Sweet Potato Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing

For the most part, I am trying to eat healthy. I am quite a bit fussy about salads though. They can just be so ordinary and unfulfilling. I always need something to give them a bit more substance. For example, quinoa, pearl couscous or a starchy vegetable like in this case, sweet potato. I cook with sweet potato quite a lot because it’s flavoursome, healthy and most importantly filling.

I was out shopping earlier for groceries and noticed that my local store had pomegranates! I’ve eaten them numerous times but have never actually bought one. Decided to take the plunge and buy one. With a bit of manual labour, I managed to get out all the seeds ready for use. I normally don’t like fruit in my savoury salads but pomegranates are the exception. So in went a handful of fresh pomegranate seeds. Now for a dressing. I wanted something tangy but not with too much vinegar so went with a honey mustard style dressing. Easy to make with ingredients that most people will have in their pantries staples.

Sweet Potato Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing

What you’re going to need

Salad

½ gold sweet potato, peeled and chopped into small even pieces

Generous handful of mixed green salad leaves

1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds

20 g feta cheese

Dressing (note: these are rough measures so taste you as go until you’re happy)

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

Pinch sea salt

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celcius.
  2. On a baking tray, add the sweet potato with a drizzle of oil and pinch of salt. Bake until soft. (15-20 minutes roughly)
  3. Whilst the potato is baking, place all salad ingredients on your serving plate.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients until well combined (you’ll find that the dressing will split if you leave it sitting on the bench so whisk just before serving as well)
  5. Once potatoes are cooked, allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving with the rest of the salad and dressing.

 

 Sweet Potato Salad

 

Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake

I must admit, I only really got into tinned tuna last year. Before that, I’d eat it sporadically and just mix it with corn kernels and seasoning. Now that I am working full time and often procrastinate preparing my lunch until the morning of…(habit I am trying to break that’s for sure), I often find myself looking for things I can just pick up and easily pair with something else. My favourite last minute lunch that is healthy and filling is just simply a tin of tuna, single serve microwave rice, half an avocado plus seasoning. Works well when it needs to but you can only eat so much tuna and rice right?

Alas, today’s meal was a combination of carb cravings, utilising leftovers and of course branching out of my go to tuna routine. The gift I had today was time. I wasn’t in a rush to bolt out the door and make my train and so could actually concentrate on making something flavoursome. This is simple home cooking and it just works so well every time.

Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake (serves 2)

What you’re going to need

1 cup spiral pasta

100 ml cream

1 teaspoon butter

1 70g tin tuna

handful baby spinach, roughly chopped

3 slices sun dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

tasty cheese, grated (quantity up to you)

salt and pepper to season

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celcius
  2. Cook pasta as per packet instructions until al dente.
  3. In a saucepan on a medium heat, add the cream, butter and seasoning until well combined. Optional: mix in a bit of the grated cheese here for extra flavour.
  4. Once the sauce is ready, add the cooked pasta, tuna, spinach and tomatoes. Stir until the pasta is well coated and the additions are mixed in evenly.
  5. In a small baking dish, add the pasta mixture and spread evenly. Add the rest of the grated cheese.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese on the top goes crispy. Set to cool for 5 minutes and then eat.*

Tuna Pasta Bake.JPG

* This recipe is freezer friendly. Wait until completely cool and freeze in a snap lock bag. 

New York City Eats

I have just returned from a two week holiday in New York City and I am already feeling the nostalgia. It was my first time visiting the United States and was definitely a change from my norm back in Australia. It really is the city that never sleeps. I spent 12+ hours of my day roaming the streets checking out the sights, catching up with friends and most importantly eating all the wonderful food that the city has to offer. What I bring to you today is a snapshot of the tasty delights that I consumed whilst in the Big Apple. It is by far not an exclusive list of places that are worth visiting but are the highlights of my short stint.

 

Bagels – Absolute Bagels (2788 Broadway, Upper West Side) $

Bagel

 

Oooo la la first New York bagels. I went with simple cream cheese on a plain bagel just for starters. The shop was everything I expected from a bagel place. It was a little local bakery filled with customers and pretty much raining bagels. As the mornings were quite cold while I was there, bagels served as a perfect warm start to my jam-packed days of sightseeing.

 

Pizza – Famous Famiglia Pizzeria (Corner W 96th Street and Amsterdam Avenue)* $

New York Slice

I was never really into “just cheese” pizza. It always seemed so uninviting and pedestrian. Well my thoughts have changed about cheese pizza forever since my first taste of a New York Slice. Homemade, rich and flavoursome tomato sauce base, a generous amount of cheese melted to perfection on a crispy thin base. Oh and bonus, they’re basically giving them away with slices ranging from $1 – $4. There were a few of these stores around the city but this was my local.

