Archive for the 'dance' Category

21
Jul
12

tagine, badminton, and Bologna.

Greetings from foggy London town, where the Summer is scarce and the condensation oh so prevalent. It’s been just over two months since I relocated from NYC to the Land o’ Scones (official name), and it seems as though I timed my arrival to coincide with sheets of rain and blankets of clouds (going with a bed theme here..just go with it). I can assure you I didn’t. Luckily, the absence of Sun is prolonging my youth! If I can’t find the Sun, then I’m guessing it can’t find my wrinkles. Right?! That’s pure logic.

I’ve been indoors lately far more than my former self dared, so it’s given me ample time to cook and decorate. I’m almost positive I’m turning full-on adult. Proof: today, I bought a small bunch of orange daisies! Who does that?! Adults. That’s who.

While I’ve been getting all domestic, I’ve also been cooking my face off. A few weeks ago, I made a Weight Watchers recipe of Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds:

tagine

Ingredients:

4 halves apricots, dried
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 c chicken broth, fat free
1 tbsp flour, white
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp honey
1/4 c almonds, whole, blanched
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 c whole wheat couscous, cooked

Start by bringing apricots and chicken broth to a simmer in a small saucepan, and then set aside. Coat a large saucepan with cooking spray and cook over high heat. Toss chicken in the flour and saute about 5 minutes, and then stir in onion. Reduce to medium low and cook 10 minutes more. Stir in cinnamon and honey. Stir in apricots, broth and almonds, season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Serve over couscous.

Weight Watchers recipes sometimes come out a little lacking in flavor, and this turned out to be no exception. I always feel like I need to add something citrus-y (i.e. lemons) or yogurt-y (i.e. Greek) or oily (i.e. extra virgin olive) on top. This time, I added some extra virgin olive oil for flavor. This turned out to be the right call, although I still feel the recipe needed more. Next time I’d maybe add olives or capers to give it some complexity or something.

A few nights later, I made another Weight Watchers recipe of Mushroom Barley Burgers. I know – I’m a glutton for bland punishment. This one was actually the exception, though. It was all kinds of delicious:

Ingredients:

1/2 c uncooked barley
2 sprays cooking spray
1 1/2 lb mushrooms, portabella caps, sliced
1 egg
1 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 c sour cream, fat free
1 tbsp horseradish sauce

The barley takes a lifetime to make, so I actually made it the night before. You bring it to a boil with 2 1/4 cups of water in a saucepan, reduce to low and simmer, covered for 40 minutes. That’s way too long for me post-work, since I’m always thisclose to gnawing a hand off while I cook, so I made the barley the night before.

Coat a skillet with cooking spray and add mushrooms over medium-high heat. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until tender and transfer to a bowl. Mix together with the barley, egg, sage, salt and pepper and mash with a fork. This recipe also gave the option of blending with a food processor, but I’ve yet to buy one since I keep de-prioritizing it. Never-you-mind, though — forking is great for the biceps.

pasta bolognese

Once the mixture was all decently combined, I formed it into about 6 patties. The recipe said I’d find 4, but for some reason I found 2 extras! Win. I put them on a plate, covered them with aluminum foil, and refrigerated for 20 minutes.I then watched some Friends. Brits looove Friends.

I took the patties from the refrigerator and placed them under the broiler for about 5 minutes per side. I then mixed together the sour cream and horseradish in a bowl. You serve the burgers with the horseradish sauce on top. Delicious. I had never before taken an interest in horseradish, but this recipe converted me. I’m, like, dying for Passover 2013.

All this cooking and domesticating has driven me further and further from the gym, and I’ve neglected to even join a proper gym since I’ve moved. Instead, I’ve taken to the iPad workouts for yoga and pilates. I’m pretty into it, since the workouts are as short as 10 minutes yet there are enough to where you can get a full hour-long sesh just by combining a few. I’ve converted to primarily stretch workouts, and when I want to get my cardio on I’ve been going to dance classes. I’m kind of in love with this new philosophy, especially since I can take it with me when I travel and work it around my schedule.

