Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Ten Favorite Recipes of 2011

Roasted Baby Eggplant with Cilantro-Yogurt Sauce

Happy New Year's Eve!

Can you believe that 2012 is almost upon us?

This year has flown by for me, as I'm sure that it has for you, too. I find that today is a great time for reflecting on the past year and how far we've all come. I love making a list of all of the things that I've accomplished this year.

Here are a few quick ones in no particular order:

1. I finished my debut novel and signed with a fabulous agent and went out on submission with it (still waiting to hear back from some publishers). 
2. The traffic for Domestic Divas more than doubled this year! Thank you to my wonderful readers. Just last night, I wanted to look at swordfish recipes for dinner. So I typed into google search: "Swordfish Recipe." Lo and behold, my own recipe for Blackened Swordfish with Tarragon Yogurt Sauce came up on the first page of results! That's amazing! I made it for dinner and it was delicious. 
3. I launched a new website and blog for my writing ( You can also follow me on Twitter @jennifer_brody. 
4. I conceived and began writing my new novel (YA science-fiction). 

And that's just the beginning.

Not to mention, all of the cooking and great recipes that have filled my year. I'm a better cook now than I was at the start of the year. I also always think about health and fitness and love and the Adorable Monster and my husband and family and give thanks for all of it.

This year, I am meditating on my new year resolution. It's pretty simple really:

To write and write and write and write and then write some more!

I want to finish my new book and follow whatever path it may lead me down. I also want to continue on my journey to eat beautiful, fresh, healthy foods and exercise.

If you feel inclined, share what your resolution is in the comments section. I'd love to hear how everybody is planning to rock out 2012!

I also thought I'd share a list of my ten favorite recipes from 2011. There were so many great ones to choose from, but here they are in no particular order.

Sous Vide Scallops with Pea Tendrils & Buerre Blanc Sauce

My 10 Favorite Recipes from 2011:
  1. Curried Sea Bass with Coconut Milk
  2. Spicy Peanut Kale
  3. Sous Vide Scallops with Pea Tendrils & Buerre Blanc Sauce
  4. Panko-Crusted Squash Blossoms 
  5. Roasted Baby Eggplant with Cilantro-Yogurt Sauce
  6. Cranberry Apple Crisp
  7. Curried Coconut Lentil Soup
  8. Braised White Bean Cassoulet
  9. Sous Vide Pork Chops with Apple-Bourbon Coulis
  10. Blackened Swordfish with Tarragon-Yogurt Sauce
So there you have it! Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Smoked Paprika Cauliflower Puree (pictured with Pork Chops with Apple-Ginger Relish)

Did anybody get a Sous Vide Supreme for the holidays?

Judging from my blog traffic, I'm guessing that you did! 

I've written about mine at length and love the way it renders meat exceptionally tender and moist. It's especially great for lean cuts that might otherwise dry out with conventional cooking. I'll be positing a fabulous recipe that I made for Sous Vide Bison Steaks in the coming weeks. 

The other day, I made a Smoked Paprika Cauliflower Puree to go with my recipe for Sous Vide Pork Chops with Apple-Ginger Relish. The puree was light and flavorful. It paired perfectly with the sweetness of the apple-ginger relish and earthiness of the pork chops. 

So I decided that it was worthy of sharing here today. The puree would work beautifully as a side dish to almost any meal. It's lighter than mashed potatoes, but provides similar satisfaction. 

If you don't have a Sous Vide Supreme, then the pork chops can be prepared conventionally, too. Just rub them with herbs, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then, fry them up in a pan.

Either way, it will be delicious.

Smoked Paprika Cauliflower Puree
Serves 4-6 people
Cooking time: about 30 minutes
Vegan; gluten-free

  • one head of cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 1 russet potato, peeled and roughly chopped
  • about 3 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (pimenton)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Place the cauliflower, potato, and chicken broth in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
  2. Puree the cauliflower and potato with the paprika, olive oil, and the chicken broth. Begin by adding about 2 cups of the broth and then add more to desired consistency.
  3. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays from Domestic Divas!

Thanks to all my divalicious readers for their support this year!

Drum roll please...

We more than doubled our traffic this year!

That's thanks to all of you. I can't tell you how much it warms my heart every time I hear from a reader who has tried a recipe or enjoyed one of my posts.

Wishing you a happy holiday season filled with great food, wine, and love!

Now let's all rock out 2012!


Monday, December 19, 2011

Spicy Peanut Kale

Only one week left until Christmas.

This year has flown by. I feel like I blinked and it was December. While it's tempting to work my way through the end of the year with all the projects clamoring for my attention, it's worthwhile to take a few days off to reflect on the year. And prepare for 2012, which should be a great year.

Just to let you in on my state of mind, I've been listening to "A Long December" by the Counting Crows quite a lot. It especially rings true to me because he talks about living in the canyon (where I live) and how it's getting cold in California. And how he hasn't seen the ocean in a long time.

