Everything Tastes Better in New Orleans

To whoever I spoke to before my trip to New Orleans and said to eat everything out there- YOU WAS RIGHT! I kept hearing nothing but good things about the food in NOLA so I made sure to prepare for my trip. I stayed in the gym and ate healthy so I can binge on beignets and red beans and rice for my entire trip. This post is going to highlight some of the restaurants I’ve visited and the delicious food I got to try on my trip.

 

Luke

On our very first night, we ate at Luke, located in the Hilton Hotel towards the Central Business District. It is a French & German Creole restaurant and walking into the restaurant it had a simple, yet elegant Southern feel to it. The menu is small, but there is still a variety of things to choose from. I ordered the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail and the Crab and Corn Bisque. The bisque (pictured below) is a cream based soup, which filled me up pretty quickly. I had the 6 oz size and thought it was just the perfect portion. Once I was done with my soup, the shrimp cocktail came out and I noticed the shells were still on them. I didn’t mind that it was served that way, but I wish my waiter would have told me in advanced so I can mentally prepare myself to get my hands dirty. Besides that, the shrimp had a cajun seasoning that had a spicy kick to it and even though my order only came to 6, it turned out to be more than enough for me.

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Brunch at Broussard’s 

As native New Yorkers, it was only right that we brunch on a Sunday… even in NOLA! From the outside, Broussard’s looks like your typical fancy-schmancy, pinkies up, pay-ninety-dollars-for-a-teeny-tiny-plate-of-nothing restaurant. Boy. I couldn’t be any more wrong. Okay, so the place is still “fancy-schmancy” in the indoor dining area. But they have a courtyard that’s pretty open so you’re not sitting on top of everyone, with a nice little fountain, cobblestone floor and a live jazz band playing any song you’d like. Brunch was $12 bottomless mimosa or rosé with a purchase of any entrée. SOLD. For $12, they sure didn’t hesitate to fill our glasses to the top with liquor. Okay, now the food, was totally worth it! My boyfriend had the steak and eggs with potatoes, which was all cooked perfectly. The steak cut like soft butter, yum! I ordered the chicken and waffles and with my first bite, I never thought something so simple could send my taste buds into a frenzy. It was honestly the best chicken and waffle, topped with pecans, I’ve ever had. I would definitely say this place is a MUST for anyone wanting to brunch in NOLA. The ambiance, the service, the food, the liquor… Perfect tens across the board.

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Beignets at Café DuMonde

Now, what kind of tourist would I be if I didn’t stop by the world famous Café Du Monde? Obviously, one thing that NOLA is known for are the beignets and when you think of beignets, you think of Café Du Monde. This probably isn’t a place where you would find locals, but it is always packed! Once you sit down, a waiter will come over and take your order of beignets. It’s usually 3 per order and is perfect with a cup of coffee. The beignets are big square pieces of freshly fried dough covered with powdered sugar. They are warm when they are served to you and just melts in your mouth. There are also beignet mixes that you can make at home. For 2 orders of beignets, a coffee and 3 boxes of beignet mix, it all came to about $15.

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The Ruby Slipper Café

If you’re looking for a quick, hearty breakfast, the Ruby Slipper Café is the place to go. We constantly passed this place on Canal Street, (it was just 2 blocks away from our AirBnb) and it was always packed. On the morning before our swamp tour, we decided to have breakfast here. We were seated at a family-style table, where our waitress was completely honest about what she disliked on the menu. Both of our breakfast dishes were similar – I had the Chicken St. Charles, while he enjoyed the Eggs Cochon. The Chicken St. Charles was 2 buttermilk biscuits, topped with a fried chicken breast, 2 poached eggs and a cream sauce. The Eggs Cochon was also 2 buttermilk biscuits, topped with slow-cooked pork, 2 poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. Both dishes were cooked to perfection and was definitely the breakfast I needed to start our adventure day.

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Chicken St. Charles
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Eggs Cochon

 

Wow. Writing this post really made me miss all this food! Even though I ate at more restaurants, these were my top picks from NOLA. I would definitely visit again and tell anyone that wants to go to eat EVERYTHING!