 

Bacon and Egg Roll – BEC  (148 8th Ave) $

Bacon and Egg Roll

Okay not going to lie, main reason I went to this place is because of the name. Alas, the food was actually
really good! If you want to switch it up from bagels for breakfast then have a wonder down 8th Avenue and get yourself a classic bacon egg and cheese on fresh ciabatta. I am a big fan of runny yolk and this place cooked the egg to perfection.

 

Deli – Katz Delicatessen (205 E Houston St) $$$

World famous deli both for their pastrami and also Pastrami Sandwichtheir movie features (When Harry Met Sally anyone?). I walked in here and was immediately intrigued by every little thing in the place. From all the photos along the wall of past visitors (both famous and non) as well as the enormous counter and diverse selection of food available to diners. I had pastrami on rye with a generous side of pickles. It was a battle to eat but worth it in the end and reaffirmed why people flock from all over the world to visit. Due to its popularity and fame, it is quite pricey for what it is. Best is just to not think about it and just eat there anyway.

Italian – Amici II (165 Mulberry St, Little Italy) $$

Lobster RavioliIs it even a trip to New York without a visit to Little Italy? I had a wander through Mulberry Street not really knowing what I was looking for but then stumbled across this quaint looking restaurant, dimly lit but filled with life (and a very enthusiastic waiter). I was spoiled with choice. The menu was filled with traditional Italian dishes with all the pasta made fresh in-house. I ended up going with the lobster ravioli with absolutely no regrets. It was so rich in flavour and the “flamingo” sauce complemented the fresh pasta perfectly. I paired this with a cocktail and devoured the free bread with homemade garlic and herb oil. Molto bene!

Fries – Food Stand at Yankee Stadium $$ 

Have you even been to America unless you have had a Cheese Frieshot dog, cheese fries and a soda? Well I had all three…in one day. Only managed to grab a photo of the cheese fries because they were the most glamorous looking of the trio. I didn’t even want to think about what the “cheese” sauce was made from or if it even was cheese but I ate it anyway happily because there is just something so satisfying in devouring junk food. I only do it sparingly so that when I do, I get the ultimate satisfaction and no guilt.

Brunch – Le Garage (157 Suydam St, Brooklyn) $$

Poached Eggs and ChorizoI spent my second week in the borough of Brooklyn and was lucky enough to have a wonderful friend show me around her local neighbourhood. But first, brunch. This place reminded me a lot of home. Quirky cafes, poached eggs, you name it. I dove straight into my chorizo and eggs whilst sipping on house made mimosas. What a time to be alive. This place is a bit out of the way from where most tourists reside but it is worth a look at if you want to feel a bit more local during your stay.

 

Burgers – Shake Shack (1 Old Fulton Street, DUMBO, Brooklyn)* $

My oh my, people rave on about this place for a reason. Shake ShackThe burgers are so fresh and flavoursome, it almost makes you feel like you’re not eating fast food. We went with the original Shackburger accompanied by cheese fries and a soda each. Enough said, you need to try this whilst in New York City (especially since this is the city where it originated). Get on it.

 

Poke – Sons of Thunder (204 E 38th St) $

Poke bowlI really wanted to try poke whilst in the United States even though this is a Western American dish technically. As per reviews on Buzzfeed and Instagram, I landed at this place on the East Side that was thriving. I happened to be around at lunch hour and the place had a huge line (always reassuring). I went with a half salmon + tuna over white rice + avocado ($1.5 extra). Overall I was satisfied with the dish. I had confidence that the ingredients were all fresh due to the turnover of trade. It is a generous portion and would probably get mixed greens instead of rice next time.

Mexican Fiesta – Tacombi (255 Bleecker St) $$

My first proper meal in New York City was at Tacombi, a Mexican place located in Greenwich Village. We had chipotle corn, guacamole and homemade corn chips and tacos (of course). I had a pork taco and a crispy fish taco (yum). The meal was filling, flavoursome and located in a really cool garage vibe place to give a street food feel. This food was accompanied with cocktails including a pina colada for me. All in all, night and money well spent.

Southern BBQ – Virgil’s Real BBQ (152 W 44th St – Times Square) $$

My friend and I were in desperate need for mood food on the day we discovered this place and it definitely delivered on what we needed. First up was BBQ wings with a blue cheese sauce (the full size wings and not the teeny ones that disappear in a second). I then followed this up with a pulled pork sandwich, house cut fries and homemade pickles. Let’s just say I was full for the foreseeable future. Even though it was close by to Times Square, it was tucked away a bit away from the action so you could escape the controlled chaos that is Times Square. Tasty, friendly service and moderately priced.