I'm guilty of that as well.

My hubby and I are off to Floyd, Virginia on Wednesday for a week. While I wish the Adorable Monster could come with us, he's off to Mutt Maniacs. I'm sure he'll have a blast.

Over the holiday, we'll be seeing a lot of movies (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and War Horse), cooking up a storm, drinking tons of delicious vino, petting various animals (including, but not limited to dogs, cats, and horses), and enjoying the quiet of the countryside.

But before I fly the proverbial coop, here's a great winter recipe for Spicy Peanut Kale. It was inspired by one of my favorite side dishes at M Cafe on Melrose. We all know that kale is a superfood—and I always try to sneak it into any dish that I can. But kale, like most greens, can be a bit on the bland side if it's not prepared properly. Well, folks, this recipe is anything but bland.

The kale is quickly blanched and then tossed with a spicy peanut sauce made from soy sauce, fresh lemon juice, peanut butter, fresh ginger and garlic, and chili flakes (red pepper).

This dish is also great, if not better, leftover the next day.

Spicy Peanut Kale
Serves 4-6 people
Cooking time: about 10 minutes
Vegan; gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • 1 big bunch (about 8 cups) of kale, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons tamari (gluten-free) or soy sauce
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes (red pepper)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled

  1. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. To blanche the kale, quickly cook it in the water for about two minutes, or until tender. Once it's cooked, plunge the kale into cold water to shock it (this will preserve the color). Squeeze out the excess water and set aside.
  2. To make the spicy peanut sauce, place the peanut butter, tamari or soy sauce, lemon juice, chili flakes, garlic, and ginger into a mini food processor. Process until blended together. It should be creamy and not too thick (a little water may be added if needed to thin it out). This step may also be done by hand (just mince the garlic and ginger first and then whisk the mixture together).
  3. Toss the kale with the spicy peanut sauce. Enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Curried Coconut Lentil Soup

It's soup weather.

Translation: it's cold and rainy and December, so all you want to eat is something warm and comforting!

This is the kind of weather that makes it tough to get out of bed (especially if you attended KROQ's Almost Acoustic Xmas last night). And unfortunately, it's raining on my farmers market parade. I will probably hit Whole Foods later in the day instead.

The Adorable Monster has the right idea—he's snoozing on the sofa, curled up into a tight bundle of fluffiness.

So I thought I'd write up this recipe that I made the other week for today. It's a Curried Coconut Lentil Soup. Even though this soup is vegan, the curry seasonings, fresh ginger, and coconut milk imbue it with a rich, creamy flavor. I also added quinoa (extra protein and fiber) to the mix.

This soup is sure to spice up any dreary winter day.

Curried Coconut Lentil Soup
Serves 6-8 people
Cooking time: about 50 minutes
Vegan; gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • 1 cup red split lentils
  • 1 cup yellow split peas
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • about 7 cups of filtered water
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 can (14 oz.) light coconut milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • fresh chopped cilantro for garnishing
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and bell pepper and saute until beginning to soften (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic, ginger, and curry powder and stir to combine. Cook for one or two more minutes.
  2. Rinse the lentils and split peas until the water is no longer murky. Add the lentils, split peas, quinoa, and bay leaf to the pot. Cover with water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the split peas are soft.
  3. Stir in the coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 20 minutes or so, allowing the soup to thicken to desired consistency. If it becomes too thick, then more water can be added (though I like this soup nice and thick).
  4. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with the chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Raisin Walnut Spiced Muffins

When I host brunch, I love to bake muffins.

It does many wonderful things. First, it makes the house smell... heavenly. Second, it adds that special homemade touch that only baked goods can bring. Third, they're always a big hit at the breakfast table. Fourth, leftover muffins are great for breakfast all week long.

The only downside to muffins is that many recipes are astoundingly unhealthy, loaded with saturated fat refined carbs, tons of sugar, and god only knows what else. But not these muffins!

I make them with a combination of cornmeal and whole grain spelt flour (hello fiber!). The only sweetener I add is a touch of maple syrup. Instead of butter, I use extra virgin olive oil. What makes them so tasty? I load them up with jumbo raisins, walnuts, and tons of great spices.

They're great for brunch, or any day of the week.

Raisin Walnut Spiced Muffins
Makes 8-10 small muffins
Baking time: about 20 minutes
Vegetarian; dairy-free
Print Recipe

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup whole grain spelt flour 
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup almond milk (or other dairy substitute)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup jumbo raisins tossed with a little flour
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. 
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and then combine with the wet ingredients (vanilla, almond milk, olive oil, maple syrup) and whisk together. 
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring to combine, but be careful not to over-beat the mixture. 
  5. Add the rasins and walnuts and fold them into the batter.
  6. Oil a muffin tin and then spoon the mixture into it, filling each spot. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Orzo Risotto with Kale and Chicken Sausage

Let's talk dining first!

