Dinner at NGI
I think having a kitchen full of chefs-in-training cook a healthy meal for you is a splendid way to end a week. I was invited to come check out one of The Natural Gourmet Institute’s Friday Night Dinners, which is held weekly in their classroom on 21st Street. Well, a classroom transformed into a candlelit dining room.
Friday night dinner menu at The Natural Gourmet Institute
The menu is a three-course vegetarian meal which incorporates fresh, seasonal, and mostly organic produce. When we sat down, we had skewered grapes with chili flakes and a hibiscus drink already ready for us:
I love when people send me pictures of their food (it happens way more than you think) because that means they’re excited to EAT. My friend Sana recently sent me a picture of a cheesesteak concoction of her own:
Sana's homemade cheesesteak sandwich
When I asked her to send me the recipe, she graciously agreed. Below is her version of the meal:
“Kinda Vegan Italian Sausage Cheesesteak Sub”
By: Sana Jafri
Sana’s disclaimer: Unless you substitute this with soy cheese, it’s not totally vegan.
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 5 min
1 Sweet Vegan Italian Sausage with Tomato and Basi (from Tofurky)
1 White Vegan Bun (Trader Joe’s brand, I think)
2 Sliced Baby Bella Mushrooms
2 Slices of Red and Yellow Bell Peppers
1/4 Sliced White Onion
A pinch of Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 slice of Trader Joe’s Pepper Jack Cheese
1. Sautée onions in olive oil until soft
2. Add sliced veggies (mushrooms and bell peppers) and sautée for a few more minutes
3. Add chopped vegan italian sausage to veggies
4. Add cheese, sautee until melted, gooey yummyness
5. Lightly toast bun
6. Add mixture (veggies+vegan sausage) on bun
7. Send pics to your friends to make them jealous
By Melissa Stephans
Schoolhouse Kitchen spreads
When I first learned of SchoolHouse Kitchen’s gourmet condiments, I knew that this was a gift for the adventurous palate. Their spreadable fruit combinations, like the Cherry Blackberry Sage & Clove, are surprisingly delicious. The Festive Foursome set ($25) also includes SHK’s SweetSmoothHot Mustard, Bardshar Chutney, Peach Rosemary Anytime Spreadable Fruit. It is a fun gift to give the hostess of an upcoming holiday party, but you may end up having to buy another one after you “accidentally” open it for yourself. If that happens, here’s an idea for damage control: Make a few homemade dishes using what’s left of your Festive Foursome. SHK lists some awesome recipes for their condiments!
Meet our apartment coffee machine. Its name is Mumbles.
Nescafe's Dolce Gusto Piccolo, aka Mumbles
Well, it’s actually the new bite-sized machine from Nescafe Dolce Gusto, the Piccolo. But it’s so cute and reminds us of the little penguin in Happy Feet, so we named it Mumbles.
A few months ago, I went to the Robert Verdi Luxe Labroatory (read: can I make this my dream NYC apartment?) for the unveiling of the new line of single serve coffee machines from Nescafe, which also included the Melody II, Circolo and Creativa. Design expert Stephen Saint-Onge was on hand once again to give us design tips for the holidays (I’ll list some of them at the end of this post!).
Yesterday, I told you guys about the goat cheese crostinis with grape salsa appetizers we made for dinner. When we were deciding on the main dish, I knew I wanted to make something with chicken. I became really nostalgic about my college days at U of I (where, BY THE WAY, the university may be located in boo foo Illinois, but they had some of the most delicious food there…I’m definitely going to do a top 10 of the food I miss there *sigh). ANYWAY, they have this one restaurant in Champaign, IL called Cheddar’s…and OMG. It probably had 98% to do with why I was fat in college, because if I wasn’t there for their Cookie Monster dessert (I’ll tell you more about that in a later post), I was definitely there for their honey-dijon chicken. I know I was going to be cooking for other people, but I may or may not have selfishly decided I wanted to resurrect that dish.
I ended up finding a similar Chicken with Mushroom-Dijon Gravy recipe from Rachael Ray, so I knew I was in good hands. It was pretty easy to make too. So here are some things they don’t spell out, but I looked up enough chicken recipes to figure a few things out on my own: First, lay out the raw chicken breasts on a long piece of plastic seran wrap, that’s long enough so you can fold over the end of it and cover the top of the chicken completely as well. Then pound the chicken and stretch it out a little (I used a rolling pin to do this). I then took a tray, mixed pepper, salt and fresh thyme, and covered the chicken with it. Then, I put a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a sauce pan and waited until it was warm to begin cooking the chicken.
Cooking the chicken breast
Goat cheese crostinis with grape salsa
Recently, two of my lovely friends got engaged, so my roomie and I decided we wanted to treat them to a nice home-cooked meal. Naturally, I got really excited when we began planning the menu! I initially thought we could just make a simple tomato/basil bruschetta for the appetizer, but my mind raced back to these mini goat cheese crostinis I ate at the last Bobby Flay event I went to. I remember mistaking the grapes for chopped red onions and being totally surprised after my first bite (in a good way). Flay is all about texture in his recipes, and he really only uses ingredients you can taste. He always says, if it’s in the recipe, it’s there for a reason. This particular recipe is interesting because it plays on spicy ingredients (like chopped jalapenos and onions) that’s balanced out with the cooling taste of juicy grapes, and of course, all topped on a dense but flavorful herbed goat cheese.
Since it was a Hellmann’s event, I was able to easily find the recipe on their website: