16 July 2008

Summer Vegetables and Eggs...

Recently while I was at the Farmer's Market, I met a lovely woman who raises a variety of vegetables and plants. She has also taken on the responsibility of "sponsoring" an 11 year old boy with an interest in farming. I don't know the name of her farm, but she was very nice to talk to and very enthusiastic about her craft. She talked to me at length about the 11 year old boy and how painstakingly he works at gardening. She was selling some lovely rainbow chard that he grew (and washed). I couldn't resist purchasing a little baggy of the chard when I heard about the effort the boy put into caring for it.


I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the chard was also absolutely delicious. I am embarrassed to admit that I can't remember ever trying rainbow chard. I followed my gut and used it to make a frittata. It was simple and delicious, and completely hit the spot on a nice summer evening. I gently wilted the chopped chard in some of my delicious homemade butter, added some left-over roasted new potatoes and some sliced roasted red peppers. Then I poured well-whisked eggs over the whole mess, sprinkled it with a bit of mozzarella cheese and stuck it under the broiler to finish cooking. While the eggs were browning, I mixed low-fat sour cream with some tomato paste, fresh basil from my porch and chopped kalamata olives to create a sauce. It was a perfect dinner using many locally grown ingredients.

14 July 2008

Crisp Triple Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

I had a strange day where I decided I needed to like oatmeal. As in, I needed to be one of those people who can eat oatmeal for breakfast and feel full and happy. Oatmeal eaters seem like they are ready to face the day and climb a mountain. Guess what? I am still not an oatmeal eater. I bought a box of Silver Palate's Thick and Chewy Oatmeal (I think I found it on clearance and figured I could use it for granola if nothing else), and whipped up a batch of creamy oatmeal for breakfast. I sprinkled it with brown sugar and a dab of salt. I took maybe 4 bites and I was done. I couldn't make myself swallow the thick glop. I think I am just not an oatmeal girl.

I am, on the other hand, an oatmeal cookie girl. So when I noticed that the entire oatmeal box was covered in original Silver Palate recipes, I figured I owed it to myself and the oatmeal to turn it into something delicious. I almost succeeded in following the Silver Palate's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe perfectly - until I realized I had no chocolate chips. Whoops. I went through my cookie drawer (where all the chips, sprinkles, candies are stored) and discovered a few odds and ends that I figured would work. I had about 3 ounces of white chocolate chips, 2 ounces of a 60% cacao chocolate bar, and maybe 3 ounces of a 70-something% chocolate bar. I chopped the chocolate bars into mini-chunks and mixed them into the batter. Poof - a triple chocolate chip cookie!


These cookies are pretty good. I don't think they are the perfect Oatmeal Cookie for me - they are a tad too thin. They also have a very strong butter flavor that worked nicely with the three chocolates, but was a little overwhelming. Of course these came with me to work - and the co-workers declared them winners! I am pretty sure I could bake frozen cookie dough and they would be thrilled to have a "homemade" dessert! If I used this recipe again, I think I would use all white chocolate chips and maybe add some cherries or cranberries. I am not a huge fan of fruit in my cookies, but I think it would pair nicely with the buttery flavor.

Silver Palate's Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup unsifted flour
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup butter
1 3/4 cup Thick & Rough Silver Palate Oatmeal
1/2 cup sugar
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate morsels (here is where I added my other chocolates)
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Mix together butter, sugars, egg, milk and vanilla until well blended. Add flour mixture and mix well. Stir in oatmeal and chocolate pieces. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake in 375 F oven 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes about 4 dozen 2 1/2" cookies.

07 July 2008

Delicious Blueberry Lime Bars

As many of you know, it is officially berry season in the Midwest. Everywhere I turn there are blackberries, blueberries, currants and cherries waiting to be used. In fact, I happen to have some of each of them in my refrigerator awaiting a starring role in a dish. I hope to make jam this week; although, it will be challenging with our upcoming family Hog Roast. The blueberries have tasted especially good to me lately, so I keep buying them and eating them out of hand. This weekend, however, I saw a sign up at the farmer's market that said "ask us about our overripe blueberries". Since I am so adept at following instructions, I did ask them about their overripe blueberries - and bought an overflowing quart of them. The blueberries are soft and definitely overripe, but they are perfectly tasty for baking if you ask me (and much cheaper than firm berries). I knew I had several recipes in mind for berry-baking, so I was excited to find them.

The inspiration for the Blueberry Lime Bars came from a lovely blog I recently discovered called Eggs on Sunday. The photographs on this blog are breathtaking. I wish I could master the art of food photography like Amy. Instead I will just be jealous of her skills and continue to read up on her experiences in the kitchen. The post where she featured her Strawberry Lemon Bars was especially beautiful - it was an entry in honor of cancer survivors. I haven't been affected nearly as much as Amy or other people, but cancer has definitely touched my life. It was a beautiful post - and had a delicious recipe included as a bonus. Thank you Amy for inspiring these Blueberry Lime Bars!

(As an aside - this was my first experience making a custard based dessert. It was much easier than I anticipated! I plan on experimenting with more custard desserts in the future since I always have so many left over egg yolks from my egg white scrambles!)



Strawberry Lemon Bars (Adapted to create Blueberry Lime Bars)

From Delicious Fruit Desserts by Dot Vartan

Ingredients

For the crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, softened


For the filling
3 egg yolks
zest of 1 lemon (I used the zest of 2 limes)
1/4 cup lemon juice (I used lime juice)
1/2 cup milk (I used 2%)
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup fresh diced strawberries (I used 1 cup fresh blueberries)

DirectionsPreheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using an electric mixer), use the paddle attachment to beat the flour, confectioner’s sugar, and butter together at medium speed until blended. Press the dough firmly into the bottom and 1/2-inch up the sides of an 8×8 baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or just until turning golden brown. Remove and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and milk. In a separate small bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the flour mixture to the egg yolk mixture and whisk until combined. Pour into a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it gets thick and the whisk leaves a trail, about 5 minutes. (This part took longer for me - probably because I was using an electric stove... maybe more like 10-12 minutes.) Remove the lemon custard from the heat; if you like, you can cool it down a little by placing it in a bowl and placing that bowl in an ice-water bath.

Add the diced strawberries to the lemon custard and stir gently just to combine. Pour the custard onto the crust, spread it out evenly in the pan with a silicone spatula, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the filling is set.

Cool completely before cutting into squares. You can dust them with confectioner’s sugar if you like, but I like to leave them as is so you can see the pretty ruby red bursts of strawberry.

Makes 16.

02 July 2008

I made butter!

