Sunday, February 28, 2010

I can eat sweets today - (no bake) lemon chiffon cheesecake

Today was a good day. I rose, took a walk with my dog, Cannoli, to grab a large, large latte and explored the area of Crown Heights nearest to Lefferts Gardens. Although it appeared to be a bit of a culinary wasteland, I wondered past a few West Indian fruit and vegetable stands in hopes of finding something seasonal to pique my interest. A meyer lemon, perhaps. Alas, no desired citrus could be found, so I retreated back to my apartment with a taste for something lemon-y to top off a relaxing weekend. My house guests reminded me that I promised some cheesecake glory yesterday and who am I to deny them?

I make a really good, easy key lime pie. It may not be authentic, but if you aren't in key west and you aren't entertaining gourmands, it's delightful. I think it began with a recipe from a Betty Crocker cookbook my mother sent me while I was in college and evolved along the way. Using my key lime pie as an inspiration, I whipped up a lemon chiffon cheesecake.

It gives the feeling of a meringue, but without actual meringue. You definitely taste cheesecake, but it's not so dense and overwhelming that you can't go back for seconds...or thirds. It shall be the death of your diet.

All you need: 1 package of (softened) cream cheese, one 8 oz container of lemon yogurt, 1/4 cup of cold milk, 1/4 (to 1/2) cup of lemon juice and about 1 cup of Cool Whip.

Mix the cream cheese and yogurt (save for two tablespoons) together with 1/4 cup of the cool whip. Gradually add in the milk and lemon juice to taste. Blend away. Place filling in your pie crust (I trust you know how to make or buy a graham cracker crust). Mix remaining Cool Whip with remaining lemon juice and saved lemon yogurt. Spoon over cheesecake mixture. Cover and refrigerate for about 3 hours or however long you can control your anticipation.

Dig in.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Fat Kid Friday: Eat your heart out, McD's Filet o' Fish.

Even as a child, the item I enjoyed the most on the McDonald's menu was the Filet o' Fish sandwich. I often lamented that you couldn't get one in a happy meal. Of course, because it's lent, Mickey D's is offering the tasty little bastards for 2/$2. As you may have noticed, it was the snowpocolypse outside today, so there was no chance I was going to trek to go get one, or the offer for two...or four.

Instead, I decided to do my own semi-tropical take the beloved filet.

Fast food is all about special, secret, super-duper sauces, right? I started to think about flavors I enjoy with fish. I like spice, I like lemon, I like things mayonnaise based. I mixed mayo with plenty of hot sauce, a dollop of ketchup, a squirt of lemon and a healthy sprinkle of Goya con azafron. Then, I chopped up a mango into thin slices.

I just purchased a nice, fresh demi-baguette of seeded Italian bread. While baking breaded whitefish in the oven for about 20 minutes, I sliced it and slathered my secret sauce on both sides. I laid down a base of mango. When the fish was ready, put it atop the mango, covered it with MORE sauce and it was ready to mangia.

Spicy, sweet, creamy and crunchy. I might just have If only I could get that McD's french fry recipe right...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fat Kid Friday: Egg rolls that look like hot pockets + a (healthy!) Lenten delight

Since it's Lent and I can't eat meat on Fridays, nor can I have my beloved sweets, Fat Kid Friday has become a little trickier. No s'mores can be had, no cakes can be baked, no juicy lamb burgers can be grilled. What to do...what to do...

Inspired by the phyllo dough in my freezer and my newfound love and appreciation for fake crab (I'm allergic, remember, I would do the real thing if I could), I decided to fashion makeshift oven-baked egg rolls. Very Rachael Ray of me.

In my head, it seemed like it would be an easy task. In actuality, I don't appear to have a future in Asian fusion cuisine.

I took out the phyllo dough. I unrolled it. I brushed a layer with butter. Added another layer, then more butter. I repeated this about six times until I had a phyllo base that seemed sturdy. For the filling, I mixed imitation crab with shredded cabbage and carrots, low sodium soy sauce, oriental 5 spice and a little red wine vinegar. I placed a hearty spoon-full in the middle of my phyllo and rolled it up into a cigar shape. I repeated this process several more times, placing the rolls on a baking dish and brushing them one last time with even more butter. After preheating the oven to 350 degrees, I put 'em in and baked the suckers for about 35 minutes, until golden brown. When they went in, they looked like a reasonable facsimile of an egg roll...

...when they came out, they looked like hot pockets. Served with a little sweet & sour sauce, they did manage to taste somewhat like egg rolls.

To round out the meal (and make amends to my arteries), I also made this Stir-fried Tofu with Red Cabbage and Winter Squash from the NY Times. It behaved and turned out the way I wanted it to.

Some changes to the recipe - no corn starch for the sauce; no peanut or canola oil, only sesame; red wine vinegar instead of rice wine and more ginger, a lot more. I also cut down the proportions to feed about two...or just me. This former fat kid always ate her veggies :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mardi Gras in Boerum Hill/ Lent begins...and of course I want steak or fried chicken

Here's a guest blog from "Monktapus," who partook in the Mardi Gras festivities on Tuesday...

Stan's Place, 411 Atlantic Avenue

Let me begin this by saying that I am admittedly a New Orleans groupie. I have always been fascinated by the distinctive blend of cultures that penetrate the music, architecture, and cuisine of the 504. From creole and crawfish, to Cash Money and French Colonial, my love affair with the Crescent City is unrivaled.

That being said, I have actually only stepped foot in the city for a brief birthday weekend (post-Katrina, if you’re wondering). Upon the recommendation of a native, I decided to check out Stan’s Place in Bourem Hill for Mardi Gras. Needless to say, a night involving a crawfish boil and live brass band is bound to arouse a little excitement in me.

I went into Stan’s knowing little to nothing about the elements of the cuisine of the Crescent. Hell, I didn’t even know how to break open a crawfish. As a matter of fact, I’m still learning.

But I did leave with a basic understanding of the foundation of N’awlins cooking. That is thanks to the restaurant’s proprietor Stan, who broke it down for me. According to Stan, the basis for most New Orleans/Cajun/Creole dishes involves the “Trinity” of celery, pepper, and garlic.

Browsing the specials menu, I ordered a lb. of boiled crawfish and an order of the boudain balls, basically deep fried sausage and rice balls (mmm…). Actually their consistency reminded me much of my aunt’s legendary rice balls. Crispy on the outside, yet tender and moist on the inside.

These particular balls were spiced with a house Cajun seasoning, and filled with andouille sausage, white rice, okra, and the “trinity.” They were served on a bed of lettuce with grilled onions, a perfect complement. Being the Sultan of Swine that I am, I ferociously ate up the boudain balls with heavy intent.

The crawfish was somewhat of a slower process. Unsure of just how to de-shell and eat these magnificent creatures, I enlisted the help of the bartender, manager and owner. I was rather embarrassed, but I figured I had to learn sometime. Apparently you pull the tail while simultaneously squeezing the body. It sounds easier than it actually is.

A little practice, however, and I was starting to get better. Then there was the question of what to eat and what to leave. My general rule is to leave nothing, so I sucked it all up, guts and all. Stan later informed me that the crawfish were imported that morning from New Orleans.

A pleasant surprise were the chunks of corn on the cob served with the dish. Corn normally bores me to death, much like that dastardly chicken. This corn, however, was so sweet and juicy, I had to inquire about the flavors.

Apparently the crawfish, corn and potatoes are all flashed into a boil consisting of bay leaf, garlic, lemon, peppercorn, cayenne, and a house seasoning. The sweet meat of the crawfish was perfectly contrasted by the fiery boil in which it was cooked. Served on a plate with a sheet of newspaper, this appeared to be as close as I was going to get to authentic N’awlins style crawfish in the County of Kings.

To satiate my thirst, I had a few Abita’s lagers (3 dollars a piece) available on draft, out of a beer cooler. Nice touch. I also tried a Hurricane (5 dollars), which I learned is a combination of dark and silver rum with pineapple and orange juice. While the drink did not seem very strong, it was light and fresh without tasting watered down. The liquor base seemed decent enough.

Still hungry, I ordered a bowl of Chicken and Andouille gumbo. Now, a few weeks back, I had my buddy Devin’s gumbo, which he slaved in front of for over 24 hours (I thought I was obsessive about my Sunday “gravy”). Stan’s gumbo had the same darkish brown hue, which I took as a comforting sign given Devin’s LA pedigree for making gumbo.

