Archive for the ‘Dinner Party’ Category

Loren got me the best present for Christmas this year: cooking lessons for us to take together. After reading a bunch of reviews, he found The Natural Gourmet Institute in Manhattan. It is focused on making healthy, mostly vegetarian, largely ethnic cuisine. Loren and I decided to take a class called “Destination: Morocco” with Myra Kornfeld. Neither of us knew anything about Moroccan food, but we were intrigued by the idea of learning about new textures, spices, and ingredients.

The class was more than I could have hoped for. We took it on Martin Luther King Day, from 2:30 to 6 PM. It seems like a lot of time to cook, but we had so much to make that it went by really fast! We made: Roasted Red Pepper-Sesame Pesto on Toasted Pita Triangles; Green Leaf Salad with Shallots and Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette; Red  Lentil Soup; Chickpea Charmoula Strudel; Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Onions, Cinnamon, Almonds and Cherries; Quinoa-Carrot Pilaf with Saffron, Mint and Harissa Spinach; and Olive Oil Semolina-Walnut Cake. (Sorry but I can’t post any recipes here — they belong to the instructor). Loren and I were a team of two and we made the chicken dish, the harissa spinach, and the quinoa pilaf. Everyone in the class made 2 to 3 dishes, which was great because we really learn a lot about using new ingredients and spices.

I took pictures when I could!

The beginning instruction:

Me, seriously hard at work… (making the filling for the chicken)

Me, happily hard at work…

The stuffed and breaded chicken. They were sauted in a pan and then baked in the oven.

Loren had fun stuffing and breading the chicken!

It was great to learn how to make little “pockets” in the chicken to stuff them with the caramelized onion mixture. I will definitely be trying to re-create this dish with different ingredients at home. I think goat cheese would be really great in it!

It was a lot of fun to play with new spices and herbs. To make the “harissa spinach”, we boiled some hot red peppers and let them sit in the water for 10 minutes before chopping them up and adding some jalapeno and spices. Then, we mixed this spicy plate with a whole lot of spinach.


Then, we had a presentation on how to use the filo dough, which we stuffed with a chickpea mixture and rolled up.

What’s interesting about filo dough is that you have to use a bunch of layers to create a nice crust. You also have to brush each layer with a little bit of olive oil. I’m usually really intimidated by ingredients like this, but after seeing how easy it was for us to make, I might try to play with it at home.

Myra rolled it up like a pro!

Once everyone had made their dishes, we got to the best part: EATING!It was really nice that the Institute also provided wine with dinner. For $110, the three and half hours of cooking, the professional instruction, the amazing food (multicourse dinner), and wine were more than I expected. EVERYTHING WAS SOOO GOOD!

We started out munching on a dairy-free red pepper dip and some freshly baked pita chips.

Then, we had the red lentil soup, which had a little bit of yogurt drizzled in it. YUM!

The salad came next. I wasn’t expecting to like this salad, but it was AMAZING. It had been described as kind of a “sweet” salad, which I dont usually like, but the dressing was very light and not overpowering at all. It was topped with crispy fried shallots, which were the perfect contrast to the maple syrup in the dressing and the pomegranate arils and juicy oranges. YUM again!

Next came the entrées and we got to try them all! I was a big fan of both the stuffed chicken breast and the chickpea/ filo dough roll.

I love the idea of rolling food together and then cutting along one side to make the presentation very beautiful. I never really cooked this way but it inspired me to spend a little more time thinking about presentation when I cook. The sides — the quinoa and the spinach — were very light. It may seem like we a lot of food but I didn’t feel stuff at all. I think that is because we use such healthy ingredients (i.e. we fried chicken in coconut oil instead of in heavy fats so it didn’t make me feel sluggish or weighed down).

I actually forgot to take pictures of the wonderful dessert- a semolina flour cake which was served with orange slices and vanilla ice cream. I don’t usually like dessert but it was ALSO so good- not too sweet at all!

All in all, it was a very fun day. The Institute definitely exceeded my expectations! (And as a full paying student, I am giving my honest opinion — I am not a paid blogger:) )  In fact, we already have plans to go back in the Spring!


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Happy Thanksgiving! I wanted to post last night but my computer is giving me a huge headache when I try to upload photos… Safari and Firefox both just shut down completely when I press “upload”. I think that after the big crash and now this, it might be time for a new computer…

Anyhow, on to more important matters like FOOD and all that we ate last night. It was deeeelish, per usual! My half-sister does an amazing job every year and makes the majority of the food. A few family members always bring a couple of extra dishes, and we have one cousin who makes ALL the desserts. But Lesley, my sister, does the brunt of the work AND hosts about 25 people every year. This year was no exception.

We always get to her house a bit early, around 4, to help her prepare for the mad rush at 6. My parents have specific roles every year that they play, according to tradition:

My dad makes the gravy (using turkey stock and red wine). It makes the whole house smell sooo good!

He takes his job very seriously. 🙂 My nephew, Russell, helped out this year. They were very cute working together.

And my mom carves the turkey every year. She, too, takes her job very seriously! She is a doctor and, we think, always secretly wanted to be a surgeon. She likes carving waaay too much. But she is really good at it- gets all the meat out!

We also always go for a short walk around the neighborhood, if the weather permits it- and it was a gorgeous day yesterday. Then, we all gather in the kitchen and hover over the food for an hour!