I know, I know, I disappeared again. I haven't been baking or cooking much - after going out of town with J and being constantly over-heated in my house, I just haven't been in the mood. I was, however, recently inspired by a post written by Lisa over at Restaurant Widow to go buy some of our delicious local Whipping Cream and make butter! Yep, I made butter! How cool is that? It was shockingly easy (Lisa wasn't lying in her post!).


I followed Lisa's instructions and basically whipped the cream until it fully separated. I used my KitchenAid stand mixer which got a tad messy - the fat totally separates from the liquid (buttermilk) and it can splatter a bit. I covered my mixer with a kitchen towel to keep the mess to a minimum. After it seemed like the fat and liquid had completely separated, I strained the whole mess through a fine mesh sieve. Be sure to save all that yummy liquid - it is fresh buttermilk that will make the best pancakes or salad dressing imaginable! After I allowed the fat to sit in the sieve for 10 or so minutes to finish draining, I added it to a clean dish. I noticed that as I stirred to break up the fat curds, more liquid came out. It was very easy to just spill the buttermilk off into the tub I had already set aside for it. I basically stopped stirring the butter when it all came together into one creamy mass, and it stopped giving off anymore liquid. At this point, I took Lisa's advice and added plenty of flaky Maldon Sea Salt. And I took my first taste. It was pure bliss. I literally licked the spoon clean. The butter was incredibly creamy and instantly melted against my tongue, leaving behind delicious little flakes of salt.

I am so happy I made homemade butter! I am annoyed at how easy it is and how much money I have wasted on fancy butter. I don't think I will buy butter for spreading ever again - just for baking. I was so inspired by the butter that I baked Strawberry Sour Cream Muffins so my co-workers could try it. The muffins were a perfect conduit for the pale yellow butter, which has a subtle sweetness. I didn't take pictures of the muffins because I didn't really love them, but if you are interested, I can find the recipe for you. Everyone at work adored the muffins and the butter - the muffins were gobbled up in two days, along with all the butter.

If you have access to a great, local creamery - go forth and make butter!

17 June 2008

Into the garden...

Nothing new to report here - still eating lots of salads that are honestly pretty boring. However, I did take a couple pretty pictures that I thought I would share of my garden.

I recently purchased 2 of these stunning dahlias at our local farmer's market. The grower was very friendly and talked my ear off - in a good way! She said that her supplier sent her the cuttings on trial dahlias to see how they worked out (I think they are working on perfecting a new color). They worked out as far as I am concerned because I got to bring them home! The blooms are so gorgeous, but I am not sure I captured the nuances in color with my camera. The center is a brilliant yellow pin-cushion, and the inner edges of the petals are a fascinating lilac fading into orange and then pink. If I could describe iridescent using a flower, I think this might be the one. I hope they live!

The same grower had several lovely begonias. I don't think this one has a fun back story, but it just really caught my eye. I love brilliantly colored flowers, and this one hasn't disappointed yet! Best of all, it hasn't stopped blooming since I brought it home 3 weeks ago!

Hot Weather Cooking: Take 2


I have an embarrassing secret to tell you. I love iceberg lettuce. Like if I could only eat one lettuce for the rest of my life, iceberg and romaine would have a throw down, and I am not sure which would come out on top. It would be a battle to the death methinks. There are those of you out there who understand (Dad) my obsession with the crisp, crunchy, watery lettuce. And, of course, there are those of you who think I am nuts (Laura) because iceberg has no real flavor. I would disagree, and suggest that iceberg merely as a very delicate flavor and really is more about texture anyway. I know iceberg has come back into fashion of late with the wedge salads that are ubiquitous on steak house menus around the country. But I prefer the lettuce chopped and tossed with lots of other ingredients to make a delicious, summery, crunchy dinner.

I think my love of iceberg is somewhat genetic. No dinner was complete without the family salad - torn (not cut) iceberg lettuce, little sliced rounds of carrots that were impossible to get your fork into, sliced celery (don't you dare throw out those hearts!) and 2 side dishes - one with beautiful ruby red canned whole beets and one with big, fat, black canned olives. The dressing? Olive oil and red wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper only if you dare. I love this salad. I still crave it - my mom always has it for me on my birthday. In fact my mom will often call me at work and entice me to come over for dinner by saying "But we are having saaaallllaaad". Evil temptress. I usually end up over at my parents' house, still chomping away at the crunchy lettuce and chasing those damn little carrots around my bowl with my fork. I love a nice red leaf lettuce salad, or some beautiful spinach topped with apples and cheddar, but my heart truly belongs to simple iceberg salads.

So tonight for dinner I surveyed the contents of my refrigerator and came up with a simple, yet delicious, salad. I had some left over grilled boneless, skinless chicken thighs, that I chopped into bite size pieces. I tossed the chicken with crunchy chopped iceberg lettuce, sliced local cherry tomatoes, chopped local cilantro, sliced avocado, and topped it off with a hearty grating of local Meadow Maid Colby cheese (that is to die for!). The dressing was simple - red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper - would you expect anything more?!

14 June 2008

Hot Weather Cooking: Take 1


I am cheap.

Seriously.

Super cheap. Like it is over 100 degrees inside of my house, and I refuse to turn on the air conditioning cheap. Like my dogs are preparing a coup where they duct tape me to my bed and figure out how to get the air on- bills be damned! Yeah, I am a little crazy, but I figure the insane temperatures cannot last. So I (along with Crash and Millie) continue to suffer. Is this where I insert a joke about the dog days of summer?

So what do you eat when standing in your kitchen sends rivulets of sweat streaking down your back and chest? When cooking seems slightly less enticing as a drip of sweat slides down your nose and splats on your cutting board? If you are anything like me, you have a couple very simple staples like cottage cheese mixed with chopped tomatoes and green onions or vanilla yogurt mixed with fresh fruit. But those dishes can get a little old, especially with all the beautiful produce turning up at the farmers' markets at this time of year. So the natural progression for me - salad. The cooking is minimal, if non-existent, and the end result is usually light, satisfying and pretty.

Last week for dinner, it was a Fish Taco Salad - minus any tortilla. I made guacamole, pico de gallo, and sautéed a turbot fillet in a dash of olive oil and lime juice. I drizzled the salad with a dressing made of light sour cream, lime juice, salt and big spoonful of pureed chipotle in adobo sauce. Definitely fit the bill - light, spicy, gorgeous and delicious!

08 June 2008

Another Banana Recipe?!