On top of the yoga, pilates and dance, I joined a slightly ghetto gym for its courts and plethora of pilates classes. I was just introduced to badminton on said courts, and I just may have found my sport. I loved every minute of our 45 minute “game,” and even amongst the government-subsidized rafters I felt just like Maid Marion. And that feeling is just beautiful.

I went to Bologna last weekend (hence the Italian-dubbed Robin Hood clip, for those who clicked), which marked my grand return to Italy since I studied abroad in Rome in 2005. During the trip, I ate pappardelle bolognese (pictured left), spinach and mascarpone gnocchi, ricotta flavored gelato (unreal), chocolate flavored gelato (more real, but still bene) nutella crepes, and proscuitto and melon (pictured below). I’m pretty sure there will be more travels and fitting that much rich and delicious food into my belly, so I’m going to continue with the yoga and pilates and weekly dance and badminton. Cheers!

proscuitto e melone

07
May
12

Sunday Roast and blue cheese.

After 6 remarkable years of Trader Joe’s, Panini Presses, immersion blenders, and culinary self discovery in NYC, I’ve hopped the pond to experience a new city and its charming ingredients. I’ve relocated to London for the next few years! Bring on the High Teas, Sunday Roasts, and radishes, y’all!

a rare moment of self reflection

But first, a moment of reflection. I moved to NYC knowing little more than how to navigate through a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, and my prize recipe was a tuna casserole I proudly topped with Baked Lays and a generous serving of honey mustard dressing. Apparently, I went through a Midwestern phase in college? Come to think of it, I was making said casserole when I went through my Vince Vaughn phase, so that all adds up…

Anyways, I’ll forever be grateful for what New York taught me in terms of food. I ate in all the best restaurants, consumed an impressive amount of Food Network on the weekends, and cooked exclusively with Whole Foods and Farmer’s Market ingredients, so it’s safe to say I nearly peaked in terms of culinary ability.

Nearly is the operative word, here.

My next chapter is one filled with porridge, Yorkshire pudding, and shedloads (I’m a Brit now – mind the slang) of tea, and I’m confident I’ll flex more cooking muscles than I knew existed. And, believe me, I’m culinarily ripped.

Since I’ve arrived, I’ve done my best to go lady-balls-deep (see what I did there?) into the native cuisine, so that began with a Sunday Roast. It’s the equivalent of a Sunday brunch here, but more dudes are apt to join since you replace a $20 egg dish with a £15 dish of the meat of your liking (i.e. leg of lamb, roasted chicken, aged beef, pork shoulder, or fish), and it comes with roasted vegetables, roasted new potatoes, gravy and Yorkshire pudding. It looks like this:

Sunday roast

And it’s typically served with anywhere from 1-5 Guinnesses (Guinnei?) No, you say? That’s entirely optional? Well, I don’t care to experience it any other way.

Yorkshire pudding, for those who are unfamiliar, is that giant crusty popover looking thing to the left of my chicken. It’s alright, although I’d prefer if it weren’t such a misnomer. Say “pudding” and I’m bound to want something gooey.

Now let’s switch gears for a minute and discuss the sweaty side before we cover what British-y meals I’ve made so far in my temporary flat. I toured two gyms my first day here, assuming I’d go into London the same way I went into NYC – staking my claim on a treadmill before I had an apartment or job and considering the gym central to my daily mental health and happiness. As I was price comparing the two, though, I realized that the gym and exercise are not one in the same. I decided to hold off on the contract for now, and in turn encourage myself to be creative with my workouts. Maybs that will curb the resentment I occasionally develop towards the gym? We’ll find out.

For now, I bought a jump rope (or “skip” as they say in the UK) and have been jumping every other day or so. I then do some planks for my arms and core and tricep dips if I feel like showing my wings some more love. I’ve already gone to 3 dance classes in the week I’ve been in London, and the one I went to today was a total arse-kicker. I’ll be back. I may start doing yoga also, because with my Skip in my home I can get my cardio on whenever I want and have the freedom to take non-sweaty classes away from home. I’m SO into this idea.