The fam… or part of it!

What can I say? We all love food!

Here is a cute shot of me with my 2 sisters… don’t think they have made it onto the blog yet… weird!

After a lot of chatting and some wine drinking, the rest of the family showed up and it was time to eat. Look at our spread!

From the other side of the table…

Lesley makes THE BEST sweet potato dish (front and center above) using pineapple and prunes. I don’t know how she does it, but it is seriously amazing. It requires no added sugars because all of the natural sweetness of the fruit combines so perfectly with the sweet potato. I’ve decided I must have this more than once a year and am going to get her recipe!

My plate was a bit of everything…

It was all amazing! My plate was filled with: coleslaw made with my grandma’s coleslaw recipe (it is incredible; I’m so happy she passed it on), stuffing, turkey and gravy, green beans, brussel sprouts, the sweet potato dish, and 2 types of bread–made by my cousin: cornbread and pumpkin apple bread. The Pumpkin Apple bread was AMAZING. Moist. Full of flavor. She had never made it before and I was really impressed!

I ate most of my plate, but couldn’t finish. I don’t think I got to the cornbread, or some of the turkey. I prefered the light meat to the dark. This was my first Thanksgiving in a LONG time eating turkey and it was AWESOME! My sister always gets organic, free-range, healthy turkeys so I feel good eating it.


I spent a lot of post-dinner time playing with all the babies who joined us this year. Love babies, but certainly not ready to have any of my own anytime soon! That’s what a couple hours of playing will do to you!

By the time dessert came around, I wasn’t able to eat much. My “before” picture of my plate actually didn’t come out, but my “after” pic did. You can see- I didn’t eat much of it!

I ate a small piece of pumpkin cheese cake (homemade by my cousin Sara) that was incredible and lots of homemade whipped cream, but couldn’t bring myself to eat much more. It was the perfect amount!

I actually left Thanksgiving feeling full, but not too full- perfectly satisfied. I was happy that I tried a bit of everything but listened to my stomach and practiced intuitive eating.

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! (and for those of you outside of the US, that you enjoyed some quality time with your families this week.) I think Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of all, because it brings my whole extended family together around FOOD and gives us so much to be grateful for.

Enjoy the weekend! Now that I can blog on my mom’s computer, I will be back soon with a recap!

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Yesterday I woke up feeling really exhausted even though I got 8 hours of sleep. I decided to hit the gym to wake myself up. I did 40 minutes on the bike and 10 minutes of stretching and felt better. On the way home, I picked up an Awake Tea Skim Latter with a pump of Pumpkin Syrup from Starbucks…. I need to find a different route home!

I made a delicious bowl of oats with banana, PB, and a new ingredient: ground flax seed. I picked up the flax seed a while ago from Trader Joe’s and had never tried it before. It is high in fiber and healthy fatty acids, and supposed to be a great addition to oats and cereal. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was great! Kind of nutty- it added a nice texture to the oats. I also sprinkled some Pumpkin Granola and Pumpkin Butter on top.

IMG_8860IMG_8861IMG_8863This held me over really well, but around 1, I was really huuuungry! I went to the deli across the street for a sandwich on whole wheat with turkey, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and mustard.

I really wanted chips on the side and I saw a bag of Cheddar Sun Chips at the store. The whole bag has something like 260 calories, so I decided to portion out half and give the other half to a co-worker so I wouldnt be tempted. A great trick! I also got a free can of “soda” with my sandwich (they have really great deals at this deli) and I chose Seltzer.

IMG_8866I love the combo of smoked turkey and fresh veggies. I took about 1/2 of the turkey off as well- too much meat for me!

Of course, I put the Sun Chips on my sammie.

IMG_8869Snack was a TJ’s raspberry yogurt and a small bag of Snyder Pretzels (not pictured- 50 cals per bag).

IMG_8870Towards the end of the day, I started to feel really tired and sore. I wasn’t sure if it was just because I had done a lot of strengthening exercises Tuesday morning… or if I was getting sick. I just felt achy.

When I got home, I was exhausted. I ran a hot bath with some Epsom Salts and soaked for 45 minutes—- yes, I was a prune. When Loren got home, I told him I didn’t feel like cooking and neither did he. We ended up ordering from our favorite Japanese place and Loren went and picked it up- it is only 2 blocks away.

I ordered the Miso Salmon with veggies and a side of rice that I shared with Loren. It was yummy.

IMG_8871The veggies included okra, asparagus, snap peas, and spinach. They were very lightly seasoned and perfectly cooked.

IMG_8876The salmon was also wonderful- nice and flaky. Salmon is definitely my favorite fish- it goes so well with every kind of seasoning.

IMG_8873IMG_8874We also shared some edamame.

IMG_8872I had some dried mango for dessert.

IMG_8877By the end of the night, I was still really achy and had the chills… I decided to take my temperature because I felt really warm. It was 100.3.

So, I have the dreaded Fever. Do I think I have the Flu? I’m not really sure… I hope it’s just a 24 hour bug. I slept for 10 hours last night and really needed it. I still have a mild fever and some aches and pain so I am taking the day off from work to get better. I am praying I don’t have the Flu or the Piggy Flu, just a Fever. But we will see! Today will be full of lots of liquids, vitamins, and rest.

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