When I first started working out with Kali and Molly, they really encouraged me to investigate protein shakes. When you are weight lifting, it is important to get enough lean protein in your diet to help rebuild the muscles after working out. I think it is also very important to get enough lean protein to build additional muscle. Anyway, for someone like me who feels a little overwhelmed at eating chicken 7 days a week, I needed to find other lean protein sources. So I started experimenting with protein shakes. I first started with soy. Then I heard about studies that were showing too much soy in your diet can screw with your hormones. I definitely don't want that. So then I bought some whey/egg white protein powder. This one tastes like crap. I cannot find a way to hide the flavor of the powdery egg whites. I think by trying to disguise the protein powder, I ended up making the shakes more caloric and sugary than really necessary. I would add a banana, then vanilla yogurt, then frozen berries, then maybe a sprinkle of raw sugar or honey. The so-called healthy protein shake was turning into a heavy, sugary meal! I decided to put my protein shake discovery on hold for awhile. But I already had all these darn bananas. What was a girl to do?

Well first of all, I let the bananas sit on my counter for probably twice as long as I should have, and then I popped them in the refrigerator for "another day". There was a whole bunch of bananas, so I had some baking to do before they got too rotten. I didn't want to freeze these bananas because I already have some in the freezer to use later. So I started searching for banana recipes. I did pretty well at first - I made the awesome Blueberry Banana Bread I posted about here. I think I also made a couple other muffins or breads that didn't end up being blog-worthy. And then there were two bananas left. Just sitting in my fridge, looking forlorn and ignored. I would shove them aside to grab for something else and think I should really use those sad, brown bananas and promptly forget about them.

However when I challenged myself to clean out my fridge, I knew I had to use those bananas. I also knew I had to make something extra tasty because the co-workers had been complaining that I forgot about them lately. I received a very sweet, slightly back-handed compliment, when one of them said "I woke up today hoping Josie would bring a treat in, and then she didn't *sigh*". Pretty soon they will have some serious expectations a la Joe over at Culinary in the Country.

Well I think I delivered since the 9"x9" square pan of Banana Lime Snack Cake was consumed in one day by about 5 people, who were constantly sighing in pleasure while chewing. I was very flattered and will probably bake something for them again - although the disgustingly hot weather needs to go away in order for me to spend anytime in the kitchen!

My recipe was inspired by the Banana Lime Cake at Bake Decorate Create.


Lime Banana Cake with White Chocolate Chips

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 extra large eggs
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 teaspoon grated lime zest
3/4 cup cottage cheese
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9x9" square ceramic baking dish and set aside. In a large mixer, cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs one at a time and beat until light and fluffy. Add the lime zest, vanilla, lime juice and bananas and beat. The mixture will appear slightly curdled. Sift the dry ingredients together and add in 2 parts, alternating with the cottage cheese. Stir gently to combine but do not beat. Mix in the chocolate chips. Bake for about 45-55 min in the center of the oven (I had to check mine a couple times). This is really yummy cake. The top gets pretty dark while baking so cover with foil if it bugs you.

03 June 2008

Hallelujah Strawberries Have Arrived!!!

Rhoads Farm, my current most favorite local farmer, showed up at the North Market last weekend with strawberries. My lovely friends Brian and Allison picked me up a quart while I was off cavorting in Connecticut. Wow am I lucky to have such nice friends! I think I would have kept all the strawberries to myself if I had been in charge! Luckily, they didn't eat my quart of strawberries and after a couple misfires, I finally got over to their house tonight to pick them up. Allison graciously gave me a few other goodies like a delicious big red tomato and a bag of interesting-looking green things from her CSA. We think one of the green things is oat grass... I am pretty sure I made whistles out of oat grass when I was a little girl, so I am going to have to research that one. But I digress, back to strawberries...
The berries are plump and sweet and scream SUMMER! I had to restrain myself from eating the entire box tonight. I somehow doubt Molly and Kali would approve of a quart of strawberries in one sitting... so I compromised and only ate half the quart tonight! I feel very virtuous. :) I tossed the strawberries with a couple simple ingredients and gobbled them up so quickly I didn't even have time to take a picture. I took pictures of the remaining half quart after the fact - so I guess my blog is prettier because of my virtuousness.


Simple Strawberry Dessert for One
Handful of Strawberries, stemmed and sliced in half or quarters
Juice of 1 Lime**
1-3 t sugar (to taste)
2 T Creme Fraiche**

Combine the Creme Fraiche and sugar in a small dish. Sprinkle the strawberries with the lime juice. Drizzle with the sweetened Creme Fraiche. Stab anyone who tries to take a bite.

**Both the lime and the Creme Fraiche were wallowing away in the back of my refrigerator, so this dessert even helped me to stick to my resolution of cleaning the fridge!

02 June 2008

Got Miso? Make Dinner.

I am in refrigerator clean-out mode. I am not sure if it is the time of year - the abundance at the local farmer's markets requires more refrigerator space, or maybe it was just my mood this afternoon, but the shelves of my fridge are being cleaned out. I am attempting to avoid the grocery store this week, which is a bit of a challenge since I haven't been since last weekend (as in a full 7 days ago), and I didn't goto any farmer's markets this weekend (I was in Connecticut). I plan on hitting the farmer's markets this weekend which leaves me 5 days to clear out the refrigerator. So as I was shuffling items around, and, sadly, tossing some bell peppers and beets that had gone bad, I discovered an unopened container of tofu cubes. Of course the use by date was about 2 months ago... but it had never been opened. So I turned to my friends at the CLBB, and it only took one reply to convince me to use the tofu cubes. I applied my "dairy rule of thumb" to the tofu - if it smells okay and isn't growing something funny, eat it. Of course, I don't recommend any of you follow this rule of thumb and please don't sue me if you do! ;)

Excuse me while I get slightly off track to mention how wonderful these tofu cubes are to keep on hand for quick meals. I wasn't too sure about tofu, especially since I discovered I do not like the silken version "hidden" in things like smoothies. I have always enjoyed tofu in dishes like Pad Thai, but it doesn't really fit the bill for the healthier way I am attempting to eat at the moment. I grabbed the box of Nasoya Organic Cubed Super Firm Tofu on a total whim, and let it sit in my fridge for a long time before trying it. It is the greatest convenience food! I simply drain it while I prepare whatever dish I am throwing it into and add it when appropriate. Delicious and super simple! I definitely plan to keep it on hand - especially since I know that the use by date is merely a suggestion. :)

The inspiration for my dinner tonight was part refrigerator clean-out, part Asian food craving, and part necessity. What the heck was I going to make in about 15 minutes (I had to eat ASAP because I had a big work out tonight with Kali)?! Well, a stir fry always works when you need to get food on the table, and it is also perfect for using up the forgotten vegetables at the back of your produce drawer. I am also happy to report that I used the basic flavor profile for this stir fry from the Ellie Krieger Miso Glaze recipe I reviewed here. The blonde miso container that was shoved to the back of the fridge found another use. This dish was absolutely delicious, satisfying and easy to throw together. I am sure I will make several variations of it in the future. Most importantly, this dish is very healthy, and you can up the vegetable content to your own taste. I am submitting it to Sweetnicks ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday blog event since it is full of healthy goodness.

