Oven Chicken Tikka

Food and cooking as medicine is a big thing now. ‘Alternative’ medicine is in vogue and exercise as medicine is picking up steam. While I’m not jumping on the turmeric-will-cure-diabetes bandwagon, like duh, how you use your body and nourish your body influences your health. There is also something therapeutic and calming about chopping up vegetables while listening to music and then your favorite song you forgot was your favorite comes on.

Cooking and exercise take time. Time is a limited resource, especially during Residency.  As a result, I try to make things that cook quickly, have ingredients with long and forgiving shelf-lives and do not require too much prep or cleanup. The oven is my best friend because while stuff is in there I can shower, catch up on notes, try to organize my life or, you know, sit down and have a glass of wine. This recipe checks all the boxes. It has a mix of potatoes and cauliflower to cut down on high glycemic-index side dishes and lean protein. It is gluten free and can be made at varying spice levels. AND it has TURMERIC so, it is totally cool right now.

For the chicken
1 3/4-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced (or 1tbs ginger paste)
4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 fresh green chili (serrano if you like it spicy or jalapeño if not), minced and plus minus on the seeds
1/2 cup whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon salt (a couple turns)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 cayenne, or adjusted to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon paprika

1 pinch of cloves (sounds weird but original recipe calls for garam masala and I didn’t have this so I looked up garam masala recipe and made my own makeshift with cloves and above spices)
2 pounds chicken thighs, I used bone in/skin on to avoid dry chicken (you can definitely get fancy and use a combination of chicken parts or whatever is on sale)

For the vegetables
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 pounds baby potatoes halved or quartered (you could use regular potatoes too but baby ones are easier to cut)
1 cauliflower cut into florets (you can use whatever here, I used tri-colored cauliflower steaks because that’s what I found already cut)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

Now what?

You can start by combining ginger, garlic and pepper in a mortar and pestle into a paste. You don’t have to, and it will be fine. I did, because my mom got me one and there is something kinda therapeutic about pulverizing spices. Full disclosure though, I got tired and had a pretty chunky paste. Add paste (if you made it) to yogurt, salt, spices and sugar in a freezer bag, bowl or container. I love using freezer bags. Less cleanup, but less ideal for the environment unfortunately. Add chicken pieces and toss to coat evenly. Let marinate for however long you have. Don’t worry about being precise with the spices. Just shake some in the bag and it will probably be fine.

When you’re ready to cook the dish, heat your oven to 425°F. Line oven sheet with foil (less cleanup) and coat it with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add potatoes, cauliflower, salt, cumin and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss together with your hands until evenly coated.

Make some space for the chicken and place chicken thighs on the pan too. Roast in oven for 20 minutes, then toss the potato and cauliflower and put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes until chicken and vegetables are cooked through.

You can garnish with herbs or yogurt if you are feeling fancy. You deserve it.

Cozy Chicken and Veggies
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Strawberry (Not Short) Cake

One of my favorite things about living in California is the farmers markets. There is one by me every Saturday and it always has the best stuff. When I moved here I thought shopping at the Farmers Market would be expensive but convenient, but turns out supporting your local produce economy is cheaper than the grocery store a lot of the time. Anyway right now there are strawberries on strawberries. So obviously I needed to use them to make cake. (Que hair flip emoji).

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Strawberry Cake

This recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen which was adapted from Martha. I love her stuff. I substituted some almond flour and coconut milk because that is what I had. The almond flour package says it is a ‘good low carb substitute for regular flour’ if you are interested in that. I had it because I made a different gluten free baked good for a gluten-free friend. I did some research and if you are going to use all almond flour the substitution is 1:1.

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What you need:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, you can substitute almond flour for some or all of this (I used 1 cup all-purpose and 1/2 cup almond flour)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided, I used 2 tablespoons of this cup to sprinkle on top before baking
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk, coconut or almond works too
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound strawberries, halved

What you do:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan. You could also probably use a spring form pan.

Whisk flour or flours, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, mix butter and 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy.  You could definitely use an electric mixer or a KitchenAid mixer if you have one. In my dreams I will have one. Perhaps when indentured servitude is over and I have a real job. For now, I used a whisk and my muscles and it worked just fine.  Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.

Pour into prepared pie plate. Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer. This is where you could have some fun and add other fruit too. Rhubarb anyone? Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.

