Exceptional Caribbean Cuisine Practically in my Backyard!

Last weekend, we decided to try out a little hidden gem within a 5 minute walk from our place called Corlette.  Upon arriving, we were surprised to see how beautiful the space was inside despite it being located opposite the Home Depot.  The hostess informed us that the restaurant had recently undergone a renovation with a new menu focusing on caribbean flavors.  Both my husband and I are huge fans of caribbean food – especially jerk chicken which they had on their menu and was accompanied by traditional rice and peas and a salad.  Most decent jerk chicken dishes come from “hole in the wall” take out style restaurants in Brooklyn so it was a great to find a place where we could enjoy the food and ambiance.  I also ordered their house fruit punch which was a hit for my 5 year old son along with their homemade macaroni and cheese.  We are planning to go back to try out the various tacos with a caribbean twist and tropical cocktails before this hidden gem gets discovered and crowded like the other few decent restaurants in our neighborhood. Here are some photos of the interior, my drink, and the jerk chicken entree.

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Vinegared Blueberries

I’m a huge fan of SCRATCHbread’s vinegared blueberries on top of almond butter toast and was curious to know if I could create the same blueberries at home.  It was easier then I thought after some online research.  I just placed some washed blueberries in a bowl and added a dash of balsamic vinegar and a small spoon full of raw cane sugar.  After mixing, I set aside the bowl for 30 minutes and the blueberries were ready.  They tasted just like the vinegared blueberries that I had at SCRATCHbread and can be used to top pancakes, waffles, or toast with any type of nut butter. Check out my past post – Addicted to SCRATCHbread for more delicious food.

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French Breakfast

It has been a challenging week being on my own with my 5 year old adjusting to a new school while my husband is away on business for 2.5 weeks. To give myself a much needed break, I treated myself to breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien. Even though this is an international chain, the food tastes like it is fresh and homemade. I ordered the Breakfast Basket pictured below that comes with assorted slices of fresh baked organic bread, a soft boiled egg, chocolate croissant, orange juice, and a pot of tea. It was definitely what I needed to regroup and start the day.

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A Day in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

Last weekend, I visited Bensonhurst for the first time to attend a birthday party of my son’s classmate. Since we had to go all the way out there, I decided to finally check out a popular pizza place called L & B Spumoni Gardens that was featured on the t.v. show, Man vs. Food. You can click here to see the episode on youtube. L & B Spumoni Gardens is famous for their plain sicilian square pizza (pictured below) where the cheese is underneath the sauce rather then on top. We enjoyed our slices of pizza outside on their large picnic tables. They also have several flavors of homemade italian ices, ice cream, and spumoni.  I tried the rainbow spumoni which is a combination of vanilla, chocolate, and pistachio ice cream. Both the pizza and desserts are well worth the long trek to Bensonhurst!

After pizza, our next stop was a cute beer garden called the Draft Barn located on Avenue X. They had an extensive beer and food menu plus a beautiful covered outdoor seating area that you can see in the photograph below. It was nice to have most of the place to ourselves but I can imagine that it probably gets packed in the evenings by the local Russians from the neighborhood.

Farmers Market Salad

Here is a photo of the salad I made today with ingredients from my local farmers market: mesclun, red onion, roma tomato, cucumber, and bell pepper. I topped it with a balsamic vinaigrette.

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Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Sorry everyone for not posting to the blog for a few weeks. I was busy visiting my family in Ohio and attending my 20 year high school reunion in Dublin, Ohio. Whenever I return to NYC from Ohio, the two things that I miss the most are my family and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams! The founder of Jeni’s actually went to my same college, Ohio State University for art school but ended up dropping out and creating this successful business that has been featured on the food network and zillions of publications. All of Jeni’s ice cream is made from organic milk and cream sourced from local Ohio farms from grass-fed cows. They have their own signature flavors such as salty caramel but my favorite one is the buckeye state which is peanut butter ice cream and chocolate pieces mixed together. My son’s favorite signature flavors are the wildberry lavender which he refers to as “purple ice cream” (see photo below) and the ugandan vanilla bean. They also make their own waffle cones daily from scratch. For anyone who is dying to try some of these flavors in NYC, there are some small gourmet grocery stores that carry this brand.  I’ve actually found it nearby at Greene Grape Provisions in Fort Greene, Brooklyn for over $10 a pint which is a bit pricey but worth every penny after that first taste!