I had a fabulous meal at ink last night, Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio's new eatery.

It was certainly the most hotly anticipated new restaurant of the year, and it delivers and then some. I loved every dish that I tasted (it's a small plates menu, and we ordered at least three quarters of it). They were all interesting and well-balanced and unique. The cocktails were excellent, too. If you're looking for a great review and pictures, hop over to Kevin Eats (I love his blog!).

Next, the T-Day recap!

I'm happy to report that we survived a joint Thanksgiving with both sets of parents in Des Moines, Iowa. It was my parents' first trip to the Midwest, and I think they were pleasantly surprised. The cooking went off without a hitch—everybody pitched in. My father even tied on an apron and prepped brussels sprouts for roasting, something I don't think I've ever seen in my entire life!

It was a loud, boisterous household, just how you want to spend the T-Day holiday.

Now onto cooking!

In the post-Thanksgiving, winter months I always begin to crave comfort food. Orzo, in any form, certainly fits the bill. It's a rice-shaped pasta that can be prepared much like risotto. I buy a whole wheat version, which is a great, healthier alternative to white pasta.

For this hearty, winter dish, I cook the orzo like a risotto in chicken broth. Meanwhile, I saute chicken sausage (I prefer a spicy variety), kale (great in the winter months), and cherry tomatoes. To finish the dish, I stir it all together and add a healthy infusion of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

The resulting dish is hearty and creamy, the perfect antidote to the cold winter months.

Orzo Risotto with Kale and Chicken Sausage
Serves 4-6 people
Cooking time: about 30-40 minutes
Print Recipe

  • 1 lb whole wheat orzo (about 2 cups)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups kale, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups chicken sausage, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • pinch of chili flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano, grated
  • salt and freshly ground pepper 

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Quickly parboil the orzo for about 4-5 minutes, until it has softened, but is still hard in the middle. Drain and rinse with cool water.
  2. Add the stock to a pan and bring to a simmer. Add the orzo and simmer in the stock, stirring regularly, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the orzo is al dente. More stock may be used if needed. 
  3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and the chili flakes and saute for one minute. Add the chicken sausage and cook for another minutes. Then, add the kale and the tomatoes. Continue cooking the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the kale is tender and the tomatoes have broken down (about 5-7 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Add the sausage-kale mixture and the parmigiano-reggiano to the orzo, stirring to combine. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. 
  5. To serve, either plate the orzo or serve family style. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
  • whole wheat orzo, chicken sausage, organic kale, chili flakes, and organic cherry tomatoes from Whole Foods
  • garlic from the West Hollywood Farmers Market
  • organic low-sodium chicken stock and extra virgin olive oil from Trader Joe's

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving From Des Moines!

I just want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Not only do I love this holiday for the smorgasbord of food, but also for allowing us to give thanks for all of the wonderful things in our lives. I'm thrilled to be able to share this holiday with both of my families this year—my parents and my husband's family—all under one roof in one town.

It's sure to be crazy and wonderful and everything in between!

The only thing missing is the The Adorable Monster, but I'm sure he's having a blast at Mutt Maniacs (he certainly qualifies as a mutt maniac, that's for sure).

So I hope that you have a great holiday, filled with friends, family, and most importantly, food!

Jen a/k/a The Domestic Diva

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving Cranberry Apple Crisp

Thanksgiving just isn't complete without dessert.

Go ahead, disagree with me. I dare you.

Over the weekend, a few of my close friends hosted a mock T-Day dinner. It was like a dress rehearsal for the big day (that I can't believe is right around the corner!). Turkey was baked. Mashed potatoes were... well, mashed (and made with Tofu Sour Cream, accidentally purchased by one of the guys on a frenzied last minute Whole Foods run—and it tasted great).

Stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole, and sweet potatoes found their way onto the table, and from there, onto our T-Day themed plates. It was a literal smorgasbord.

It was quite the feast, held before we all abscond for various hometowns across the country. I'm off to Des Moines on Sunday. My hubby has been in NYC, and will meet me there, as will my parents. Meanwhile, the Adorable Monster is off to Mutt Maniacs, from where he will emerge a week later, happy, smelly, and gloriously tired.

Finally, as the meal ended, dessert was placed on the table. It had been my responsibility, and I'd decided against making pie (I'll save that stressful experience for next week, when my mother will be at my side).

Instead, I decided to concoct a seasonal Cranberry Apple Crisp.

I settled on it for three reasons. 1) Everybody loves a great fruit crisp, 2) I didn't have to make pie crust, and 3) there was a great Barefoot Contessa recipe that I could adapt (and had been wanting to try out).