Bake cake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325°F and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes.  Every time I make this cake I forget to reduce the heat and it turns out fine. But this is what Martha says to do. So who knows, maybe that makes it better. Let cool in pan on a rack. Cut into wedges. Serve with lightly whipped cream.

This is a great one to bring to a bbq or brunch or work. People really like it and then they will think you are good at  baking and slaved away making this cake. When really, you sat around drinking wine for an hour while it was baking. But who has to know? (Imagine wink-y face emoji).

Easy Meatballs

I had BOTH weekend days off a couple weekends ago. The coveted residency ‘golden weekend.’ The elusive 2 days off in a row that you don’t realized are absolutely amazing until you NEVER have them. Well never say never I guess because I had one. What did I do? Well I took a 5 hours practice test since I was taking boards in 2 weeks. Something they kinda slide over in the medschool interview. Really they should be asking: Do you really want to be taking expensive tests that ‘determine your future’ UNTIL YOU DIE? Instead they say, tell me about yourself. And you repeat your well-polished answer while really thinking why did I spend a million hours stressing about my application to ‘tell you about myself’ now. Anyway, this golden weekend also meant I got to cook myself a nice dinner 2 nights in a row. And the first night was meatballs.

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I don’t think I really appreciated the versatility of the meatball until recently. My mom visited me for Christmas since I was working. It was amazing, I would come home to warm food that required no effort for me to obtain. One day she got food from this really good Italian restaurant by me (post coming in the next year at this rate…) and one of the dishes she got was meatballs. They also have amazing gnocchi which is totally for a different post but I can’t help myself. It is SO good. Anyway, the meatballs got me thinking, this is the perfect thing to make because it is super versatile. You can eat them by themselves, with pasta, make a sandwich or I’m sure get more creative. I got my inspiration for these babies from Smitten Kitchen and added my own twist to her everyday meatball recipe. I love her stuff.

What you need:

1 pound ground meat (I used 1/2 beef and 1/2 pork, but Turkey would be good too if you don’t eat pork or you are hosting someone who does not eat pork)
1/2 cup panko break crumbs
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoon finely chopped parsley approximately (I used fresh because I happened to have it, but you can definitely substitute dry)
2-4 tablespoons grated parm or asiago or both and some mozzarella for topping if you want (I used all, obviously, because the more cheese the better in my opinion)
2 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt, divided
Pinches of red pepper flakes or few grinds of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 large eggs
2 garlic cloves, minced, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 28-ounce can of tomato puree or crushed tomatoes (make sure you have a can opener…if not a knife can do the trick says google)

What to do:

Place meat, panko , water, parsley, cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, onion powder, eggs and half of the garlic in a large bowl. Mix it all together. Get your hands in there or use a fork. It all works. Form mixture into 1 1/2 to 2-inch meatballs and arrange on a plate. Don’t worry too much about them all being exact. My meatballs definitely were getting bigger and bigger the more I made. Smitten Kitchen recommended letting them sit in the fridge for 30 minutes. I was not going to do this, because I am impatient, but in the end I did because I was going to be sad if my meatballs fell apart. So, I don’t know if this is necessary or not.

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In a large pot, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Add remaining garlic and some pepper flakes sizzle for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until fragrant. Add tomatoes that you may or may not have had to use a knife to open because you don’t have a can opener yet (no judgement) and season with remaining salt. Let mixture simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes.

With tomatoes at low simmer,  add meatballs to sauce one by one, and cover with a lid. Don’t touch them and let them cook for 25 minutes.  Once they are fully cooked. You could transfer the ones you are going to eat then to oven safe container with mozzarella on top and bake. I just sprinkled the mozzarella in the general area in the pot over the meatballs I was going to eat then and it worked just fine too.

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Enjoy your meatballs however you want! With garlic bread. Make some pasta or zoodles.

Pequod’s Pizzeria

I got to come home for the past 2 weeks!!! While I am loving Southern California, I was ready to come back to good old Chicago for some R&R and hotdogs that don’t have Ranch on them. This R&R basically consisted of going to all my favorite Chicago spots and, since I moved away, my friends  had to go everywhere I wanted (because they are good friends, NOT because I am a brat)! Anyway this place was my first stop. Like off the plane and straight to the land of deep dish glory. It was everything.