Indian comfort food: dal and rice

Dal and rice is a staple in Indian cuisine and is usually served with other dishes.  With my busy schedule, I usually just have it as my main meal when I am craving my mom’s cooking and don’t have a lot of time to cook anything else.  What makes cooking Indian food easy to me is to have all of the spices in one place like the round container that you see below in my photos.  I use a lot of the same spices in most of my Indian recipes.  Here is the recipe taught to me by my mom with some slight changes:

First, I washed 1 cup of basmati rice and then added 2.5 cups of water in my rice cooker and set it to cook so it would be ready at the same time as the dal.

Ingredients for dal:  1 cup red lentils, 4 cups water, 8 curry leaves, 2 green chili peppers, 1 tbsp grated ginger, 1 garlic clove, 1 diced tomato, 1/2 tsp brown sugar, 1 tsp salt (or to taste), 1 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder, dash of red chili powder, 1 tbsp canola oil, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp Fenugreek seeds, 1/4 tsp asafoetida, 2 tbsp chopped cilantro, 1 tbsp lemon juice

Steps to making dal: I washed the red lentils several times and then added it to 4 cups of water to boil in a large sauce pan.  Next, I added the curry leaves, chili peppers, ginger, garlic, tomato, brown sugar, and salt.  I allowed the lentils to boil under medium heat while I tempered some spices.

In a separate small fry pan with 1 tbsp of canola oil, I added the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, and asafoetida. Once I could smell the fragrance from the browned seeds, I poured this sizzling mixture straight into the boiling lentils.

Next, I added turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, and a dash of chili powder to the  lentils and turned down the heat allowing the lentils to simmer.

Once my lentils (dal) had been cooking for about 20-25 minutes total, I turned off the stove and added the chopped cilantro and lemon juice.

I served the dal over the rice which you can see in the last photo below.  It also goes good with papad and mango pickle on the side.  This recipe can be adapted to almost any type of bean or lentil that you have in your pantry as long as you adjust the cooking time.

Seafood, beer garden, mini golf, and more

Last weekend, we finally made the trek to Red Hook in Brooklyn to check out the fairly new restaurant/bar, Brooklyn Crab, which is directly across from Fairway, one of my favorite grocery stores. Brooklyn Crab looks like it belongs on a beach except it is 3 stories high with a gigantic backyard mini golf and cornhole play area. They have an extensive menu of seafood choices ranging from crab legs, to raw oysters, to fried seafood, etc., including a decent children’s menu. We ordered the fried oysters sandwich, fried clams basket, and fish & chips.  Their bar looks very well stocked and has a wide selection of craft beers on tap.  Everything was pretty good but the best part was the huge mini golf course downstairs where you can have a beer while you play. Check out some of the photos below!

A very simple banana bread recipe

A very simple banana bread recipe

I have a ton of overripe bananas sitting on my kitchen counter so am going to try out this banana bread recipe that looks SUPER easy!  I’ll update later on how it turns out.

Later today:

This recipe was amazing – not only tasty but easier then I had expected!  I’ve tried several other recipes in the past that were more complicated and didn’t turn out as moist as this recipe.  My son gobbled up a slice with a glass of milk after dinner.I used the recipe from the link above plus added 1 tsp vanilla and a half tsp of cinnamon.  I especially liked this banana bread recipe since I usually have all of the ingredients in my kitchen.  One tip is to freeze overripe bananas whole with skin on in the fridge and then thaw out before peeling and using in the recipe (a great way to store and use bananas that are too ripe to eat).  We’ll be definitely packing some slices of the banana bread in our snack bag tomorrow for our trip to the Bronz zoo!

Tomatoes from my container garden

I decided to be ambitious this year and grow 4 different varieties of tomatoes from a container garden on my balcony. The tomato plants were chosen by my son from our local farmer’s market and include the following varieties of tomatoes:  sweet million, cherry, heirloom, and green zebra. They are pretty easy to grow except that they need a LOT of water daily and some type of support so that they don’t bend over.  Since we have a balcony with railings, I was able to use my son’s craft pipe cleaners to tie the vines to the railing for support. I realized that growing things is a great way to get your picky kid to try things. I was so excited when my son told me that he wanted to try the tomatoes when they were ready. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a fan but hopefully that will change as he gets older. I used the tomatoes in a salad yesterday and they tasted so much better then any tomatoes I’ve bought from a grocery store.

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