A Day at the Orchard

In the spirit of fall and my strong desire to escape the city for a couple of hours, I decided to go apple picking this past weekend. Granted, in the end I never even touched an apple, I still enjoyed my day out in the orchard.

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Apple Ridge Orchard in Warwick, NY was where we spent our day. Here, they have acres upon acres of apple trees, a pumpkin patch, some farm animals and a hayride that goes through the entire orchard. There is a small barn area where they sell delicious apple cinnamon donuts, apple cider, fruit preserves and honey, with a bee farm right next to display, so you know it’s real. Everything is reasonably priced ($1-$8) and for an apple picking bag, $29. In my personal opinion, it’s pretty pricey. But the apples are grown organically and if you have a big family, it may be worth it. Price definitely factored into the reason why we didn’t pick any apples. However, many families, mostly of 3 or more, definitely got their twenty-nine dollars worth, as they should!

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To the side of the orchard, surrounded by beautiful views, there is a small area filled with goats, sheep, cows and rabbits. The orchard sells a bag of hay for just a dollar so that kids can feed the animals. While many were terrified of the farm animals, plenty were more than happy to feed the hay to them. And the animals really enjoyed it.

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At the pumpkin patch, there were too many pumpkins to choose from! Perfect for this time of year, kids were very quick to claim their pumpkin of choice. The pumpkins are a great size to carve, just slightly bigger than a basketball. Also at the pumpkin patch are scarecrows, miniature houses and plenty of photo opportunities.

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My favorite part about the entire orchard was the fact that there were plenty of young kids working there. One at the entrance/exit, marking bags of apples and checking pumpkin tickets. Two young girls collecting tickets for hay rides, two young boys watching the animals (making sure no kids feed them anything funky) and a couple of older kids selling apple bags and tickets.

Traveling to Apple Ridge Orchard on a Sunday afternoon was a complete mission to say the least. If you have a car or have access to one, I 100% recommend you drive up there. From the city, it’s about an hour and ten minutes drive. But by transportation, expect at least a two hour commute. Spending multiple hours on a bus on a beautiful Sunday wasn’t ideal, but it made for great quality time and there is a lot of beautiful scenery along the way.

Would I do this all over again? Absolutely. But next time, I’ll drive!

Cha’s Empanadas

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One of my favorite things to cook (and eat) are empanadas. They’re honestly super easy to make even though there are many steps to it. I may sound biased but Caribbean empanadas are my absolute favorite. South American empanadas are slightly different, but still tasty. They use a corn flour dough and are baked. In the Caribbean, we fry everything!

Empanadas can be an appetizer or great finger food if you’re hosting a party.  They can also be stuffed with pretty much anything. Puerto Ricans usually fill them with beef, chicken, shrimp or cheese. Some fill them with a slice of boiled egg as well, but of course that’s optional.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound of ground beef (or any ground meat you prefer)
  • 1 pack of Goya discs
  • 1/2 envelope of Goya Sazon
  • 2 table spoons of Goya Recaito
  • Adobo, salt and pepper to taste
  • Cheese and/or a boiled egg (optional)

Seasoning the meat should be first. In a pan over medium heat, let the recaito cook for about 2 minutes and let it cover the entire pan. Add the meat, sazon, adobo, salt and pepper and let the meat fully cook.

When the meat is done cooking, you’re ready to make the empanadas! Starting off with one disc, you can fit about 2 tablespoons of ground meat on to the disc. If you decide to add an egg or cheese, you will put it on top of your meat. For this post, I used boiled eggs.

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Next, you’ll fold over the disc in half and press down the edges and seal it with a fork.

 

Once this step is all done, heat up a frying pan with oil and begin frying the empanadas until they are golden brown on each side. Drain the oil out by placing the cooked empanadas on plate with a paper towel. When all are done, the only thing left to do is eat and enjoy!

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3 Ingredient Cookies

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Up until recently, I’ve been trying to maintain a healthy diet. Keyword: trying. Not going to lie, I could eat like there’s no tomorrow. But I also know that summer is right around the corner and losing weight starts in the kitchen.