Today, I went to the grocery before the aforementioned arse-kicking hip hop class (which they actually call “hip pop”..adorable), and I stocked up on some English staples. I got some carrots, radishes, an English cucumber, and blue cheese, and got to work chopping for a little salad I threw together:

Ingredients:

English Salad

4 c baby spinach
1/2 English cucumber, sliced
1/4 c radishes, sliced in half lengthwise
1/3 c English carrots, sliced in half lengthwise
1 oz creamy blue cheese
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp grainy mustard
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

I started by slicing the carrots, radishes and cucumbers, and placing on top of the bed of just washed spinach. I then dolloped the blue cheese all over the salad, because I’ve decided to develop a taste for the stuff all “When in Rome”-style, and I love it already. While my bed of veggies was complete, I whisked together the grainy mustard, honey and olive oil for a thick dressing to drizzle on top. I then finished the whole dish with salt and pepper and devoured. Pretty legit.

I also couldn’t get over how adorable my English ingredients looked on my cutting board. Just the cutest little veggies I ever did see.

I still haven’t quite figured out how to work the oven or microwave, and I left my Panini Press with its affinity for American voltage with my friend Ryan in NYC, so I’m pretty limited to the stove top these days. I went with one of my go-tos tonight with a British twist, so I made kale and tofu with blue cheese.

English cutting board

Ingredients:
4 c kale, chopped
1 yellow onion, sliced
1/3 package of tofu
1 oz creamy blue cheese
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper, to taste

I started by heating the olive oil on medium heat in my skillet. I sliced the onion and tossed that into the oil. I cooked until it was translucent, and then I chopped and added the tofu to the skillet. I’m still adjusting to an electric stove after cooking with gas for 6 years, and I realized it would take approx a lifetime to get my tofu anywhere near golden. That’s typically how I like my tofu, but I was ravenous so I only cooked them for a few minutes. I then added the rinsed kale, and cooked that with the onions and tofu for about 5 minutes until wilted. I finished the dish with the lemon juice and dollops of melty blue cheese. Highly recommended. See below:

kale, onions and tofu with blue cheese

27
Feb
12

chicken/dance.

So, I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten my body weight in chicken these past few weeks. In the days leading up to my abandoning vegetarianism, I was sure I’d take to the gamey and processed meats of which I’d never before experienced. I had vivid dreams of lamb and was openly envious when people spoke of prosciutto, so I couldn’t have foreseen myself clinging to America’s most over-exposed foul. And yet, I’ve clung. Nearly everything I’ve made recently is chicken-centric, such as these great feta-stuffed chicken burgers I found courtesy of Weight Watchers:

Ingredients:

feta stuffed chicken burgers

1 lb chicken breast, ground, raw

1 tbsp Oregano

¼ tsp garlic powder (I used 1 clove of fresh)

7 tbsp feta cheese, crumbled

1 c lettuce (I used spinach)

¾ c peppers, red, roasted and sliced

Begin by heating up the Panini Press and coat it with olive oil cooking spray. Then mix the chicken, feta, garlic and oregano in a large bowl. Divide into four balls and press them into patties. Put them on the grill for about 7-8 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, I preheated the oven to 450 degrees. I chopped a head of cauliflower, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted those in the oven for about 15 minutes. I removed those and drizzled with lemon juice. I spent about 2 minutes sautéing the spinach in a pan with a little cooking spray, salt and pepper.

This recipe is, like, embarrassingly easy. I’m pretty sure it took me less than 20 minutes to cook, preparation and all. The burgers came out really juicy, and the feta and oregano were the perfect simple flavor combination. New favorite? Methinks so.

feta stuffed chicken burgers topped with spinach and red peppers, alongside roasted cauliflower

As far as the sweaty is concerned, I have been going to a dance class that I just adore. In the past I’d found that dance classes in NYC typically range from the awkward white girl zumba to the wannabe Broadway auditions, and there is very little demand for the working professional who simply wants to rediscover her shoddy childhood technique and learn a fun combo every once in a while (me). Imagine my surprise when I found a single class offered thrice (go with it – I’m trying out my Shakespearian tongue) a week that occurs after work and boasts an encouraging, delightful teacher. I’m thrilled.

