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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Bacon & Caramelized Onion Brussels Sprouts with Herbed Goat Cheese

Nothing says Thanksgiving like roasted brussels sprouts. I know that brussels sprouts get a bad rap, but if you cook them properly, they can be a showpiece at your holiday table. For Thanksgiving today, I was in charge of making a vegetable side, so I decided to do roasted brussels sprouts with an addition of caramelized onion, smokey bacon and herbed goat cheese for a creamy tang. I added a bit of balsamic vinegar to the brussels sprouts towards the end of their cooking to add flavor and a hint of sweetness to compliment the caramelized onions. This delicious side can be prepared and enjoyed for just about any occasion! Follow my easy recipe below:

Bacon and Caramelized Onion Brussels Sprouts with Herbed Goat Cheese 
(serves 6)

6 strips of smoked bacon
4 onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil  
2 bags brussels sprouts, washed and halved (or roughly 4 cups)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 
1/2 cup crumbled herbed goat cheese
Pinch salt and pepper

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium high heat for approximately 10 minutes, or until crisped. Remove bacon and place on paper towel and chop into small bits. Next, add onions and garlic to bacon fat remaining in skillet and cook over low heat 20 minutes or until caramelized. In another skillet, add olive oil over medium-high heat and add halved brussels sprouts, cooking until browned on each side adding balsamic vinegar toward the end of their cooking. Turn off heat and add onion mixture and chopped bacon to brussels sprouts and transfer into serving dish.  Lastly, top with crumbled herbed goat cheese. Serve immediately and enjoy! 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pork & Ginger Dumplings

Chinese dumplings are a favorite of mine, so I tried to make my own version of a classic Shu Mai dumpling using Laotian pork sausage seasoned with lemongrass, ginger, cilantro, lime and chili. I used pre-made dumpling wrappers found in most grocery stores and and egg wash to fold them together. I don't have a dumpling steamer, so I simply threw the finished dumpling into boiling water for a few minutes to cook through. These dumplings are fantastic for a light appetizer or flavorful snack during the day. You could even make a batch and freeze them to cook later. Check out my recipe below!

Pork and Ginger Dumplings
(makes ~24 dumplings) 
3 Laotian sausages, casings removed (found at most Asian grocers)
1/4 cup minced carrots
3 tbsp shaved fresh ginger
1 tbsp minced fresh garlic
1/2 finely chopped cilantro
1 package dumpling or wonton wrappers
1 egg, whisked 

In large saute pan, add in sausage and carrots over medium high heat mixing until sausage breaks down into smaller bits. After a minute or two, add in ginger and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes. Turn down heat to low and add in cilantro mixing well. Turn off heat once sausage is cooked through and set aside. Place wonton wrapper down in single sheets down on a flat surface. Brush edges of wrapper with your egg wash and place a small tablespoon of your pork filling in the center. Squeeze outer edges of wrapper together, forming a tight top piece as shown in above photos. Once your gotten a batch folded, toss gently into salted boiling water until wrapper cooks through, about 3-5 minutes. Strain your dumplings and serve immediately with dipping sauce. 

Ginger Soy Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
2 tbsp rice vinegar 

Mix ingredients together in a bowl and serve with your dumplings. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Chicken Marsala with Shiitake Mushrooms and Charred Green Beans

Sorry for the delay in posting, I have been busy with my 4 1/2 month old daughter Celia! I will try my best to write at least one posting weekly. 

Last week I made my version of chicken marsala. Chicken marsala is an Italian favorite of mine made with marsala cooking wine, chicken and mushrooms. I used sour cream in my sauce to create a rich, creamy consistency. I accompanied my chicken with charred green beans to balance out the richness of the sauce. 

Creamy Mushroom and Onion Marsala Sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup marsala cooking wine
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup sour cream 
1/2 chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat large skillet over medium heat with olive oil. Add in onions and garlic and saute until lightly browned. Add in mushrooms and cook another few minutes. Add in marsala wine and reduce heat to low, reducing liquid for 5 minutes. Turn heat off, mixing in butter, sour cream, parsley and seasonings to taste. Pour sauce over grilled chicken and serve. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Crispy Kale Salad

Kale has been a crazy fad for quite a while now, but for good reason! This super food is high in calcium, vitamin K and C, and sulforaphane which has cancer fighting properties! I love the fibrous, hearty texture of kale especially when roasted or sautéed. Kale is in season now and available at your local farmers market, so take advantage of this healthy vegetable while you can. I happen to love this particular recipe found in Bon Appetit magazine, which calls for a Vietnamese style lime dressing similar to nuoc cham dipping sauce. I added extra ingredients to my salad not mentioned in the recipe such as avocado, fresh corn and snap peas. Don't be afraid to do the same and throw in any fresh veggie or herb you have around.

