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El Chalan, DC

I quite enjoy Peruvian cuisine — they have great cocktails and seafood! Was headed to the Kennedy Center one night and found a place sort of near it to check out for that cuisine — El Chalan. It’s in the basement/lower level of a building and is fairly small, so it’s nice and comfortable.

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They had a good amount of options on the menu, which made it tough to decide. But, the first order of business was a pisco sour. So refreshing!

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For dinner, I ended up going with 2 smaller options —

Palta Con Palmito/ Slices of avocado and hearts of palm

Ceviche Mixto/ Fish,shrimp,and squid marinated in mixture of lemon juice and seasoning

My friend went for some stew —

Cabrito Norteno/ Goat stew cooked in beer, vinegar, onion, and spices, served w/ rice and beans

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The ceviche was delicious, I love when I can find it with squid. And the nice basic salad balanced it well.  My friend said the stew was just as it should be and good & hearty. I tried a bite as I’d never had goat. It was fine, nothing overly exciting me for, but glad I was able to try it. So, great food, would check this place out again.

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Avocado Tool

There are way too many kitchen tools out there, some of which you never use. But, sometimes you do find some that are great.  Got this avocado one in my stocking a couple years back that I love. There are 3 sets of ‘teeth’ to help with cutting — long, a bit wide on the bottom, then small at the top.

You can use the small one to puncture the skin and start cutting the avocado in half. Then you can use the long side to continue the cutting process.

I will then usually slice the avocado crossways (both ways to make cubes) while it’s in the skin. I’ll make this happen with both the small end with the 3 teeth, then go onto the long side (I seriously just have fun with this thing — sometimes I’ll use the wide bottom). I’ll chop with the wide bottom if I don’t want a clean cut.

Then you can use the wide bottom to scoop the avocado/good stuff from the skin to start making guac. Or, to remove it for whatever other purpose you have for the avocado.

The tool then works well to mix the avocado if you’re making guac — as a spoon or masher-like thing.

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(yes, the teeth are facing away from what I was cutting, but it was all for photographic effects)

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Mark’s Kitchen

A new (to me), local place I visited recently is Mark’s Kitchen in Takoma Park, MD (right near the Metro). They are a great neighborhood place with a menu that contains every type of food you could want. As they say —

Welcome to Mark’s Kitchen, a small neighborhood restaurant with an amazingly big menu full of so many choices that everyone can easily find something that will make them happy. Mark’s Kitchen is a very friendly place—it’s vegetarian-friendly, vegan-friendly, carnivore-friendly, kid-friendly, traditional family-friendly, alternative family-friendly and everyone else-friendly. A full meal or a light meal, a complete breakfast—most of which is available all day long—fresh juices, craft beers, wines, wonderful milkshakes, great ice cream desserts. That’s Mark’s Kitchen, a Takoma Park institution since 1990.

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It took me a long time to read through the menu and decide on what I wanted. Do I go for a basic sandwich, do I get some breakfast for lunch or do I go crazy? Well, I decided to go for a unique salad, because they had some great sounding Asian cuisine. And, my friend went pretty basic.

My choice was the Seaweed Salad —  wakame, hijiki & kombu seaweed, avocado, cucumber & sliced lemon on a bed of mixed seaweed w/ our own no-fat, no-oil lemon ginger salad dressing or our spicy sweet & sour chojang sauce.

My friend opted for the Smoked Salmon Club Sandwich — smoked salmon, cream cheese, dill havarti cheese, veggie bacon, red onion, capers, lettuce, & tomato.

That salad was amazing! I had never had so many different seaweeds. What’s funny is that I don’t really care for seaweed when it’s the crisp stuff that wraps sushi (rolls), but when it’s finer/chopped/in salad form, it’s so good! There was some great dressing or marinade to it and the avocados, bring ’em on!

My friend said the sandwich was quite good, just what a club should be.

We were there at lunch time — service was a bit slow. It was tough to get our water filled and the glasses at the table weren’t huge, so that was the one downside.

Will definitely check Mark’s Kitchen out again.

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Non-Chickpea Hummus

I try a lot to vary hummus when I make it, as in different spices, and then different beans — black, cannellini, kidney, etc.

Then I had some edamame that I wanted to use so checked out some recipes for that to see if there was anything different about it. I finally ended up with one from FoodTV that did not use chickpeas, which was perfect.

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Ingredients

1/2 pound frozen shelled edamame (green soy beans), about 1 1/2 cups
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons), juiced
1 clove garlic, smashed
3/4 teaspooon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Boil the beans in salted water for 4 to 5 minutes, or microwave, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes.

In a food processor, puree the edamame, tahini, water, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt, cumin, and coriander until smooth. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and mix until absorbed.

Transfer to a small bowl, stir in the parsley and drizzle with remaining oil. Serve with the suggested vegetables, or refrigerate, covered, up to 1 day.

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When I was making this, I was at this great place where I dogsit that has a beautiful, amazing kitchen but lack of ‘stuff.’ As in, no food processor. There is a mini prep and antiquated blender. It was quite a process to make this, or shall I say — entertaining.