German – Retagast Hall & Biergarten (113 N 3rd Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn) $$

After a long day of sightseeing around the popular neighbourhood of Williamsburg, we decided to park ourselves at the long bench tables at Retagast Hall. My friend expressed how great the sausages were here so was keen to try them out. I had Bratwurst on a pretzel bun (yes that’s a thing) and loaded with homemade sauerkraut. I was spoiled with choice for mustard. I ended up going with the most German option available. As well as this we decided to split one of the giant pretzels! It was warm, fresh and the way every pretzel should be. There were also pickles on the side. Yes!

Greek – Souvlaki GR (116 Stanton St) $$

If you’re having Greece nostalgia like my friend and I were and you are unfortunately not in Greece, then this is the place to go. It is decked out exactly like the Greek Islands with the white and blue colours protruding from all angles. They even had the pink flowers and blue chairs as part of the decor. We started off with Greek fries which consisted of house cut fries covered in herbs and feta. Next up it was souvlaki pita which mimicked a mini “Gyros” but a bit more glamorous. Finally, we finished up the meal with loukoumades drizzled in honey and sprinkled with nuts. Food babies for days.

A few other places I visited that are worth mentioning that I didn’t manage to capture any decent photos from are as follows

  • The Meatball Shop (170 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn) – $. Perfect for lunch or late night feed.
  • Gray’s Papaya (everywhere) – $. Hot dog cravings sorted within seconds.
  • Magnolia Bakery (Grand Central Dining Concourse)* –  $. Cupcakes and fan girl moments.
  • Gallow Green (542 W 27th St) – $$$. Beautiful rooftop with light meals and cocktails.

So that’s it! I was spoiled with choice and have barely even scratched the surface on one of the most incredible cities in the world. Can’t wait to go back.


* Places indicated with a * are found in multiple locations. I have included the address of the location that I visited/frequented most.

Price scale 

$ – giving it away

$$ – a happy medium and well justified

$$$ – I really loved it and forgot about my whole food philosophy for a second

 

 

 

 

Vegetarian Stuffed Pasta Shells

Hope everyone is having a great Easter long weekend! I have been cooking away and experimenting a fair bit and I’m excited to share another recipe with you all.

I aim to make my work lunches with tuna or make them vegetarian just because meat is so expensive! I have been on a bit of a streak lately where I have come up with some tasty, filling and cheap lunch options. There were some odds and ends around the kitchen today. I wanted to use up the bits of food we had leftover both in the fridge and pantry to make this dish. I decided to substitute the meat in this dish with potato. It worked well and gave the dish the substance to make it a complete dish. I have also developed the flavours with cheese, garlic and Barilla Basilico Pasta Sauce.

Vegetarian Stuffed Pasta Shells (serves 2)

What you’re going to need

10 giant pasta shells (these were from a local food market which sells an abundance of Italian food products)

1 medium potato, diced

100 grams baby spinach

50 grams feta

1 clove garlic

1/2 cup Italian pasta sauce (I used Barilla Basilico Pasta Sauce)

100 grams cheddar, grated (I used Mersey Valley)

salt and pepper to season

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celcius
  2. In a small saucepan, add the diced potato to cold water and bring to the boil. In a medium saucepan, bring a pot of water and salt (1/2 tablespoon) to the boil. Once boiling, add pasta and cook until al dente.
  3. In a food processor, blitz the spinach, feta, garlic, salt and pepper until coarse. (you don’t want to blitz it for too long and end up with a dip…)
  4. Mash the potato to remove the large lumps and then combine with the spinach mixture.
  5. Have a small baking dish ready. Place a heaped spoon of the filling into each of the giant pasta shells and place in one layer in the baking dish until all the shells are filled. Spoon pasta sauce over the shells and cover the top and around the sides. Place the grated cheddar on the top evenly.
  6. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve hot.

Stuffed Pasta Shells

 

Pearl Couscous Salad with Chunky Tomato Sauce

The daily dilemma…figuring out what to have for lunch. I was fortunate to be off work when I thought up this recipe so conveniently had an open pantry to work with. Even so, many find themselves swamped with ingredients and not a clue how they fit together.

Lucky for you, one of my favourite pastimes is picking an assortment of ingredients, throwing them together and hoping they will taste amazing.

Pearl couscous is such an interesting grain. It works as a really good filler for salads and an accompaniment to a stew and the like. My original intention for this was to pair it with leftover roast lamb but there was a miscommunication in the kitchen and so my father took it with him to work instead. Alas, crisis management kicked in and I worked with what I had to still make something tasty.

My favourite part of this dish is the crispy fried capers! I’ve seen chefs on cooking shows use this technique numerous times and have always been keen to try it out myself! Super easy and result is definitely worth the minimal effort required.