Josie's Quick Miso Tofu Scramble

Serves 1

1 T olive oil
1 t sesame oil
1 green garlic stem, tough green leaves discarded, white & light green parts thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled, thinly sliced on the diagonal
~ 1 cup (I used approx. half the package) of Nasoya Cubed Super Firm Tofu, drained
6 asparagus stems, sliced on the diagonal into 1" pieces
1/2 cup mixed mushrooms, thinly sliced (I used shiitake and blue oyster)
1 T blonde miso
1 T brown sugar
Splash of Mirin
Splash of Soy Sauce
2 large eggs, 1 yolk discarded, scrambled

Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium to medium-high heat, add the green garlic (sub whatever oniony, garlicky goodness you want if you can't get green garlic). Allow garlic to brown slightly, then add the carrot slices and cubed tofu. Allow to cook for about 3 minutes until tofu starts to brown. Add the sesame oil, mushrooms and asparagus and cook for a minute. Add the miso, sugar, mirin and soy sauce and stir to combine. The miso may need a minute or two to thin out and dissolve into the sauce. After the sauce has thoroughly combined and coated the vegetables, slide everything out of the pan to a serving dish. Add the egg mixture to the pan and cook quickly to hard scramble the eggs. Once the eggs are cooked through, add the vegetables and tofu back to the pan and stir to combine.
Adjust the soy sauce and sugar to your personal taste. Serve and Enjoy!

28 May 2008

Checking In...

So obviously I haven't been around much, but I have made some changes that I hope will make blogging a bit easier on me. First and foremost, I purchased a laptop. I have been saying I want one for a long long time now, so I figured it wasn't just a passing fancy. I also decided to take my money that the government was so generously sending me and actually use it to stimulate the American economy! Having a laptop, hopefully, will allow me to catch up on my blogging while on the go. One of my biggest obstacles is finding enough 10 minute segments in my day to create a coherent post. Taking my computer with me should help alleviate this problem.

I have been visiting lots of wonderful local markets recently which have truly inspired me to cook. Most of my meals have been very simple creations of roasted vegetables with soft scrambled eggs on the side. Asparagus drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted in a high heat oven is my current obsession. I have added mushrooms, green onions and baby redskin potatoes lately as well. It all adds up to the most wonderful, simple spring meal. Of course having wonderful local eggs from 2Silos doesn't hurt. If you are local, definitely check them out at the Clintonville Farmer's Market.

Another local place that deserves its own post entirely is Pistacia Vera. I wish I was together enough to remember to bring a camera along when I visit this store. However, their website does a beautiful job of displaying their goods. The next time you are in German Village, you must stop by their shop. The service is delightful and friendly, the atmosphere is airy and refreshing, but most importantly, the pastries are heavenly. Today I visited with my friend Allison and brought a small box of cookies back to my co-workers for an afternoon pick-me-up. I tried a new cookie today - a Red Skin Peanut creation that was like the best grown-up peanut butter cookie. Next time I will do my best to take pictures before gobbling up all the goodies. Regardless, head to Pistacia Vera the next time you really need to impress someone with a truly delicious food gift.

That's all for now... I should be updating soon with more springtime food creations...

18 May 2008

Perfect Sping Quickbread

Lori from The Recipe Girl is one of my biggest inspirations, and she has become one of my internet foodie friends. Lori actually has two websites - one is her food blog and the other is her recipe database. It is really inspiring and cool that Lori decided to take a class one day and figure out how to create a website that has become so incredibly popular. Even though her blog is newer, it already seems to be one of the busiest on the web! Better yet, Lori's recipes and reviews are very reliable and easy to follow. I am flattered that Lori always makes time to come visit my site and comment - it is a huge compliment to me.

I recently visited The Recipe Girl and noticed a recipe for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. It looked really good... except I don't really love those flavors together. So instead, I headed over to the Brunch-Quickbreads section of Lori's recipe site. I found the best recipe for Banana Blueberry Bread ever. It is moist and tender, with subtle banana flavor and beautiful blueberries throughout. This bread was snatched up by my co-workers in record time, which was good for me because I was in danger of eating the whole loaf on my own! I threw the ingredients together after working out in about 10 minutes and about an hour later I had freshly baked Banana Blueberry Bread scenting my kitchen. I think my house smelled better after baking this bread than it ever has before.

Thanks Lori!!

Banana Blueberry Bread
from RecipeGirl.com


Delicious with fresh, plump blueberries...

1 ¾ cups

sifted flour

2 tsp

baking powder

½ tsp

salt

¼ tsp

baking soda

1/3 cup

butter

2/3 cup

sugar

2 large

eggs

1 cup

mashed ripe bananas (I used 2 bananas)


1 cup

fresh blueberries (I used frozen)



1
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 9x5" loaf pan.
2
Sift first four ingredients (dry) into a small bowl. Set aside.
3
In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Then beat in sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, beating in one at a time. Add dry ingredients and then banana.
4
Carefully stir in blueberries.
5
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake 50 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. (My bread was a little hard to judge- it probably could have cooked an additional 5-7 minutes.)

6
Let sit for 15 minutes, then remove from the pan to a wire rack to cool.

15 May 2008

Healthy & Delicious - an Epicurious Winner!

Kristi over at The Global Kitchen directed my attention to this delicious chicken recipe over on the CLBB. I am really happy I opened her thread! I immediately decided that I needed to make this dish, originally from Epicurious. It is very healthy, and it has a ton of rich, savory flavor. This is the perfect dish for the girl on the go - I threw it together in less than 15 minutes, and it was ready after about 30 minutes in the oven. I felt virtuous about eating it - I knew that Kali and Molly would approve of this lean protein based dinner with healthy carbs to boot!

Speaking of Kali and Molly, working out is going great! Burning my hand created a minor setback, since the doctor forbade me from going near the gym for one week. It was nice break from the structure of working out so often, but I missed getting into the gym. I have discovered that the gym provides an incredible release for me. I didn't even realize how much I needed or looked forward to working out. I sleep better and feel more energized throughout the day. I have finally started noticing a difference in my body too! I know that I am getting much stronger which is really fun (even if it freaks J out a little bit :)).


Roast Chicken Breasts with Garbanzo Beans, Tomatoes, and Paprika

Use leftovers for sandwiches the next day: Place shredded chicken, garbanzos, and tomatoes in a pita bread and top with the yogurt sauce.

