Batch Recipes · Big City Life · Easy recipe · International Cooking · Life Balance · Vegetarian · Veggies!

More than your average brunch

Before I moved to Brooklyn, I lived in the West Village in Manhattan for 5 years.  I absolutely loved living there.  Despite being in the heart of New York City, it really feels like a cute little neighborhood, with tree-lined streets and brownstones and families galore.  It was very similar to the neighborhood where I live now in Brooklyn, but the restaurant situation is on a whole different level.  Some of the best restaurants in NYC can be found in the West Village, and the variety of cuisines is incredible.  Italian?  Check.  Sushi?  Check.  Brazilian?  Check.  Ethiopian?  Check.  You get the picture.

Anyway, one of my favorite meals to eat out is brunch.  For me, there’s not much I would rather do on a weekend than get together with girlfriends at lunchtime to eat breakfast food and drink mimosas, especially on a patio on a nice day.  The only complaint I ever have with a girls’ brunch is that a lot of brunch menus look almost exactly alike.  You can pretty much predict there will be some sort of omelette, an eggs benedict or florentine, pancakes or waffles, potatoes, bacon, sausage.  You know, the classics.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the classics, but I really appreciate it when a restaurant thinks outside the box a little with their brunch menu.  Variety is a good thing.  One of my favorite brunch spots in the West Village, Joseph Leonard, mixes it up with some pretty unique regular menu items, plus every weekend they have a different brunch special.

One weekend, I went to brunch at Joseph Leonard and their special that day was a Moroccan chickpea stew topped with a poached egg.  I was intrigued, so I had to try it.  It was the absolute best brunch I’ve ever had.  The spices in the stew created a flavor bomb, and I am always in love with a perfectly poached egg on anything.  I wanted to bathe in the meal in front of me, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

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In my quest to recreate that magical meal, I ended up with what has turned out to be my go-to batch recipe for busy weeks.  This Moroccan chickpea stew is so flavorful – you get complex Moroccan flavor with just a little spiciness, then there’s a little pop of sweetness from golden raisins.  Yum!  Not only do I eat it for breakfast or brunch with a poached egg and toast, but I also eat it for lunch with tomato & cucumber salad, tsatziki and pita bread, or for dinner I’ll eat it over basmati rice or couscous with a dollop of Greek yogurt.  You could also use it as a base for baked eggs.  It’s so versatile and happens to be really easy to make using your slow cooker, too.  Set it and forget it!

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Moroccan Chickpea Stew
Servings: 8
Serving Nutrition: 180 calories, 6.1 g protein, 3 g fat, 772 mg sodium, 34 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ras el hanout
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 large or 2 small potatoes, diced
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes
1 large carrot, diced
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 (15 oz) can low sodium chickpeas, drained & rinsed
1 bunch fresh kale, chopped, or 1 (8 oz) package frozen kale
1/2 cup low sodium vegetable stock
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper

Directions
1. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat, then add onions and sauté for 2 minutes.
2. Add garlic and all spices and cook, stirring frequently, for another minute or 2, or until mixture becomes really fragrant.
3. Add onion and spice mixture to slow cooker (3.5 quarts or larger).
4. Add all other ingredients to slow cooker and stir to mix well.
5. Cover and set to cook on high for 4 hours.
6. Come home from work to an amazing home-cooked meal that makes your house smell like heaven.
7. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro if you have it and enjoy!

Note: if in a hurry, you can skip steps 1 and 2 and just put everything in the slow cooker and go, but these extra 2 steps really open up the flavors in the spices and make them pop.

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Big City Life · Easy recipe · Life Balance · Tasty Sides · Tex-Mex Recipe · Travel

Arizona Adventures

Last week was my last spring break, probably for the rest of my life, and I went to Arizona to spend 6 amazing days with my boyfriend.  It’s been a long time since I’ve lived like the locals anywhere outside of New York City, and I had forgotten how easy life can actually be.  We have a lot of conveniences within a short walk here in NYC, but getting there is like playing a game of Frogger: dodging kids on scooters and oblivious adults walking with their noses buried in their phones.  Then, when you get to your destination, there’s almost always a crowd.  Don’t even get me started on the public transit.  Being bumped by, having close physical contact with, and inhaling the coughs and sneezes of everyone on a packed train is glorious.

