Delicious Empanadas and Ceviche -- Why Wouldn't I Be Happy? 03.29.2012

If you could see me right now, you would ask:  Why do you look so happy? And my answer would be:  Ceviche!

Ceviche is on my list of top five favorite foods of all time.  Ever.  It has all the best elements:  fish, lime, cilantro, and a range of other ingredients that can be there if you like, or not.  And the reason for my happiness?  I now have a source for excellent ceviche at a reasonable price.  

Last year,  Panas Gourmet Empanadas opened up on Elm Street in Bethesda.  I kept passing by, repeatedly making mental notes to myself to try it out.  Finally, I did.  This week.  Twice.

And if it wasn't enough that I found a ceviche source, Panas also serves excellent fusion-Argentinian empanadas with delicious sauces called drips.   If you love empanadas, I think you’ll agree that there is a gross shortage of restaurants serving wickedly delicious empanadas in the DC area.  

On my first visit, I wasn’t all that hungry but the Panas employee helping me suggested getting more than one empanada.  I’m glad I did.  Panas’ empanadas are satisfying but not overwhelming.  I could have had three. 

Carne Empanada with salsa verde and chimi drips, and plantain chips
The two empanadas I ate were carne (ground beef) with green olives, Spanish peppers, hard boiled egg, onion, and parsley; and smoked eggplant with onion, red peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, and mozzarella.  My order came with plantain chips, and two drips. 

I love sauces so I was excited to try Panas version of salsa verde (loved it) and also tried chimi, which has cilantro, oregano, and other spices (also loved it).  The sauces are really good, but could use a little heat.

Second visit, we had wine.  A little light on the pour, but good wine.
On my second visit, I started with the ceviche, and almost placed a second order.  The level of lime was perfection.  Panas makes their ceviche either with tilapia or sea bass.  I then had the carne empanada and the CubaNovo, which is roasted pork with onions, cilantro, lime, and Grand Mariner.  I may have to repeat the CubaNovo on my next visit.  After I inhale the ceviche, of course.

The display case at Panas' Bethesda location.
There is a variety of other food at Panas as well as empanada combinations.  If you’re sharing with a friend, Panas has combinations that come in a boat-like plate with six or more empanadas and a choice of four drips. 

I also love the space.  Very airy -- you know how I feel about airy -- with see-through orange chairs and low tables with cushioned rattan chairs, and lots of natural light.  It's a no-fuss, quick eatery with a calm atmosphere -- a huge plus in my book.

The best empanadas I have ever – ever – eaten were in Bogota.  The commute to Bogota is a tad long, so I’ll stick with downtown Bethesda for now.  Having access to excellent ceviche may, however, turn into a problem.

Happy eating all!

 Panas Gourmet Empanadas
4731-A Elm Street
Bethesda, Maryland 20814
(301) 657-7371

2029 P Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 223-2964

Bunny-Shaped Hard-Boiled Egg: Or, Desperate Ways to Feed Your Strong-Willed Children 03.24.2012

Fat Mum Slim's photo challenge for today was "animal", and when I was making my daughter's favorite breakfast this morning...well, look at's a hard-boiled egg in the shape of a bunny!  Could that be any more animal??  I found this mold along with several others at William-Sonoma for $10.  My kids go on hunger strike always sometimes and we have to resort to desperate fun measures to ensure they get food in their little systems.  These egg molds are a great solution for breakfast.  What kid can resist food in the shape of a cute animal?  It's quick and easy, and protein at its finest.  Enjoy!

My past photo-challenge posts:

March 20 (Before-and-after)
March 21  (Delicious)
March 22 (Kitchen Sink)
March 23 (Moon)

Getting My Jalapeño Fix at Sushi Ko 03.23.2012

It's Friday and I cannot imagine posting anything more beautiful than a picture of the crunchy spicy tuna roll I ate last night at Sushi Ko in Chevy Chase.  I met my friend Lee for dinner and we ate at the bar.  That drink next to the rolls is a ginger champagne -- I recommend you have one.  

I always get the crunchy spicy tuna roll.  Always.  It is perhaps one of my top five comfort foods. I followed that up with jalapeño-avacado-tuna roll -- simply fantastic!  

If you've dined at the Sushi Ko near Georgetown, you know the two places have their own vibe. I went to the Georgetown location years ago and remember it having a zen-like quality.  Spare and peaceful.  While there are elements of that in Chevy Chase, it feels vibrant.  Also, the Chevy Chase location draws families -- you'll see kids.

Oh, and did I mention happy our pricing?  Yes, there is a happy hour menu, both drinks and food.  Sushi Ko is a worthy post-work stop. 