Prep: 15 minutes; Total: 35 minutes

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon smoked paprika*
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/2 cup plain yogurt or Greek yogurt (I used creme fraiche)
4 chicken breast halves with bones(I also took the skin off)
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained (I used garbanzos that I had cooked myself)
1 12-ounce container cherry tomatoes (I used a can of fire roasted tomatoes, mostly drained)
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided

Preheat oven to 450°. Mix first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Pour 1 teaspoon spiced oil mixture into small bowl; whisk in yogurt and set aside for sauce. Place chicken on large rimmed baking sheet. Rub 2 tablespoons spiced oil mixture over chicken. Add beans, tomatoes, and 1/2 cup cilantro to remaining spiced oil mixture; toss to coat. Pour bean mixture around chicken. Sprinkle everything generously with salt and pepper.

Roast until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cilantro. Transfer chicken to plates. Spoon bean mixture over. Serve with yogurt sauce.

*Sometimes labeled Pimentón Dulce or Pimentón de La Vera Dulce; available at some supermarkets, at specialty foods stores, and from tienda.com.

Servings: Makes 4 servings

14 May 2008

Cheesy Shrimpy Goodness with Bread

You know how easy it is to start with one recipe and slowly morph it into something entirely new over time? Well, I think I have a tendency to do that a lot... and this dish was no different. I definitely wouldn't file this under healthy, but I would file it under tasty and simple (and impressive). I have modified Emeril's Spicy Crab Stuffed Mushroom recipe a million different ways- I have used the filling to make quesadillas, stuffed mushrooms, dips for bread (as in this case) and slapped onto of scrambled eggs. Basically, I think the basic combination of flavors in this recipe is the perfect backdrop to whatever you have on hand.

I am posting the original recipe, but I used the idea of this dish to create the dip you see pictured above. I didn't have pickled jalapeños around - so I subbed fresh hot peppers. I didn't have crab - so I subbed shrimp. I didn't have mushrooms - so I subbed a cute baking dish. I also didn't have the cheese he calls for - so I subbed a variety of other cheeses that sounded good to me. So what is the same you ask? Well, I used the mayonnaise and garlic and Worcestershire sauce... and I guess that's about it! Like I said, I don't think you can really mess this recipe up - as long as you add some type of cheese and some type of heat and cook the filling in some type of vessel, you will end up with a happy stomach.

Enjoy!
Spicy Crab Stuffed Mushrooms
Recipe adapted from Everyday Is A Party Cookbook, by Emeril Lagasse, with Marcelle


12 ounces white mushroms, cleaned and stems removed
1 pound lump crab meat, picked over for shells and cartilage
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped pickled jalapeños
1/4 pound pepper Jack cheese, grated
1 teaspoon Worcestershire salt
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
2 heads radicchio, cut in half and grilledPreheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place mushroom caps on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix together crabmeat, garlic, jalapenos, pepper Jack, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt, mayonnaise and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Place a heaping tablespoon of the crab mixture into the cap of each mushroom. Bake the mushroom caps for 30 minutes. Serve warm with grilled radicchio.

07 May 2008

Tasty Emeril Recipe- Grilled Flank Steak

I have second degree burns on my right hand. They hurt. Why do I keep injuring myself?! Needless to say, it is making it a little challenging to cook - thankfully I managed to make an awesome meal and take pictures well before burning myself. (I actually burnt my hand while warming up water in the microwave at work to use my French Press, so I wasn't even really cooking! Thankfully, I believe I will survive just fine with my ointment and antibiotics.)

I found this recipe while searching FoodTV's website for ways to marinate flank steak. I have no idea what possessed me to buy this slab of meat a month or so ago, but I am happy that I did. I hoped to cook the steak when I first bought it, so I whipped up the marinade below and threw it in a bag. I soon realized, however, that I wouldn't have time to cook it, so I threw the steak, marinade and all, into the freezer for another day. Well that day came this weekend. I thawed the steak in the refrigerator and heated up the grill. However, I knew I didn't really want tacos - so I decided to just take the steak and add it to a bed of lettuce with some homemade pico de gallo. Some sliced avocados would have been perfect on this salad. I think I overcooked the steak (I really wanted the pretty grill marks, and they just weren't showing up!) but flank steak to me is one cut of meat that can stand up to well-done. The steak definitely had the essence of the marinade. I hate when I take the time to marinate a piece of meat and cannot taste it! In fact, if I make this dish again, I will marinate for at least 12 hours - maybe even 24 hours! I loved the onion flavor with the subtle hint of cumin in the background. It was a delicious salad - and I am sure the complete recipe would be awesome as well!


The complete recipe can be found here: Grilled Flank Steak Tacos with Roasted Poblano Chiles, Grilled Onions and Mexican Crema, Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2006

However - I only used the Marinade part listed below:

1/2 cup finely chopped onion
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1/8 cup lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
1 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 pounds flank steak, trimmed of surface fat and silverskin

In a blender or in the bowl of a food processor, combine 1/2 cup of the onion, the garlic, 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, half of the lime juice, cumin, oregano and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Process until smooth. Place the flank steak in a shallow non-reactive dish and spoon the marinade over the meat. Turn the steak so that both sides of the meat are in contact with the marinade and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours, turning occasionally. (Obviously as I mentioned above, I used a bag and left it in the marinade for a month in the freezer :))

Preheat a grill to high.

Remove the meat from the marinade and shake or use a spoon to remove any excess. Rub the meat all over with the remaining 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and season on both sides with the remaining teaspoon of salt. Grill the steak, turning once, to the desired degree of doneness; for medium rare, this should be 6 to 8 minutes per side. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.

Copyright © 2006 Television Food Network, G.P., All Rights Reserved


Simple Pico de Gallo

2 parts seeded, chopped tomato
1 part chopped red onion
as many chopped hot peppers as you like (I used a lot!)
1 part chopped cilantro (use the stems!)
1 part lime juice
salt to taste
drizzle of olive oil

Okay so I know this isn't really a scientific recipe - but really you should just try it as you go. Add chopped bell peppers or cucumbers or pineapple or whatever sounds good! You can't mess it up!! :)

29 April 2008

Paula Deen's Banana Coffee Muffins

Wow. I really like these muffins. I don't even have a creative way to begin this post or tie it into my life. Basically I had some rotting bananas in my refrigerator and the rest is history. I went to FoodTV's website to search for Banana Bread recipes - I ended up with a Banana Muffin recipe by Paula Deen. I haven't unpacked my bags from this weekend yet (why, yes, I am lazy!) so my camera is M.I.A. Paula Deen's picture is probably prettier than mine would be anyway.

By the way - have you ever seen a Paula Deen recipe with less than a full stick of butter in it?! I was shocked by how "light" these muffins are. I do think that the muffins would be equally tasty if made with oil if you are watching dairy/fat. I made no changes to the original recipe posted below (another shock since I always modify something!).

Michael's Banana Coffee Muffins by Paula Deen

1/3 cup melted butter
4 ripe bananas, smashed
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons strong coffee
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted or raw

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 12 cup capacity muffin tin or use paper liners.

With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, coffee and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour, mix until it is just incorporated. Fold in the chopped pecans. Pour mixture into a prepared muffin tin. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Cool on a rack.

*Cook's note: To check to see if the muffins are done; with a toothpick insert into the center of a muffin, if it comes out clean, it's done.

25 April 2008

Happy Friday!

I am on my way out of town for the weekend, so I decided to leave you with some cute puppy pictures.

I also wanted to clarify my comment about minor medical concerns from a couple days ago - remember how I mentioned my weaker right leg? Well apparently a significant strength discrepancy in your legs can mean there is an underlying nerve problem (like a bulging disc). I have been undergoing some tests to see if we can figure out why my right leg is so weak. So far - nada! I am frustrated because I didn't have any pain or symptom other than the weaker leg, so I feel like I am worrying about something that I never would have known about if I wasn't working out with a trainer. Oh well - I have an appointment with a specialist in a week, and I am hopeful my worries will be laid to rest after I see her. I will keep you updated. :)

24 April 2008

Miso Glazed Sea Bass - Another Ellie Krieger Winner!


Wow. I have to say I was skeptical when I looked at this recipe in The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger. How could so few ingredients create a dish worth talking about? Well, I give Ellie a lot of credit because - holy cow - the few ingredients deliver! The gorgeous caramelized crust tastes as delicious as it looks. There is a subtle sweetness to the fish that is beautifully offset by the slightly fermented saltiness of the miso. In her cookbook, the fish is photographed alongside some lovely baby bok choy that looks as though it has been steamed. However, I was inspired to do a little refrigerator clean up and use a variety of vegetables I had hanging around. I did a basic stir fry of red cabbage, oyster and shiitake mushrooms, bell pepper and carrot. I cooked the vegetables in a small amount of sesame oil with a little of the same marinade used on the fish. I finished them with a dash of low-sodium soy sauce. They made a delicious bed for the fish, which I spiced up with a little pickled ginger.

This recipe is so incredibly simple - and easy to use on any mild, white fish - I definitely recommend trying it as soon as possible!


Miso Glazed Cod
The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger

6 (6-ounce) black cod fillets, or regular cod fillets (I used Chilean Sea Bass)
1/3 cup low-sodium blond or white miso
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons mirin (Japanese cooking wine)
Toasted sesame seeds and scallions, for garnish, optional

Preheat broiler.
Rinse fish fillets and pat dry with paper towels. Combine miso, brown sugar, sesame oil and mirin and stir well until brown sugar is fully dissolved.
Brush about 2 tablespoons miso glaze on each fish fillet. Marinate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour. Place fish under broiler for 3 to 4 minutes, or until top is slightly charred and glaze has caramelized. Remove fish from oven and brush with remaining glaze. Lower oven to 375 degrees F. Cook an additional 5 to 6 minutes, until fish is flaky but not overcooked.
If desired, serve with toasted sesame seeds and scallions.
(I cooked my fish on the stove top in a non-stick pan. I tented the fish with foil to allow the fish to cook through on the stove over medium to medium-high heat. I did this in the same pan I cooked my vegetables because I only wanted to dirty one pot.)

21 April 2008

Depressing Day? Freshly Baked Bread to the Rescue!

I have been feeling a little worn out lately. I think it is from a combination of not seeing J enough recently (stupid big projects at work), some minor medical worries (more on this later) and allergies. My allergies are absolutely killing me right now. According to Pollen.com Ohio is pretty awful right now, and don't I know it! My throat is killing me, and my eyes are itchy and watery. Of course I am too stubborn to stay inside and avoid the evil tree pollen floating around me... So what is better than an overload on carbohydrates to soothe your soul? Not much if you are anything like me!

I pulled out my current go-to recipe for homemade bread - printed conveniently on the back of the King Arthur Bread Flour bag - Oatmeal Bread. If you want a bread that is perfect for breakfast, this is your recipe! The bread has a pleasantly yeasty flavor and is very chewy from the oatmeal. It is awesome toasted, slathered with butter and dipped in the soft yolk of an over-easy egg.

Of course, there would be no homemade bread without my mom. Some of my favorite childhood memories involve kneading bread under my mom's mild supervision. I would stand on a stool so I could reach her kneading area more easily and make a mess of the kitchen. The dough would stick to my fingers in clumpy little pieces. I would sneak nibbles of the dough when my mom wasn't looking, as often as possible. I loved the anticipation of a freshly baked loaf. My mom would give me a stick of butter to carefully run over the top of the warm bread to create a glossy crust. I am so lucky that when I think of food and my childhood, homemade bread usually comes to mind first. I took it for granted as a child, and now I treasure the loaves of bread that my mom occasionally leaves for me in my kitchen while I am at work during the day. Without those childhood experiences, I doubt I would be confident enough in my own kitchen to bake homemade bread.

King Arthur Flour Oatmeal Bread

3 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour (I subbed 1 cup of whole wheat flour)
1 cup rolled oats (old fashioned oats)
2 T butter (I melt mine)
1 1/2 t salt
3 T brown sugar or honey
2 t instant yeast OR 1 packet active dry yeast*
1 1/4 cups lukewarm milk
3/4 cup raisins or currants (optional)

* If you use active dry yeast, dissolve it in the warm milk before combining with the remaining ingredients. (I dissolve the yeast in the warm milk along with the sugar or honey)

Manual Method: In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all of the ingredients, mixing to form a shaggy dough. Knead dough, by hand (10 minutes) or by machine (5 minutes) till it is smooth. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow it to rest for 1 hour; it'll become quite puffy, though it may now double in bulk. Shape as directed below.

Shaping: Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface and shape it into a log. Place the log in a lightly greased 9x5-inch loaf pan, cover the pan, and allow the dough to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, till it's crested 1 to 2 inches over the rim of the pan.

Baking: Bake the bread in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190 degrees F. If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil for the final 10 minutes of baking. Yield 1 loaf.

My Notes: I reserve about 1/2 cup of flour and use it to flour my surface while I am kneading the bread. As you knead the bread, it will absorb the last 1/2 cup of flour. I also just shape the loaf of bread in the pan - I don't bother greasing a surface to shape the dough. My bread takes a little longer to bake - maybe more like 50 minutes. If you knock on the top of the bread, it sounds hollow when it is cooked through.

20 April 2008

Ellie Krieger's Pumpkin (Spice) Muffins

So I know it isn't really the right time of year for these, but I was craving a spicy muffin and remembered that I had bookmarked Ellie Krieger's recipe in her recent book The Food You Crave. In case you haven't seen this book yet, it is absolutely beautiful! The pictures are tempting and luscious. The recipes are easy to follow and well-organized. My favorite part of the book are the little side notes and tips for healthy living. I really respect Ellie Krieger's passion for good food and healthy recipes. She specifically discourages making any food completely off-limit - my kind of lady! Instead, she preaches moderation and being cognizant of the food choices you are making. I am very happy with this book and recommend checking it out when you have a moment.

So on to the important stuff - the food! These muffins are out-of-this-world tender and moist with a delicious spicy flavor. I was blown away by how fatty they tasted!! The interior stayed soft and spongy for several days on the counter. Like most baked goods, I took them to work with me and everyone was happy! They couldn't believe the muffins were healthy.


Ellie Krieger's Pumpkin Muffins

Cooking spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-grain pastry flour (I used whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used more of all the spices - more like heaping portions)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsulphered molasses
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk (I used 4% vanilla yogurt)
1/4 cup raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds (I messed up and used my sunflower seeds instead... oops!)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray. (I also used muffin cup liners)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.
In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, molasses, oil and 1 egg until combined. Add the other egg and whisk well. Whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla. Whisk in the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Whisk just until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of 1 of the muffins comes out clean.
Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the muffins to loosen them and unmold. Cool completely on the rack.

13 April 2008

Spicy Stir-Fried Pork - A Perfect Dinner

Remember that Bon Appétit calendar I referred to way back when? Well it has struck again! This time I was looking ahead a bit and pulled the recipe card for Monday April 14 and Tuesday April 15. I had been to the winter Farmer's Market early in the day and knew that the recipe I found would showcase the fresh ingredients perfectly. Of course, the recipe did get tweaked here and there to account for the ingredients I had purchased, but I think it turned out beautifully. The pork was tender and spicy, and the vegetables were crisp and vibrant. This is a definite repeat recipe for me.

I scaled the recipe down for just one person, but I am showing the original, which serves 4.

Spicy stir-fried pork, green onions, and mushrooms
With stir-fries, everything cooks very quickly, so it is especially important that you have all your ingredients chopped and ready to go before you put anything in the skillet. Look for hoisin sauce, chili-garlic sauce, and Asian sesame oil in the Asian foods section fo the supermarket or at Asian markets.

4 servings

3/4 pound pork tenderloin, cut into 2 x 1/2 x 1/2-inch strips (I used a small pork chop to make the slices)
2 T soy sauce, divided
1 T hoisin sauce
1 T dry Sherry
1 T cornstarch
1 t chili-garlic sauce (I also added1 t of sriracha because I like food extra-hot)
2 t Asian sesame oil, divided
3 large eggs, beaten to blend
2 T vegetable oil, divided
1 T minced peeled fresh ginger (I used my awesome Japanese grater for this)
1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps thinly sliced (I used oyster mushrooms from the farmer's market)
6 green onions, cut on the diagonal into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup low-salt chicken broth (I used homemade stock)

Combine pork, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and next 4 ingredients in medium bowl; stir to combine well. Let stand at least 15 minute and up to 1 hour.

Heat 1 teaspoon sesame oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggs and stir until scrambled, about 1 minute. Transfer eggs to large bowl. Add remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to same skillet. Add ginger and stir 30 seconds. Add pork and stir-fry until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add pork to bowl with eggs.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to same skillet. Add mushrooms and green onions (at this point I also added 1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips and 1 cup of fresh snow peas); stir-fry until just tender, about 5 minutes. Return pork and eggs to skillet. Add broth and remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce; toss until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper (this dish required no extra seasoning for me - the soy sauce definitely added enough salt).

09 April 2008

Diagonally Dysfunctional Body

I learned something interesting tonight- my right leg is significantly weaker than my left leg. And something else I have learned recently? My left arm and shoulder are significantly weaker than my right arm and shoulder. Huh? Yeah. I am diagonally uneven in my strength. Who knew? The left arm thing didn't confuse me too much - I am right handed so I just assumed it was a natural thing. The right leg being weaker? No clue. Kali and Molly were both baffled as well. Well we all knew I was special, right??

Apparently there is hope for me. I am going to work independently of Kali and Molly on strengthening my right leg. I have been told that doing exercises that target my legs individually should help a lot - mostly because my left leg won't be able to compensate for my right leg's weaknesses. Kali and I worked on these types of exercises a lot tonight, and wow! do I feel it in my right thigh. I still managed to do my cardio without falling off the elliptical and dying, so I consider it a successful evening at the gym.

In other news - did you notice that Crash has decided if I am not around for him to love, he will snuggle with my cookbooks? That big one on the end is Aquavit: And the New Scandinavian Cuisine by Marcus Samuelsson. I admit I do not cook from it, but I ate at his restaurant in Minneapolis (before he closed it to concentrate on global ventures I believe) and it was an amazing dining experience. I want more of his African cookbooks... but I digress... the point is, I think Crash is kinda cute with his head all mashed up against my cookbooks. :)

* Please ignore the dust on the bookshelf ;) *

08 April 2008

Brown Baggin' It - Take 2 with Chicken Salad

One of my biggest struggles with balancing my new exercise regime and food is lunch. I had been doing so wonderfully at packing my lunch, but I fell off the brown-bag-bandwagon when I started working out in earnest. I keep telling myself I will get back to it. I will find a way to balance everything (including baseball - in case you missed it, the 2008 Indians have begun their campaign to make me happy and win a World Series!). So with the best of intentions, I pulled some frozen cooked chicken out of the freezer to thaw on Sunday in my refrigerator. And there it stayed until bright and early this morning. J called to wake me up this morning... and I desperately wanted to just roll over and go back to sleep. But I knew I needed to get up, prolonging the waking is not good for anyone. But it was especially bad since last night I stayed awake until the wee hours of the morning watching the Indians lose to the Angels (damn West Coast games!).

So groggily I plodded down to my kitchen and let my dogs out to have their morning run. And I stared at a bag of avocados on my counter. They looked pitiful and neglected (not unlike my dogs recently). I gave one avocado a little poke to see how ripe it was... and it was the perfect little poke. The avocado gave just enough that I knew it would be delicious. My fingernail didn't break the skin, a sure sign of over ripeness- bleh! And so that sad little bag of avocados prompted me to wipe the sleep from my eyes and whip up lunch.