If I had to pick one snack to eat for the rest of my life, it would be cookies. Oreo cookies,  wafer cookies, chocolate chip cookies, rainbow cookies, sprinkle cookies, Italian cookies… You name it, I eat it. But I had to find a replacement for all those unhealthy cookies and tried to make a healthy cookie that can be my everyday snack. Once I found something easy and tasty, I wanted to share it with you. So, here it is!

This is a recipe for a 3-ingredient cookie that will take you no longer than 30 minutes to make from scratch. Not only that, but you won’t feel as guilty eating it! If you’ve ever had banana bread, this cookie tastes just like it! My favorite way to eat it is if its warmed up, but you can have it cold too. I like to take some cookies with me to work and enjoy it with my midday cup of coffee.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 Bananas
  • 1 cup of Oatmeal
  • Raisins

First, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and then you’re going to start by mushing the bananas until they have about the same consistency as baby food. I started with a spoon and later on used a fork to break down the smaller banana pieces. Next, add your one cup of oatmeal. I use cinnamon flavored oatmeal and add just a little extra cinnamon for flavor. You can use any oatmeal flavor you’d like for this recipe. Last, but not least, add just a little less than a handful of raisins. I know not everyone is a fan of raisins, so you can always replace it with walnuts or chocolate chips!

Scoop your cookie dough out with a spoon and shape them into semi-flat circles. Place them on to a cookie sheet or a pan layered with butter or cooking spray and pop them into the oven for 15 minutes. Take them out of the oven and let them cool off completely. Once they’re cooled, enjoy!

 

What are some of your favorite healthy snacks? I love to try out new recipes. Leave them in the comments below!

Coconut Oil 3 Ways

Coconut oil has definitely earned its right to be called a superfood. When I first heard about all these things you can do with coconut oil, I thought it was all lies. But after trying out a couple of these things for myself, I must say – BELIEVE THE HYPE! Coconut oil might be the healthiest thing you can have in your kitchen and it has multiple uses for your skin and body.

Before we get into it, lets talk about the benefits. First and foremost, the best kind of coconut oil you can get is organic and unrefined. This is the purest form and has the highest antioxidant levels. Organic and unrefined coconut oil is extracted from fresh coconuts, while protecting all its beneficial properties.  Coconut oil is considered a healthy fat and can be consumed to improve cholesterol. When used on the skin, it helps cracked or flaky skin heal faster and can help soothe psoriasis and eczema.

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Here’s a picture of the coconut oil that I use. I found it at Face Values for $9.99.

Make-Up Remover

Aside from make-up wipes, if I’m feeling extra oily one day or I just have way too much make-up on, coconut oil will definitely help me take off any hard to remove make-up. I simply scoop out about a quarter hand full of coconut oil from my jar and begin rubbing it on my face and the oil with break down all of my make-up. Then to clean off the oil, I take a warm, damp wash cloth and wipe everything off.

If you’re anything like me, you have oily skin. My skin will produce oil like there’s no tomorrow. Here’s the thing: when there is no oil on your face, your skin will think it needs to produce oil. However, you can manipulate your skin by rubbing coconut oil on your oiliest areas. Then your skin will say, “Woah. There’s too much oil here. Let me stop for a bit.” Good oil will take away bad oil. Makes sense? Great!

Hair Moisturizer

I once had a manager that was Indian and she would always talk to me about Indian hair. She told me when she was a young girl, every Sunday her mother would rub coconut oil into her and her sister’s hair and that’s how, she said, her hair was so long and shiny. After encouraging me to do try it, I of course did. Obviously, my hair didn’t miraculously grow to the ground, but I did notice more shine and less frizz. Coconut oil will give you shiny, frizz free, moisturized hair. But don’t for get that scalp your hair comes from! When you massage coconut oil into your scalp, you are opening up your hair follicles to promote hair growth.

I found that when I heat the coconut oil in the microwave for about a minute before putting it in my hair, I get the best results. Section your hair in half and start from tip to root. I encourage you to start from the tip because this is where your hair is the driest and when you get to the root, massage your scalp. Then usually I leave it in for an hour, or if I have nothing planned that day, I leave it in the whole day. Make sure to wash out all the oil from your hair. We don’t want oily skin OR oily hair.

