A Taste of LA: Gracias Madre

A Taste Of | January 30, 2015 | By

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Guatemalan-style tamale with black beans

The other weekend, Marta and I decided to try out a new restaurant: Gracias Madre. A few months ago, one of our Lyft drivers recommended it to us, saying that it was some of the best vegan options she’s tried in Los Angeles. And though we are both omnivores (I cannot say no to a steak or Korean BBQ and Marta’s protein of choice is fried chicken), we decided to check the place out.

Gracias Madre is a super busy restaurant located in the heart of West Hollywood, so making a reservation in advance is recommended. Headed by Executive Chef Chandra Gilbert, this restaurant boasts of various Mexican food favorites — all of which are organic, locally grown and farm fresh. And, if fresh ingredients was not reason enough to check this place out, you should definitely come here only to be wowed by the quality of their cheese and dairy substitutions. Really, the totopos con chile with the cashew crema (the vegan version of is queso fresco) is to die for. In fact, I’m pretty sure Marta and I stopped talking for a few minutes to enjoy our appetizer in silence.

And while I thoroughly enjoyed my entree (I ordered one of my childhood favorites: the flautas de camote), I’m going to skip right over to the dessert, which was so darn good! Marta and I ordered the fudge brownie, topped with coconut bacon and an orange cashew whipped cream. How they manage to make the whip so creamy without any dairy still amazes me –a definite must-try.

I really recommend that if you ever have the chance, you must try out this restaurant. Even if you aren’t vegetarian or vegan, Gracias Madre has something on the menu that caters to everyone — even if you just go for appetizers and drinks.

Cheers!

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Totopos con chile

Gracias Madre  $$

8905 Melrose Ave. West Hollywood, CA 90069

What to Order: The totopos con chile makes a great appetizer/something to munch on while you sip your cocktails. The tamale and flautas were tasty, but the fudge brownie topped with the orange cashew whip takes the cake (…or in this case, the brownie??)

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Fudge brownie

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Flautas de camote

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Slow Cooker French Onion Soup

Main Dishes, Uncategorized | January 29, 2015 | By

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Though it’s not a surprise to anyone who knows me, I work a lot. No really; it’s not uncommon for me to work 10 or 12 hours a day, begrudgingly followed by a 45 minute run at the gym and topped off with some quality cuddle time with the kitties while I binge watch Friends on Netflix. And, though I love my job, it doesn’t leave me with much time to cook on the weeknights.

That’s where my trusty slow cooker comes into play.

Though I’ve only had this slow cooker for about a month (my brother gifted it to me for Christmas), it’s quickly become one of my favorite kitchen tools. It makes cooking so darn easy! Before work, all I do is quickly throw together some veggies, a protein and broth, turn the setting on low, and voila, 7-8 hours later I have a meal. And, to make it even better, my mom bought me a recipe book with over 400 recipes dedicated to slow cooking. My friends, I will never go hungry.

Side note: what’s your favorite slow cooker recipe? Though I have a book with 400 of them, I’m always looking for more. 😉

This French onion soup recipe is perfect for those cold, grey winter days when you want something warm to fill your belly … though we rarely have that weather in Southern California. Just remember, the croutes make the soup so don’t skimp on some good cheese and artisan bread! Otherwise, you’ll be left with only onions and broth.

Cheers!

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Slow Cooker French Onion Soup (adapted slightly from Best-Ever Slow Cooking)

3 Tbsp of Butter

1 Tsp of Olive Oil

2 1/2 Lbs of Onions (approximately 4), peeled and sliced

1 Tsp of Sugar

1 Tbsp of Flour

1 Tbsp of White Wine Vinegar

2 Tbsp of Brandy

1/2 Cup of Unoaked Chardonnay (though any dry white wine will suffice)

4 Cups of Chicken Stock

2 Tsp of Fresh Thyme, plus more for garnish

Salt and Pepper

Croutes

4 Slices of Artisan bread

1 Garlic Clove

Dijon Mustard

Gruyere Cheese

Directions:

Turn on slow cooker and add the butter and olive oil until butter completely melts (approximately 15 minutes). Add the onions to the slow cooker and toss slightly to ensure all the onions are covered in the butter mixture. Cover with the lid and a dish towel (to prevent escaping heat) and cook on high for at least two hours, stirring occasionally to ensure that the onions remain fully coated by the butter mixture.

Add sugar and stir until fully incorporated. Cover again with the lid and the dish towel and cook for four more hours, stirring occasionally. The onions should appear to be a deep golden brown at the end of the four hours.

Add the flour to the onions and stir. Next add the white wine vinegar and sherry slowly into the onion mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients (wine, chicken stock, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste), mix and cook on high for another 2 hours.

For the croutes, I used a small loaf of artisan bread I bought at Trader Joe’s. Cut the garlic in half and spread across the surface of each piece of bread. Spread with mustard and top with a generous slice of Gruyere cheese. Then, place under the broiler on high for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese starts to bubble and the bread starts to brown.

Pour the onion soup into bowls and top with the croutes. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

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Cranberry Vanilla Granola

Breakfast, Pantry Staples | January 27, 2015 | By

 Granola 4 Greetings from snowy New York! I’m currently caught in my first real blizzard, and instead of running around the city grabbing supplies and food like other New Yorkers, I’m sitting calmly by my large window mesmerized by the snow falling down. I’m not sure what the normal protocols are for this kind of weather, but I’m certainly not doing what I am supposed to. I did, however, just throw a batch of my favorite granola in the oven to have something to munch on while I watch the snow. And granola will be the perfect snack if we lose power, right??