The end result was ok. It was just missing something — I added more salt and lemon juice, then some garlic, thinking maybe that would do it. Nothing great. Now, it did get a better after sitting for a bit. But, nothing overly fancy or exciting, but a decent alternative to ‘normal’ hummus.

 

 

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Lemony Lentil (and others) Soup

Cold, ugly weather. Football, football, hockey. One must have soup to feed! I have a recipe a friend gave me years ago that sounded too perfect for this type of occasion — Lemony Lentil Soup w/ Greens from Ellie Krieger. I added some stuff to it, too. I just remember this soup made a GINORMOUS amount — good word right? I was going to make half, wasn’t paying attention on one ingredient, so had to make the whole thing. And then played around because I knew I was missing some pieces of the puzzle but had good makeups.

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Ingredients

2 tsp canola oil (***used olive oil)
1 sm onion, chopped
1 lg carrot, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus more as needed (***if you’re vegetarian, sub veggie broth)
16 oz green lentils (*** for this I also used Quinoa and the Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend, which has Israeli Style Couscous, Orzo, Baby Garbanzo Beans, Red Quinoa.If you haven’t had it, try it — so good)
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
6 cups chopped kale leaves (about 6 oz) (***for this I also added frozen Brussels sprouts)
3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

Directions

Heat the oil in a 6-qt soup pot over med-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring until softened and translucent, 3 to 5 min. Add the carrot, celery, garlic and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are softened, about 5 min. Add 12 cups of the broth, the lentils, basil, thyme, and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the kale, and cook until the lentils are tender, 30-35 min, adding more broth as necessary. Stir in the lemon juice and zest, and serve.

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My pot was filled to the brim. This stuff is really good and just makes so much. I have so much leftover. It easily makes 10-12 servings. I am glad I have a good amount of food containers to put it in.

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NY Wine

We have wineries across across the country and New York is ranked #3 in the country size-wise in grape production per Wikipedia (where is Oregon?? — CA and WA are 1 & 2).  Commercial production started in the state the 19th century. Also, some fun tidbits from Wikipedia — New York is home to the first bonded winery in the US, Pleasant Valley Wine Company. It is also home to America’s oldest continuously operating winery, Brotherhood Winery in the Hudson Valley, which has been making wine for almost 175 years.

I visit the Finger Lakes area annually and last year, after not having gone for a decade (at least), stopped by the New York Wine & Culinary Institute in Canandaigua. In addition to the cooking school and restaurant, they have a tasting room.

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There were 3 of us there so we opted to each get different flights so we could get a good feel for the current stance of NY wines. Out of the 15 wines we tasted, I would say maybe 4-5 were decent/good. And the downside is they aren’t wallet-friendly ones for what they offer — $20+. New York wines are still generally very sweet, both reds and whites. Two of us were more red people and one was an oaky chard lover so there was a bit of a difference in tastes, but overall, same thought on NY wines.

We did, however, try some of the their of sparkling wines, and left with 2 bottles. That was quite good and was enjoyed later in the evening.

Overall for the day, very fun location to visit and worth the time.

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Dairy-Free Cheesecake

I haven’t eaten cheesecake for ages because of my lactose intolerance. I have just found other things to gorge on post-dinner. I have a few lactard friends who are in the same boat but are on the lookout for options.

When a friend came over for dinner she picked up something that caught her attention at Wegmans (sigh, why can’t one be closer to me, it’s down the street from her). She found a Strawberry Cheezecake (no that’s not a typo) from Daiya, who’s tagline is ‘deliciously dairy-free.’

The ingredients in this, that make it diary free are:

Cheezecake filling (Filtered water, creamed coconut, cane sugar, coconut oil, tapioca starch, non-GMO expeller pressed: canola and/or safflower oil, strawberries, potato starch, vegan natural flavors, pea protein, sea salt, vegetable glycerin, sodium alginate, xanthan gum, lactic acid (vegan), tricalcium phosphate, cultured sugar, agave syrup, fruit and/or vegetable juice (color), vegan enzyme)

Gluten-free crust (tapioca starch, cane sugar, coconut oil, brown rice flour, white whole grain sorghum flour, filtered water, potato starch, non-GMO expeller pressed: canola and/or safflower oil, blackstrap molasses, vanilla extract, milled flax seed, psyllium, baking powder, sea salt, sunflower lecithin, xanthan gum.)

There are a lot of ingredients but all things considered, not too bad. And, considering there was no diary, that was a pretty darn good cake. They have some other flavors, too — New York, Key Lime and Chocolate.

I happened to be at the Washington Health & Fitness Expo a couple weeks ago and Daiya had a booth. They were making some quesadillas so I grabbed a bite. Hadn’t tried their cheese yet. It was a bit chewy. But, if you are craving and wanting some cheese and can’t eat ‘normal cheese,’ you could go this route. Or if you need it for a recipe that you can’t really make alterations in, it should work. Overall, I think I’d rather stick with goat or sheep. I might, however, have to check out their mac & cheese at some point because I don’t know the last time I had that. It might not be perfect, but hey, it I had it with some wine or beer, it could make a very classy meal.