The gumbo came out hot, but not scorching, with a small heap of rice and scallions in the middle. Floating in the mix was the “trinity”, as well as some delicious okra, The broth (if that’s what its considered) was neither too thick nor too thin. Stan told me quite logically, the longer you cook the Gumbo, the browner it gets. They cook theirs for about 45 minutes.

Overall, my satisfaction was met, and I will definitely be back to try their “famous” brunch, as I am still feenin’ for a good po’ boy. Sunday brunch features different Creole-inspired music from zydeco, to soul and jazz, yet another reason for me to return.

A few words about the band, the Underground Horns. While they were not a brass band in the traditional, funeral-like sense, they were a talented group of musicians that weaved seamlessly through straight-ahead jazz standards, a little Ethiopiques, as well as some traditional New Orleans brass. Check them out at or by the 42nd St. “S” Train.

Ciao for now,

Monktapus of the Blogs


Today is Ash Wednesday, meaning that I can't eat meat today and every Friday until Easter. I also have to give something up. I decided upon my beloved sweets and Dunkin Donuts coffee. In the spirit of meat-free dishes, here's the recipe for my spinach and artichoke dip:


1 box frozen spinach
1 can artichoke hearts (or a box of frozen)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 package of low fat cream cheese
1 cup parmesan, provolone and asiago cheese shredded
1 tablespoon dry ranch dressing mix
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of paprika
squirt of lemon juice

Mix everything together in large bowl. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread mixture in a shallow baking dish and bake until lightly brown around the edges.

I fancy this a meal when served with pieces of pita bread or, hell, sun chips...

Monday, February 15, 2010

V-Day (pt 2) dinner - no reservations needed

The boyfriend and I had reservations yesterday, but we didn't quite make it there. The chocolate covered mango was a hit and he brought me amazing chocolates from Bond Street Chocolate in the East Village, so we totally ruined our appetite and didn't end up going. Of course, around 11pm we were ravenous, so I whipped up some Moroccan Chicken with Kumquats (which I picked up at my local Key Food) & Prunes using this recipe.

Some changes: I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of a whole chicken, decreased the amount of onion, added a very liberal amount of cayenne and used Goya sazon con azafran instead of legit saffron (that ish is expensive!). I served it over tri-color couscous.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

I hope that you're spending the day with your boo or besties. I'm giving you a sneak peak of the treats I've prepared for my boyfriend (nobody show him!):

For his graduation from college, my boyfriend's grandmother sent he and his sister to Italy and Amsterdam for a month. While in Amsterdam, they consumed vast quantities of chocolate covered mango (among other things, I'm sure) - they left such an impression on him that he still reminisces almost three years later.

I got the dried mango slices from Sahadi's and I melted the semi-sweet chocolate in my snazzy all-in-one double boiler. I haven't tried them yet (they're still drying), but my money's on them kicking Whitman's ass.

Food Porn (along the F train)

Think I'm the only one in BK cooking up a storm? Wrong! These shots were sent to me by the lovely Katie Martinez, as part of her Super Bowl Sunday extravaganza last week.

Spinach Arancini

Um, yum! Next time, I fully expect to be invited over.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fat Kid Friday: Breakfast for Dinner with Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Truth be told, I'm not such a pancake person. My mother never made them and I can count on one hand the number of times I've eaten pancakes outside. Curiously, all such occasions took place while on road trips in the "south" (which, to my parents, meant Virginia Beach - any further and you might as well call the klan and announce your coordinates! or something like that).

Anyway, earlier this week I looked in the fridge and realized a had a tub of ricotta that I needed to use ASAP, lest it go to waste. My first inclination was to make a Lemon-Ricotta cheesecake, which certainly would have been chub-tastic, but then I stumbled upon Bobby Flay's recipe for Lemon Ricotta Pancakes. It spoke to me. It're somewhat less of a fat ass if you eat me instead of a giant cheesecake.

Who am I to argue?

Pretty freakin' good. I made a few changes to Bobby's recipe. 1 - I used whole wheat flour. Not bad, but next time I'd use half whole wheat, half pastry, me thinks. 2 - no berries or lemon curd. I spaced out when grocery shopping. I did, however, top them with a generous serving of maple syrup, butter and sugar.

There are probably three left and writing about them makes me want to raid the fridge RIGHT NOW. Must. Ward. Off. Impending. Obesity.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sometimes you've got to suck it up and admit defeat

Occasionally a recipe doesn't go quite as I planned. But because my mother raised me to never, ever, ever let food go to waste, I'm still forced to stomach my own failures.