Instead of her use of peaches and raspberries (which would taste great, no doubt), I chose to use cranberries and apples, both very much in season and populating the shelves at all the grocery stores across the country. Granny Smith apples are my go to for pie—their texture and tartness hold up great.

The resulting crisp was delicious—tart, sweet, rich and buttery, and yes, crispy.

This is the perfect holiday dessert. It's stress-free and fool-proof, too. I promise.

I should also mention here that the original The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook is one of my favorite in the whole wide world, and one of the only ones I still consult on a regular basis with the advent of the iPad and the internet. Alright, there's my shameless plug!

Cranberry Apple Crisp
Adapted from 'The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook'
Serves 10 people
Baking time: about one hour
Vegetarian (and easy to veganize)
Print Recipe

  • 4 to 5 pounds apples (about 10 to 12 apples), peeled, cored, and sliced
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
  • 1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, diced

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Butter the inside of a 10 x 15 x 2 1/2 inch baking dish.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the sliced apples, the cranberries, the lemon zest, the lemon juice, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and about 2 tablespoons flour. Toss well. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. If there is a lot of liquid, add 1 more tablespoon of flour.
  4. Pour the apple cranberry mixture into the baking dish and gently smooth the top.
  5. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt, oatmeal, and the cold, diced butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter is pea sized and the mixture is crumbly. 
  6. Sprinkle evenly on top of the apples and cranberries. 
  7. Bake for 1 hour, until the top is browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. 
  8. Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator and reheat in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until warm.

Source for Ingredients
  • organic Granny Smith apples, frozen cranberries, organic lemons, and organic light brown sugar from Whole Foods
  • organic granulated sugar, quick-cooking oatmeal, and organic butter from Trader Joe's

Monday, November 14, 2011

Meatless Monday Features My Recipe for 'Arugula Fig Almond Salad'

Happy Meatless Monday!

Meatless Monday is featuring my recipe for Arugula Fig Almond Salad this week! It's a lovely, light salad that's perfect for the season right now. From MM:

Sweet figs, tangy feta and spicy arugula don’t need much help to shine in this salad celebrating fall’s bounty. A simple balsamic vinaigrette seasons the greens, while almonds add an earthy crunch. 

While you're over there, check out their great articles like how to Savor a Seasonal Meatless Monday.

And as always, one day a week, cut out meat.

Here's the direct link to my article

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thanksgiving Archive: 'Brûléed' Delicata Squash

Happy Thursday!

A slow start to my day due to hosting my book club last night. I made Braised White Bean Cassoulet with chicken sausage, one of my favorite comfort food recipes. Much vino was drunk and gossip was exchanged. The night crept later than anticipated, but time with girlfriends is priceless.

Meanwhile, my husband is off in NYC on business. So the Adorable Monster and I have the house to ourselves. We're taking it easy on this cloudy day. Well, he always takes it easy, but I'm joining him this time.

With only two weeks to go until Thanksgiving, here's another one of my favorite holiday recipes. This one combines delicata squash, which is braised in the oven, with pepitos, basil, and goat cheese. The special touch is that I brûlée the squash with brown sugar under the broiler to finish it off.

The resulting dish is sweet and creamy and everything in between, making it perfect for your Thanksgiving feast.

'Brûléed' Delicata Squash 
Serves 6-8 people
Cooking time: about 50 minutes
Vegetarian; gluten-free
Print Recipe


  • 3 delicata squash, halved and seeded
  • 2 heaping tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons basil, cut into long, thin strips (chiffonade)
  • 1/4 cup pepitos (pumpkin seeds), roasted and salted
  • 1/4 cup chevre (goat cheese)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. To make the squash, cut the halves into slices (they'll be semi-circles) and place in a single layer on a oven proof dish. Brush the squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  
  3. Fill the dishes with about 1/4 inch of water (shouldn't cover the squash). Place in the oven and roast for about 30-40 minutes, or until the squash are tender.
  4. To brûlée them, remove the squash from the oven and set the oven to broil. Sprinkle the tops of the squash slices with the brown sugar.  
  5. Place the squash under the broiler until the sugar melts and caramelizes.
  6. To plate, layer the squash in a serving dish and top with the pepitos. Then, crumble the goat cheese on top (hint: place in the freezer for a few minutes first for easy crumbling). Finish the dish with the basil and some freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thanksgiving Archive: Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving doesn't feel right unless there's pumpkin pie.

At least, that's how I feel, and I know that I'm not alone.

I stumbled upon this recipe for Vegan Pumpkin Pie last year, while staying with my parents in Virginia. I had limited ingredients to work with (no eggs) and a craving for pumpkin pie. Scarcity is often the mother of invention.

I actually like this vegan pie better than regular pumpkin pie. There's something about the almond butter and the molasses and other great ingredients that gives it an amazing richness you wouldn't expect from something without eggs and butter.