The Place: Pequod’s Pizzeria; The Neighborhood: Lincoln Park; The City: Chicago

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Just a slice of Pequod’s Pizza

The best deep dish spot is a serious Chicago debate. Although, I would argue, (gasp) it is not really a debate at all. Pequod’s is the best and any real Chicagoan will tell you that. I spent my whole life minus the 6 months I have been in Cali in Chicago so I am an expert, obviously. And this one is not on the Mag Mile and frequented by tourists. That hour plus you wait to sit is created by Chicagoans who have been here before and will come back again, not tourists doing it for the insta. (No judgement though, I do it for the insta plenty of places. Like I climbed a mountain in middle of the day under the Cali sun to take a picture on a rock that looks like a potato chip.) Don’t get me wrong, I am always down for deep dish even if it is from the other places. (There is one I don’t like, but I won’t mention it because I want my blog to be an only positive space…insert hair flip emoji.)

Anyway, the big difference with Pequod’s is the caramelized crust. That is like pizza burnt ends and it is the best part. They make their pizzas in seasoned cast iron skillets and there is definitely cheese between the crust and the pan that makes it that way. It is always the perfect cheesiness and the sauce is there, but you aren’t eating sauce pie. The crust holds up to all your favorite toppings. My personal favorite is pepperoni, spinach, basil and garlic.

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They also have a host of Chicago beers so you can have the whole experience. The inside is very casual and can be close quarters so as many people can eat their pizza as possible. Overall this place always hits the spot and is one of the places I miss the most. Home is maybe where the heart is, but definitely where the deep dish is!

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Proof I Climbed a Mountain for the Insta: Potato Chip Rock at Mount Woodson

Crack Shack

I finally moved to sunny San Diego, which means I have a lot of food exploring to do! I passed this place quite a few times and the huge patio and long line kind of had a Big Star vibe, so naturally I had to try it out.

The Place: Crack Shack; The Neighborhood: Little Italy; The City: San Diego, CA

I have a few friends who LOVE fried chicken. BUT it is not always my go to. However, when a place has good fried chicken, I’m all over it. The Crack Shack has a chicken forward menu for sure with fried chicken being the main event here. That is not to say there are no protein bowl or grilled chicken options. There are. This is California. I am just going to have to assume those options are good too, because the fried chicken is too good to pass up and I haven’t eaten here with any veggie friends yet (yes I have them, I live in California now).

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The Firebird

I had the Firebird, which is their spicy sandwich menu option. It was so good. One bite and I was drifting off to that happy food place. Not too spicy and not the spicy that is just spicy, but has no flavor. This is the real deal spicy chicken sandwich, where the fried chicken is still crispy from first bite to last. My companion had the G-bird, which is the grilled chicken sandwich option. It wasn’t a grilled chicken kind of day though (moving is no joke) so she swapped it for fried. Obviously this companion was my mom. Anyway, the G-bird has a really awesome shishito pepper relish on it. We also split the biscuits, which were really good. I have to say, the San Diego biscuit game has been pretty strong (stay tuned for more on that in future posts).

This place has a full bar too with rotational local options and the staples. San Diego has a LOT of beer. All the seating is in their outdoor patio, which is not a gamble since it does not seem to rain here. The patio has a fun vibe with an area for games for all ages. I’ve seen little kids running around and bros playing bags. Crack Shack really seems to be a place for everyone to enjoy, which is awesome. I cannot wait to go back.

Let me know if you have any San Diego recs! Help a new girl in town out!

DIY: 5 Breakfast and Snack Toasts

It all started with the avocado toast. This simple creation has become a staple in my diet and many diets as I understand it. Some call it #basic, while others call it healthy fats. I call it: delicious, versatile and easy. Avocado toast is basically a healthy almost blank slate, ready for you to express yourself and/or treat-yo-self. But the toast game is so much stronger than avocado toast. I have recently (I know late to the game) expanded my toast horizons, because you can basically put whatever you want on toast. Here are a few ideas all in one place to help you get your fancy toast on.

Avocado Toast:

  1. two slices of whole wheat/sprouted grain/whatever you want bread, toasted
  2. 1/3-1/2 of a ripe avocado, I like to cut into the avocado in the peel and then mush it on the toast with a spoon, but you do you
  3.  enjoy

Avo-toast With a Little Kick -this is my go-to. It is a little more interesting, but still not too much work. The chia seeds give you a little mineral-fiber-protein boost and the red pepper flakes give it a little zing.

