Tiny Gourmet

Pumpkin Overnight Oats

Food, RecipesKristenComment

It's that time of year again. Everyone is busy testing out new recipes, wiping the grocery store clean of anything remotely "fall" flavored, and planning their holiday meals. Somewhere in this shuffle, millions (by my unscientific estimate) of half-used cans of pumpkin puree languish in refrigerators across the country until they grow unsightly dots of green mold on top and are thrown away. Everyone has the best of intentions for the rest of that puree -- they promise themselves that they'll use it in something! But alas, time gets away from us and takes the pumpkin with it.

Here's my solution: pumpkin overnight oats. I've been playing around with different varieties of overnight oats for a few months. I love that I can easily throw everything together on Sunday night and have a few days' worth of breakfast ready to go in the morning. In this version, I whisk leftover pumpkin puree together with almond milk to create the liquid base of the overnight oats. A quick dash of some warm spices and a little bit of maple syrup or honey brings everything together nicely!

I've found that steel cut oats work really well for this preparation -- rolled oats will work as well, but the steel cut oats definitely absorb more liquid and take on a creamier consistency. I like to add chia seeds into my overnight oats because they add a little more fiber and protein, which is always a good way to start your day. If you can't find them or you're just not into them, feel free to leave them out.

Pumpkin Overnight Oats
1 Serving

Ingredients
---------------
1/3 c. steel cut oats
1 tbsp. chia seeds
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
pinch of salt
1/3 c. pumpkin puree
1/3 c. almond milk, plus 2-4 tbsp. additional
1 tsp. honey or maple syrup
(optional) walnuts, pecans, or almonds to top

Instructions
---------------
In a bowl, combine oats, chia seeds, spices, and salt. Whisk to combine.

In a separate bowl or measuring glass, combine the pumpkin puree, 1/3 c. almond milk, and sweetener of choice (honey or maple syrup). Whisk until everything is smooth and combined. Add the pumpkin mixture to the oat mixture and stir to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour, or overnight.

The oats should absorb the liquid and have a thick, cakey consistency. To serve, add a few additional tablespoons of almond milk to loosen up the oats. Top with nuts and drizzle with more honey or maple syrup if desired.

 

Chewy (Raisin-less) Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Food, RecipesKristenComment

It all started with an innocent question: "Have you ever made oatmeal raisin cookies, just without the raisins?"

The answer? I'd never made oatmeal cookies in my life because I never liked them. I remember the feeling of disappointment from childhood when you knew there were cookies at a birthday party or a family function, but they were oatmeal raisin. UGH! What a waste of a cookie. When oatmeal raisin cookies are "crunchy," it usually means that they are dry and crumbly. When the cookie is "chewy," and then you add in chewy raisins, they can taste really gummy. In case you haven't caught on yet -- not a fan.

But I'd never considered just making oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips and leaving out the raisins altogether. It's a simple enough substitution, but it was enough to change my opinion on oatmeal cookies forever! I think the real secret to these cookies is the molasses. It keeps them soft and chewy even after they've cooled, which I think is the better consistency for oatmeal cookies.

Chewy (Raisin-less) Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Yield: 2.5 dozen

Ingredients
---------------
1/2 c. butter (2 sticks), softened
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. rolled/quick-cooking oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. chocolate chips

Instructions
---------------
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a mixing bowl. Using the paddle attachment for the stand mixer, or an electric hand mixer, cream together the ingredients until they are fully combined, light, and fluffy. Don't skimp on this step -- it's the key to good texture in the finished product!

Add in the egg, molasses, and vanilla -- beat until everything is combined well.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients 1/3 at a time, mixing well between each addition until a dough is formed. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, mix the chocolate chips into the dough by hand.

If the dough is very soft, I recommend sticking the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes before forming the cookies. This will keep the cookies from melting and spreading too quickly in the oven. Drop mounds of dough in rounded tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake each sheet of cookies for 10-12 minutes until golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to sit for 2-3 minutes on the baking sheet before removing with a spatula to a wire rack to cool.
 

Tomato Tart

Food, RecipesKristenComment

I'm pretty thrilled that Fall is setting in. I know that a lot of people mourn the end of summer, but I always prefer the milder seasons of Fall and Spring to the extremes of Summer and Winter (yes, I know that Fall's arrival means that Winter is not far behind, but I'm going to choose to ignore that for now). One thing that I will miss about this summer is the surplus of tomatoes that everyone seemed to have in their gardens! I think they were growing like weeds this year or something, because everyone I know with the smallest patch of dirt in their yard was offering me POUNDS at a time! Yes, please. 