This year, we're all headed to Des Moines to celebrate T-Day with my husband's family. And I'm happy to report that for the first time ever, both the Original Diva (my mother) and the Wine Lover (my father) will be trekking to the midwest to partake in the festivities. It shall be memorable, to say the least.

And I'm already menu planning with both mothers, and this pie will be on the table.

So without further ado, here's the recipe.

Vegan Pumpkin Pie 
Adapted from "Vegan World Fusion Cuisine"
makes 1 nine inch pie
baking time: one hour
Print Recipe  


  • 1 recipe My Mother's Vegan Pie Crust
  • 1 can of pumpkin (15 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup almond butter 
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup sucanat
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
  • 1/8 teaspoon clove powder

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare crust and press into the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, place the pumpkin in food processor or blender with remaining ingredients and process or blend until smooth.
  4. Pour mixture into pie crust and bake until top is firm to touch, approximately one hour. Filling may puff up and rise above crust line as it bakes. It will fall back down as it cools.
Optional serving suggestions

Serve with Maple Tofu Vegan Whip Topping

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thanksgiving Archive: Raisin Walnut Spiced Rice

November is here!

I'm holed up, hard at work on my new novel. And my husband is off to NYC for work, so I'll have no excuses not to get a serious amount of work done. 

It's also NaNoWriMo this month (National Novel Writing Month), and many people will be trying to crank out first drafts (50,000 words) in four short weeks. Now, I'm not one of those crazies, but I do feel some solidarity in that I am hard at work on my first draft (and already have about 25,000 words and a very solid outline/sense of where this bad boy is going).

I'm also launching a new writing-focused website soon, where I'll be blogging about my writing (and more personal stuff). There will also be information my novel, which is currently 'on submission' to publishers, and other fun things (for a sneak peak go to

And with November comes that great American feast we call Thanksgiving. This month, I'll be digging into my vaults to bring you my favorite T-Day recipes. 

To start us off, I'm posting my recipe for Raisin Walnut Spiced Rice. This is sort of like a fried rice, but with different flavor profiles. I love making it in place of a traditional bread stuffing. It's far healthier, using whole grains and incorporating greens, and more flavorful, too. Fresh ginger, shallots, and raisins add nice sweet and spicy flavor. This recipe has also been featured my Meatless Monday.

And stay tuned all month long—lots of great T-Day recipes are coming your way!

Raisin Walnut Spiced Rice
Serves 4-6 people people
Cooking time: about 20 minutes
Vegan; gluten-free

  • 2 cups long grain brown rice, cooked
  • 1 shallot, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 cups Swiss chard, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat. 
  2. Add the shallots and saute for a few minutes, until beginning to soften. Add the ginger and cook for another minute until fragrant.
  3. Next add the raisins and walnuts and cook for a few minutes. 
  4. Add the Swiss chard and stir into the mixture. Continue cooking the chard until it's tender.
  5. Finally, add the rice to the mixture and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for another ten minutes, stirring occasionally. The rice should take on a nice, nutty flavor. Stir in the chopped parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
  • organic Swiss chard from Studio City Farmers Market
  • organic shallot and ginger from Hollywood Farmers Market
  • organic long grain brown rice from Whole Foods
  • jumbo raisins and organic walnuts from Trader Joe's

Monday, October 31, 2011

Meatless Monday: Veggie Frittata with Feta Cheese

What a fun weekend!

Not only did we have amazing weather (lower '80's and gloriously sunny—sorry East Coasters!), but my in-laws came into town for a nice visit. We had indulgent meals at Lou on Vine, Bouchon, Ray's (at LACMA—my new favorite place), and finally Pace. I think we'll all need a detox this week!

I did make us a lovely brunch at my house in the canyon, cooking up a simple feast of Raisin Walnut Spiced Muffins (recipe coming shortly) and a Veggie Frittata with Feta Cheese, using ingredients purchased at my local farmers market. Usually, I just stock up on everything that looks fabulous, and then figure out what to with it once I get home (I'm on my way there shortly...).

This fritatta combined some of my favorite vegetables—lacinato kale (I try to sneak this into any recipe that I can); jumbo asparagus (just materialized last week at the market); sweet cherry tomatoes (still coming in strong in California). The finishing touch was some fresh goat's milk feta cheese, also from one of my vendors at the market. Likewise, the eggs were procured from one of my local farmers.

I cooked the frittata in my cast iron skillet (which was only $20, and is one of my favorite pans). I started it stove top, and then moved it into the oven, before finishing it under the broiler.

I served the frittata with some homemade Raisin Walnut Spiced Muffins (made with whole grains and raisins also from one of my farmers). The resulting feast was simple, yet delicious and satisfying. I served the frittata directly out of my cast iron skillet, which looked lovely and rustic on the table.