Sushi Ko Chevy Chase
5455 Wisconsin Avenue  
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
(301) 961-1644

Sushi Ko Glover Park
2309 Wisconsin Avenue Northwest  
Washington, DC 20007

(202) 333-4187

March Photo Challenge Day 22: Kitchen Sink #Marchphotoaday 03.22.2010

The photo challenge for Wednesday, March 22 was "kitchen sink".  I love how everything on the list so far has involved the kitchen.  It's also been motivating for me.  More on that in a bit.

Our kitchen is not huge and if there are dishes piled up in the sink, it feels even smaller.  And yet, there are many evenings when after eating, bathing the kids, getting them to bed, etc. etc., the last thing either one of us wants to do is deal with the dishes, let alone the entire kitchen.  

But when you don't let the dishes languish in the sink, there is a sense of a "clean slate" when you wake up in the morning and the sink is shiny-clean.  And when I'm cooking, I like to keep the sink free of dishes and utensils:  anything that gets used goes in the dishwasher.  

So, the resulting motivation from the photography challenge:  the first day I participated was the before-and-after of the utensil drawer.  It made me think:  maybe I should take each piece of the kitchen and do a before-and-after.  Trust me, everything needs a before-and-after.  I'll keep you posted.

And the March 23 prompt for the photography challenge is "moon".  I know exactly what I'm going to photograph.  All of my non-food/kitchen related photos will be posted on my Twitter feed (@FourCourses).

Five Carrots, One Apple: Delicious (#Marchphotoaday) 03.21.2012

You know what's delicious? Carrot juice!  With an apple thrown in for extra happiness.  I chose carrot and apple juice as my choice for "delicious" for the photo-a-day challenge.

I received for my birthday last year the Breville Juice Extractor, and have been so happy with it.  I love drinking carrot juice -- especially first thing in the morning.  

The Breville is a monster and takes up a lot of counter space.  But, on the plus side, it's not a pain to clean and makes beautiful, delicious juice.  

The other more important thing I love about having a juicer is that it's a good way to deal with fruits and vegetables that are on their way out.  Perhaps you bought too much Swiss chard and it's been in the fridge maybe a day longer than you'd like?  Instead of throwing it out, clean it and throw it in the juicer.  My favorite juiced-beverage is carrot, and I'll usually throw in some fruit or vegetable to give it some complexity.  But juice 10 carrots, and I'm a happy lady.  

Today I took five carrots and added an apple.  (Always wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly before they go through the juicer.) 

I cut off the tops of the carrots and chopped them up into thirds, and cut up the apple, discarding the seeds and stem.

Run through the juicer....

...and you have carrot and apple juice!

It's incredibly easy, not to mention healthy.  Happy drinking, all!

The Awesomeness of Kale 03.21.2012

I cannot adequately express the simple incredibleness of tonight's kale salad, made by the man who agreed to marry me.  You are possibly looking at his picture and thinking, "It's a pile of green."  Trust me:  this salad is deelish.  

First of all, I love kale.  LOVE.  So putting kale in front of me is an instant win.  But then he threw together a dressing comprised of the following:

4 tbsp Olive Oil 
1 tbsp Sesame oil
Soy sauce (sprinkle over)
2 tbsp Rice vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt (sprinkle over)
Pepper (sprinkle over)

Eric also made pasta, but I never got to it, what with my having three servings of the kale salad.  And the great thing about kale is that it stands up:  it takes a lot to make it wilt.  And let's not forget that it's a great source of iron.  

You're going to love this dressing on kale -- I promise.


Before and After: Utensil Drawer 03.20.2012


I love taking pictures.  So when I came across a photography challenge by Australian blogger Fat Mum Slim, I couldn't resist.  She posts a list of topics for each day, and it's up to you to interpret that word/theme through photographs.  

I love the idea of having a fun, artistic assignment every day.  You take the photo and then share it via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc., with the hashtag she's designated for the given month.  For March, it's #Marchphotoaday.  

Today -- March 20, 2012 -- the theme is "before and after".  The utensil drawer was a transformation I wanted.  Badly.  I've been meaning to clean it out since August.  Of last year.  2011.

As you can see from the picture on top, it was pretty embarrassing.  And now?  Not embarrassing.  When friends and family come to our house and ask where the utensil drawer is, "I don't know," will no longer be my response.

The after picture also represents how I want my kitchen -- well, okay, my whole life really -- to look.  It will never happen, but the dream is to have completely bare counter tops.  

And tomorrow's word/theme for the photo challenge?  "Delicious."  I accept the challenge.

Happy eating everyone!

Favorite Sunday Morning Breakfast 03.18.2012

Toasted plain bagel with cream cheese -- whipped, of course -- Norwegian salmon drenched with fresh lemon juice and capers.  And time permitting, a side of The New York Times.  

A Perfect Cup of Chai 03.17.2012

One of the best memories I have of visiting India is having a cup of chai very early in the morning with my grandmother.  She would make the tea and pour it into delicate tea cups she had had in her cupboard for decades.  We would sit outside on the front patio and sip, talking occasionally, but mostly watching the world wake up around us.  

My grandmother in 2006, making evening tea in her kitchen.  It was uncomfortable for her to stand so she perched herself on top of a propane gas cylinder to cook.   Cows frequently showed up at her kitchen window, and she would feed them leftovers.
I have never been able to replicate the taste of the tea she used to make:  it was simple, strong, and fragrant black tea.  And I also cannot replicate the experience of drinking tea in India -- we would watch cows walking by us, greet the milkman who arrived on his bike -- but it is still a respite for me.  A tea break is peaceful.  

I haven't met anyone who used the same recipe as someone else to make a perfect cup of chai -- it's all based on what spices you like, whether you want sugar added, and how much milk you take.  You can put a number of spices into chai, or just one or two. I usually will use one or two things I have on had.  You could also buy tea bags that are packed with chai spices but what's the fun in that?

These are the common chai additives: fresh ginger, fresh mint leaves, cloves, cardamom, and fennel seeds.  I had forgotten about using fennel seeds until my mother put it in tea just last week:  WOW.  It's really amazing. 

The tea I'm making today will include cardamom, cloves, fennel seeds, and fresh ginger.  

Ready?  Here we go!

Tea for One

Put spices in a small pot.

Add water.  For each cup, add the amount of water that fits into the cup from which you're drinking.  Put the water on medium heat.

Add 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves (Assam or Darjeeling) or one tea bag per cup. Right now I'm drinking Whittard of Chelsea Assam tea -- it is wildly strong.

When the tea looks as if it's about to boil, add the milk. 

Lower the heat just a tad and bring the tea to a boil.  Once it starts rising, turn off the heat.

Strain the tea into your cup, add sugar, and stir.

And now to sit down for my cup of chai...until next time, happy eating and sipping!

Minty March! 03.17.2012!  It's you say....minty?  Yes, it's mighty minty!

It's March here in the Eastern United States and the weather has been unusually warm -- this week we've had temperatures soaring to the 70s and 80s.  Shocking, yes, but I am so excited about what's happening in our garden.  

We're not big fruit-vegetable-herb gardeners, but we have mint, rosemary, and lavender.  The early-summer like temperatures have forced many plants to life, and the mint is no exception.  
New mint in March


One of my favorite mint-related foods is mint-and-coriander chutney.  I've never made this myself but boy is it delicious with all sorts of Indian food (samosas anyone?).  I also love taking about 10-20 mint leaves and steeping them in hot water -- voila! -- mint tea, a perfect after-dinner digestive.  I also learned a few years ago that mint is a natural remedy for headaches -- it works, I swear.  

If you're looking for a herb that will grow in abundance, plant some mint.  It will grow and spread each year, sometimes with the virility of bamboo.  We planted the mint three years ago under a silver maple tree that is more than 60 years old, and there is nothing better than garden-fresh mint leaves in your tea or mojito.

Here are some photos of the mint plant in our 
garden, sprouting unusually early in March.  Enjoy, and happy eating (and sipping)!
Our silver maple, mint growing at the base on the right.  That figure in the tree is a wooden statue we found in our garden (yes, found) of St. Francis of Assisi -- Patron saint of animals and the environment.  It fit perfectly in that nook in the tree and we've had it there for years.

Beautiful mint!

Report from Week One of Living the Dream: Success! (Sort Of) 03.04.2012

After last week’s public pronouncement to get better organized about family meal planning, I was really, truly motivated.  Really.  And I am happy to report that for most of the week, we were on top of things.  By Thursday, however, exhaustion, work, and various life issues had caught up with us and I was officially out of steam.  But let’s focus on the positive:

1. All of the meal planning that needed to happen, happened.
2. Meals were cooked and ready by the time we were home.
3. We actually had time to converse and/or play games with the kids prior to meals.

(And all the chaos that ensued afterward is beside the point.  Right???)

On Friday we opted for leftovers, which was just fine with me.  Friday should be a take-out night as far as I’m concerned.  Do I have a plan for the upcoming week?  No.  But it’s only Sunday morning as I write this, and that’s plenty of time for a lady who procrastinates on a pretty regular basis.

Here are some visuals from the past week…enjoy!

Monday night dinner:  Yellow Dal (lentils) with rice.  I picked up samosas on the way home from work -- when you crave samosas, you must have samosas.  Green coriander chutney on the side.
 Tuesday night:  Hamburgers with zucchini (cooked in olive oil and sprinkled with a little salt -- perfect and light)

Wednesday night:  Pasta with tomato, olives, basil and lemon.  This recipe is from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  I recommend this cookbook for anyone looking for easy, delicious vegetarian options.

Thursday night we had slow cooked chicken curry, or as I like to call it, knock-your-socks-off chicken curry.  The food was consumed too quickly for a photo.