Archive for June, 2009

29
Jun
09

three cheese mac & cheese.

So, I finally did it. I up and left my gym. After nearly three years, I cut the cord in favor of a classier gym with way better looking dudes. It’s not like I’m just now realizing I could do better, but I had my loyalties to the gym who took me in when I was a nomad/vagrant. Now I’m all kinds of settled, and they want to keep my rate the same as when I went to every single location. I can’t let that happen, on principle, so I chose to pay more elsewhere. At least I have my dignity.

As part of my enrollment, I got to have an in-depth conversation with a trainer all about me and my gym going. I can’t remember the last time I was so enthralled. He said having a trainer is basically your insurance policy, and I thought that was just f-ing BRILLIANT. I almost offered up $600 on the spot, but then I remembered that would put me back in the red. I much prefer to be in the yellow (ok, orange), so I just signed up for my complimentary personal training session this Thursday. I’m SO pumped about this.

All that talk about getting me all Bundchen-like had me craving mac & cheese, so I stopped by the cheese shop for inspiration. Some cubed gouda and white cheddar cheese later, and I was good to go.

I started by cooking some whole wheat penne pasta I picked up at TJ’s.

the anti-Bundchen

the anti-Bundchen

While that al dente-d (look, I made a verb!), I got down with my skillet. I melted a few tablespoons of butter, and then gradually whisked in about 3 tablespoons of flour. I added a couple of cups of skim milk and about 1/4 cup of chopped red onion, and then simmered it all for about 10 minutes. I added the gouda and white cheddar, and then stirred until melted.

I need my spicy, so I added in LOTS of red pepper flakes. I stirred in my pasta, tossed it in a casserole dish, and then topped with bread crumbs and shredded hot jack cheese. I baked it in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, and it came out looking like this:

It was undeniably beautiful, but I have a hard time indulging in something so clearly comfort food-y without adding a few greens. I served it alongside the Simplest Salad in the World, so as not to detract from its obvious sex appeal. The salad started with arugula, and I added a quartered Roma tomato. I then topped it with olive oil, salt and pepper, and let it be. It was the most understated salad ever. It could NOT have been less interested in the spotlight.

All in all, it was pretty delicious and totally photogenic. See below:

arugula and tomato salad, baked mac & cheese

arugula and tomato salad, baked mac & cheese

25
Jun
09

tostada.

This is probably the shortest lapse between meal and blog known to man, but I’m much too proud to sit on this one. About 45 seconds ago, I finished the best tostada this side of the…Mason-Dixon Line? Sure, why not. It was the BEST tostada this side of the Mason-Dixon Line.

How did I make it, you ask? The innards were pretty simple. I started with a corn tortilla and topped it with refried black beans, 1/4 of an avocado, a lime juice, cayenne pepper and cilantro mix, and hot jack cheese:

my toasty

my toasty

From there, I got all fancy. A traditional tostada is just a toasted tortilla topped with a combination of delicious Mexican ingredients, but it’s no secret that I prefer the security of TWO toasted things wrapped around my delicious ingredients. There’s something comforting about that. Food enveloping other food? It’s a beautiful thing.

That said, I decided to one-up the traditional tostada by putting another corn tortilla on top. I almost out-fancied myself right then and there. Rather, I kept going and put the whole thing in the oven at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes.

It got just the right amount of crispy/browned, so I removed it from the oven. I cut it into fourths, and served it alongside some chipotle salsa. It already looked pretty damn fancy, but I wasn’t done yet.

Rather than eat yet another pool of homogenous red salsa (snore), I added some color with cilantro garnish. Like, what? Since when do I garnish things? I didn’t grow up eating gold OR bathing in diamonds, but I garnished that dish like a damn aristocrat. And – I can’t say for sure – but I bet it tasted slightly better than gold:

from left: tostada, chipotle salsa with cilantro garnish

from left: tostada, chipotle salsa with cilantro garnish

22
Jun
09

weekend brunches.

If there’s one aspect of life in which I fall, like, embarrassingly short, it’s my food ordering ability. There, I said it. It’s out there. I’ve almost developed ordering anxiety, because without fail I always pick the least amazing thing on the menu. It’s pretty much a talent.

I studied abroad in Rome, and the first thing I ordered when I got off the plane was a tropical salad. I think it was iceberg lettuce, mango was involved, and I’m pretty sure it had corn also. How could that NOT be incredible [subtle sarcasm]? I wondered the same thing, but it really wasn’t. To make matters worse, there’s no “honey lime” dressings in Italy (I asked), so I had to eat it with olive oil. It was really not great.

Considering my history, I didn’t expect to choose the most delicious thing on the menu at Lil’ Frankie’s this weekend, but guess what happened? I did. I don’t like to feature other people’s food up in here, but I have to make an exception for this insaaaane brunch. I ordered the portabella and polenta breakfast, which was two slices of polenta topped with poached eggs, arugula with shaved Parmesan cheese, a hash brown, roasted tomato, and grilled portabella mushroom. Check it out:

best brunch EVER

best brunch EVER

My brunch companions were SO damn jealous. I was noticeably smug, but damnit I deserve to win for once. I ate it in like four bites, and spent the remainder of brunch apologizing for putting them to such shame with their mediocre choices.

