further elaborated on at Stella by a little bit of heat from a salsa verde, a little bit of comfort from the crisped potato slices suctioned to the plate, and completed by a series of greens and hints of fennel. Just purely said, it is a well crafted dish.

 

Grilled Octopus.

As is the romaine salad. It is no mistake why they put “ricotta salada” as the first ingredient when describing this dish. It is the perfect cheese for a flawlessly light but satisfyingly small salad. Almost like a pseudo Greek Italian salad, each ingredient compliments the other and then with the added mix in of the fresh mint, your taste buds are pleased but they are also ready to bite into your entrée.

With twelve pizzas to choose from, and the restrictive rule that you are not allowed to add an ingredient to any one of them, deciding upon that entrée was less than easy. A slice of each please?

It’s almost more fun that way though. Knowing that any of the options would make you happy meanwhile, you have to choose between, god forbid, a combination of prosciutto, smoked mozzarella, and arugula belonging to the “San Daniele”  or meatballs, san marzano tomato, ricotta, basil, and Sicilian oregano, belonging to the “Polpette”… I mean geez, don’t you feel bad for yourself!

Our pizzas of choice were impressive. The Polpette and the Spinach.

Polpette.

Each with their own individual flavors married by the amazingly thin, just right crispy crust, and the smokiness of the wood fired womb they both come from. Stella has created its own style, and its own recipe that I have yet to taste coming from another pizzeria. Bravo!

 

Spinach.

May I not fail to mention that the house red, a fantastically easy to sip Montepuliciano d’Abruzzo went well with each dish that found its way to my table. The wine list, for the caliber of restaurant that Stella embodies, is legitimate and intriguing. As are the mixture of local and imported beers that most all of the other patrons were enjoying an endless flow of at their tables full of pizzas and tasting plates.

Along with a glass of wine or mug of beer, everyone certainly made a point to enjoy a little scoop of house made gelato and biscotti to complete their meals. The stracciatella and the hazelnut variations brought me back to the hillsides of Tuscany, no exaggeration.

 

Gelato!

Not icy, not overly sweet, and exceptionally velvety, it was the cherry on top of a very authentic meal, without the fake red food coloring of the sundae cherry.

When you find yourself feeling at home at a restaurant, it is usually the case that you are in no rush to leave. Pizzeria Stella has that charm. It is not flashy even though it comes with the Steven Starr seal, and it certainly is not a place where you leave feeling anything but comforted and satisfied. I know I found myself disappointed that my meal was over… and as I scurried out into the cold, in the back of my mind I was already trying to plan out a return visit. That’s a good sign. [A A A A]

Great For:

Group dining.

Shareable Plates.

Romantic Dinner.

Week night escape.

Quick in and out eat.

Affordable check.

Decent bar scene.

Picky eaters.

Girls night.

 

Mangia!

 

 

Currently Reading: Main Line Today.

Thanks to my lovely receptionist, Jennifer, a subscriber to Main Line Today, I have had my hands on the February 2011 issue for the past couple of days.

February 2011 Cover: Main Line Today Magazine.

 

One of the best publications to serve the Main Line area, whether you are looking for a fun weekend plan, a great boutique, or information for a local photographer, they keep each issue useful and easy to read.

As if I needed more motivation to eat out at more restaurants, this is their “Best Restaurant” issue…. (Cue opening the calendar to see just how I can squeeze in visiting 47 more restaurants).

I always say how important it is to support the local economy, and all of the little restaurants with big dreams, so I will certainly be dining at as many as I can. Listed in alphabetical order in this issue, it will be my goal to create my own ranking system for each stop by the end of the year.

 

Also find your way to their website to support The Best of the Main Line. Each ballot must be completed by February 28, 2011 and all of the winners will be shared in the July 2011 issue. It is a great way for local hotspots to get the attention they deserve!

Favorite Food of the Week.

This week’s choice is one of my all time favorite, Kashi Go Lean Crunchy Bars.

If you are looking for a snack to bring with you to the gym for after a workout, to classes, or even to keep in the top drawer of your desk… These bars are a great choice.

They come in a variety of flavors, but when I get the big package I get a sampling of the Chocolate Almond flavor, the Chocolate Peanut flavor, and the Chocolate caramel.

Packed with lots of good protein and fiber as well as other vitamins, it is a perfect choice to fill you up for a few hours. Not to mention, it is a Kashi product so it is made with the best combination of whole grains, and sweetened with evaporated cane sugar.

(50) Square 1682… The Review.

I will in confidence say that for my first restaurant review, I could not have chosen a more wonderful hidden secret in Philadelphia. Maybe not so secret after Philadelphia Magazine placed Square 1682 at 50 on the list of “50 Best Places to Eat” and certainly not so hidden considering that I could only secure a 6 o’clock reservation last Friday night.

Chef Guillermo Tellez does it like I like it; simple and subtle from the outside, but full of life as soon as you step inside his eatery. An LEED certified restaurant, details are noticeable if you find them, but the decor for the untrained eye is really just scattered shapes, vibrant colors, and a simple ambiance. Thematically it is very much disjointed, but with the cuisine being considered, “New American”, it is only right that they invented their own flavor in terms of menu construction and interior design. That is not to say that I think the menu is flawless. I found myself struggling to understand not only the flow of it, but what the rationale was for some dishes being considered appetizers when clearly they would hold their own as an entree, and even why there needed to be so many dishes involving fish. I hate when that happens…. Not that I am any expert on menu formulation, but there is nothing worse than not being able to choose courses because you are spending too much time just trying to read the menu.