Check out the recipe by clicking HERE

Pappardelle Pasta with Spinach and Almonds in a White Wine Cream Sauce

1 bag pappardelle pasta (found at Trader Joe's)
1/4 cup butter
3 tsp fresh minced garlic
1/4 cup white wine
3/4 cup milk or heavy cream
1-2 tbsp flour
Pinch of salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 bag frozen spinach, thawed and liquid drained out
1 cup fresh parmesan cheese
1/2 cup roasted slivered almonds

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat butter in large sauté pan, adding in garlic over medium/low heat. Then add in wine and reduce to low cooking 2-3 minutes until alcohol evaporates. Now add in milk and flour and whisk over medium high heat until bubbles form, then reduce heat back down to low adding in salt, pepper, lemon juice and parsley. Add in drained spinach until well combined, then toss in cooked pasta. Plate with slivered almonds and cheese on top. Enjoy! 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dutch Oven Chicken in Mustard Marsala Cream Sauce

I was generously gifted a Le Creuset Dutch Oven last year, but have only used it a few times. The Dutch Oven can be used similarly to crock-pot, slowly cooking meals in one vessel for optimal efficiency and ease. Using a whole chicken as the main ingredient, I started by heating the pot with olive oil over high heat to sear both sides of the chicken, creating a crispy skin and sealing in moisture. Then, I tossed in cubed yukon gold potatoes, sliced onion, whole garlic cloves and fresh chives. I then created a sauce to pour over my ingredients. Unfortunately, I did not measure my ingredients but I can tell you that a generous amount of marsala cooking wine, mustard, horseradish, honey, sour cream, butter, salt, pepper and a touch of red wine vinegar went into the sauce. Covering the pot, I reduced heat to low and cooked roughly 1 1/2 hours until chicken was cooked through and potatoes softened. I poured the finished product over Israeli couscous to soak up the delicious sauce. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Be'wiched Deli

Be'witched Deli on 800 Washington Avenue North in Minneapolis is home to one of my favorite sandwiches, the "Asparagus". This unique sandwich is composed of formage blanc, piperade, blanched asparagus and black pepper glazed fennel on focaccia bread. The combination of soft airy bread, sweet vegetables, creamy cheese and crisp asparagus make this choice a winner. Piperade is a french side dish combining onion, green and red peppers and tomato. The black pepper glazed fennel adds an aromatic sweetness rounding out the sandwich. In addition to the sandwich, I ordered their spinach salad composed of candied pecans, smoked apple and brie cheese tossed in a light vinaigrette. The fresh salad was a nice accompaniment to the sandwich. 

Be'wiched deli is always bustling at the lunch hour with warehouse district worker bees. They also do quite a bit of catering to local businesses, and offer a bike delivery program! Why call Jimmy John's when you can have a gourmet Asparagus sandwich delivered to your desk?! Even if you don't work in the warehouse district, this joint is worth the visit! 

Click HERE to visit their website

Friday, August 22, 2014

Banana Chocolate Chip Oat Muffins

It's been a few months since my last blog posting due to the fact that I gave birth to my daughter, Celia Vera on June 24th. Mother's out there know, the first few months with a newborn are overwhelming. Finding the time to take a hot shower, let alone cooking and blogging can be a huge challenge. Only in the last week or so have I had the time/energy/ability to start cooking again. It's likely that Celia will announce herself with a gut-wrenching cry any moment now, but at least I have the determination to begin the process (even if it ends in burned muffins :0 ). My goal is to update my blog each Friday with a new recipe or restaurant review. Please check back weekly for the latest! 

I found a recipe in Health Magazine for banana oat muffins which I altered to bit adding chocolate chips, flax meal and oat bran in addition to the whole wheat flour. Please see link to the original recipe below, or follow my altered recipe as follows: 

Banana-Chocolate Chip-Oat Muffins 
(Makes about 16 muffins)

2 large ripe bananas, mashed
4 tbsp canola oil 
2 large eggs
1 cup milk 
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup whole-wheat flour 
1/3 cup flax flour 
1/3 cup oat bran
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp clove
1 tsp salt 
3 1/4 tsp baking powder  
1 cup quick-cooking oats
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
Cooking spray 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine bananas through vanilla in large bowl, mixing well. In another large bowl, mix remaining dry ingredients. Slowly stir dry ingredients into wet banana mixture blending well. Spray muffin tin with cooking spay and fill each section to the rim. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned (as shown in photo above). 