So that was Saturday. Today, I mentally prepared myself for an inferior brunch. I started the day with oatmeal, and then went to the gym for the Shortest Workout Known to Man. Meaning, I did one mile and like two leg machines, and then declared myself fit. I really need to mix up my routine.

I got home and made an egg white omelette with avocadoes, tomatoes, and hot jack cheese. How original, right? I’m so innovative I can’t TAKE it [subtle sarcasm]. I think my omelette sensed its inferiority in my eyes, because it quaked under the pressure to succeed and fell apart. I salvaged it by folding it into itself, and then I served it alongside a corn tortilla, chipotle salsa, and salsa verde. Lil’ Frankie’s it was not, but I enjoyed it very much so. See below:

egg white omelette with tomatoes, avocado, and hot jack cheese

egg white omelette with tomatoes, avocado, and hot jack cheese

20
Jun
09

Insalada.

I went to a Mexican themed dinner party a few months ago, and I had every intent to make something complicated and impossible to transport. Because, you know, that’s how I like to live my life. Inconveniently. I had a hard time deciding which dish would be the most difficult to execute AND most cumbersome to lug to the gym, to work, and finally to my friend’s house. The day of, I had nothing to show for my efforts. I choked. Come 7 p.m., I stopped by a bodega and picked up two avocados and two mangoes. Once I got to my friend’s house, we all started throwing out ideas of what the hell to make of that.

We talked fruity tacos, fruity burritos, or fruity quesadillas, but all the scrunched faces told me that adding cheese could be a problem. When all was said and done, my friend and I made a fruity salsa out of the mangoes and avocados, lime juice, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper. My friend showed me how to dice the mango the right way, which she learned when the adorable Dave Lieberman, stopped by her work. You cut into the mango like a checkerboard, and then you invert the skin so it looks like this:

mango

mango

It was a HIT. Really. The people could not get enough!

With that in mind, I picked up some avocados and mangoes at TJ’s last week. Also, Giada made this amazing looking salad a few weeks ago, and it calls for black and garbanzo beans, roasted corn, and a basil-lime vinaigrette. I bought all that, along with some roma tomatoes.

I started by grilling the corn on the panini press, which takes like 10 minutes for each side to get grill marks. Meanwhile, I diced the mango, one avocado, and one tomato. I rinsed and drained one can of black and one can of garbanzo beans, and tossed all those in with the diced others.

The vinagrette is, like, insanely easy to make. You juice three limes, add in about a third cup of olive oil, and salt and pepper all that. Then, you grab a handful of fresh basil, chop it all up, and toss it in the mix. I mixed it by hand, but I probably would have choked on less basil if I warmed up to the food processor. After having lived two years without, I’m kinda terrified of the machine. I think we’ll learn to love, eventually, but I’m taking my sweet time getting to know it.

Once the corn was all done, I took it off the Press, and cut it off the cobs like Giada does. I looked like such a PRO. It’s times like these that I wished I was an exhibitionist and had a web cam in the kitchen. Maybe in another life. Anyways, I tossed it all together, and ate approx half in one sitting. See below:

insalada Mexicana

insalada Mexicana

16
Jun
09

grapefruit & avocado salad.

I went to go see UP last week with a large group of fascinating people. It was pretty much demoralizing. I can’t remember the last time I felt so mainstream, unless you count the time I almost had a coronary over Zack Morris. See below for the visual:

me & preppy

me & preppy

Sigh. I was just looking for an excuse to show off my favorite picture of all time. Anyways, one of the fascinating people is a Rawist. I’m not sure that’s a legit word, but everyone kind of accepted it, so who am I to question it? She got her title by only eating raw, real foods, and processed food has no place in her life. She showed up at the theater for the 10:30 p.m. showing of Up with a Whole Foods bag stocked with fruit. As in, she showed up peeling a grapefruit, progressed to a carton of blackberries, THEN a carton of strawberries, and concluded with yet another grapefruit. I had never seen anything like it.

There’s an old myth that the grapefruit burns fat like nothing else, although I’m pretty sure that’s an unsubstantiated claim. Has anyone actually witnessed it destroying fat cells, hmmm? What makes the citrus of a grapefruit more offensive to fat than, say, that of an orange? The reality of it is that grapefruit is probably really low cal yet filling, because it comes in two sizes: big and bigass.

Of course I had to pick up a couple of grapefruit this week. I bought big, rather than bigass, because I carry my groceries several blocks, and despite all the gym-going, I have the upper body strength of a gnat.