The class ends at 8 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, though, a fact which kept me from regularly attending when I originally discovered it a few months back. At the time I thought of the timing as a major drawback, assuming that I’d be eating dinner by 9 p.m. at the earliest and therefore dreading the inevitable 9 hour stretch between lunch and dinner. Luckily, I recently began subscribing to the 5-6 short, light meals a day school of thought, so I’m able to do both things I love. Hallelujah. Moving forward, though, I’ll need to take care to have short preparations when cooking those nights. I found this great recipe for Parmesan chicken with Caesar roasted romaine in Bon Appetit magazine last week, and prepared it Monday in about 20 minutes. Seriously.  I’m beating Rachael Ray at her own game.

Ingredients:

Parmesan chicken and roasted romaine

1 ½ lbs chicken breast cutlets

½ c grated Parmesan and pecorino cheese blend

½ c panko breadcrumbs

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 large hearts romaine, halved lengthwise

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Salt and Pepper, to taste

This recipe also called for anchovies, but I can’t seem to let go of that childhood aversion, so I omitted them. You start by reheating the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and put them on the baking sheet. Then combine cheese, panko, 2 tbsp oil, parsley, and one garlic clove in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and pat the mixture onto the chicken. Place in the oven, and roast for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, drizzle romaine with 1 tbsp oil and one chopped garlic clove. Season with salt and pepper, and place in the oven around the now golden chicken. The recipe says to roast for just 5 minutes longer, but I found my salmonella fearing self keeping them in there for at least 10. Remove from oven, and serve with lemon juice squeezed atop the whole plate.

This is one of the best meals I’ve made in recent memory. I was obsessed with what appeared to be a roasted chicken Caesar salad, yet needed no buttermilk dressing, buttery croutons, or any of the other unnecessary fattiness associated with components of the Caesar salad. This meal is a winner. Julius himself would be pleased.

Sadly, I had a few days last week in which I over-chickened. One such time happened last Friday, when I neglected to eat a proper dinner and headed home at about 10:30 p.m. On my way, I bought a chicken salad, which had the unfortunate 3:1 ratio of chicken to greens. I awoke feeling overly full and perplexed, as my late night cravings are usually of the cheese or baked goods families, and rarely constitute so much animal carcass. I found myself craving a little chicken distance after that experience, so I’ve decided to play vegetarian this week.

I made the Seared Tofu with Pine Nuts recipe I also found on Weight Watchers. I altered it a bit, as the original recipe called for Swiss Chard, and Trader Joe’s was without. I subbed a bag of mixed southern greens and some apple cider vinegar:

Parmesan chicken with Caesar roasted romaine

Ingredients:
4 tsp pine nuts

1 tbsp soy sauce

½ tsp black pepper

8 oz tofu, firm, drained and sliced crosswise into ½ inch slices

2 tsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bag mixed southern greens (collard, mustard and spinach)

¼ c Apple Cider vinegar

Set a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add pine nuts and sauté until golden, shaking often so they don’t burn, for about 3 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Combine soy sauce and pepper on a plate, add tofu and turn to coat.

Heat oil in the same pan over medium-high heat, add tofu and sear until golden, about 2 minutes a side. Remove from pan. Add garlic to the pan and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add the greens and cook for a couple of minutes until they begin to wilt. Add apple cider vinegar and cook for another 30 seconds or so. Serve the greens under the tofu; sprinkle 1 tsp of pine nuts on top. This just may be my most favorite detox dinner ever, and it’s easy on the eyes as well. See below:

Seared tofu over southern greens and pine nuts

19
Oct
11

brunch, zumba, roasted root veggies

This carnivorous journey has proven quite interesting. I went from spending three years in meaty fear to fully embracing everything from the gamey lamb to the more mainstream meat trifecta of chicken, turkey, and beef. I then recalled my commitment to health, and so I downsized the red meat in my life and welcomed more lean proteins. Then, out of nowhere, I went all lady-balls-to-the-wall and had my very first duck bun! I’m almost ready to conquer ham, and I’m thinking a croque monsieur is the way to do it.

