Cheesy Pumpkin Polenta


Don’t you hate when a recipe calls for less than the full can of pureed pumpkin? I’ve thrown away more 3 month old half-cups of pumpkin puree than I can even tell you. So after making these gems last weekend, I found myself with the age old conundrum: what to do with the extra pumpkin?

DUH. You add cheese. Why do I even bother contemplating?

I can’t lie to you, I ate this straight from the bowl with a spoon and I didn’t apologize for it one tiny bit. But it would also be stupendous as a bed for pork chops with sauteed apples or pulled pork or grilled chicken with roasted tomatoes. Am I right, or am I right?

On the menu:
Cheesy Pumpkin Polenta
Serves 2

1/4 cup white onion, minced
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup whole milk (or half and half)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup polenta
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano

In a small pan, heat 1 Tbsp butter over medium/low heat. Add onion and sautee until very soft, around 8 minutes. Stir in pumpkin and heat for another 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium sized saucepan, heat water, milk, salt, and pepper until it boils. Stir in polenta in a gradual, thin stream, whisking constantly. Turn heat to low and continue cooking for 4 – 5 minutes.

Stir pumpkin/onion mixture into the milk and water mixture and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes until hot and combined. Remove from the heat and stir in remaining butter and grated cheese. Serve immediately.

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Slow Cooker Chipotle Pork Tacos


I love any meal I can throw in one pot in the middle of the day and serve with pride 6 hours later after 15 minutes of prep. Some cooks might dispute this claim, but I’m gonna go ahead and say it’s hard to mess up a pork shoulder, so this is also a dish that takes zero skill to master. If you don’t have a slow cooker, just throw this in a roasting pan in your oven at 250 degrees for the same amount of time. You might want to baste it mid-cook so it doesn’t dry out, though.

On the menu:
Slow Cooker Chipotle Pork Tacos
Serves 2

3 lb pork shoulder, bone out
3 roasted chipotles*
3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
6 oz. beer (I used Miller High Life because I had a leftover in the fridge, but a dark beer will work best for this)

6 – 8 corn tortillas
6 sprigs cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, roughly chopped
1/2 lime, cut into wedges

Add pork shoulder, chipotles, garlic, spices and beer to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 2 – 3 hours or until the meat is easily pulled apart with two forks. (NOTE: If cooking in the oven, baste at 1 and 2 hours).

Heat up tortillas between 2 damp paper towels in the microwave for a minute or two. Top with pulled pork, cilantro, onion, and a squeeze of lime. Plate alongside another wedge of lime.

*NOTE: I like these to have just a tiny hint of spiciness so I throw the chipotle peppers into the slow cooker whole and just let the flavor seep into the pork, and then fish the whole peppers out before serving. If you like these spicier, you can dice up the peppers and throw them into the slow cooker. That way you can serve them up along with the pork for a real kick in the pants.

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Takeout in Astoria, Queens

Four years ago I found myself paying an arm and a leg for an 8′ x 10′ room without windows in the Financial District of Manhattan. As the lease renewal came up in August, I thought to myself, “What the heck am I doing?” My good friend Becca had been touting the benefits of her incredible (and incredibly cheap) house in Queens for a year so I decided to give the neighborhood a shot. Four years later, I’m the biggest advocate of this adorable and still-affordable neighborhood. I’ve convinced (with Becca’s help, of course) numerous friends to move to the ‘hood along with me and now I can safely say I have little to no reason to ever leave my borough.

Since I’ve got so many friends as new neighbors, I thought I’d pull together a list of my 5 absolute favorite takeout places in Astoria. If you’re new to the ‘hood or just need a change of pace, I hope this is helpful. #QueensRepresent

1. Petey’s Burger: As far as I’m concerned, this is the only burger place on the East Coast that rivals In ‘N Out. It’s worlds better than Shake Shack and I’ve never had to wait in line to get it. They even have a deliciously decadent side called California Fries, topped with caramelized onions and a “special sauce” that looks suspiciously like an In ‘N Out knockoff. Who cares. This place is the ish.

2. Napoli Pizza and Pasta: You couldn’t make an Italian meal for less money than you can spend for authentic Italian at Napoli. Lasagna the size of your head is $6.50 (and comes with garlic bread), baked ziti for two will have you unbuttoning your pants and napping by the end of the meal, and the entrees cost a couple bucks more and come with extra bread and a pasta on the side. When it’s cold outside and you want a filling, home cooked meal without the dirty dishes, you can’t beat Napoli.

3. Crave Astoria: Besides the delicious, fresh food at Crave, I’m always commenting on how punctual and friendly their delivery staff is. More than once I’ve commented, “Hey, it’s that well-dressed guy again!” when the food shows up. Call me crazy, but I like it. In addition to the lovely delivery staff, the food is top notch: fresh and healthy. It’s not dirt cheap, but it’s well worth every penny. My favorite dishes are the Greek salads and the burgers (huuuuuge burgers with freshly made fries on the side), and for a fun (not so healthy) dessert, the Crave bites: fried dough puffs served with warm honey sauce. They also make a killer, inexpensive lentil soup that I’ve had more than once.

4. Sanford’s Restaurant: The priciest spot I’m highlighting, Sanford’s is a classier delivery restaurant that is open 24/7 and offers takeout late and pickup all the time. The menu is full of real restaurant items like mushroom risotto and hanger steak but my personal favorites are the salads and breakfasts. I actually love their pancakes, and I rarely say that about anyplace that isn’t my own kitchen. The only thing I don’t get about this place is why their pulled pork gets such high ratings; I ordered it once and hated it. Everything else I’ve ever had there (and trust me, it’s been quite a bit…) is delicious.