Tonight, I made myself an arugula salad with grapefruit, some avocado, and the cumin spiced havarti cheese. I topped it in olive oil, salt and pepper, and served it alongside a toasted baguette topped with this fake light butter I’m Ob-sessed with. I guess I’m not much of a Rawist. Anyways, see below:

grapefruit and avocado salad

grapefruit and avocado salad

14
Jun
09

spicy sunday brunch.

I bought one of my go-tos, the eggplant, last week. I usually have meals in mind when I take on Trader Joe’s, but this time I was all, “we’ll figure something out.” And it was me and my eggplant against the world. The black bean and tofu burgers lasted MUCH longer than I thought they would (read: 5 meals long), and come Friday I was coerced to Caracas. Not that I really needed much convincing. La Mulata arepa and Guasacaca with plantain chips? Yes, please. There is no better way to end the week.

Anyways, I never got around to my eggplant but at all last week. It sat in my refrigerator drawer all neglected up until today, when I finally realized it was now or never. I went to the gym first thing this morning (read: noonish) and cybexed my heart out. Honestly, I lasted an hour on that machine, and there was really nothing to watch but the Poor Man’s Project Runway on Bravo. I just could not get into that. Luckily, the tranny next to me provided great motivation with her defined arms and impressive stamina. I followed up my awkward bouncy cardio (oh, cybex) with some arm and back strength training. I felt totally inferior next to that tranny. I finally exhausted myself and left for the reprieve only my cheese shop can provide.

cheese, please

cheese, please

I’m toe-ing the poverty line these days, so the $0.99 spreadable brie on special did not go unnoticed. I found myself drawn to this caraway havarti, though, and I can’t ignore those feelings. It set me back a whole $1.79, which I’m good for even in the worst of times. Havarti has a really unique taste to begin with, but this kind has cumin, like, embedded in it. Aren’t the Danish crafty? I would never have thought to throw cumin up in there.

I had PLANS for this. I went home and chopped up the “business end” of the eggplant, if you will, and sauteed it in some butter. Sidebar: I should probably stop using this weird light butter I bought at TJ’s. It really doesn’t prevent things from sticking but at all, and I keep near burning eveything. It’s starting to make me look bad. Anyways, I cracked two eggs and separated the whites, and tossed just the whites in a skillet. While the whites started to firm up, I added chopped spinach, some havarti, and the sauteed eggplant. I folded it over, like so, and served it alongside sriracha (hellooo spicy ;)) and salsa verde. Soo tasty. See below:

from left: egg white omelette with eggplant, spinach and havarti, salsa verde, and sriracha sauce

from left: egg white omelette with eggplant, spinach and havarti, salsa verde, and sriracha sauce

09
Jun
09

black bean & tofu burger, buns of steel.

Ok, so I’m neglectful. It’s not like I haven’t been sweating and spicing everything in sight, because I really have.  Just yesterday, I cybexed it for 45 minutes and then made myself an egg and cheese sandwich with cayenne pepper and salsa verde. I’m on limited funds. I can’t be bothered to recount everything workout or food related from the last two blogless weeks, so I’ll just give the highlights.

To start, I manned up and tried that terrifying Stair Master on Crack machine. I think that’s its official name. Just LOOK at it: stairmaster on crack

Aren’t you scared shitless? I think that’s its intent. A couple of weeks ago, I just decided to go for it. Now I’m a seasoned vet, but I’m still not sure if I’m a fan. One thing it does, without question, is make you a LOT more connected to what’s going on. I tend to zone out mid-workout, but this machine, like, refuses to be ignored. You have to be totally connected to the stepping or one’s toes suffer. I learned the hard way.

At some point in the last couple of weeks, I made this delicious pizza. I really struggled with the crust this time, because I ran out of flour and just kind of assumed the dough didn’t really need it. Yeah, not so much. Dough and flour is a necessary union. I topped it with zucchini, roma tomatoes, spinach, marinated mozzarella ($1.99 at the cheese shop) olive oil and red pepper flakes. It looked like this:

pizza

pizza

And it tasted like magic. That’s the most accurate way to describe that.

Also worth noting, I just moved into a fourth floor walk-up in the East Village. This is brilliant for several reasons, the first being I WILL have buns of steel in like a month. Possibly less time. You can count on that. Even though I’m literally surrounded by every amazing restaurant ever, I’m still motivated to cook because my new kitchen looks a little something like this:

home

home

What’s that, Barefoot Contessa? You’re jealous of ME? I’m flattered. You’re not even getting the full picture, though. Stage left houses a washer/dryer, and there’s a real live kitchen table. It’s incredible.

Tonight, I made some black bean & tofu burgers by mashing together the two, and then adding an egg (binding), bread crumbs (more binding), and lots of cayenne pepper (spicing). I pan fried the patties in some olive oil for about five minutes on each side, and then I served them in a pita with a slice of gouda cheese ($0.99, cheese shop. HOW do they do that?) On the side, I roasted tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach in the toaster oven with a little olive oil. I ate it all with some homemade honey mustard on the side. Soo good. See below:

black bean & tofu burger with roasted veggies

black bean & tofu burger with roasted veggies




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