Health Magazine recipe for Banana-Oat Muffins 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Grilled Chicken and Leeks over Basil Parsnip Puree

At the farmers market last weekend, I bought some beautiful parsnips and leeks. Parsnips are a root vegetable in the carrot family and have a great sweet quality when cooked. I knew I wanted to incorporate basil into my puree since I have a ton growing in my garden. I found a simple recipe by Tyler Florence and adjusted the thyme and bay leaf for basil. The puree turned out fabulous, buttery and rich with sweet and savory notes. I quickly grilled allegro marinated chicken and leeks and served them atop my puree. 

Check out Tyler's recipe for parsnip puree HERE! 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Kyatchi recently opened on 37th and Nicollet in South Minneapolis. Kyatchi is a Japanese restaurant that highlights healthy, sustainable seafood in an urban-casual environment. My mom and I went for lunch last Saturday and enjoyed sharing a few of their small plates. Their menu is eclectic, ranging from Japanese hot-dogs to eel rolls. My mom and I started with their seaweed salad, a beautiful plate of colorful seaweed tossed with a light sesame dressing. We also tried their curry dog, salmon rice ball, bonito flake rice ball, ebi mayo roll and the scallop yuzu kosho. The curry dog was tasty; I enjoyed the crunchy cabbage. Their dogs are served with a Japanese potato salad I found a bit bland and one-note. The rice balls were also tasty but quite simple: packed sushi rice with a pinch of bonito or salmon inside. The ebi mayo roll had cooked white shrimp and mayo inside, again simple but well executed.  For $13, I was not crazy about the scallop dish. The flavors of the scallop mentioned in the menu ingredients (chili pepper, yuzu peel and sea salt) did not come through enough. Nevertheless, I loved the creativity of the menu, friendly staff, and pleasant décor.  I will definitely return to try one of their rice bowls or ramen dishes. 

Check out their website by clicking HERE

Friday, May 23, 2014

Mother's Day BBQ

For this past Mother's Day, my husband and I hosted a BBQ for our families. I wanted to make ribs on the grill, since I have never made them from scratch and have been craving them like crazy. Besides, the weather is FINALLY warming up, and what's better than meat on the grill?!! 

I found a recipe for BBQ ribs with a root beer BBQ sauce from Bobby Flay, the celebrity grill king! I liked the idea of creating my own sauce with sweet notes of clove, cinnamon and anise instead of a spicier sauce which not everyone loves. I also paired the ribs with a few sides: corn muffins, caramelized sweet potatoes, coleslaw and watermelon. The rib recipe calls for brining the ribs overnight, which helps tenderize the pork. Unfortunately, being the grilling novices that my husband and I are, we didn't start the coals on the grill until 1/2 hour before guests arrived. I later learned that ribs should be grilled low and slow for about 2 hours! 2 hours that we did not have!!! Adam's aunt arrived to save the day by salvaging the ribs and grilling them perfectly in less than an hour! I think the brine really helped keep the meat moist even though we sped up the cooking process. 

Take a look at this fab recipe from Bobby Flay for your next BBQ. Your guests are sure to be impressed!!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Khyber Pass Cafe

Last week my husband and I dined at Khyber Pass, an Afghani restaurant off Snelling and Grand Avenue in St. Paul, MN. Afghani cuisine stems from a variety of cultural groups including: Middle Eastern, Greek, Persian, and Indian. I was able to recognize many similarities to Indian cuisine in their use spices and sauces, although Afhgani food is not spicy. The interior of the restaurant is small and decorated with colorful tapestries and plants. The vibe is casual and geared towards the hippy, Macalester crowd. 

Walking into the restaurant, it took a moment for the staff to seat us, and we were never warmly welcomed or introduced to the restaurant. The waitstaff seemed unfriendly and dismissive of our table, making my husband and I feel immediately uncomfortable. I kept reassuring my husband the food would be tasty enough to make up for the lacking service. We ordered two dishes to share, the Sabzi Korma and the Kadu Borani. The Sabzi Korma is a lamb curry dish served with spinach cooked with leeks and basmati rice. The lamb was a bit tough, yet I enjoyed the curry alongside the creamy spinach. The basmati rice was unexciting and could have used more curry to soak up the bland rice. Our second dish, the Kadu Borani highlights butternut squash served with braised onions, tomatoes, brown sugar and spices; topped with a yogurt sauce and basmati rice. I enjoyed the sweet flavors of the squash paired with the tangy yogurt, but again I could have used more sauce. Overall, the food was tasty but doesn't compare to the bold and rich flavors of Indian food I so adore. Because of the poor service, we will not be returning. I hate give a less than great review, but I also have to be honest about our experience.