The inspiration for this meal came from a restaurant that I recently discovered in downtown Columbus called Tip Top. It is the "sister restaurant" to Betty's - another place I have loved in the Short North for a very long time. How could Tip Top be bad with such great genes? Well my instincts were correct - I love Tip Top. If you are ever downtown and want a low-key atmosphere with amazing food, head over to Third and Gay Streets for some amazing food. First and foremost, you must try the sweet potato fries. Then you can order the Honey Shallot Avocado Chicken Salad Sandwich (and if I butchered the technical name of the sandwich, sorry - just order the one that looks like that description, trust me) on a Pretzel Roll. Oh man... so good. I salivate a little bit just thinking about it. There are countless other delicious offerings on their menu, including the Hell Salad and Meatloaf, but the Chicken Salad Sandwich was my inspiration this morning.

I am submitting this to Sweetnicks (a wonderful and beautiful blog) for the ARF/5-A-Day Roundup next week. Hopefully you will be inspired to get out there and eat some fruits and veggies!

Avocado Chicken Salad

1 ripe avocado, roughly chopped
1/4 cup minced onion or shallot
2 T honey
2 T mayo (I used light)
1 T freshly squeezed lime juice, or more to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken meat

Mash or blend all the ingredients except the chicken meat to create a thick dressing. Pour over the chicken and stir to incorporate. Use this chicken salad to make sandwiches or serve over lettuce.

07 April 2008

Tag! I choose to be it this time!

Since I am attempting to get back in the swing of blogging, I figured I would opt to do the meme's that my sister recently posted on her blog. Like L, I am not going to tag anyone to play - just consider yourself invited to play if you want. Make sure you let me know you are playing so I can come check your responses out. Unfortunately, I did not get as much cooking done this weekend as I would have liked. The weather was too gorgeous to stay inside and cook. I did grill hamburgers with my parents on Sunday - they were awesome. I think grilled food tastes significantly better when you can eat it outside! I did buy some flank steak, so I swear I am going to make some tacos this week...
But for today - get outside and enjoy that sunshine (well if you are in Columbus - otherwise I am not sure what to tell you :))!

Kitchen Meme

What three kitchen items do you use the most often?
Wüsthof Santoku Knife
Silicone Spatulas
KitchenAid Mixer

What kitchen gadget do you wish you had?
I am not sure if this counts, but I really wish I had a laptop that I could bring into the kitchen with me for easy reference. It is amazing how much the internet impacts my cooking, and I hate running back and forth between the kitchen and living room (where my computer lives).

What kitchen gadget do you never use/wish you hadn't spent the money for?
I desperately wanted a juicer for the longest time - I finally got one and while I am happy I have it, I definitely don't use it often enough. I do think that someday when I work a little less and have children, it will be a wonderful appliance to have around. You just can't beat homemade popsicles!

What is your favorite cookbook? (Link if you can!)
I don't really cook from cookbooks these days. I love reading and owning cookbooks, but it is more like a library of reference books now. However, I will never forget my first two cookbooks - one was Mexican (half the book was written in English, half in Spanish - I was completely enamored with the bilingual aspect of the book) and the other was Spanish. Both were incredibly basic books, but they expanded my horizons and encouraged me to get in the kitchen. From those books, I learned to make Sopapillas at home for my family. My parents totally encouraged me to deep fry and figure out how to do it safely. I was so excited the first time I made a Tortilla Española from the Spanish cookbook that reminded me of the first meal I had in Madrid, Spain as a wide-eyed 12 year old girl.

Who is your cooking inspiration?
Most importantly, my mom. I have grown to appreciate different cuisines from those I grew up eating, but without her encouragement I never would have started tinkering in the kitchen. I will never forget very carefully copying our family's treasured gingersnap recipe onto a piece of paper, so I could systematically check off each ingredient as I added it to my mom's KitchenAid. She was always available to help me, but she mostly believed I would be fine and let me have free reign in the kitchen - an invaluable gift that has given me incredible confidence in my own kitchen today. Otherwise it is my sister who has continued to expand my culinary horizons and challenge me where food is concerned. She has taught me to enjoy Vietnamese, Indian, Korean, Thai and countless other cuisines that I am not sure I would have been brave enough to try on my own. She also puts up with my overly sensitive olfactory system without giving me too much grief.

What are three recipes that you use all the time?
I don't really follow set recipes very often - but these are the dishes I make most often-
1. Chicken Chili Verde style stew
2. Hummus/Bean Dip
3. Family Gingersnaps

Can you share a cooking secret?
Have confidence in yourself and don't forget to season as you go. I rarely salt my food because I taste as I prepare it.

What is your greatest cleaning secret?
I have to clean as I go. I cannot stand cooking in a messy kitchen! I find it so much easier to put a measuring cup in the dishwasher right away than unloading a full sink of dirty dishes.

What is your favorite thing to clean?
Do I count?! I love showers :)

What is your least favorite thing to clean?
Floors!!! I hate sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, any of it. Yuck!

What is your most embarrassing housekeeping moment?
One time I was hosting a party, and I wanted to impress a guest I had invited so I decided I needed to paint my entire first floor a new color. Thankfully a wonderful friend of mine helped me get it done in time for the party - the guest never showed up. Oh well, at least I have a gorgeous cayenne-colored family room now!

Who do you tag to do this next?
Anyone who wants to play! Let me know you did it, and I will check it out!


Alphabet Soup Tag

Here is what you do. Use the 1st letter of your middle name to answer each of the following questions. They have to be real places, names, things…nothing made up! Try to use different answers if the person you took this from had the same 1st initial.You CAN’T use your name for the boy/girl name question.

1. Middle name letter: C
2. Famous artist/band/musician: the Cure
3. 4-letter word: Crap (I think this covers both requirements :))
4. U.S state: Connecticut (where I may live someday!)
5. Boy name: Chris (my brother!)
6. Girl name: Chrissy (my brother's sister in law who reads my blog! :))
7. Animal: Cow (have I mentioned that my parents are going to be hosting a neighbor's 4H project- which means there will be an adorable calf for me to visit at my parents' house!?!?!)
8. Something in the kitchen: Cheese... mmm
9. Reason for being late? Caught in traffic.
10. Body Part? Cabeza
11. Drink? Cranberry Juice
12. Something you shout: Crap on a Cracker!
13. Something you eat? Cheese with Cornichon and Crackers!
14. A movie you've seen? Casablanca