In Arizona, we had so much space!  We had to drive everywhere, which is both good and bad.  Clearly, there’s the benefit of avoiding the aforementioned public transit scenario, but it is more expensive and less environmentally friendly.  And the stores and restaurants are big and not always crowded…it’s incredible.  The only complaint I have was the heat.  It hit 100 degrees at least three of the days I was there…in April.  Summers there must be miserable.

Anyway, we kicked off the trip with a visit to the zoo.  Yes, we are adults, but we still love the zoo.  We got there when they opened to avoid the crowds for the main attraction – the baby animal nursery.  They had baby jackals and hogs and lions!  Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures because I was too busy squealing and trying to figure out how to get through the glass that separated me from them, but trust me when I say they were all ADORABLE!

Next, we went flying!!!  My BF is out in Arizona training to be a commercial pilot.  He already has his private license, so he took me up for a nice tour of the Phoenix area.  This is the first time I’ve flown with him and, to be honest, I was a bit nervous.  Not because I don’t trust his abilities, but because those tiny planes scare the crap out of me.  I don’t know what I was worried about, though.  We had smooth skies and it was incredibly peaceful.  Such a great experience!

To end the trip, we drove up to Sedona for a fun little hike to a swimming hole called ‘The Crack’.  The day we went was much cooler than the rest of my visit, which was good for the hike but not so great for swimming in cold water.  It was nice and relaxing to sit on the rocks and enjoy the the cool air and sunlight, though.  We had the place to ourselves for a while and it was so tranquil.  We were surrounded by the mountains with gorgeous red rocks and we had the background noise of the stream running over the rocks below us.  If you’re ever in that area, I highly recommend it.

Throughout the trip, we ate really well and stayed active.  Another perk you wouldn’t find in NYC without paying an arm and a leg is a gym in his apartment complex.  Oh, and swimming pools with grills.  We made good use of all of it.  We grilled steaks and fish, we swam, we hit the gym every day.  We ate out a few times, too.  There’s a lot of Mexican food in Arizona, so we took advantage of that.  One thing that bothers me at Mexican restaurants is the rice.  They usually give you a side of Spanish rice and beans with your meal, and the rice is almost always really bland.  It’s usually an orange-yellow color, and they sometimes toss in some chopped vegetables – bell peppers or corn or carrots.  At most restaurants, though, I have to dump an entire bowl of salsa on the rice to give it some flavor.  It’s disappointing because I do love a good, tasty rice dish.  So, I made my own Spanish rice and it is so flavorful you won’t even think about adding salsa.  It makes a great side for tacos, enchiladas, fajitas…really anything.  It’s also pretty easy to make and a lot of the ingredients are things I usually keep on hand anyway, so sometimes I throw some beans in and eat over spinach for lunch or dinner in a pinch. This version has a bit of spice to it, so if you don’t like spicy foods, you can skip the cayenne pepper and/or jalapeno.  You can also use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth for a vegetarian option.  Enjoy!

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Simple Spanish Rice
Servings: 8
Serving Nutrition: 111 calories, 2.8 g protein, 0.9 g fat, 23.2 g carbohydrate
Ingredients
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup long grain brown rice
1 cup chicken broth
1-1/4 cup water
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 medium bell pepper (any color), diced
1 medium jalapeno pepper, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

Directions
1. In large saucepan, add olive oil and onion and cook until onions are translucent.
2. Add rice, chicken broth, and 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
3. Stir in tomatoes, bell pepper, jalapeno, garlic, spices, and 1/4 cup water. Cover and simmer another 25 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Serve with chopped fresh cilantro.

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