Seated on the second floor, a mere spiral staircase ascent from the hustle bustle of the hotel happy hour going on in the bar and lounge below, I found myself snuggled very comfortably into the booth side of one of the two person tables that dotted the center of the room. This was clearly the intimate dinner refuge for those that wanted to get some semblance of peace in a restaurant on a busy block in the city. The crowd downstairs cared more about their drinks and their shared plates, being a bar scene fed in from their sister establishment, the very hip Kimpton Palomar Hotel.

It is easy to forget that the restaurant is linked at the elbow of the hotel, in most respects at least. If it had to be connected to anything, the Palomar is perfect as it is far from predictable style wise, and stands alone as one of the few boutique hotels in the city… Therefore what filters in from the hotel, fits in with the rest of the clientele that 1682 caters to.

As I sat taking in the great aromas of my  glass of Predator Zinfandel, and enjoying cracking off bites of the well seasoned olive oil flatbread, the sites were minimal. Different menu items passed by my table, but with very little in the way of eye catching decor, I found myself searching for something to notice other than the what seemed like oversized desk lamps that cascaded off the walls shedding light over the diners.

 

crusty bread, olive oil flat bread, and focaccia.

My first course amazed me with the sheer extent of flavors and textures it encompassed. Bacon Wrapped Roasted Dates. A perfect combination of the sweet smoothness of a date, exploding in my mouth enveloped in a smokey sensation of the bacon, salty zip of the local goat cheese, and tied together with the pop of the piquillo peppers. At first I forgot what flavor it was that I was actually enjoying the most; it was stone ground mustard, marbleizing itself amongst the sauce that each bacon wrapped gem sat happily in on the plate. A spectacular starter, perfect finger food, and certainly something that Chef Tellez will find me coming back for.

 

bacon wrapped roasted dates.

In the same way, the lemon scented hummus amazed me, and as a little lebanese girl that is a rare occurrence as I have had more hummus in my days than 1682 has yet to serve to its clients. As my waiter, who was beyond spectacular to boot, approached my table with my second course, I smiled. The presentation was oh so obvious, yet I had never seen it done before. Hummus, packaged perfectly in a shallow jar, with house made preserved lemon slices hugging the sides of the glass. He removed the lid of the jar and balanced it gently on the plate, exposing the beautiful swirled around dip ready to be enjoyed. The garlic and herb naan could have been more fluffy, but with each dive it took into the hummus, the lemon flavors mixing with the nutty sesame tahini and the perfectly smooth chickpeas, it served its purpose. As I was directed, I didn’t cast away the preserved lemons. I urge you to follow suit… the slight chewyness of the rind mixed with the incredible sweetness that the once very sour innards had now taken on was remarkable. I was a little overwhelmed by the use of spices in this appetizer however. Obviously intentional, I felt that the spiciness took over your mouth after a few tastes and you lost the wonderful lemony influence that the title of the dish boasts.

 

lemon scented hummus with garlic and herb naan

For an entree that I did not anticipate choosing that evening, the Goat Chili, one of Chef’s specialities had a uniqueness about it that restaurants don’t usually choose to take a gamble on. Amongst several predictable options, this dish did not quite go with the rest of the palette I had been enjoying moments before, but it was a creative take on a very typical homemade comfort food. The black eyed peas were a great spin on things, and the pancetta’s influence was evident. I loved the presentation, the slice of cheddar cheese, floating like a boat lost at sea amidst the ocean of chili, keeping it’s mate, a hunk of delicious cornbread, above water, while it served as the bed for the piece de resistance, the shredded goat. That being said, I am not sure I would order it again. The cornbread got mushy too easily, and the amount of ground meat in the chili itself was a little overkill… But even if you order it just to taste the shredded goat, it is something to not miss.

 

goat chili topped with a slice of cheddar cheese and piece of cornbread.

As if I needed another reason to smile and roll my eyes into the back of my head, I made the wise decision to wrap the red bow around my evening with a taste of the Chocolate Bar dessert. This is the dish that a 3 musketeers and snickers bar spend their nights dreaming to become. A layer of fouilatine combined with coconut as the foundation to a heavenly helping of chocolate mousse delicately balancing atop was then covered by a significant layer of the most delicious semisweet chocolate, dotted with a puddle of mint gelee and chocolate covered almonds. It is the dessert that I am going to spend the next 300 days trying to perfect. I have never had something that combined the flavors of mint, chocolate, almond, and of all things coconut; it was a wonderful surprise to see a pastry chef take the same risks that the rest of the menu’s New American cuisine embodies.

 

the chocolate bar dessert.

The experience was unforgettable, not because it was my first time considering every bit and piece that I consumed both with my eyes and my stomach, but the service was spectacular, the presentation was original, and I truly believe that there is not another menu in Philadelphia that matches the one that Chef Tellez and his team have put together for Square 1682. A must taste. [A A A A]

(I am using the rating system of “A” instead of stars. A restaurant can earn a maximum of 5 “A”s)

Great for:

Shareable plates.

One of a kind dishes.

Bar scene.

Bite before a night on the town.

Girls night.

Weeknight adventure.

Romantic dinner.

Quiet meal alone.