Archive for December, 2009

28
Dec
09

spicy green beans and kale, shrimp creole.

I just got THE most exciting package of all time. I have been all kinds of Amish these past few months, since my computer decided to lose its shit one day while I was mid-blog. I sent it down to FL, and my dad fixed it and sent it right back along with like 6 cookbooks. I can’t even describe the level of excitement going on here, but it’s midway between finding a delicious late night cookie for less than 300 calories (mild thrill) and a Free People sample sale (off the charts).

I lived off the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook in college, but for some reason I left the marinade-crusted pages with the rest of my condo in the fam’s garage when I moved to NYC. Since then, I have subsisted solely on e-recipes and spontaneity, i.e. whatever comes to me when I’m perusing Trader Joe’s shelves. Since the computer deserted me, I downgraded to recipes via iPhone, which are really not so comparable. Then, out of the blue, I decided TJ’s is a little too rat race-y for a lazy Sunday afternoon, and maybe sometimes I want to search for orzo without five people hovering in my ass space.

That said, I’ve had a kind of “return to basics” going on in my life. My mom sent me “Giada’s Kitchen” cookbook recently, if only to encourage my Talented Mr. Ripley-style relationship with her. As in, I want her life. It’s probably not going to happen though, so I settled for making one of her recipes. It’s a spicy parmesan green bean and kale dish, so it was pretty much designed with me in mind. It calls for:

Giada's spicy green beans and kale

Ingredients:

one bunch (about 1/2 lb) of kale

1 1/2 lbs of green beans

1/4 lb of cremini mushrooms

1 onion

red pepper flakes

1/4 cup white wine

lemon juice

3 tbsp. parmesan cheese

I followed the instructions all the way, although I used a vidalia onion (I’m obsessed) and about three times the amount of red pepper flakes it calls for. You basically just saute it all on the stove top starting with the onions, work up to the green beans, kale and wine, and add the lemon juice and parmesan cheese at the very end. It was really tasty, and I even made an extra batch to take to a Christmas Day potluck I attended. I goofed and accidentally came an hour late, and people still took seconds after their initial polite sampling. Success.

On the sweaty front, I’ve been trying variety on for size. When I was in my plateau phase, I was doing two to three miles a day at about 6 to 6.5 treadmill speed. Like, every day. Then, I would follow up the cardio with a consistent rotation of weight machines (Sun, Tues, Thurs legs, Mon, Wed, Fri arms). Since I realized my body has pretty much settled into its comfort phase, I upped the running to sometimes five miles at a time. For instance, the other day I ran three miles straight, and then I walked uphill for a mile, and THEN ran another mile. Bam. I’ve decided weight machines are of little to no interest, so I’ve traded most of them in for free weights. I’ve been sore as of late, so I figure that’s a decent enough sign. I went to Crate and Barrel and rewarded myself with an olive oil drizzler:

olive oil drizzler

Not only is it super adorable, but it lets the olive oil come out in a stream, rather than, like spilling out to five times the recommended usage. It was the best $9.95 I think I’ve ever spent in life. It came in handy when I made this shrimp creole recipe the other day, courtesy of my dad. It calls for:

Ingredients:

shrimp, frozen and pre-cooked

1 red bell pepper

1/2 vidalia onion

1 shallot, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

diced canned tomatoes

1/4 cup dry white wine

cayenne pepper to taste

I started by sauteing the chopped onion, shallot and garlic with a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Sidebar: I finally invested in the organic stuff from Whole Foods, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to TJ’s $6.99 bottle. It’s just THAT much better. When all those were translucent, I added the celery, bell pepper, canned tomatoes, and dry white wine, and sauteed those about five minutes until all was tender. Since the shrimp were pre-cooked, I just thawed them in some cold water and threw them in the pan to heat. Since I loooove my heat, I added about two tablespoons of cayenne pepper to the whole mix, which equated to about 3/4 a tablespoon per serving. I served it all atop wild rice, although my dad did it with yellow which is kind of superior. It was delicious, SO easy, and had all kinds of flavor going on. See below:

shrimp creole atop wild rice

17
Dec
09

roasted tomato basil soup and lemon basil gnocchi.

I’m not a huge fan of being approached at the gym. This dates back to my middle school days, when I would rollerblade around my lake and get honked at by creepsters with Ms. Frizzle fetishes. That’s never been the kind of attention I enjoy but at all. Also, I don’t like people looking in my general direction at the gym, or using and/or thinking about being interested in using any equipment I’m  looking to use at my leisure. I have rules.

A couple of nights ago, a trainer approached me mid-arm machine rotation. My first inclination was to hit him with the steely eyes until he cracked under the awkwardness, but his intro language was impressive. He was all, “I’ve been noticing that you’re in here every night doing the same things.” We started talking, and like five minutes later, I’m sold. So it’s something I’m considering, because my weak attempts at variety are…weak. For instance, I’ll move from the treadmill to the cybex one night out of the week. Also, I’ll do crunches now when before I was all kinds of opposed. It’s pretty clear I need a several hundred dollar boost :-/

Last week, I made some butternut squash and parsnip soup that I’m still bragging about. It was just about the most delicious thing ever, and it took me mayybe 45 minutes to make. I started with half an onion, which I chopped and cooked up in a giant pot with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. I cooked these for about five minutes, and then I added chopped butternut squash and about three chopped parsnips. I cooked them all in the pan for about 15 minutes or so, and then I added 3 cups of vegetable stock, a couple tablespoons of butter, and salt and pepper. I brought it all to a boil, and then I reduced it down to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Then, I hit the whole mix with my immersion (aka handheld) blender, which is like the poor man’s version of a food processor. Except it’s, like, infinitely better than switching hot soup back and forth in order to puree.

I brought it back to the stovetop, and then I added 1/4 cups of light cream to the pot. I’m pretty sure I’m the last person to discover how delicious cream makes soup, but it was just about the thickest most amazing thing I’ve ever created.

In other news, I’ve noticed a major shift from Mexican to Italian foods in my cooking repertoire as of late. I’ve been getting down with some pasta dishes, risotto, gnocchi, et al. The 20 degree weather that “feels like 7” is making me a total comfort food lovah.

Last night, I made some delicious gnocchi and roasted tomato soup. The gnocchi took like 5 minutes, but the soup was extra needy and took MUCH longer. I started by roasting some pearl tomatoes in my toaster oven with olive oil, salt and pepper at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Apparently using fresh tomatoes for soup is really unconventional, but aren’t they lovely?:

I sauteed half a Spanish onion in my giant pot with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, two cloves of garlic, salt and pepper. Once those softened, I added in my tomatoes with a cup of veggie stock and 2 cups of water, 1.5 tablespoons of butter, and a little chopped basil. I brought it all up to a boil and then took it down to a simmer for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, I boiled some salted water, and then added my gnocchi. They cook up all delicious like in just 2-3 minutes, so when they floated to the top I knew they were good to go. I drained them and then tossed in some olive oil, lemon juice and chopped basil, and then I topped it all off with some red pepper flakes. I have to have my spicy.

I immersion blended my tomatoes and such, which took so much longer than expected. I feel like it would have taken less bicep exertion if I used canned tomatoes, but I am a fan of worlds colliding. I brought the pureed soup back to the stovetop, to which I added 1/4 cup of light cream.

Kind of incredible, although they’re both a little camera shy. See below:

09
Dec
09

savory roasted veggies with maple agave syrup.

I’m having the hardest time eating socially acceptable portions these days. I was in my element on Thanksgiving when everyone was eating monstrous, heaping plates of food and returning for seconds and thirds, but Nov. 27 hit and suddenly I look greedy. To be fair, those baked goods were not going to eat themselves. I usually budget for one or two sweets a day, but that week was lady balls to the wall. Chocolate peu de creme? Hit me. Pumpkin ice cream? You only live once. Now I’m feeling all kinds of tubby. Thanks, Thanksgiving.

I ran around my favorite lake a handful of times during my week-long stay, but a few miles weren’t much of a match for the lady balls on the wall. Gross imagery? I’m just trying to prove a point here.

Upon my return, I’ve been attempting to shed the excess with some healthy foods and way too much gym time. Running has been my main/only source of cardio these days, so I’ve been forced to up the ante with the treadmill. This past week, I’ve been increasing the incline for the last half mile on each tenth of a mile. By the time I get to .9 of a mile, I have increased the incline to 5 until I reach a mile. It’s considerably harder than it seems, and when I’m done my skin is a pretty shade of fuschia and my quads have had it. This has been going on for a couple of weeks already, so eventually I’ll be running on an incline for the whole mile(s). Believe it.

In the hopes of fast-tracking a Miss Fitness America-worthy body, I’ve decided that vegetables are my world. This past week, I loaded up on cauliflower, brussels sprouts, butternut squash, mushrooms and parsnips. My dad made this roasted vegetable dish with many of those for Thanksgiving, and he actually used maple syrup to flavor. Amaazing. I had about three helpings the first time we met.

I started my version with the aforementioned veggies, which I cut into pieces that are roughly the same size. You want them to cook evenly, so as not to confuse the toaster oven:

I tossed them in some olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper, and then roasted them for 20 minutes at 400 degrees in the toaster oven. I then opened it, tossed them around some more, covered them in maple-agave syrup, and then roasted for another 20 minutes. They were insaaaane. Repeat for two nights.

On the third night I was a little bored with the formula, so I decided to make it more savory. I left out the rosemary, and instead used cumin and curry powder with the salt, pepper and olive oil. It’s pretty much the easiest recipe of all time. Maybe this is my 10 p.m. dinner speaking, but it really fills me up until breakfast. Also, there’s so many veggies that I can eat for days until they rot. Best poor man’s food ever.

See below:




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