I’ve accomplished what I intended to do, which is to fully convert to a meat eater, enzymes to break down animal protein and all. I also cared to prove myself a worthy meat adversary, so that socially I prove more desirable as people who knew me as a veggie can get off on my unabashed consumption. And get off they do. You’re welcome, friends.

As a result, I no longer feel as if I have something to prove, meat-wise. And, so, I’ve decided that I prefer cooking mostly vegetarian at home, but I will continue to order meat when I’m out. Well hi there, happy medium. I knew I’d find you somewhere.

I’ve been making an awesome veggie-filled brunch on the weekends, and it’s always some variation of whatever veggies I have on hand and a poached egg. Last week, I made a particularly lovely one:

Ingredients:

veggies and a poached egg

1 egg
splash of white distilled vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 eggplant, chopped
2 c broccoli florets, chopped
2 c baby spinach
salt and pepper, to taste
Sriracha, to taste

You start by filling a small saucepan with water, and bring it to a simmer. Add a splash of vinegar, and drop the egg in the water. Cook for 3 minutes, and remove with a slotted spoon to dry on paper towels.

Meanwhile, cook garlic in a nonstick skillet with cooking spray for a couple of minutes. Add broccoli, and cook for about 5 minutes until slightly tender. Add eggplant and more cooking spray, and cook until they begin to brown along with the broccoli. Add spinach, and cook until wilted, another 5 minutes or so. Serve under the egg, and top with Sriracha. It’s been my go-to weekend brunch for nearly a year, and I’ve yet to tire of it.

On the sweaty front, I just discovered zumba. I know I’m a little late to the party (ha! pun intended), but I sure am glad I showed up fashionably late. I find myself enjoying monotonous cardio less and less (running, I’m referring to you), and so it was refreshing to go to a Latin-infused dance class for a change. It’s well documented that I’ve tried nearly every type of exercise know to man, but I will always return to dance. And zumba is, like, really challenging! It’s super fast and complex, and the instructor will not slow down regardless of the class’s comprehension. I’m a lifelong dancer and show-off, so I was made for that.

I came home all Starvles the Clown after my class last night, and I was in the mood for lots of veggies. I decided to make ratatouille, and I found this great recipe courtesy of Weight Watchers.

ratatouille atop tofu shirataki noodles

Ingredients:
¾ lb eggplant, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium zucchini, chopped
1 medium red pepper, chopped
1 c portabella mushrooms, sliced (my addition)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ c water
14 ½ oz canned diced tomatoes2 tbsp basil
¼ tsp black pepper
4 tsp Parmesan (my addition)

You start by putting the eggplant in a colander in the sink, and covering it in3/4 tsp salt. Let stand 20 minutes, and then rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat, and add the eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, onion, mushrooms and garlic. Cook one minute, and stir. Add water, reduce heat, and simmer, covered for 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, basil, pepper, and remaining ¼ tsp salt. Simmer, uncovered, for about 25 minutes.

I sometimes watch Hungry Girl, and she constantly raves about Tofu Shirataki noodles. They are cheap, a good pasta substitute, and just 40 calories a bag, so I had to give them a try.

You start by draining and rinsing the noodles, and then microwave them for one minute. Pat them dry, because they are far too moist to consume at first. I added salt and pepper to the then dry noodles, and served them underneath the ratatouille. It was just about the healthiest thing I ever did make, and it was really tasty. Totes making it again.

Last week, I made this incredible Roasted Root Jumble that I stole from the adorbs Aarti Sequeira:

Aarti Party

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander (I used cinnamon)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large fennel bulb, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 large lemon, cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
3/4 lb butternut squash, chopped (my addition)
cooked polenta, sliced (my addition)

The original recipe didn’t call for butternut squash, but I added it in for funsies. You start by pre-heating the oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together the oil, cumin and cinnamon in a bowl, and then add ½ tsp of salt and a fair amount of black pepper. Lay the vegetables on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil and cover them in the oil. Toss to coat. Bake for 30 minutes, then add feta and bake for 15 minutes more.

