Maple Roasted Buttnernut Squash “Mac” and Cheese

I had some fresh butternut squash and tried this recipe on a whim! – I was really excited with the turnout.

Here’s what I did:

1. Coat about 2lbs of cubed butternut squash with olive oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper.

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2. Roast at 350F for about 30-40min (at this point the cubes will be super tender with some good color)squash cooked

3. Puree most of squash (I saved some to have as a side) in blender or simply mash with a potato masher as i did for a more rustic approach (aka I didn’t want to dirty my blender ha). Put your pureed/ mashed squash to the side and create your favorite bechamel “white sauce”. Mine was enough for a small batch:

a)  1/2 stick of butter melted in a heavy pot,

b)  add 1/4 cup of flour (whisk this for 1 minute),

c) slowly pour in 2 cups of milk (whisking until thick). Season with salt and pepper.

d) Once thickened  turn off heat and add 1 Cup sharp cheddar & 1/4 cup of grated parmesan with 1/2 about cup of your pureed squash

4. Toss with cooked pasta, you can be traditional and use macaroni or you can use farfalle like I did if you have a wild side that just cannot be tamed.

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5. Top with more cheese and bake for 10-15 at 400F

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I served it with the remaining roasted butternut squash and a simple side salad, it was a totally satisfying weekday dinner. I encourage you to try it, put your own twist on it and enjoy!

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Trader Joe’s, I love you

It has been thoroughly too long since the last past. If you’re reading right now, we thank you!

I want to write very briefly about two items at Trader Joe’s, 1 savory and 1 sweet- both from the frozen foods section. A truly divine section I find it’s easy to lose time in. So many choices. So. Many. Choices.

First up, the Korean Style Short Ribs. I’ve heard great things about these and the flavor delivered!

TJs korean ribs

PROS: Very developed flavor and aroma as the ribs are in a rich marinade. Tender meat.

CON: Pretty fatty, not enough meat

VERDICT: I’d buy again just keeping in mind 2 packs may be needed for enough meat. Below you’ll find the short ribs paired with haricot vert and TraderJoe’s yummy garlic-parmesan potatoes. Oh and uh, STAR WARS tumbler cup of course.

short ribs cooked

Next was dessert, Blueberry Scones. A frozen scone dough option was very intriguing…

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PROS: The crust was very tender and they are not afraid to add a healthy amount of blueberries to the recipe (see photo below)

CON: My batch came out a bit flatter than expected. This my be that my oven wasn’t hot enough.

VERDICT: An egg-wash and sprinkling of granulated sugar was a nice touch and box suggestion. Next time I will take care to be sure my oven is at a slightly higher temp.

The Frozen Foods aisle at Trader Joe’s really is like an adventure, I’m always on the hunt to find my new favorite specialty item. I hope this helps your own hunts!

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Big Gay Ice Cream Shop: Bea Arthur for the Win

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A quick stop at East Village’s ‘Big Gay Ice Cream Shop’ was pretty satisfying in the New York summer heat. When I say quick I mean that there was a line short enough to stand in the heat, and when I say short I mean about 10 minutes. This shop’s line is usually a little more intense.

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There are several signature ice cream’s to try – including ‘the salty pimp’ (vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche, sea salt, chocolate dip). Today I went with the Bea Arthur, for my love of the great actress as well as dulce de leche, vanilla ice cream and crushed Nilla wafers.

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It’s yum, but a little steep for $5.50. The ice cream is the basic same soft serve as Mr Softy but just a bit more jazzed up. I’d go back, not regularly but definite occasional experience. They do offer more than just soft serve: with ice cream sandwhiches, sundaes, shakes, floats and other treats. We’ll try the salty pimp next and let you know how it stands up to Bea Arthur…. There’s a sentence you’ve probably never imagined. You’re welcome.

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Red, White and Blue Berry Cupcakes: Happy Independence Day!

These cuties were made with Trader Joe’s Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Cake Mix, Cream Cheese frosting and decorated simply with Strawberries and Blueberries – creating that festive Red, White And Blue pop of color. The cream cheese is rich but the juicy berries make these addictive. Design possibilities are endless.

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Candles, burgundy carnations, and sparkly red and blue gift bags helped to create this festive and campy table setting.

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Wings then Cupcakes: Happy Independence Day!

Today has really been about savouring time off and time available to cook. Chicken wings, beer and cupcakes were on the brain all day. When we talk wings roasted with BBQ sauce, juicy/tender meat and sticky savory/sweet sauce is the way to go – well, it’s the way we go. The fastest way to get those sticky-sweet wings into your mouth is to simply use your favorite store bought sauce and add a few tablespoons of your favorite preserves. Today we went with The Shed’s Original Southern Sweet (not too many ingredients or preservatives) and added aces tablespoons of apricot preserves.