Cooking Oil

Yes, it’s true. You can cook with coconut oil. As I said before, coconut oil is filled with tons of antioxidants and healthy fats. So why wouldn’t you want to cook with this superfood? My favorite thing to eat when cooking with coconut oil is a fried egg. Simple and easy, right? Typically, I would use an entire tablespoon of butter just to cook one egg but with coconut oil, all you need is a teaspoon. Let the oil dissolve in the heat and cook your eggs how you normally would.

Rasta Pasta

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One of my favorite things about living in New York City is the amount of diverse people. We have a city filled with people from all over the world who bring their food and traditions to one place. I’ve had Jamaican food before, but it would usually be jerk chicken, oxtails and rice and peas. So when a Jamaican friend of mine introduced me to Rasta Pasta, I knew I had to make it! Rasta Pasta is an easy, one pot dish and is probably my favorite pasta meal today. Here’s what you’ll need for it:

  • 1 box of penne pasta
  • 1 green, yellow and red bell pepper (all sliced and seeded)
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 2-3 teaspoons of Jerk Seasoning
  • 1 pack of Knorr Parma Rossa
  • 1 1/2-2 cups of mozzarella cheese

First things first, boil the pasta for about 8 minutes. Usually when the pasta is boiling, I like to chop up all the vegetables. Drain the pasta into a strainer and you can begin to make the Rasta Pasta sauce in the same pot. Sautee the peppers, onion, and garlic in the pot until they have a soft texture to them. Next, add the coconut milk. Be sure to stir the pot continuously in order to not burn the milk. Slowly stir in the Parma Rossa and then the jerk seasoning. Add the mozzarella cheese little by little. I like to stir the pot until the sauce thickens just a bit. Once, that is done, you may pour in your penne pasta and make sure the pasta is covered with all the sauce. Serve and enjoy!

*If a whole box of pasta may seem much, you can use 2-3 cups of pasta, depending on your family size.

**You may also add chicken, if desired. Simply season and grill the chicken and add it in with the pasta.

Puerto Rican Pasteles

This typical Puerto Rican dish probably is the most fascinating food I have ever tried. At first, I didn’t like it even though all the ingredients were very familiar to me. Nevertheless, after I tried many more times, or I should say after I tried my mother-in-law’s pasteles, I began to like it and very much enjoy it. This year, in memory of my mother-in-law, I and my daughter made it the way she taught me. Typically, this dish is eaten during the holiday season and is very similar to what most know as tamales. I share this recipe with you all.  Happy Cooking!!

For this dish, you will need to make sofrito, a cooking base used in many Latin American dishes.

Ingredients:

SOFRITO

Blend green pepper, onion, garlic, cilantro, recaito in the blender.

FILLING

  • 1 cup of chop meat (pork or chicken)
  • 1/2 cup of garbanzo beans
  • 1/4 cup of alcaparado (chop green olives)
  • 3 spoonfuls of sofrito

Sautee meat until light brown and add sofrito and alcaparado. Add garbanzo beans when the meat is cooked. Let it cool.

PASTELES INGEDIENTS:

  • 1 cup of shredded plantain (green banana)
  • ½ cup of shredded pumpkin
  • ½ cup of shredded white yautia
  • ½ cup of carnation milk
  • ½ cup of achote oil (mix achote seed and oil, heat it up in low heat)
  • 1 small envelope of sazon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Red roasted pepper (canned)
  • Paper (banana leaves is good too. It adds flavor).
  • Cooking string to tie

Use wooden spoon or spatula to mix all Pasteles ingredients. It should be a very smooth mixture and nice shiny light orange color. It is ready to be wrapped.

On a piece of paper, put a dollop of the pasteles mixture, a generous amount of meat with its juice and a slice of roasted red pepper. Fold the paper and tie it with string.

To cook, place the pasteles in boiling salted water for about 45 minutes. Pasteles goes well with simple white rice or with rice and gandules.

Freeze extra batch for future consumption.