Maybe I'm being a little harsh. The butternut squash chowder wasn't THAT bad, but it certainly wasn't the glorious concoction I envisioned. It was saved by hot sauce. Hot sauce solves all the world's problems.

The recipe that I used this time (lacking in oomph pre-hot sauce):

1.5 pounds butternut squash, peeled and chopped.
1/4 cup onion diced
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup frozen corn
16 oz can chicken broth
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/8 tablespoon cinnamon
2 cups 2% milk.
2 generous dashes hot sauce.

Bring quart of water to a boil, add squash. Cook until tender, then drain and puree. In pot, cook onion and flour in butter. Add squash and all other ingredients except for milk. Bring to boil. Add milk and reduce heat, cook for ten minutes (do not boil). Add hot sauce, more hot sauce, more!

Hey, at least Cannoli liked it.

The recipe that I'll use next time:

1.5 pounds butternut squash, peeled and chopped.
1/4 cup onion diced
16 oz can chicken broth
2 red potatoes, washed and chopped.
1 cup frozen corn
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/8 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup half and half
hot sauce to taste

Bring quart of water to a boil, add squash. Cook until tender, then drain and puree. Add squash and all other ingredients back into pot, except for cream. Bring to boil and cook until potatoes are tender. Add cream and reduce heat, cook for ten minutes (do not boil). Add hot sauce to taste.

Or does anybody else have any other suggestions on transforming this dish from "eh" "I'mwillingtosellyoumyfirstbornforasecondbowl"?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Bowl Sunday Squash-Date-Bran Muffins

I have a bit of an obsession with gourds. Those close to me know about my...whispers...pumpkin problem. I will find an excuse to put pumpkin in anything. Pumpkin Penne with Spinach, Pumpkin Eggplant Goat Cheese Lasagna, Pumpkin Risotto, Pumpkin Cheesecake, Pumpkin Pie filling straight out of the can...I almost cried when Dunkin Donuts discontinued the Pumpkin Latte for the year. Yeah, I need an intervention. My strong love of pumpkin extends to other gourds. I've never met a squash I didn't like. This morning I woke up with a craving for pumpkin muffins, but alas, the cupboard was barren. I did, however, have a ton of butternut squash in the fridge that was on sale.

I was reminded of an exchange I had with an Italian chef. I saw him scooping out a butternut squash and asked if there was a butternut squash ravioli or gnocchi special on the menu that night. He replied, "No, it's for the pumpkin ravioli." "There's butternut squash in the pumpkin ravioli?" I asked. "What's the difference between this and pumpkin?" he said, "Zucca is zucca."

Yes! Pumpkin, squash, it's all the same! I boiled and pureed the squash and proceeded to treat it like I would a pumpkin when making muffins. The squash also stood in for egg in this recipe. I don't have anything against eggs at all (what's that old adage? you have eggs, you have a meal), but why not cut down on cholesterol where you can?

The end result was a hearty muffin - manly enough to please any guy prepping for the Super Bowl and therefore not interested in sissy-fied sweet treats, yet just pumpkin-like enough to make zucca-fiends like me happy. Granted, there are no such men at my apartment at the moment and my boyfriend doesn't watch football, but the recipe is still totally appropriate for today.

Squash Date Bran Muffins (makes six muffins)


1/3 pound of butternut squash, peeled and chopped.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat bran
1/4 cup chopped dates
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/8 cup regular sugar
1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon of baking soda
pinch of salt


Boil water, add squash and cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes.

Drain squash and puree.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

In bowl, mix pureed squash, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Taste and adjust, a pinch more cinnamon and brown sugar may be needed. It should taste more or less like pumpkin pie filling, just a little less sweet.

To squash mixture, add flour, baking soda, bran, regular sugar, chopped dates, milk and salt. Mix ingredients together, batter should be slightly lumpy when done.

Grease muffin tin or line with paper cups. Fill each cup 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 13-15 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fat Kid Friday: Takeout Made-In

Since I was a little, Friday has always felt like takeout (or delivery) day. Every Friday, my mom would get off work and then she and I would either go somewhere to pickup food or we'd go to the toy store and then go home and order delivery. My favorite thing to get was spinach stuffed pizza. Or a meatball sub. Or sweet and sour chicken. Or a shawarma and french fries. Yeah, you can see why I was fat kid.

