Food Happenings & Happy Hour Wednesdays 6/22-6/28

Around the World

IndyExpo_BrandsI don’t know about you, but the last time I played around the world was in a fraternity house during rush at the University of Wisconsin. But tonight’s INDY SPIRITS EXPO bring us back with walk around tastings featuring vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila, mezcal, cognac and more.

General Admission tickets are priced at $50, but $75 gives you the full VIP treatment. Meet the distillers, brand owners, importers and others who make it possible for you to enjoy a great a variety of small batch, unique and artisinal spirits from around the world.

 

Pledge Allegiance to the Bar

NY Liberty Bar TourLooking for yet another reason to indulge in some afternoon cocktails? Home-bound on July 4th and looking to celebrate America’s birthday a week early? Then head over to the New York Liberty Bar Tour this Saturday from 1-9pm. The drinking begins at T.G. Whitneys and crawls your favorite Midtown East bars. Tickets start at $8 or enter to win a free pass here.

 

 

 

Get Your Eat On, Fancy-Style

FancyFoodShow

 

 

Get a taste of the most innovative food and beverage products at the 7th annual FANCY FOOD SHOW being held June 28-30 at the Jacob Javitz Center. Thousands of exhibitors from around the country and the world will be dishing out their latest products and that means samples! For $35 you can enjoy a three-day pass to this fancy display on everything from candy to cheese!

Past guest chef appearances that I have met are: Marcus Samuelsson (Aquavit, Merkato55), Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa), Heidi Klum (Klum Candies)

 

Wednesday is the New Saturday, for Ladies

Midtown East & Murray Hill bars are giving ladies a new reason to celebrate hump day with specials that we just can’t refuse.

Public House – Half priced martinis 5pm-12AM

Tonic – Ladies drink free 8-9pm

Van Diemens – Half priced drinks for Ladies

Choice – Your choice of 2 appetizers & 1 bottle of wine for $35

If you know of another GREAT HAPPY HOUR DEAL, post it here!

The Healthy Breakfast Cupcake

Although I believe cupcakes are on their way out, in terms of food trends, I can’t escape them. And with Buttercup Bake Shop and Crumbs on either side of me, let’s just say my consumption of cupcakes isn’t decreasing anytime soon.And the more cupcakes I eat, the more inclined I am to create my own and not just because I’m tired of paying $3.50 a pop.

Cupcakes seem fundamentally simple:

  1. Mix flour, sugar, butter, milk
  2. Bake
  3. Frost

So why are they so difficult to replicate in a healthy form? The reason is because the blending of butter and sugar gives cupcakes that fluffy light batter that very few healthy combinations can replicate. But through trial and error I will eventually create that winning combination of flavor and calories that will be THE HEALTHY CUPCAKE. But until I’ve found that perfect recipe, I’ll continue to perfect my Healthy Breakfast Cupcake.

The Healthy Breakfast Cupcake is really just a Banana Cupcake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting. This cupcake is a hybrid between a muffin and cupcake that makes for the ideal breakfast when you’re craving something sweet. Because the cupcake batter is made up of applesauce and Splenda, rather than butter and sugar, the texture of the stump tastes more like a muffin than it does a cake. But the sweet & creamy cinnamon cream cheese frosting gives it a touch of sweetness reminiscent of a cupcake that compliments a nice cup of coffee.

HEALTHY BREAKFAST CUPCAKE RECIPE (Banana Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting)

Banana Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart’s Banana Cupcakes

Ingredients

Cupcake

  • 1 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp Splenda Sugar Blend
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1 tbsp Canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed banana (about 4 ripe bananas)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Frosting

  • 4 oz low-fat cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts (for topping)

Preparations

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, Splenda sugar blend, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. Make a well in center of flour mixture. In well, mix together apple sauce, Canola oil, mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla. Stir to incorporate flour mixture (do not overmix). Dividing evenly, spoon batter into muffin cups.
  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan; cool completely on a wire rack.
  4. While cupcakes cool, lightly toast walnuts in a sautee pan over medium heat for about 4 minutes or until fragrant.
  5. While the cupcakes and walnuts cool, mix the cream cheese, butter, cinnamon, and vanilla with a hand blender. Gradually add the confectioners sugar to taste. The cream cheese mixture should no longer taste tangy but slightly sweet.
  6. Spread cupcake tops with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting. Top each cupcake with toasted walnuts. 