Veggie Frittata with Feta Cheese
Serves 4-6 people
Cooking time: about 20 minutes
Print Recipe


  • 8 eggs
  • 2 cups kale, thinly chopped
  • 2 cups or 1 bunch asparagus, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. In a cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. 
  2. Add the garlic, and saute for one minute.
  3. Add the asparagus and kale, stirring to combine. Continue to cook until the vegetables are beginning to soften. 
  4. Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a bowl and beat until the yolks and whites are mixed together and the entire mixture is slightly frothy. Season with a little salt and pepper.
  5. Pour the mixture into the cast iron skillet over the vegetables. Place the halved cherry tomatoes cut side up on top of the egg mixture, gently pressing them down.
  6. Top with the crumbled feta, a little salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.
  7. Continue cooking stove top until the frittata begins to set. 
  8. Finish the frittata under the broiler. Enjoy!
Source for Ingredients
  • lacinato kale, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, garlic, thyme, eggs, and goat's milk feta cheese from the West Hollywood Farmers Market

Thursday, October 27, 2011

L'Ermitage Beverly Hills Debuts New Small Bites Lounge Menu

Kumamoto Oysters with Ginger Summer Salsa

L'Ermitage in Beverly Hills is a stalwart bastion of Los Angeles. When I worked in Hollywood, I booked many drinks in their lounge.

Much about the hotel remains the same--the refined crowd, the framed Oscar-winning screenplays on the walls, the relaxed atmosphere. However, the lounge and cocktail menus have recently gotten a total revamping, thanks to Executive Chef Joseph Elevado (a jovial man who has trained with some of the greats, including Nobu himself) and award-winning mixologist Stephanie Brown (who has a penchant for growing wacky ingredients in her own garden and infusing them into her cocktails).

Octopus Salad Skewers

The new menu features small bites with subtle Asian and Mexican influences, such as the Kumamoto Oysters with a delicate ginger summer salsa (I must have eaten twenty of these); the Pork Belly sliders served on buttery brioche with tomato jam; and the Pickled Fries (yes, they are deep fried dill pickles--amazing!).

Wagyu Sliders on Brioche

The cocktails match the food in their complexity and flavor. My favorites included the Off the Vine, a heady combination of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, lemon juice, agave nectar, heirloom tomatoes (you read this right), and basil; the Root of All Evil, made with rum, citrus, ginger beer and candied ginger (they had me at ginger); and The Bitter Truth, a refreshing blend of elderflower Liqueur, grapefruit, and champagne.

The Chefs pushing Lemon Curd Zeppoli's

And I haven't even mentioned desserts yet. We enjoyed the Lemon Curb Zeppoli's. Frankly, anything fried, especially desserts, are delicious.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Meatless Monday: Tofu Bolognese with Whole Wheat Spaghetti

Tofu Bolognese with Whole Wheat Spaghetti

This is a dish that my mother used to make us when we were kids, and she was still a vegetarian. It had generous hunks of tofu in it, and yes, we loved it.

Kids love anything with noodles as a general rule. Even tofu, when it's seasoned well so it actually tastes like something yummy. This recipe essentially substitutes the meat usually found in  bolognese sauce with firm tofu. The tofu is simmered in the tomato sauce, which infuses it with great flavor. It literally sucks it up.

I serve the sauce over a whole wheat spaghetti, but any type of pasta would work great. To finish it, I top it with a little parmesan reggiano cheese, but that's not necessary. The dairy-free version (vegan) is delicious, too.

I also much prefer to use tofu in my sauce, rather than a meat-like substitute vegetable protein (which tends to be very processed).

Finally, for a super shortcut easy version of this recipe, toss bottled organic tomato sauce into a slow-cooker. Add tofu. Simmer on low for several hours. It's delicious.

Tofu Bolognese with Whole Wheat Spaghetti
Serves 4-6 people
Cooking time: about 40 minutes
Vegan (meat and dairy-free)
Print Recipe

  • 1 package (14 oz.) firm tofu, drained and cubed
  • 28 ounce can of tomatoes, pureed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Italian parley, chopped
  • pinch of chili flakes (optional)
  • parmesan reggiano cheese, for grating (optional)
  • 1 package (1 lb) whole wheat spaghetti, cooked and drained

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat.  
  2. Add the onion and carrots and saute until starting to soften, about 5 minutes.  
  3. Then, add the garlic and chili flakes (optional) and saute for another minute. 
  4. Finally, add the tomatoes, bay leaf, and tofu. Partially cover the pot and allow the sauce to simmer for about 35-40 minutes.  
  5. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. 
  6. To serve, place the pasta in a bowl and top with a generous portion of the  sauce. Finish with chopped parsley, freshly ground pepper, and a little grated parmesan reggiano cheese if desired. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
  • onions, carrots, garlic, and bay leaf from West Hollywood Farmers Market
  • organic firm tofu, organic canned tomatoes, organic whole wheat spaghetti, parmesan reggiano cheese, and extra virgin olive oil from Trader Joe's
  • organic chili flakes from Whole Foods

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pan-Seared Salmon with Mustard Shallot Sauce

Pan-Seared Salmon with Mustard Shallot Sauce

There simply aren't enough hours in the day.

I'm sure that I'm not alone in thinking that. And I know that I am blessed--my days are filled with so many fabulous things. I shouldn't complain.

Today, brings week 2 of my mentoring program, the Young Storytellers Foundation. It's a fabulous program where we go into low income schools and work with kids over the course of a few weeks to write short screenplays. Then, at the end of the program, we have a "Big Show" where real actors come to our school and perform the kids' work. Last year, Jeremy Piven did my school's show, and from what I hear, it was epic. Hopefully, he'll be back again this year.

Today, I get my mentee assignment! They're a fabulous bunch of kids--bright-eyed, easily excitable, eager to learn. It gives me so much hope for the future.

My only typical regret is that I wish I had more uninterrupted hours for writing. I'm sure every writer feels this way. I'm knee-deep into my new book (young adult, science fiction--quite a departure from my first novel, which is currently on submission to publishers via my fab agent). And it's finally starting to come to life in my head and on the page. The characters are beginning to become real.

The solution is to get up much, much earlier, I think. Now, I have never been a morning person. Not even close. I don't wake up, whistling and waving hello to hummingbirds. The Adorable Monster does (well, more like he barks at dogs that walk by our house). And it's not like I get up that late.

But very early. Painfully early. Before the sun has risen. Before the fog has lifted. Before most sane people rise from their beds.

That's what it's going to take.

Now if only I could start going to bed earlier. Sigh.

Time for food! This is a great recipe that I made this week for Pan-Seared Salmon with Mustard Shallot Sauce. It's quick and easy to make, healthy, and looks far more impressive, as if you've slaved over the stove for hours. The salmon and the sauce are cooked in the same pan, making clean up a breeze.

The sauce is a simple reduction made from shallots, mustard, and white whine. That's it. But it's oh so tasty--tangy and spicy and rich. 

I served it over wilted spinach, but it would go great with any sauteed greens or other vegetable of your choice.

Pan-Seared Salmon with Mustard Shallot Sauce
Serves 2 people
Cooking time: about 20 minutes
Dairy and gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • 2 salmon fillets (4 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

  1. Heat the grapeseed oil over high heat. Meanwhile, season the salmon with salt and pepper on both sides.
  2. Add the salmon and reduce heat to medium. Cook, turning once, until the outside is crispy and nicely seared and the inside is cooked to desired doneness (I prefer my salmon a little bit medium rare).
  3. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Pour off all but one tablespoon of oil from the pan. Add the shallots, and saute for two minutes, until beginning to soften.
  5. Add the white wine and mustard, stirring to deglaze the pan. Simmer for a few minutes, until reduced in half. Taste and check seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary. 
  6. To serve, place a piece of salmon on a plate and spoon the sauce over the top. Finish with a little chopped parsley and freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
  • salmon and shallots from the West Hollywood Farmers Market 
  • whole grain mustard from Whole Foods
  • white wine and grapeseed oil from Trader Joe's

Monday, October 17, 2011

Meatless Monday: Roasted Cherry Tomato & Zucchini Risotto

Roasted Cherry Tomato & Zucchini Risotto

It's the middle of October, but you wouldn't know it from the 100 plus temperatures in Los Angeles last week!

I had to fire up the air conditioner and huddle indoors. The Adorable Monster and I both started to go a little bit stir crazy. Thankfully, that weather has passed, and I'm back to cooking more fall-ish, comforting recipes.

Of all the comfort foods out there, risotto has got to be one of my favorites. And we're just back from a trip to San Francisco, where we dined at my brother's restaurant, Picco. They're known for their risotto, which comes out fresh on the half hour. It changes nightly, but always involves some fabulous combination of vegetables. Who knew that rice and veggies could taste so spectacular?

And that has inspired me to share this recipe for Roasted Cherry Tomato & Zucchini Risotto. I also figured that I'd better slip it in before we hit winter, since it uses the last of the late summer harvest (my parents in Virginia are still pulling tomatoes from their garden, if you can believe it).

I love this combination of tomatoes and squash, which I roast first in the oven to intensify their flavor. Working with the components separately to wring the most flavor out of them is a key to making to die for risotto (my brother does this at his restaurant). Another key is homemade stock, but store bought works, too.