Anyway, today I was having that takeout craving but since I just bought a ton of groceries to survive this apocalyptic blizzard they're predicting for Brooklyn, I felt it would be a waste to order out. I had a taste for Thai, but Udom would have to get my business another night. On the menu? Tom Kha and Thai Noodles and Beef with Peanut Sauce.

Okay, admittedly, I didn't make the Tom Kha from scratch. I bought a can of Amy's Thai Coconut Soup. It was alright. I added a little lime juice and hot sauce to spruce it up. I would have liked more mushroom and tofu and in the future, I'm going to add more veggies and a little brown rice to make it heartier like this ingenious individual. Still, Amy's did the trick for a last minute craving.

My Noodles and Beef were super-simple to make and the recipe follows below. If I'd had rice noodles or soba, I would have used them, but semolina never fails. Next time around, I'll add some green beans and asparagus to give the illusion of healthiness, as well :)

Thai Noodles and Beef with Peanut Sauce (for 2)

4 ounces angel hair (or regular spaghetti, soba, rice noodles, etc.)

Thai Peanut Sauce:

1 cup reduced-sodium beef broth

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1 teaspoon lime juice


1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon powdered ginger

2 tablespoons garlic

1 medium red bell pepper

1/2 pound lean beef steak, cut into strops

2 eggs


Cook the noodles until al dente. Drain and transfer to bowl.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sauce ingredients until well blended and bring to a boil. Once the sauce boils, turn heat down to medium and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper, ginger, garlic and beef, cook for about 3 minutes, continuously stirring. Add eggs one at a time and scramble with the rest of the mixture, stirring frequently to not burn. Add 1 cup of the peanut sauce and simmer until the beef is cooked through, about 3 minutes.

Toss remaining peanut sauce with noodles. Serve beef, peppers and eggs over noodles in bowl.

    Enjoy! Stay warm in the snow tonight, Brooklyn.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thin-Kid Thursday?

My friend, the amazing/talented/wonderful Nyjia Jones, is one of the most well-intentioned eaters I know. She's all about organic this, veggie that. For lunch, she crafted this delightful Soy Chick'n, Chickpea and Spinach Salad with a Yogurt-Citrus-Poppyseed Dressing:

But then again, she's also the dastard who reintroduced me to s'mores. A woman cannot live on vegetables alone - she needs marshmallow, too, damnit.

Lily & Fig on Franklin Ave

Lemon Coconut Cupcake - $1.25
Available @ Lily & Fig
727 Franklin Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11238

Definitely not my photography prowess @ work. Thanks, Stephen Cafe.

Coconut meringue frosting, tart lemon curd interior. The cake batter itself is a little bland, but at $1.25, you can't beat it. Definitely worth a visit if you're in the neighborhood. On weekends Lily & Fig sells fresh bread and, if you're lucky, you'll catch them on a day when they have quiche. I'm crossing my fingers that I'll happen upon them on such a day.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Grammy night grub

I like to make award show watching eventful. Good food makes me happy and when I'm happy, I'm less apt to throw something at the TV screen if I disagree. For this year's Grammy awards, I opted to make Faux Crab Cakes and Orange-Almond-Pignoli Couscous.

The faux crab cakes were a bootleg take on my grandma's version. She made stuffing from scratch, then combined lump crab meat, egg and seasoning. I'm almost embarrassed to tell you about my version, but it was a big hit so I'll be brave - 1 box low sodium Stovetop stuffing (*hides*), 3 packages of Chicken of the Sea imitation crab, two eggs, lots of pepper and a dash of lemon and hot sauce. I mixed everything in a large bowl, then fried the cakes in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, about 4 minutes on each side, medium - high heat. I had to use imitation crab because I'm quite allergic to the real stuff, a great source of sorrow and shame when I was growing up in Maryland.

The couscous was a variation on this recipe from Rachael Ray (I like to think of myself as a less chipper, more misanthropic version of her). I added the pignoli nuts and instead of just toasted, plain almonds, I coated them in olive oil and grated parmesan beforehand. I also always add a little honey to my couscous. The dish was simultaneously salty, tangy and a bit sweet. It was better the next day, but even so, it couldn't quell the pain from that Stevie Nicks/Taylor Swift duet.

Thanks again to Stephen Cafe for his superior photography skills. I pay him in sustenance.