Click here to view their website  

Friday, May 2, 2014

Gouda, Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Pork Chops

I made these chops from a recipe I found at Pork chops can often be boring and dry, so I liked the idea of stuffing the chop with a flavorful blend of mushrooms, onions, spinach and gouda. Coating the chop in a horseradish mustard definitely amps up the flavor and panko bread crumbs keep the moisture locked in. The recipe does not call for onions or mushrooms in the filling, but I like their addition to the dish. To highlight the mustard flavor, I added a bit to the spinach mixture as well to merry all the flavors together. 

Check out the recipe here:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

NYC Eats

View from Brooklyn 
Terriyaki Balls at Smorgaburg 
Making Terriyaki Balls 
Miso Ramen at Chuko 
Kale Salad at Chuko 
Lamb Wrap at Zizi Limona
Chicken Sandwich at Zizi Limona 
Falafel at Zizi Limona
Lox Bagel 
Chinese Food at Joe's Shanghai 

Last week I flew to NYC to visit my siblings and see a play at the Carnegie Hall a family friend was in. I stayed with my sister the first night in Bushwick, Brooklyn. She took me to a few fantastic restaurants. Believe it or not, the food I had while in Brooklyn was way better than the food in Manhattan! 

To name a few, we chose Zizi Limona for lunch the first day, a Mediterranean/Israeli restaurant in Williamsburg. We split the falafel appetizer served with pickles, smoked tomatoes, and a curry-yogurt tahini. The falafel were fluffy and delicious. I could taste an earthy quality to the spices, bringing me back to my travels in Israel. For the main meal, I chose the lamb kebab wrap made with koftas (ground lamb balls), black babaganoush (charred eggplant) and roasted veggies. My wrap was again earthy, with a depth of flavor from the lamb and roasted vegetables. My sister ordered the Moroccan sub with chicken and veggies in a spicy yogurt sauce with a side of potatoes. She enjoyed her sandwich as well. If you are looking for fresh, earthy, Mediterranean flavors, this is your spot! 

For dinner that night, she took me to a well-known ramen spot called, Chuko in Prospect Heights. We shared a fresh kale salad prepared with crispy sweet potato, raisins and miso vinaigrette. We also split a bowl of heart warming miso ramen served with scallion, pork belly, egg and sweet potatoes. The broth had an intoxicating buttery aftertaste and rich deep flavors of miso and pork. The noodles were cooked al dente and appeared to be freshly prepared that very same day. The restaurant is small, so expect to wait in line if you arrive during peak hours. 

The following morning, my sister took me to a small coffee shop near here apartment in Bushwick for their lox bagel. I am a huge fan of lox and bagels, and their version did not disappoint. After all, New Yorker's really know how to bake a decent bagel! 

On Saturday, we ventured back into Brooklyn from our hotel in Time Square to sample the food at Smorgasburg, an outdoor food market near the water in Williamsburg. The market features several local, unique food vendors serving everything from a ramen burgers to s'mores. I tried a glazed donut from the vendor, "Dough" which was amazing! Fluffy inside with a crispy outer shell. I also tried the terriyaki balls, dough balls filled with shrimp, minced carrots and onions. The balls were drizzled with a spicy mayo and terriyaki sauce. I liked the balls, although they could have been cooked a bit more in the center. If you are in Brooklyn, I highly recommend trying out this fun food market. Go with a group and sample many small bites to maximize your foodie experience! 

For dinner in Manhattan, we decided on Joe's Shanghai for Chinese. I was unimpressed by their high prices and mediocre food. I expected more out of a Chinese restaurant in the heart of the city. Next time, I'll stick to the soup dumplings in Chinatown.  

Contact list:

Monday, March 31, 2014

Parsley Pesto Pasta

I had a bunch of extra parsley to use up, so I decided to make a pesto. The pasta turned out delicious, and the strong parsley taste rang through loud and clear. I recommend pairing pesto with rigatoni noodles, because the sauce easily coats the log shaped pasta. 

Parsley Pesto
1 bunch parley, stems removed
1 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 tbsp fresh garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt and pepper

In a food processor, pulse all ingredients together. Add more olive oil to thin out as desired. Pour over warm noodles and serve immediately, or refrigerate as a condiment. This would make a great sandwich spread! 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pappardelle with Roasted Sweet Potato, Arugula, Sage and Toasted Almonds

Check out this great recipe from Cooking Light. I followed the recipe aside from substituting sweet potato for squash and almonds for pine nuts. Be sure to add the arugula right at the very end, so as not to wilt the delicate leaves, as I unfortunately did :(

Click here for the recipe: