Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pasta with More Flavor! Mbekbka - Libyan Pasta Recipe


Do you want to add more flavor to your pasta? Well you're in luck! Today, I want to share a technique with you that is used in Libyan cooking and it's super simple. In Libya, they don't boil their pasta in water like most other cultures. Instead, they cook the pasta in the sauce. I know. Genius. The best part is that as the pasta plumps up it's filled with the flavors of your sauce. And you can use any type of pasta

The dish is called Mbekbka, it's an onomatopoeic word, and got it's name for the sound the pasta makes as it bubbles in the sauce. Growing up my dad always made this, especially when it was cold; he used penne pasta with ridges which allowed for the sauce to cling to every nook and cranny. In the recipe I have included below, I used pasta shells with ridges. Typically you would first cook onions, almost to the point that they are fried, in a little olive oil,  then add in your tomato paste, garlic, lamb, chickpeas, chili powder and turmeric. You add in water periodically when the sauce becomes too thick. Finally you add in the pasta and let it simmer. Remembering to continually stir and add in water, so you don't end up with a starchy, goopy, pasta loaf. 

I make mine a little differently. But I think the most important part is the technique of cooking your past in the sauce vs. the water. 


Mbekbka- Libyan Pasta - Vegetarian Version

Ingredients:
Olive Oil
1-2 onions (I like to use Vidalia)
1/2 can – 1 can of tomato paste (to taste)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon of cumin
2- 3 cloves of crushed and minced garlic
Salt to taste
3 cups of pasta (any type but spaghetti cooks the fastest)
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced and chopped
1 Japanese baby eggplant cut into quarters
1 zucchini, julienned
2 carrots, cut into inch thick slices
2-4 cups of water

Additional elements:
Goat Cheese
Mushrooms
Grape Tomatoes, halved

If you want to make a more traditional version:
1 cup of chickpeas
Lamb chops

If you want to be a traditional rebel:
Pumpkin
1 yukon gold potato, diced


Cut the onions into slices. Preheat the skillet and add 1 –2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add in the onions cook until slightly fried. Then add garlic and tomato paste. Add some water to loosen up the tomato paste and make it easier to stir. Add in the spices, turmeric, cumin, salt, chili powder. Let the sauce come to a boil and add in the pasta. Then reduce heat to medium. Add water and stir the pasta as needed, so the pasta does not stick to the bottom. After about 20 minutes add in the vegetables. If you like mushier vegetables then add them in sooner. Continue to stir and add water. Let pasta cook for another 30 – 40 minutes. Remember to continue to add water and stir as needed. Note: if you like your pasta more al dente then cook for a shorter period of time. Once pasta is finished cooking, remove from heat. Serve hot in a bowl and garnish with olive oil and lemon. And don't forget some nice and crunchy fresh bread to complete them meal.

Enjoy!




Monday, September 10, 2012

Today is National TV Dinner Day

In honor of National TV Dinner Day I decided to try a more "healthy" version of the classic meal.

I got a Kashi Go Lean meal. It was under 5 dollars and it was surprisingly filling.


It had whole wheat pasta and the most incredible tomato basil sauce. The chicken was flavorful and the asparagus added a nice crunch. I would definitely eat this again.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cake - if you want it put your name on it

I love cake. It is one of those pleasures in life that just brings a smile to my face every time the tiniest morsel enters my mouth. But not all cake is created equal. So when I judge a cake I judge it on the following criteria.

Flavor of Cake
Moistness/ Consistency of Cake
Flavor of Icing
Texture of Icing
How complementary are the cake and icing to each other
Overall appearance of Cake

Based on my above cake laws I have found my caketopia and in the most unlikely of places.
My new favorite cake is.... Drum roll.. Whole Food's cake.

It is honestly the most moist, perfectly flavored (it has little nuances of spices in the batter) cake I have ever had. I love it so much that I hoard and hide it in the fridge, so no one else can eat it.

I recently got my hands on a few slices for my Congrats on being able to legally drive now party.

Nevertheless, if you can get our hands on it ... Just Do It!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Few Of My Favorite Things - Tomato With Pasta and Meatball Soup fromHale and Hearty

For the whole month of December my all time favorite soup is at Hale and Hearty in the Chelsea Market.


{Hale and Hearty Soup Creamy Tomato with Pasta and Meatballs}


{Hale and Hearty Chelsea Market Location}


If you haven't tried the Tomato Pasta with Meatball soup then you are missing out. This soup has a creamy cheesy flavor, the juiciest tiny meatballs and O shaped pasta. It's like an adult gourmet version of Spaghetti -O's. It's my own yummy swag!


{Hale and Hearty Soup Creamy Tomato with Pasta and Meatballs}


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Marshmallow Recipe - Holiday Treats



{Aisha Chowista (me) and Chocolate Dipped Marshmallow Treats}

At work in various departments the holiday treat making and eating has begun. Yesterday was Chocolate dipped marshmallows with sprinkles on top. They kind of remind me of chocolate snowmen.

{Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows}

I think these are a great treat to make for those that are challenged in the baking area. Plus they allow for so many great opportunities to decorate. You could use them as arrangements around your house .

 

Or you could get really bougie and bust out the chocolate fountain for an interactive chocolate dipping bonanza.



Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows


Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

1 package (12 oz) Semi- Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 tbsp vegetable shortening 
1 bag of marshmallows or 1 lb of homemade marshmallows
Assorted sprinkles or nuts (optional)

Preparation
1. Line a baking tray with Aluminum foil.

2. Combine chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave safe bowl and heat until melted. Make sure to stir every minute. 

3. Skewer the marshmallows and place submerge them into the melted chocolate. Rotate them until marshmallow is completely covered. Place them on baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining chocolate and marshmallows. 
NOTE: If you are going to add additional toppings make sure to add them while the chocolate is still wet.

4. Place in fridge and let cool for about 30 minutes to set the chocolate. 

Time Saving Tip: When I use the Marshmallows as both treat and decoration, I dip them in the chocolate and then skewer them onto the arrangement I am going to use, like half of an orange. ** I pre-place the orange halves on  a lined baking sheet to minimize mess.** Then I place them in the fridge. That way when they are finished cooling off. They are ready to go.
  

Monday, December 12, 2011

National Cocoa Day - Try One Of My Favorite Hot Chocolate Recipes

Today is National Cocoa Day! The icy cold weather in New York could not be more perfect for this wonderful holiday.
Some Interesting facts about Cocoa:
It was first discovered over 1400 years ago by monkeys. They ate the edible pulp part and the spit out the beans. Humans soon followed the trend.  
Cocoa plants can be compared to wine. The region and climate affect the taste of it.


So try one of my favorite recipes for hot Cocoa or go to your favorite chocolate shop and pick up a batch of these little sweet delicacies and enjoy!




Orange Milk Chocolate Coco

Milk chocolate with a strong orange punch. Sweetened whipped cream tops it off. You could use a semi-sweet chocolate for a bolder taste instead of milk chocolate.
Serves 4
Ingredients:
·         1/3 cup whipping cream, chilled
·         1 tsp brown sugar
·         4 1/2 cups milk
·         4 large oranges
·         9 oz milk chocolate, chopped
·         2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
Preparation:
Whip cream with the brown sugar until stiff peaks form. Chill for later. In a saucepan, combine milk and zest from oranges. Heat to a simmer and remove from heat. Let sit for 30 minutes, covered. Strain out the milk mixture, then bring liquid to a simmer again. Add chopped chocolate and cocoa powder. Whisk until melted and smooth. Serve and top with sweet whipped cream.



Chai Spiced - White Chocolate

This white hot chocolate, laced with chai spices, makes an elegant winter warmer. Be sure to use only top-quality white chocolate -- make sure it contains cocoa butter, and not vegetable shortening.
Serves 2.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients:
·         2 tablespoons good quality white chocolate chips or grated white chocolate
·         1 cup milk or soy milk
·         1 cup water
·         1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
·         1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
·         1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
·         1 whole clove
·         1 whole black peppercorn
Preparation:
Take two mugs, and place one tablespoon of white chocolate into each. Set aside.
Place milk and water into a small saucepan. Whisk in the spices. Place over medium heat, and allow to slowly come to a boil, whisking occasionally.
As soon as the mixture begins to boil, reduce the heat to low, and remove the clove and peppercorn.
Whisk vigorously to distribute the spices and create a foam on top. Remove from the heat.
Pour half of the milk mixture into each of the mugs. Stir to melt the white chocolate. Spoon some of the foam onto the top of each and serve. Enjoy!






Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday Gift Ideas - Guest Post by Chef Joseph Morris


Today I have a special treat. Chef Joseph Morris, guest blogger on the Aisha Chowsita site, has some great tips on Holiday Gifts you can make or bake.  Personally, I love giving Number 6 and 7, Unbaked cookie kits and Herb/ Spice blends. They are really nice because they don’t have to be consumed right away and they show you put some thought into them. Plus it gives the giver a chance to add a special touch and to use some creativity.
The other thing I really like about giving homemade gifts is that they come out great, even when you’re on a tight budget. So let this post inspire your inner holiday elf.

Also if you’re looking to spruce up your cooking skills to impress the in-laws, check out Chef Joseph Morris’s site http://www.culinaryartscollege.org.
It is a great resource for those interested in getting a culinary degree or if you are just looking for a list of the top 25 soup blogs.  

Challah!

Bake Your Own Christmas Gifts!
Are you looking for gift ideas in time for Christmas? Does the thought of wandering around a crowded shopping center give you nightmares? Now you can make gifts for everyone on your list without leaving your kitchen! Here are ten ideas for Christmas gifts that you can bake or cook yourself.


1. Cookies – There’s nothing more traditional than giving cookies as a Christmas gift – but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be appreciated! Beautifully decorated Christmas cookies will be a testament to the time and effort you put into them, not to mention your creativity. If you’re not so great at decorating, look for a unique recipe that none of your friends and family have had before. You might also consider baking cookies for certain people’s health needs, such as sugar-free or gluten-free varieties.

2. Gingerbread – Another holiday favorite is gingerbread. You could decorate gingerbread men to look like your family and friends, or use them as a base for decorated cookies of any shape. Alternatively, you could make sweet-smelling ornaments. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you might even try making a gingerbread house to give the host of this year’s Christmas party.

3. Truffles – These are the perfect delicacy to make for chocolate lovers. Truffles may seem complicated to make, but recipes can be found for all levels of bakers and cooks. You can experiment with various flavors like mint, orange, and almond for the filling and different types of chocolate and decorations for the coating.

4. Candy – Who doesn’t love sweet treats around Christmas time? There are so many kinds of yummy candy to choose from – caramels, fudge, peanut brittle, peppermint, and more! You can make your candy extra-special by giving it away in cute little packages decorated in holiday colors.

5. Jelly, Chutney, or Relish – Here is a treat that your friends and family can enjoy all year round! Homemade jelly, chutney, or relish taste much nicer than the processed varieties you find in the store, and they are not common gifts like cookies and candies. You can even decorate the jars with personalized holiday labels.
6. Unbaked Cookie Kits – This gift doesn’t even require any baking, since you give the gift of baking along with the ingredients in a cute jar. Layer dry ingredients (sugar, flour, baking soda, chocolate chips) for a cookie recipe in a mason jar and print the recipe on a label tied to the top. The person receiving the gift just has to add a few basic ingredients like butter and eggs in order to make the cookies. You might even want to tie a holiday cookie cutter to the jar for an added touch.

7. Herb and Spice Blends – Here’s another food gift that requires no baking. Mix together a blend of herbs and/or spices that works well as a meat marinade, a special seasoning, or an olive oil dip for bread, and put it in nice jars. You can use your own recipe or find one online. Gourmet food lovers and cooks will love these pre-prepared blends.
8. Fruitcake – Fruitcake is often joked about around the holidays, but a good recipe will have your friends and family raving about it. Homemade fruitcake can contain lots of tasty ingredients such as dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, and even brandy (which helps it last a long time)! You just might bring back a tradition – just make sure that you give away fresh fruitcake!

9. Bread or Crackers – If you have friends and family who don’t like to have many sweets around the holidays, here is a tasty alternative. Homemade breads and crackers can range from basic wheat to something fancy with herbs, whole grains, and nuts.  You might even pair these with little jars of homemade jam or chutney.

10. Homemade Dinner Coupon – If you’d love to cook gifts for your friends and family this holiday season, but you don’t have a lot of time before Christmas, give the gift of a future meal! Present coupons that promise the bearer a homemade meal cooked by you, whenever they choose. You might want to attach the coupon to a bottle of wine or some nice cooking utensils. You could even go the extra mile and offer to babysit after you cook the meal, so that a couple can have a lovely dinner and time on their own to enjoy it.

Joseph Morris is an avid food enthusiast who loves cooking for the holidays. He owns the site Culinary Arts College for students interested in getting a degree in culinary arts.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Fentiman's Ginger Beer - Relief for the Common Cold? Product Review

I am sick. My throat is killing me and I am unable to do my favorite thing besides eating, talking. When I speak I sound like a bad auto-tuned remix of the Nanny and Marge Simpson.




{Marge Simpson and The Nanny}

{Fentimans Ginger Beer}


During lunch, I was in search for some kind of relief from this non- verbal hell, so my good friend Greg came with me and we stopped by the juice bar, One Lucky Duck. The lady at the counter said that any juice with lots of ginger is good when you don't feel well. But instead of getting a juice, Greg brought me a Fentimans Ginger beer.



{Aisha Chowista (me) with Fentimans Ginger Beer}


I decided to put this theory to the test. But after my first few sips, the ginger agitated my nose and I started having an uncontrollable fit of sneezing.


{Re-enactment of Sneezing Fit}




Even though now the sneezing fit seems to have subsided. I can still taste the rich, spicy flavors of juniper and ginger coating my tongue and tantalizing my nose.


{Mama Knows Best: Tea with Honey and Lemon}
{Sure Fire Remedy}

But, I think this would work better if I had an upset stomach versus a cold. I guess it's back to Mom's timeless recipe of tea with honey and lemon and hot soup.



Do you have any recipes to help a Chowista out? Sharing is caring! 






Thursday, December 1, 2011

Juice For Life - One Lucky Duck Review



During the holidays, I find myself constantly eating super delicious food that is high in fat and sugar. So I wanted to give my system a little cleanse with something healthy, JUICE! Yea. Juice. I never considered myself a juice-a-holic but after I tried my first, at One Lucky Duck, I was hooked. I got a juice everyday for two weeks straight. 


One Lucky duck is a one stop shop for healthy, raw food. It is located in the Chelsea Market and is a subsidiary of the Gramercy Park location. The cuisine is vegetarian and nothing is cooked higher than 118 degrees. This ensures that the vitamins and nutrients in the food are kept in the food. 

{Pre-made Juices and Lunch Items}

{Sarma Melngailis's new book - Living Raw Food}

I have a copy of Sarma's book Raw Food. I love it because the recipes are very creative and tasty. I especially like the Zucchini and Tomato Lasagna. Layered Zucchini "noodles"covered in a sun-dried tomato sauce, with pistachio basil pesto and a pumpkinseed macadamia ricotta. It is both elegant and delicious.