Meanwhile, I cut the polenta into slices and pan fried in a skillet over medium-high heat. I cooked until they blackened a bit, and then served them underneath the jumble. I don’t want to overstate this, but it was the most delicious thing I’ve ever consumed, save for a blackened salmon taco I had in Austin once. The roasted lemon is incredible, and I was able to quash my desire to add hot sauce by squeezing lots of flavor out of the lemons. That, in itself, is a massive accomplishment since I am a Sriracha obsessive. See below:

roasted root jumble with feta

21
Dec
10

borscht and sweet potato soup.

Can we talk about this affair I’m having with soup? Are we on that level? I’m dying to confess this to someone and I’ve yet to find the opportunity. This just feels right, so here goes.

What the hell, soup? You’ve cast a spell on me these days. I can’t break away from Udon soup. Believe me – I’ve tried. I get it with miso broth and always add a little cayenne pepper for spice. Yum. I’ve recently fallen for the Vegetarian Chili from Fresh Direct, too. Hello, flavor. Welcome to my lunchtime repertoire. Sometimes I pick up this Lentil soup from a Mediterranean place near my apartment, and – especially as someone who has never been a proponent for take out – I’m veering towards addiction.

The affair first got serious a couple of weeks ago. I was overcome with the need to make it at home, and I found myself drawn to my Eastern European roots for some reason. As in, I decided to make borscht.

I know borscht has mixed reviews, but I’ve always found it somewhat fascinating. Also, beets are trendy for maybe one more season and then they’re out, so I can’t afford to hesitate on this. I found this recipe in the “Herbs and Spices” cookbook my dad gifted me.

chunky borscht

Ingredients:

2 tbsp cooking oil
1 onion, chopped
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into slices
1 small celery root, peeled and cut into chunks
1 turnip, peeled and cut into chunks
1 ¾ tsp salt
2 cups drained diced beets
1 ½ cups drained diced canned tomatoes (I used fresh)
3 ½ cups veg stock
3 c water
1/3 c chopped fresh dill
¼ c sour cream (I used greek yogurt)

The recipe also called for kielbasa, but I’m not going anywhere near meat for at least another year, so I left that out. You start by heating oil over moderate heat and then adding the onion. Cook for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add the parsnips, celery root, turnip, and 1 tsp of salt, cover and cook for 5 minutes.  A word on the turnip – meh. I don’t get the appeal of this thing, if there is one. It’s pretty unattractive and doesn’t contribute the best flavor as far as I’m concerned. I included it because I’d never worked with it before and the recipe begged for it, but next time I’d leave it out. Sorry, borscht. The turnip is a crutch, and you can stand without it.

You then add the beets, tomatoes, broth, water, and the remaining salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Serve topped with sour cream (yogurt) and dill. Voila. My borscht was not my favorite soup of them all, but it didn’t deter me from trying more.

On Saturday, Giada made a sweet potato and rosemary soup that was much more up my alley. It pretty much spoke to me. I actually just finished my first meal of it, but I’ll get there. Let’s take a moment and appreciate the sweaty side of things.

I’m starting to get comfortable with variety, which is a huge win for my fitness routine. Rather than fall into yet another short-term fitness obsession (i.e. outdoor running, elliptical, treadmill, dance, yoga, circuit training), I’ve decided to do a mixture of them all, at all times. Save the outdoor running these days. It’s like 12 degrees daily with wind chill. Mother Nature, you bitch.

Saturday was the start of the variety integration. I went to the gym and started with some elliptical action, and then progressed to the stair stepper, the treadmill for some uphill walking (incline up to 16! Holla) followed by a mile run, and then rounded out the cardio with some spinning. Extreme cardio? Why, yes. Yes it is. But you didn’t witness my Friday night dinner of grilled cheese, fries and beer, did you?  Shameful.