* Be sure to refrigerate these cupcakes if you have any leftovers since the cream cheese will spoil if left out!

Adventures in Late Night Eating: Silver Dollar Pancakes

After a wonderful evening of sipping cocktails and dancing up a storm, there’s nothing better to help you sleep than a nice hearty plate of silver dollar pancakes and bacon. And yes, at 2am, probably not the best thing to be eating but I just couldn’t supress the craving. So where did I go… MOONSTRUCK!

Sure, Moonstruck was packed to the brim with twenty somethings trying to prevent morning hangovers but so what? The satisfaction of late night eating is something that I just don’t think I could live without. And its a good thing I’m not the only one! My sister and my friend Allie joined me on our late night eating adventure to Moonstruck. And after giving the menu a QUICK once over, I decided to stick with my silver dollar pancakes and bacon. We also ordered cheddar cheese fries and a toasted corn muffin for Allie.

Moonstruck Silver Dollar Pancakes 

Moonstruck Corn Muffin

Moonstruck Cheddar Fries

Naturally I ate it all… and I must say that their silver dollar pancakes are phenomenal. Now this isn’t just my 2am hunger speaking. Despite the hour or my blood alcohol level, I still have tremendous judgment when it comes to food. And last Sunday morning, Moonstruck was dishing out superb late night fare.

So please, do yourself a favor and try the silver dollars!

MOONSTRUCK

449 Third Avenue (at 31st street)

200 West 23rd Street (at 9th avenue)

250 E 58th St (at 2nd avenue)

Giada’s Stress-Free Pasta

After watching an episode of Giada that focused on stress-free Italian cuisine, I couldn’t wait to make her Fusilli with Sausage, Artichokes, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. Now I’ve been known to watch quite a few cooking shows, so I am not easily tempted. But something about the combination of flavors in this dish inspired me.

Like all Hartley Confections recipes, I’ve revised Giada’s dish to suit my budget, available ingredients, and tastebuds. Hartley Confections’ Gemelli Medley features a hearty pasta accompanied by a medley of hot sausage, fresh cherry tomatoes, and spinach. Despite slight variations (using 7 items from the Top 10: Must-Have Kitchen Ingredients) all of the flavors remain the same and are equally delicious. I hightly recommend using gemelli pasta, which is probably fusilli’s sister, as it has a similar spiral shape though it is thicker and more narrow. I’ve found gemelli to be an easy pasta to keep al dente as it takes a great deal of time to overcook this particular type of pasta. I also recommend starting out with less cheese, and adding more as needed to keep the fat to a minimum!

I’ve halved the recipe which proves to be about three large servings that are great for stand alone meals. The Gemelli Medley is easily re-heated and makes a tasty, recession friendly, on-the-go meal which can made in 30 minutes!

GEMELLI MEDLEY

Gemelli Medley

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound Italian hot sausages (pork or turkey), casings removed
  • 1 (8-ounce) can artichoke hearts
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1  cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 8-12 ounces (1/2 – 3/4 of a package) gemelli pasta
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan, plus additional for garnish
  • 1/2 bag fresh baby spinach
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves (optional)
  • 4 ounces fresh or shredded mozzarella, drained and cubed, optional
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preparations

  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the sausages and cook until brown, breaking up the meat into bite-size pieces, about 8 minutes.
  3. Transfer the sausage to a bowl. Add the artichokes and garlic to the same skillet, and saute over medium heat until the garlic is tender, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the broth and wine. Boil over medium-high heat until the sauce reduces slightly, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Next add the cherry tomatoes.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the gemelli in boiling water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta (do not rinse).
  6. Gemelli MedleyAdd the pasta, sausage, 1/2 cup Parmesan, spinach, basil, and parsley (if using) to the artichoke mixture. Toss until the sauce is almost absorbed by the pasta. Stir in the mozzarella.
  7. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve with additional parmesan cheese, if needed.

Top 10: Must-Have Kitchen Ingredients

Every chef, from novice to expert, has certain prized ingredients they cannot and will not live without. And being someone who holds the kitchen quite dear to her heart, I have my own list of Must-Have Kitchen Ingredients that a chef of any skill is likely to require.