These particular tomatoes came out of Frank's mom's garden -- a lovely mix of Sweet 100s and Sun Golds. I knew I couldn't use them all up in salads before they went bad (I had a pound and a half!), so instead I baked them into my favorite tart crust with just a touch of garlic. After the tart was out of the oven, I topped it with some fresh chopped basil. 

The next time I make this dish, I think I'll grate a generous dusting of Parmesan over the top at the end -- a creamy/salty element would have perked it up just a bit more!

Tomato Tart

Ingredients
---------------
Tart shell:
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour, plus more when you roll the dough
1/2 tsp. salt
10 tbsp. butter, very cold or frozen
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp. ice water

Filling:
1.5 pounds cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced

Topping:
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese (optional)
8 large basil leaves, cut into chiffonade

Instructions
---------------
Tart shell:
Combine the flour and salt in a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.

Add the butter to the food processor and pulse until ingredients come together in a dough. Add the egg yolk and process again until combined, being careful not to over-process.

Remove the dough to a bowl and add in the ice water, mixing it in by hand. If the dough seems dry, add slightly more water. Wrap in plastic and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle your counter top with flour and roll the dough out, sprinkling with more flour if it's sticking. Roll the dough out into a circle that is just a few inches wider than your tart pan (I prefer to use one with a removable bottom and crimped edges). Transfer the dough into your tart pan and press evenly into it, removing excess dough from the edges. Use a fork to prick the bottom of the tart and then place in the freezer for another 15 minutes.

Par-bake the tart -- coat one side of a piece of foil with butter or non-stick cooking spray, and place the buttered side down into the tart pan. Fill the lined tart with dried beans or pie weights to keep the crust from rising during baking. Bake for 15 minutes until the edges of the tart are just golden.

Filling:
Combine the cherry tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic in a bowl and stir to combine.

Fill the par-baked crust with the tomato filling. It's OK if all of the tomatoes don't fit perfectly -- they will shrink and fit in during baking. Turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and return the filled tart to the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes until tomatoes are soft.

If using the cheese, sprinkle over the top of the tart and return to the oven for an additional 5-8 minutes until cheese is melted. Finish the tart with the basil chiffonade and serve warm.

Carrot, Kale, and Avocado Sandwiches

Food, New York City, RecipesKristen1 Comment

I'm fortunate to work in SoHo, a neighborhood that has a good variety of food options. I try to bring my own lunch to work as often as I can, but sometimes I treat myself. Lately, I find myself heading toward Smile To Go, the little sister to The Smile restaurant, for their carrot, kale, and avocado sandwich, which is also smeared with just a touch of tomato aioli.

Both Smile restaurants are on my go-to list of lunch spots in SoHo. The Smile is perfect for a nice sit-down lunch, and the To Go location offers an excellent selection of sandwiches and salads that are super tasty and pretty healthy compared to some of its neighbors (ahem, Chipotle). I first had this sandwich at Cherry Bombe magazine's Jubilee conference, which Smile To Go catered. It was love at first bite. I literally thought about that sandwich for weeks afterward, until I realized how close the restaurant is to my office!

I wanted to recreate the sandwich at home since the components are really simple. At the restaurant it's served on a whole wheat baguette, but you'll see that I used a whole wheat loaf bread instead. As much as I love a crusty baguette, I find that with so many slippery fillings I tend to end up with avocado in my lap when I bite into it. This is probably because sometimes (often times) I am not a fully-functioning human being who can eat baguette sandwiches. Use whatever bread you prefer -- I do suggest keeping it in the nutty, whole wheat variety for nice flavor, though. I used Trader Joe's Quinoa Bread here, but I also LOVE this with Whole Foods' Flax Quinoa Bread (one of the best grocery store breads one can buy, in my opinion!).