5. Astoria Park Pizza: Best pizza in Queens, hands down. This is also the teeny tiny pizzeria where I buy the pizza dough for my homemade pizzas. The crust is thin and crispy, the cheese is never drippy but always perfectly melted, and the prices are super affordable: a large cheese is only $11! I love Napoli for my pasta dishes and meatball parms, but for pizza I’m an Astoria Park girl all the way.

Did I miss anything? Leave it in the comments!

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Sweet Potato, Sausage and Onion Hash with Eggs

It wouldn’t be right to post at all about anything this week without mentioning last week’s East Coast hurricane. The BF and I were incredibly lucky to get through it completely unscathed but I know we’re in the minority. Don’t forget, if you haven’t already, to donate money, supplies, or your time in any way you can. Find out how here.

In happier news, this hash is DELICIOUS. It’s from The Kitchn and the recipe has been sitting in my “To Make” list for over a year now. It seems like there’s always someone I’m cooking for who doesn’t like meat, or sweet potatoes, or onions. But this past weekend I had some dear friends in town and they eat anything (my favorite kind of friends, mind you) so it seemed like the perfect time to finally try it out.

On the menu:
Sweet potato, sausage, and onion hash
Adapted from The Kitchn’s recipe here
Serves 6 – 7

2 large onions
4 medium sized sweet potatoes, skins on and diced to 1/2 inch cubes
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
6 large cloves of garlic, minced
4 long stalks of rosemary, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
6 – 7 large eggs (1 per person)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cover a large baking sheet with foil.

Cut onions in half and then slice each half into thin half moons. Heat a medium sized frying pan over medium heat and add onions, stirring occasionally until the onions cook down and start to brown, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another frying pan, cook the sausage over medium/high heat for around 15 minutes, breaking the sausage apart so it’s in small, crumbly pieces.

Once the onions and sausage are cooked, in one large bowl add sweet potato chunks, sausage, onions, minced rosemary, minced garlic, and olive oil and toss until everything is coated in olive oil. Spread on the covered baking sheet (don’t worry if it’s not in a single layer, it doesn’t really matter). Roast in the preheated oven for 4o minutes, or until sweet potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.

In a large frying pan, fry the eggs just until the outside is cooked and the center is still runny. Top each serving of hash with a fried egg.

NOTE: The Kitchn‘s recipe has a lengthy second step where you cook the eggs over the hash in a skillet for 20 minutes, but to me that just meant a lot of extra time and another dirty dish. It looks lovely, but ultimately felt unnecessary.

And lastly… that photo above is missing the egg. I was last to eat (the cook eats last!), and I was too lazy to crack another egg. But the hash looked nice so, voila.

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Suggested Reading

Doolin, Ireland

Just a quick “Happy Monday!” post to alert of a great article by Frank Bruni, former New York Times restaurant critic, that ran in the Times on Friday about Bruni’s trip to Ireland. If you’ve never been to Ireland then you will only get a tiny hint of what he’s talking about, and if you have been this article will probably give you nostalgic goosebumps. If you live there… you’re probably rolling your eyes. Whatever.

To Ireland, A Son’s Journey Home

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Easy Biscuits


Sometimes I get a craving and I absolutely have to make something. I got it in my head to make biscuits and gosh darn it BAKE BISCUITS I WILL.

I Googled “easy biscuit recipe” and a beauty came up. Not only did these take 30 minutes from start to finish, but they tasted absolutely delicious and were perfectly moist and flaky. Now there’s no excuse for Pillsbury.

On the menu:
Easy biscuits
Makes 12 biscuits

2 cups flour plus more for kneading
4 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
2/3 cup 2% milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add shortening and cut into the flour mixture until the dough resembles small pebbles (use a pastry cutter or a fork). Whisk in egg and milk until mixture is combined.

Dump the dough out onto a heavily floured surface and knead it 20 times. Roll the dough out to 3/4 of an inch thick and use a 2 1/2 inch round cookie cutter (or the open end of a drinking glass) to cut out the biscuits. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes or until the biscuits are browned on the bottom. Serve warm.

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Roasted Cauliflower Salad


This is a salad that I tasted for the first time at one of my favorite restaurants in New York, Otto. My only hang up is that the original calls for olives, which I loathe. When I made this I left the olives out but you could easily chop up and add 16 Kalamata olives during the last step to make it a truly authentic Mediterranean dish.

On the menu:
Roasted cauliflower salad
Serves 4 as a side

1 large head of cauliflower (around 3 lbs)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp capers
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
Salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil.

Clean stem and leaves off of the head of cauliflower. Chop cauliflower into bite sized pieces with flat sides (this just makes roasting and caramelizing easier). Rinse in a colander and shake off as much excess water as possible.

Toss cauliflower in a large bowl with olive oil and black pepper. Spread in one layer on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Flip cauliflower with tongs and roast for another 10 – 20 minutes until your pieces are golden brown and softened.

Spread cauliflower on a plate in one layer so that it cools down a bit.

In a large bowl, add capers, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and a healthy pinch of salt. Add cauliflower and toss to coat. (This is where you would add your chopped olives if you wanted)

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