Though a chef’s ingredients will vary depending on the type of cooking they do, it’s safe to say that certain STAPLE ingredients are necessary for giving the food we all know and love that special something. So stick with these TOP 10 Must-Have Ingredients and you’ll be whipping up chocolate souffles before you know it. Well, maybe not souffles, but something close to it!

TOP 10: Must-Have Kitchen Ingredients

1.   Kosher Salt

2.  Olive Oil

  • This versatile and flavorful oil is great for sauteeing fish, vegetables, or meat. It’s also commonly used in salad dressings, marinades, soups, and even baking!

3.   White Flour

  • Aside from being a staple used for baking, white flour is used as a base for soups and stews, fried foods, and thickening sauces.

4.   Garlic

  • Adds depth and flavor to any dish without the added salt and calories. Garlic can be used in almost any dish and is especially tasty when roasted and paired with pasta!

5.   Chicken Broth

  • Another great flavor booster without the extra calories or fat. Chicken broth is a great subsitute for olive oil and butter in salad dressings, marinades, and sauces.

6.   Eggs

  • This healthy and nutritious ingredient puts the spring in baked goods and makes a great batter for fried and sauteed foods. Eggs also make a great main course as a simple omlette or a complex casserole.

7.   White Wine

  • Aside from acting as a wonderful beverage, white wine is fantastic when added to sauces, soups, and stews.

8.   Whole Wheat Pasta

  • The perfect meal when you’re pressed for time. This versatile ingredient works well as a main or side dish, dressed with cheese, marinara sauce, or italian vinaigrette. Whole wheat pasta also holds up well in soups and has great health benefits!

9.   Tomatoes

  • Great in almost any dish and available in any season. These tasty fruits are invaluable in sauces make great additions to salads, eggs, pasta, and even soups!

10.  Cooking Spray

  • This incredible subsitute is comparable to olive oil or butter and comes in handy for sauteeing and baking without the extra calories.

Adventures in Late Night Eating: Pastrami Sandwiches

When you’re hungry at 3 AM in New York City there are certainly no shortage or variety of restaurants to choose from. So when you’re craving a Pastrami sandwich and don’t want to go all the way downtown to Katz’s for the millionth time, where do you go?

2nd Avenue Deli MenuThe answer… I’m still not sure but in the meantime, the 2nd Avenue Deli will do.

You’re probably thinking, who wants to eat a spicy, heavy, Pastrami sandwich at three in the morning? And that is a very valid question that I’m not sure I can even answer. But as we all know, being under the LIGHT influence (of alcohol) can trigger odd cravings. And on Friday night, mine was a Pastrami sandwich with LOTS of pickles.

Believe it or not I’d never been to the 2nd Avenue Deli even though I live a mere block and a half away. So at the time, a Pastrami sandwich from somewhere I’d never been before sounded like a great idea. And being the only patrons in the restaurant, guaranteed attentive and quick service.

 

 We were immediately served a variety of  new and sour pickles with a huge bowl of coleslaw. The pickles were delicious and perfectly pickled. The coleslaw was good, though it lacked a certain something that I couldn’t put my finger on (maybe an herb or spice?).

2nd Avenue Deli Pickles

After debating on whether to order the pastrami or the corned beef, the waiter kindly brought us a sampling of both so that we could decide. My vote was most definitely for the pastrami, as the corned beef was a bit bland for my taste buds.

2nd Avenue Deli Pastrami Sandwich

2nd Avenue Deli French Fries

Minutes later we were brought out an enormous pastrami sandwich with a large plate of well-done french fries, just how I like it! Confident that I could finish my half, I began smothering my sandwich with mustard and coleslaw. The more condiments the better! Suddenly my mouth was full with spicy meat tucked into soft rye bread. I couldn’t have been happier. Bite of sandwich, french fry, bite of sandwich, bite of pickle, french fry. It went on until I just couldn’t eat anymore. And with FOUR PIECES of pastrami away from finishing I called it quits.

So was the 2nd Avenue Deli pastrami sandwich all that I’d hope for? Honestly, not so much. Though the meat was incredibly lean and nicely seasoned, despite the few drinks I’d had earlier that night, it was still a tad dry. But the pickles and french fries get an A+. And because I love pickles THAT much, I’d probably return just to eat them if nothing else.

Just one recommendation… go during day light hours. It’s a bit creepy when you’re the only people in the restaurant AND it’s much easier on the stomach!