Carrot, Kale, and Avocado Sandwiches

Inspired by Smile To Go

Ingredients (Makes 2 sandwiches)
---------------
3 c. kale, stems removed and torn into strips
3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 tomato
3 large carrots or 4 medium ones
1/2 c. mayonnaise, jarred or homemade if you're feeling fancy
1 ripe avocado
4 slices of nutty whole grain bread
salt and pepper

Instructions
---------------- 

Combine the kale and 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a small bowl. With your hands, massage the kale and distribute the oil evenly to soften the leaves. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside in the refrigerator for at least one hour (you can do this the night before and let it sit overnight as well)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Peel the carrots if desired and cut them in half lengthwise. If your carrots are very large, you can quarter them. Cut the tomato in half and remove the seeds. Place carrots on one side of a baking sheet; place the tomato halves cut-side down on the baking sheet. Drizzle everything with your remaining 2 tbsp. of oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Roast carrots and tomatoes for about 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and their skins are wrinkled. Remove the tomatoes and set them aside to cool. Return the carrots to the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes, until they are soft and slightly caramelized. Let them cool.

When the tomatoes are cool, combine them in a blender or food processor with 1/2 c. mayonnaise. Blend until smooth and season lightly with salt and pepper. If the consistency is very runny, add more mayo.

Halve and thinly slice the avocado

Assembly:
Toast your bread slices. Spread two pieces of bread with a thin layer of the tomato aioli, and cover each with a thick layer of the softened kale. Cut the roasted carrots to fit your bread slices, and add them on top of the kale. Cover the carrots with avocado slices. Spread the two remaining pieces of bread with another thin layer of aioli, and top your sandwiches. Cut in half (or don't!) and enjoy!

Store leftover tomato aioli in the fridge for up to a week and enjoy with roasted potatoes or fries!

The Best Meal in Thailand

Food, TravelKristen2 Comments

One final Thailand story before I finally bring my brain back to reality and accept that vacation is over! As you've seen, we ate a lot of food during our trip. We sampled enough curries and noodles and soups and regional specialties for two people twice our size, and most of it was delicious. But there is one special meal that will always stick out in my mind after our trip and it came from a very unlikely source.

We spent our first few days in the country on a beautiful island called Koh Yao Noi. Although the island is only a 45 minute boat ride from the popular tourist destination of Phuket, it's still a relatively untouched community with a vibrant local culture. The population of Koh Yao Noi is 99% Muslim, and our visit happened to fall during the holy days of Ramadan, when practicing Muslims fast during the daylight hours. It was exciting to see the town during this time as people prepared each day for their big "break fast" meals after sundown. However, this also meant that most of the restaurants were closed for lunch.

Assured by the hotel staff that we would be able to find some restaurants in the center of town, we rented a motorbike and drove in to check it out. When we arrived, however, we found that all of the restaurants were shuttered until sundown. We stopped on the sidewalk to regroup, when a man walked out of an art gallery and asked if he could help us. We explained that we were looking for a place to eat, and he reconfirmed our suspicion that nobody would be serving lunch. "Most people here are Muslim, but I'm a Buddhist! I can make you something," he told us, "Do you like squid?"

And so we found ourselves sitting on the porch of the art gallery, wondering if it was a terrible idea to accept lunch from a complete stranger in a foreign country. Maybe the art shop doubled as a restaurant, as many of the neighboring barber shop-clothing store-noodle shops in the town seemed to? When our host jumped on his bicycle and pedaled off, we panicked a little bit more. He returned just a few minutes later, arms laden with bags of fresh vegetables that he had picked up at the market. This was definitely not a restaurant.

But when our new friend, named Chalad, served us beautiful dishes of fried rice studded with fresh baby squid and vegetables, we relaxed. Maybe it was the fact that the meal had been specially prepared for us, but we both agree that it was one of the most delicious that we had during our trip. We sat and chatted with Chalad as we ate our lunch, learning that he had lived on Phuket until the deadly tsunami in 2004 had literally washed away the life he had built there. He relocated to Koh Yao Noi to rebuild his store, where he works on commissioned pieces. He showed us his artwork, which featured jazz musicians, iconic pop culture figures, and images of monks and the Buddha. I wished we could take home a beautiful piece he had done of Miles Davis.

When it came time for us to leave, Chalad did not want to accept any payment for the beautiful meal he prepared for us (we insisted on at least paying for the groceries!). He told us that it was so hot outside and we looked hungry; he only wanted to help us. I was so touched by his gesture. It's always easier to not get involved in others' problems, especially when those problems are really a minor inconvenience (we weren't close to dying of hunger, and really it was our fault that we didn't think about Ramadan ahead of time). Meeting Chalad and sharing a meal with him was easily the most meaningful experience we had during our time in Thailand. After all, we all know that the way to my heart is through my stomach!