Pearl Couscous Salad with Chunky Tomato Sauce

What you’re going to need

1/4 cup pearl couscous

a generous handful cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (I used Perino tomatoes for this recipe)

one slice shortcut bacon, sliced into small pieces

6 kalamata olives, sliced in half

teaspoon baby capers

fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

salt and pepper to season

olive oil

Method

  1. Cook pearl couscous to packet instructions.
  2. Whilst the couscous is cooking, fry up the bacon in a small pan until crispy. Set aside.
  3. In the same pan, add a splash of olive oil and heat the oil to a medium heat. Place capers in the pan and fry until aromatic and the colour has darkened (max 30 seconds). Remove from pan and set aside on paper towel to drain.
  4. In a saucepan, add the cherry tomatoes with salt and pepper. Mash up the tomatoes until a relish like texture forms.
  5. Add in the couscous, bacon and fresh basil and mix until well combined. Take off the heat and mix in the olives. Place in a bowl and top with the capers!

pearl-couscous-salad

 

 

 

Europe Nostalgia: Prague

Prag, Praha or in plain old English, Prague, is the capital of the Czech Republic. Here you will find some of the most stunning architecture I’ve ever seen. I also consumed some amazing food here. Both on the street and in a restaurant called “Lokal”.

A popular street food which you most likely will not be able to avoid because almost every second shop and street stand sells them is “Trdelnik”, a cylindrical doughnut cooked on a rotating tube which is normally coated with sugar and nuts. You can also get ones with fancy extras like chocolate, cream, ice cream or a combo of all three. Do not leave Prague without trying one and make sure you go to a place where they pull one off the heat fresh for you because it’s so much better than if it is cold. In terms of prices, there was a pretty solid standard for these and were priced the same basically everywhere I went around the city. Another must try in Praha is the street sausages! It is a super sized hot dog with your choice of toppings. I just kept it simple with good old ketchup and mustard. I found that walking an extra 50 metres knocked some coin off the final price so have a wander around before choosing a place.

So I think “Lokal” deserves a paragraph all on its own so here we go. When visiting a foreign country, one of the things I love to do is find out their traditional food, scope out the scene and pick the best place to try it out. This restaurant was actually recommended to me by a friend back home and I am so thankful for it because I went here two days in a row for lunch. This place functions as almost like a cafeteria where each day, the pre prepared menu changes keeping the place fresh. Of course, you can still go back the next day and devour an entire plate of bread dumplings (so delicious I can’t even explain and also a staple on the menu). This place was bustling both times that I went and it wasn’t just tourists either. In terms of prices, I had a 3 course meal (I constitute beer as a course here as it filled me up quite a bit!) for under 10 euros.

Fun fact: According to my free walking tour, the Czech Republic is the highest consumer of beer per capita. And why wouldn’t they be? It is actually cheaper than water in a lot of circumstances. Compared to its neighbour Germany, the taste is actually pretty good (however German beer is still my fave). Even better, they sold this as well an array of snacks and drinks at our hostel reception. This was especially convenient when supermarkets closed at 10 and you just completely lost track of time in the first hours of the evening.

Here are some snaps from around Prague to get a feel of the vibes.

Prague is one of the cities where I spent the most time so I really got to embrace the culture and life here. It is a down to earth city with so much to offer. Definitely put on your list of places to visit before you die.

Next post: Poland

Europe Nostalgia: Italy

Time for my next post about my most recent Europe adventures! This trip marks my third visit to Italy. I am in love with the food and history in this beautiful country. Each region has its own specialty to offer the world and so it is essential to not just relive the Lizzie Mcguire movie in Roma! The three cities/regions that I visited in 2015 included Naples, Florence and Milan.

Naples 

Residing on the South East coast of the boot is the region of Naples. Home of Mount Vesuvius, Sorrento and the stunning Amalfi Coast, there is plenty to see, do and of course eat. From both research and word of mouth, I learnt that Naples was famous for pizza! However, being on my own meant that every time I ordered one, I had to consume the entire thing (no complaints). I also had a lucky experience of getting to watch the chefs make my pizza for me. I will be attempting this method at home in the foreseeable future.

Florence

If i had to pick one city in Europe overall even though it is basically an impossible question because each city is so different I would pick Florence. This was the second time I visited Florence and I loved it so much I decided to pop in again. The city is filled with stunning architecture, genuine leather products, fresh food and some exquisite gelato. To top it off, a last minute change of accommodation whilst en route to Florence ended up being the best decision I made and I ended up with a top notch room for my stay.

Milan

Unfortunately, I didn’t stay in Milan for very long (5 hours to be exact). However, I definitely got a feel of the place and a peek at some of the sights while there was still some daylight! I also enjoyed a meal here and of course gelato.

So there you have it, a little taste of Italy, a country that I will most definitely visit again.

Next post: Prague, Czech Republic