2nd Avenue Deli 013 2ND AVENUE DELI

162 East 33rd Street (between Lexington & Third Avenue)

Tyler Florence’s Blintzes

Blintzes are such an underrated food. They are delicate and creamy and sweet and everything you could want when your sweet tooth is calling. So when it came time to choosing a dessert for a Shavuot Shabbat I had hosted a few weeks ago, I knew that Tyler Florence’s Blintzes would make the perfect ending to my wonderful holiday meal.

A blintz is a thin pancake that is somewhat similar to a crêpe (with the main difference being the fact that yeast is always used in blintzes, but not in crêpes). Its traditionally made with a sweet cheese filling and accompanied by fresh fruit or a fruit sauce. Blintzes are especially delicious when served with whipped cream and chocolate syrup if you’re feeling naughty. But since we were observing the Sabbath, I felt it best to elude temptation.

After all, blintzes were popularized in the US by Jewish immigrants who served them on Jewish Holidays even though they have no religious tie to Judaism. And its likely that most of you reading this have never even heard of a blintz, let alone tasted one, which is why I’m proud to share its brief heritage and Tyler’s wonderful recipe with you.

Blintzes are quite versatile as they can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert! And aside from cooking the actual blintz, they are fairly easy, and inexpensive to make. Like many other recipes I’ve posted, you can pretty much add anything you like whether it be a certain type of fruit or experimenting with spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg (in the blintz batter). I also tried to cut back on some of the fat and sugar in this recipe, so don’t be scared to use fat-free dairy products and cooking spray (instead of butter). I promise you won’t even taste the difference.

CLASSIC BLINTZES RECIPE (Adapted from Tyler Florence’s Recipe)

Classic Blintzes with fresh fruit

INGREDIENTS

Basic Crepe Batter

  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Cheese Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free ricotta cheese
  • 4 ounces low-fat cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 lemon, zested and finely grated
  • 1 egg

PREPARATIONS

Making the Blintz Batter

  1. Combine the milk, water, eggs, flour, salt and sugar in a blender. Blend on medium speed for 15 seconds, until the batter is smooth and lump-free. Scrape down the sides of the blender and pour in 3 tablespoons of melted butter.
  2. Blend it again for a second just to incorporate. Refrigerate the batter for 1 hour to let it rest. If the crepes are made immediately, they have a tendency to be rubbery; when you let the batter rest, the crepes have a better texture and a softer bite.

Assembling the Blintzes

  1. Put an 8-inch crepe pan or nonstick skillet over medium heat and spray with fat-free cooking spray. 
  2. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into the pan and swirl it around so it covers the bottom evenly; pour back any excess.
  3. Cook for 30 to 45 seconds, until the crepe batter sets. Lightly bang the edge of the pan with a heatproof rubber spatula to loosen the crepe; then flip it and cook another 30 seconds.  The crepes should be pliable, not crisp, and lightly brown.
  4. Slide them onto a platter and continue making the crepes until all the batter is used. Cover the stack of crepes with a towel to keep them from drying out. This makes 10 crepes.

Making the Cheese Filling

  1. Combine the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest, and egg and blend until smooth.
  2. Chill the filling to firm it up a bit so it doesn’t squirt out of the blintzes.

Rolling the Blintzes

  1. Think of rolling a blintz, like you would a burrito.
  2. Spoon 1/4 cup of the cheese filling along the lower third of the crepe.
  3. Fold the bottom edge away from you to just cover the filling; then fold the 2 sides in to the center.
  4. Roll the crepe away from you a couple of times to make a package, ending with the seam side down.
  5. Then heat an ovenproof skillet over medium heat, brush the blintz with melted butter, and pan-fry for 2 minutes per side until crisp and golden (you can heat them in the oven at 350 to keep warm).

Serving the Blintzes

  1. Place the blintzes on one plate (family style) and lightly dust confectioners sugar on top of the blintzes.
  2. Surround blintzes with fresh fruit and serve!

For other spins on this classic blintz recipe, check out Tyler Florence’s  Blueberry Blintzes or Ricotta and Orange Blintzes with Strawberry Sauce. Or, skip the baking all together and head to Veselka and try their classic blintzes topped with a wonderful variety of fresh fruit. Be sure to ask for extra whipped cream!

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