  1. two slices of whole wheat/sprouted grain/whatever you want bread, toasted
  2. 1/3-1/2 of a ripe avocado, I like to cut into the avocado in the peel and then mush it on the toast with a spoon, but you do you
  3. shake on some red pepper flakes to taste
  4. sprinkle on about 1 tsp of chia seeds, divided onto each

Goat Cheese and Avocado Toast -I came across this one when I needed something to do with my extra goat cheese from a very indulgent, very hungry post-workout to Whole Foods. Let me tell you, if this ever happens to you, you do not need as much goat cheese as you think you do. Unless you really like this next one…

  1. two slices of whole wheat/sprouted grain/whatever you want bread, toasted
  2. 1/3-1/2 of a ripe avocado, I like to cut into the avocado in the peel and then mush it on the toast with a spoon, but you do you
  3. crumble goat cheese on top to taste
  4. shake on some red pepper flakes to taste
  5. if you are feeling fancy, drizzle the whole thing with some extra virgin olive oil

Pecan and Cheese Toast -This one feels fancy, but it probably the easiest one. I was feeling inspired by a super simple toast I would eat in the morning after sleeping over at my childhood best friend’s house. It was cinnamon swirl toast with cream cheese and it was delicious.

  1. two slices of whole wheat/sprouted grain/whatever you want bread, I would actually suggest cinnamon swirl for this one, toasted
  2. 1-2 tbsp of cream cheese or goat cheese divided between the slices
  3. 4-6 pecans (I prefer caramelized for this one) per slice
  4. that’s it, so easy

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Dressed Up Peanut Butter and Banana Toast

Dressed Up Peanut Butter and Banana Toast -One of my roommates first year of medical school ate a simpler version of this every day for breakfast. She is about to be an ophthalmologist. Not that they are related…but maybe…

  1. two slices of whole wheat/sprouted grain/whatever you want bread, toasted
  2. one tbsp peanut butter (creamy, chunky, salted, unsalted) per slice
  3. 1/2 banana, sliced and divided onto each slice
  4. 4-6 pecans (candied or regular, I prefer candied) per slice
  5. sprinkle on about 1 tsp of chia seeds divided onto each, or don’t, that’s cool too

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Or skip the chia seeds

Those are my starter toasts for you! They all take less than 5 minutes, are pretty well balanced and go well with a cup of coffee or tea. Whether you need something super quick in the morning, or a simple snack during the day these have got you covered. Don’t be afraid to get creative! Let me know what you come up with!

Pump Room

Guys, I’m moving to San Diego! Pretty soon, I am going to be one of those people that pulls out a hat and gloves instead of shorts when my weather app says 60 degrees. I’ve been making fun of those people (Californians, Floridians, etc.) since I met them in college, but really I’ve just been jealous all along. Even though I love love LOVE Chicago, it is time to try something new and reach outside my geographic comfort zone. That being said, there is a LOT of Chicago eating to do in the next couple months and a whole new food beginning waiting for me on the west coast (best coast?…too soon?).

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Who can resist a California sunset?

I started with this place. A place I have only ventured to for some fancy cocktails. But matching (into a residency program so I can be a real doctor) seemed like a good enough reason for fancy brunch. Also, side note, I am technically about to finish 20th grade…that’s over 75% of my life spent in school. The thought makes me want a cocktail from this place right now…

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Sunny Side Up Frittata

The Place: Pump Room; The Neighborhood: Gold Coast

The food is on the fancy side, with things like lobster scramble and a sunny side up frittata, but all of it was yummy. The brioche french toast with caramelized pears and smoked bacon with definitely my favorite. They soak the bread for 24 hours and it is crispy on the outside and so gooey on the inside. The organic egg sandwich was a table favorite as well with smoked jalapeño jack cheese and housemade pork or chicken sausage.

The coffee was good and even though we had done a lot of celebrating the night before, everyone was peer-pressured into cocktails. The Bloody Mary was simple, but on point and just the right amount of spicy. We did not indulge in other non-brunch cocktails, but this is an excellent place for cocktails. The people watching is awesome, because this is definitely a place to bring someone you are trying to impress…if you know what I mean.

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Future doctors of California and Wisconsin; Photo by Tina