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Preserves and BBQ sauce mixed together with a wire whisk.

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Season lightly with salt & pepper then sauce was poured on top and allowed to marinade for 1 hr (several hours would be best).

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Cover with foil and bake in 400F oven for 20- 25min. Afterwards you can either let the now thinned BBQ sauce thicken (bake for another 25min) in the pan or transfer sauce to a saucepan and thicken over the stovetop – which is what I did today.

If you choose the stovetop method simply glaze chicken with your thickened sauce and cook another 20min until sticky and bubbling.

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Enjoy these bad boys with an ice cold beer!!

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Fave late night craving: Empanada Mama’s

Hell’s Kitchen – our stomping grounds. Stephanie was born and raised there and our elementary/junior high school is there. The neighborhood has transformed pretty dramatically since then. It went from dark, ugly and a little dangerous to great restaurants, beautiful apartments and clubs.

One of our favorite clubs is Therapy. Yummy drinks served by yummy men with built shirtless shot guys walking around; what more do you want!? :)

After dancing the night away hunger strikes. Our favorite spot after Therapy is always Empanada Mama’s.

Empanada Mama

Empanada Mama

Small but no one cares. It’s always lively, fun and fast. The huge menu makes up for the tiny space. There’s so much to choose from but how can you not try and empanada? Here are some of our favorites. Seriously the best why we can describe the taste….we can’t….GO TRY THEM!

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BEEF – $2.70
ground beef sautéed with onions, Latin herbs and spices

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CHEESE – $2.65
a Colombian classic corn empanada stuffed with mozzarella

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REGGAETON – $2.80
Caribbean style roast pork with sofrito seasoned yellow rice and gandules (peas)

Green and red salsa

Green and red salsa

Green and red salsa on any of these amazball empanadas is the perfect touch. Need evidence………

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Stephanie and Billy not coming up for air :)

Cinco de Mayo!

So tomorrow is the big day and you’re freaking out not sure what to do. Beers? Bottle of margarita mix? Taco? WHAT!?!? 

Relax.

Stephanie made 2 videos less than 5 minutes long to help you.

First one is your cocktails. Lets impress your friends and maybe crush with some authentic Mexican inspired drinks but margarita are not on the menu. WAIT! TRUST US! Try something new. After you taste the Paloma and the Michelada you’ll be so hooked!

Hungry? Well here’s a simple Chicken Fajita dish that you and you’ll guests will love! 

Take the pressure of entertaining off you by making it a pot luck party. Everyone brings one thing: salsa, guacamole, beans, beer, tequila, etc. It’ll be so much fun to try each others dishes and it’ll take the pressure off your wallet. This is how us kids in our 20s have fun in a budget ;)

HAPPY CINCO DE MAYO!!!!!

Would Jiro Approve?: Watawa

Stephanie: I am still new to living in Astoria but this sushi place has become one of my regular spots with my friends.

Watawa Sushi is a great place to take a date or catch up with your friends. The atmosphere is very chill and relaxing but every time we go the bar and restaurant are filled with fun energetic people.

Some websites say that Watawa only offers wine and beer. WRONG! They have remodeled and extended the restaurant to incorporate more seating and a full bar.

Stephanie: I love their cocktails. One of my absolute favorites is their Pomegranate Cosmo. Its sweet but not too sweet. Delicious and dangerously strong just the way I like it :)

Pomegranate Cosmo & Lychee Martini

DOLLIAH: I joined my classy, drinking sweet-ass cocktails from a martini glass friend, by having a Lychee Martini. When I’m not having something stronger or a beer I tend to go for these. I LOVE lychee. Watawa did me the honor of giving me TWO with my drink, they’re not stingy. I approve.

We have ordered a number of things off the menu. This night, we shared a few appetizers Edamame, Pork Gyoza and our friend, Steve who’s a vegan, ordered the Vegetable Tempura.

Edamame

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The Edamame and Gyoza were satisfying but the Vegetable Tempura was a bit impressive. Most places over do it so that you can’t even taste the veggies and all you taste is the greasy tempura. Watawa’s wasnicely light on the tempura and it wasn’t greasy at all. Yummy.

Steve ordered the Sweet Potato Roll. He liked it so much he didn’t share, HA…

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While he was busy not sharing, we split a roll that we love. We practically make the trip to Watawa for it…

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The Sea Color Roll!!! (Spicy tuna, mango, topped with eel avocado and blackened tuna) This roll is SO good. Highly recommend it. To be blunt its doubtful that Jiro would approve. Its falvors are busy. It’s both loud and aggressive with a smooth texture – we can relate. There are a lot of ingredients but they work together harmoniously and there’s really no need for soy sauce.

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Stephanie: I was really hungry and decided to try something new. Ocean Tiger Roll (lobster salad w. avocado tempura flakes, radish spout wrapped w. tiger skin color marble seaweed) Can you see the tiger marks? It was really good. Very fresh tasting.

Astoria is filled with some great restaurants. This is just the beginning.

Have you been here? Share your opinion. No sugar coating allowed!!!

All the Right Types of Gaudy: Russian Tea Room

Born and raised in New York, we’ve past by this restaurant more times than we can remember. Now in our Mid 20’s we knew we owed it to our grown up selves to enter this legendary upscale New York City landmark. Gaudy but in the best way, a way that makes you giddy like you’re at an amusement park where everything is colorful and interesting to look at it. It’s an institution, an experience and we had a ball. Though our visit was during Restaurant Week (should be called restaurant month – it lasted about 3 weeks) service was friendly and professional. Impressive to say the least.

We started at the bar; always a great way to scope the place out before being seated. The bartender was quick-witted and quick to bring our drinks, The Ballet Russe (Ketel Oranje, Absolute Citron, Grand Marnier dance in step with lychee puree and cherries)

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Looks pretty and pink, right? Don’t be fooled – it packed a punch but was slightly sweet with hints of lychee.

STEPHANIE: I wasn’t a huge fan. I’m not a big fan of vodka. My vodka cocktails need to be easy tasting on the liquor and you CAN taste the vodka. Yes, with vodka I need a wussy drink.

The Host came over to the bar and informed us that because they were so busy downstairs we would be escorted to the infamous “Bear Room” (see photo at bottom). :-D
It was glorious. The whimsical tree and Bear Aquarium were my favorites, we gazed at them non stop all night.

DOLLIAH: I ordered one more satisfying drink before dinner came, Nureyev (Crème de Cacao and vanilla vodka). I was pretty relieved that it wasn’t sweet like a desert. Chocolate flavor was at the forefront with the vanilla vodka only enhancing it, making it oh so smooth.

STEPHANIE: I ordered a drink more up my ally. I LOVE margaritas. Theirs is made with vodka so I was intrigued. It was surprisingly refreshing and delicious! Russian Margarita (Hanger One Kaffir Lime infused grape and grain vodka takes you to a Siberian Cinco de Mayo, with Russian Standard vodka, Cointreau and fresh lime).

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We ordered from the Restaurant week menu; $38 for 3 courses.

DOLLIAH: For an appetizer, I had the Blinchik (porcini and farmer’s cheese stuffed crêpe with white truffle autumn squash flan and served with spaghetti squash salad). Basically, it’s a crepe filled with cheese, it was light. It bored me. They were teeny tiny bites and there wasn’t enough flavor. Seasoning would have kicked it up – otherwise forgettable. I preferred Steph’s Traditional Tea Room Red Borscht (pickled red beets, seasonal vegetables and dill in a short rib broth served with a braised beef pirozhok or hot boiled potato and sour cream.) This was also light but tangy and worth getting again. I’m a sucker for the luscious deep purple hue of borscht.

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My entree was sensational. Boeuf À La Stroganoff (red wine braised beef short ribs with house-made thick noodles tossed in creamy mushroom and black truffle cream sauce) The beef was cooked properly, which I expected. What kept me begging for more? The sauce – Black Truffle Cream Sauce (I dream about it). Its flavors were deeply balanced and perfectly savory. I wanted to bottle it, take it home and just use it on as much possible without getting weird.

Boeuf À La Stroganoff

STEPHANIE: I had their Chicken Kiev (herb butter stuffed in a breaded chicken breast with a saffron jasmine rice, fig compote and mixed baby vegetables) I was disappointed. The rice was bland. The chicken and the veggies were good; it was flavorful however for being the Russian Tea Room I expected to have an orgasm with every bite.

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DOLLIAH: My dessert choice was Traditional Cheesecake (vanilla cheesecake covered with chocolate curls and fresh berries) No complaints, it was just fine. Cheesecake with berries and a raspberry jus. The cheesecake was firm and the sauce balanced tart and sweet while cutting the richness of the cheesecake.

STEPHANIE: Their Chocolate Pyramid (bittersweet chocolate mousse with a raspberry filling) beautiful! It tasted like a giant chocolate from those Valentine’s Day heart shaped boxes.

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All in all we had a great time. The service was beyond great and the atmosphere is still memorable. Definitely worth a trip; at least once.

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Have you been here? Share your opinion. No sugar coating allowed!!!