{Hot Pink Juice}
My love and appreciation for juice was born when I saw this documentary on Netflix called Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead. The main character, Joe Cross, is 100 lbs overweight and suffers from a rare auto-immune disease. Unable to get any long-term success from current doctors, or expensive pharmaceutical medicine, he decides, as a last resort, to try the body's natural ability to heal itself. And it works. While on his road to recovery,  he travels 3,000 miles and does a 60 day juice cleanse. He hopes to educate other people on how they can eat better with juicing and incorporating more fresh and unprocessed vegetables and fruits into their life. The really amazing thing about juice is that it allows you to get so many micro-nutrients in an easily digestible, vitamin rich form. 
You can check out more about the film here: http://www.fatsickandnearlydead.com/

{(me) Aisha Chowista and My Hot Pink Juice from One Lucky Duck}

I got a Hot Pink Juice. It had beets, ginger, pear and pineapple. I am not a huge fan of beets but the other ingredients added a perfect balance so it was more palatable. The pear and pineapple added a refreshing sweetness (without any sugar.) The ginger added spiciness. After I finished it I felt full so I ate less at lunch. 

 The cool thing about juicing is that you can fit so many fruits and vegetables into one drink. The amount of food you can fit into one juice would take you much longer to eat than drink. Also because you get so many more nutrients out of your food, you feel full faster so it helps in loosing weight. 

I will definitely be a Juicer For Life!!

One Lucky Duck Location
CHELSEA MARKET
425 W. 15th Street
(or enter at 9th ave.)
Mon-Fri 10am-9pm
Saturday 10am-8pm
Sunday 10am-7pm

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

AVID 6 Event at Hiro Ballroom Review




I went with my coworkers yesterday to the AVID demo for the new version 6 software at Hiro Ballroom. I was especially excited to see the 3D Demo and eat some hors d'oeuvres. 

The new version of Media Composer has a lot of really cool features like 64 bit, different frame rates in one timeline, you can use any I/O device to output or capture, tabs, 3D etc. You can check out all the new features here: http://www.avid.com/US/products/Media-Composer?cmpid=70140000000TgRp

{Some of the vendors for I/O (Input/Output) Devices}

{The main event}

{Then it was finally time for what I had been waiting for the 3D demo}
{My Coworker Robert and me, Aisha Chowista - getting our 3D on}

{Arancini - Fried Risotto Balls with Tomato Sauce}

{Arancini interior- Cheesy and delicious perfect for the winter time}

{Salmon and Cream Cheese on Foccacia}

{Steak Carpaccio with Truffle Oil on Foccacia}

The hors d'oeuvres were decent. I really liked the Arancini. It was nicely fried, cheesy and warm. When I bit in, the center oozed out creamy risotto. The marinara sauce on top gave it great balance and acidity. It was the perfect appetizer to eat on a cold, rainy day. 

Below is a link to Giada Di Laurentis's recipe for Arancini ("little Orange" in Italian).  
If you want to try it, I say 'tis the season. Challah!












Monday, November 28, 2011

A Few Of My Fav Things - Hawaiian Host Aloha Gems - Milk Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts Review



My Aunt Carol and her husband live in Maui, Hawaii. When my Aunt comes back to the "Mainland", as we like to say, she always brings us little treasures from the island. I love it too because it reminds me of the summers I spent in Maui; surfing the waves, eating the most incredible food, and evading beat downs from Tetahs... more to come on that in a later post. 


Unfortunately, I did not get to see my Aunt before she went back to Maui. But when I went home for Thanksgiving there was a lovely box of these beautiful babies on the kitchen counter. My mom was trying to guard them from me and actually snatched the box out from under my camera lens as I was trying to snap a picture. Yes. They're that good. Obviously, I prevailed in the end because you see the pictures here but I had to do so major schmoozing and promise that I would not eat them all. 


There are two macadamia nuts in each chocolate. They are a good size macadamia nuts, about the size of a chickpea, and covered in a sweet, milk chocolate. The milk chocolate has a very smooth texture, not grainy at all. I must warn you though. These gems are addictive. You can't eat just one. 

Personally, I think these make a great holiday gift because they're delicious and kind of festive in a unique way. Or if you wanted you could save them for Valentine's Day and surprise that lucky someone with a box of chocolates and trip to Hawaii!! Just saying. 

If you want to try them for yourself. Here is the link where you can purchase them.



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