My roommates are well-aware of my insane granola addiction. I’ve pretty much been making a batch weekly, trying various combinations and eating it any time of day, including occasionally for dinner when I’m being extremely lazy. I think this recipe remains my favorite, with its strong vanilla and cinnamon flavors. It’s not overbearingly sweet, but just enough to get you hooked. To be completely honest I usually make it with dried cherries instead of cranberries, but given the weather I’m not about to venture outside just for dried cherries! Cranberries will have to do since that’s what I had in my pantry :).

Stay warm everyone on the East Coast, and good luck weathering the storm!

Bon Appétit!

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Cranberry Vanilla Granola

2 Heaping cups oats

1/2 Cup Sliced Almonds

1/2 Tsp Cinnamon

1/2 Tbsp Vanilla Extract

3 Tbsp Canola Oil

1/4 Cup Pure Maple Syrup

Pinch of salt

1/3 Cup Dried Cranberries

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl except for the cranberries or other dried fruit. Place evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring granola every 15 minutes.

Granola 6 Granola 7 Granola3Granola can also make a fantastic gift in a mason jar! I used this trick frequently around the holidays. Granola 1

 

Avocado Toast with Poached Eggs

Breakfast | January 15, 2015 | By

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Avocado toast is hands-down my new favorite breakfast food. I’ve seen it popping up on more and more brunch menus in New York, which makes me really happy now that I can get it while eating out and not just homemade. But I really think my homemade recipe beats most restaurants. I add a lot of fresh lemon and pepper flakes to make it tangy and spicy, just the way I like it. My other signature feature is adding fresh avocado slices on top of the smash mixture- you can never have enough avocado, right?

While I was home in California for Christmas break I stopped by my local market one morning and picked up a fresh loaf of whole grain fitness bread, micro greens and some ripe avocados. I went out to the backyard and picked a fresh lemon to mix into the avocado smash. I made avocado toast with poached eggs for my whole family, and they are it up. I love that this meal makes a pretty healthy breakfast but also leaves you feeling full and satisfied.

Bon Appétit!

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 Avocado Toast with Poached Eggs

2 Slices Whole Grain Bread (I used a fitness loaf)

2 Eggs

1 Tsp White Vinegar

1 Handful Micro greens

2 Ripe Avocados

1/2 Tsp Olive Oil

1 Tsp Fresh Lemon Juice

Pinch of Salt

1/2 Tsp Pepper Flakes

Directions:

Avocado Smash: Place 1 1/2 avocados into a bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper flakes into the bowl. Mash lightly, making sure to leave large chunks in the mixture.

Poached Eggs: Boil a small pot of water and add 1 Tsp white vinegar. Crack an egg into a small bowl. Create a swirling motion in the pot of water, and slowly dip the small bowl with the egg into the boiling water, letting it slip into the water egg white first. Cook for 3 minutes and remove the egg with a strainer spoon.

Assembly: Place half a handful of micro greens onto each slice of bread. Smash half the avocado mixture onto the toast. Slice the remaining half avocado, and place the slices on top of the mash. Slowly place a poached egg onto each toast.

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Baked Oatmeal

Breakfast | January 13, 2015 | By

bakedoatmeal6Oatmeal is my perfect five-minute breakfast. Recently, work has picked up, meaning more morning meetings and the occasional late night. And if you are like me (read: I like my zzz’s), this instant breakfast grain is a godsend when i’m rushing out the door in the mornings. And what’s better is that I don’t think I’ll ever tire of oatmeal since it’s so versatile in terms of flavor. If I don’t feel like oatmeals with bananas and drizzled in honey, I just switch it up with some seasonal berries or cinnamon, and so on. Needless to say, I don’t think oatmeal will make it’s way out of my breakfast rotation any time soon.

This recipe takes all the goodness of your five-minute breakfast and makes it even shorter and tastier. Packaged in a bake-ahead container, this recipe is more of a “guideline.” You can really add whatever fruits and flavors you wish. I found these beautiful blackberries and blueberries at the local market, so I decided to bake a those into my oatmeal. And boy, let me tell you … delicious.

Cheers!

bakedoatmeal4Baked Oatmeal (adapted from Epicurious)

2 Cups of Oatmeal

1/3 Cup of Sugar (optional)

1 Tsp. of Baking Powder

1 1/2 Tsp of Cinnamon

1/2 Tsp. of Salt

2 Cups of Almond Milk

1 Egg

2 Tsp. of Vanilla

2 Ripe Bananas

1 6Oz Box of Blueberries

1 6Oz Box of Blackberries

Directions:

In a bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (oatmeal, sugar if desired, baking powder, cinnamon and salt) and set aside. In another bowl, whisk egg until fully beaten. Add almond milk and vanilla and set aside.

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8 inch pan. Cover the bottom with slices of banana. Layer half of the blueberries and blackberries on top. Then, carefully cover the bananas and berries with the dry oatmeal mixture, covering fully. Slowly drizzle the ingredients from the liquid bowl over the oatmeal mixture, ensuring that the mixture seeps through all the fruit layers. Top with remaining berries. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-45 minutes or until the top begins to brown.

Makes 5-6 servings.
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