Roasted Cherry Tomato & Zucchini Risotto
Serves 3-4 people
Cooking time: about 40 minutes
Vegetarian; gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups zucchini, chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (preferably homemade)
  • 2 shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup parmesan reggiano cheese, plus more for garnishing
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Toss the cherry tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Do the same thing with the zucchini.
  3. Spread the cherry tomatoes evenly over a cookie sheet or other oven proof dish. Do the same thing with the zucchini on another cookie sheet. 
  4. Roast both in the oven until they're tender and gently caramelized (about 20-30 minutes depending on size). Remove from the oven and set aside.
  5. Meanwhile prepare the risotto by heating the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. 
  6. Add the shallots and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Then, stir in the rice, coating it with the oil, and cook for another two minutes. 
  7. Pour in the white wine and stir until absorbed. Once the wine has been absorbed, slowly add the vegetable stock 1/2 at cup at a time, stirring until it's absorbed before adding more stock. Continue adding stock and cooking until the rice is al dente (note: you may not use all of the stock).
  8. Once the rice is cooked, stir in the roasted tomatoes, the roasted zucchini, the parmesan, and the parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  9. To plate, spoon the risotto into bowls. Top with freshly ground pepper and drizzle with a little good olive oil. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
  • cherry tomatoes, zucchini, shallots, and parsley from the West Hollywood Farmers Market 
  • parmesan reggiano, arborio rice, white wine, and olive oil from Trader Joe's 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"Everything But the Kitchen Sink" Dal Recipe

From Clean Food, Dirty Mouth

Occasionally, I like to share great recipes I stumble across. This one for a sort of "Everything But the Kitchen Sink" dal, posted on my college roomie's blog (aptly titled, "Clean Food, Dirty Mouth"), felt like it was worth sharing.

Firstly, dal is one of my favorite dishes in the whole wide world. And secondly, I love recipes that are like a base with which you can experiment, working with fresh, seasonal ingredients, adding your own twist.

From Clean Food, Dirty Mouth

This is why I love risotto (my brother's restaurant does a risotto special every day, taking this same flying by the seat of your pants approach). Only he's more like Superman when it comes to flying, and his pants are Gucci. But I digress...

And who knew, a decade ago back in college, that both of us would end up writers/self-taught-foodie-chef-bakers?

It's a Mad, Mad World...

Click here for her wonderful dal recipe

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Baby Potato Zucchini Casserole

Baby Potato & Zucchini Casserole

I've just returned from San Francisco, where I spent the weekend at Cavallo Point celebrating my one year wedding anniversary, enjoying the Fleet Week air show, and dining at Picco, my brother's fabulous restaurant. We had two amazing meals there, and even got to meet Chef Bruce Hill, who I absolutely adored.

Not only is the restaurant busier than ever (it was packed both nights we were there), but the menu just keeps getting better, if that's even possible. It's worth the trip over the bridge for the risotto alone, which is made fresh on the half hour, and which many people believe to be the best in the city, if not the country.

I was sad to leave SF, but all good things must come to an end...

But getting away really does wonders for you. In a way, it reboots your brain, clearing out all the cobwebs, letting you return refreshed and ready to dive back into your life with a clearer perspective. I'm spending today catching up with myself--blogging, cleaning up, unpacking, grocery shopping, etc.

And tomorrow, I'll get back to my two favorite things: cooking and writing!

But in the meantime, I thought I'd leave you with a great recipe for Baby Potato & Zucchini Casserole. The other week, I received samples of baby potatoes from The Little Potato Company (available at Ralphs and other stores).

There are few things I love more than little potatoes.

For this recipe, I used a package of their Terrific Trio, a delightful combination of yellow, red, and purple baby potatoes. I love the different colors, which bring a whimsical flair to any recipe.

I paired them with zucchini, making them into a simple casserole by layering them over caramelized onions cooked with thyme.

The finishing touch? A sprinkling of parmesan reggiano over the top. This recipe looks great served out of the roasting pan on the table, and is the perfect side dish for any lunch or dinner.

Baby Potato & Zucchini Casserole
Serves 4-6 people
Cooking time: about 60 minutes
Vegetarian; gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • 1 pound baby potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 5 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1/4 cup parmesan reggiano, grated
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a dutch oven or other oven proof pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Stir in the thyme and remove from heat. Note: if you don't have a roasting pan that can go on the stovetop, this step may be done on the stove top and then poured into an oven-proof dish.
  3. Layer the zucchini and potato slices over the onion mixture, alternating a row of potatoes overlapped by a row of zucchini (see picture). 
  4. Once the pan is full, drizzle the potatoes and zucchini with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Cover the dish and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. 
  6. Once thirty minutes have elapsed, remove the cover and roast for an additional 25 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
  7.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the parmesan. Then, return to the oven and cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
  8. Serve family style straight out of the roasting pan for a beautiful side dish to any meal. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
  • Terrific Trio of baby potatoes from The Little Potato Company
  • organic zucchini, organic onions, parmesan reggiano, and extra virgin olive oil from Trader Joe's
  • onions and thyme from the West Hollywood Farmers Market
Disclaimer: I received free samples of potatoes, however the opinions expressed here are my own.