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Barrel Oak Winery

After a weekend of hiking at Dolly Sods, ziplining at Nelson Rocks and hiking at Seneca Rocks, one must reward oneself!

 

So on the way home from WV, there are several wineries off of 66. We decided to stop at Barrel Oak (BOW) to kick back and relax. The tasting room is quite large, with several outdoor areas with fireplaces, some lofts, couches, tables and the counters.

There were 3 of us so we figured we’d get a bottle. We weren’t sure what we wanted to enjoy, though. The great person at the counter said — well, you can buy a tasting flight, or, you can get 3 tastes for free since you’re going to buy a bottle. And, since there were 3 of us, we figured that would work just fine to cover any considerations we had from the menu. Oh, when you taste they also have both oyster crackers AND dark chocolate!!!

So, after going through the menu, we decided on the, amazingly, Merlot. I say amazingly on my end. Not something I usually get. It had a nice body with some good fruit and light spice.

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We sat outside to enjoy that bottle on an amazing evening. The weather was perfect and could not have asked for more. We just did not want to go home. We had to get something else. We went inside and then there was just a perfect fire in the fireplace. We had to sit there. We then grabbed a bottle of their Cab Franc. Just as nice, with difference fruit and spice tastes. What was great is that two of us were able to enjoy more of this because the driver (1) was being very responsible and (2) isn’t as big of a wine lover as the other two of us.

This is a fun place to visit if you’re a dog lover, too, because it is a dog-crazy place! Totally take your furry friend there if you want to go. Or if you’re going through dog withdrawal, you’ll do so well there with wine & pups.

Definitely one of the good VA winery and worth a nice weekend day trip for wine, relaxing (and dogs). And, if you need more wine glasses, you get to bring the one you use home with you.

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Kale and Cucumber Salad with Roasted Ginger Dressing

Does the name of the recipe not say enough? This was from a recent issue of Bon Appetit. Kale, love it, cukes, well, I will say I don’t absolutely love them solo (not as much as tomatoes), but when with other stuff, bring them on, and I love ginger. And, I’d never roasted it.

Ingredients

Dressing
8 ounces fresh ginger
1 green or red Thai chile (I used a couple dashes of tabasco b.c of my low heat tolerance)
1 garlic clove
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil)

Salad
1 bunch small Red Russian kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn into bite-size pieces (ended up using baby kale)
1 English hothouse cucumber, very thinly sliced
3 Persian cucumbers, very thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons sugar
Kosher salt
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped (love cilantro)
¼ cup store-bought fried onions (nixed these)

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Preparation

-Heat broiler. Broil ginger in its skin, turning once, until very dark brown and beginning to scorch in places and a paring knife passes through the center with relative ease, 40–50 minutes (if skin is getting too dark before flesh is tender, turn down the heat or move to the oven). Let cool; slice (leave on the skin).

*This really does take this long, and I had a smaller piece. I would highly recommend putting it on foil on your baking sheet as it can ‘scar’ the thing — make major black marks. I’m not saying cookie sheets are all about looks, but it does leave evidence of what was there. Come the end, the skin of the ginger is very crackly and also bulbous, is the best way to say it. Quite cool! Forgot to take a picture.

-Pulse ginger, chile, garlic, fish sauce, sugar, oil, and 2 Tbsp. water in a food processor, adding additional water by tablespoonfuls if needed, until a smooth paste forms.

Do Ahead: Dressing can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.

Assembly

-Toss kale and ¼ cup dressing in a large bowl to coat; massage with your fingers until kale is slightly softened.

-Toss English and Persian cucumbers, onion, lime juice, and sugar in a medium bowl to combine; season generously with salt. Let sit 10 minutes to allow cucumbers and onion to soften slightly.

-Add cucumber mixture to bowl with kale and toss to combine, adding additional dressing if desired. Serve topped with cilantro and fried onions.

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This was a very nice salad — very fresh! Can definitely be paired with a variety of food. It’s fairly light and has a great flavor. And fun to make since the roasted ginger isn’t your everyday affair. And a side note, it was enjoyed with the wild boar burgers highlighted in another post.

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Pueblo Viejo

I love Mexican food! When I find a new place I can check out, I will. And what’s ironic is that I’m posting all these blogs about restaurants and I don’t eat out all that much. I cook the majority of my meals at home. I was away for awhile and I’m also catching up on a bunch of long-overdue blogs.

So, another place in Ft. Collins that I checked out was Pueblo Viejo.

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When they bring you the chips and salsa they also provide a unique bean dip. It’s made with pinto beans (not black beans). Nice to have something a bit different and just had some nice spices in it. Some guac was definitely ordered, too. Very good stuff!

Went for lunch and ordered some chicken tortilla soup. This stuff was amazing! They add tons of veggies to it — cauliflower, carrots and more. Not something very common and I loved it. It gives you a nice hearty meal. If you check this place out, definitely worth ordering.