Habit would have sent me to the gym again on Sunday, but variety suggested a yoga class. Many Downward Dogs later, and I was feeling pretty flexible and zen. I chased that with a hip hop class at my dance studio. It was so much fun, and I highly enjoy being the only white kid from the ‘burbs in there. Like, so much. I learned this fun new sliding foot thing I’m dying to show off, too. My whole body was sore today, which I’m attributing to Ms. Variety herself. Nice work, milady.

Now about that famed soup…

sweet potato and rosemary soup, while cooking

Ingredients:

3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp olive oil
3 large or 6 small shallots, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper
2 lbs sweet potatoes (2-3) peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
2 stems rosemary
6 c chicken broth (I used veggie)
½ c mascarpone cheese (I used Greek yogurt)
3 tbsp maple syrup

You start by melting the butter and oil together in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, rosemary, and broth. Season with salt and pepper, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 20-25 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove rosemary stems, and then use an immersion blender to blend altogether. You’re looking for that baby food-like consistency that is so very trendy these days. I must have softened the sweet potatoes properly, because this thing pureed in like one minute flat. You then whisk in the cheese (yogurt in my case) and maple syrup, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

I’m trying to limit my bread intake and all, but I found this seeded bread at Whole Foods that happens to be the perfect companion for everything. Eggs? Check. Salad? Always. Soup? It’s almost insulting NOT to float a piece atop a nice puree. Therefore, I toasted a piece with some shredded Parmesan cheese and let it skim the top of my soup. Giada wins again, because this soup is all kinds of amazeballs. See below:

sweet potato and rosemary soup

20
Oct
10

Italian food, African dance

To begin, I had to move a few weeks ago, which always sucks. Luckily, I upgraded to my own place (holla) and still get a human-sized kitchen! With counter space, a dishwasher and a refrigerator that’s useful for more than just elves. Nice one, East Village. I knew you had it in you. Moronically, I left behind most all of my kitchen staples, so I’ve temporarily regressed to the meals of my youth (ah, 22. I hardly miss ye).

I’m making stir fries and paninis like whoa. Pre-move and food regression, I made a few meals from Giada’s new cookbook. This orecchiette with greens, garbanzo beans and ricotta salata was one of my first and best looking:

orecchiette with greens, ricotta, etc.

Ingredients:

1 pound orecchiette or other short pasta
1/2 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
12 ounces Swiss chard, stemmed
12 ounces baby spinach leaves
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups small cherry or grape tomatoes
8 ounces ricotta salata cheese, crumbled
2 teaspoons lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

You start by cooking the pasta in salted, boiling water for 8-10 minutes. Heat oil in a medium sized skillet, then add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. It will smell amazeballs already, but refrain from eating. Garlic infused olive oil has hardly satisfied as a complete dish. Rather, remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and discard, then add the chard and cook until wilted. Add spinach little by little until that’s wilted too. Add beans and tomatoes, cook for 5, and turn off that heat. You’re almost therrre. Add pasta, half the cheese, and lemon zest, and toss it all together. Move the mix to a bowl, add the remaining cheese, and season with salt and pepper. It’ll look as gorge as it does above, and it’ll taste infinity times better. Guaranteed.

I also made a halibut dish with peas and mint, but like a thousand differently worded Google searches are failing me right now to find the exact recipe. Please excuse my rough ingredients list and poorly memorized instructions for preparation:

peas, red bell pepper, shallots and mint

Ingredients:

2 4-6 oz halibut steaks
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1 red bell pepper, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
1/2 cup mint, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Now this is entirely from memory, but I’m pretty sure I grilled the halibut via Panini Press with some aluminum foil for about five minutes, or until it was opaque. Meanwhile, I sauteed the shallots in olive oil until crispy. I then added the peas and bell pepper, and sauteed for a few minutes. Lastly, I added about 3/4 of the chopped mint, and combined all. Similar to other Giada fish recipes, I made a bed of the peas, pepper and mint, and laid the fish atop. I finished it off with chopped mint, and it was all kinds of beautiful. I’m reserving it for bottom blog position, which is the equivalent of business class for those just joining.

Now, let’s talk some sweaty, shall we? I have become sooo disenchanted with the gym. I’m aware that I’ve made prior claims of up and leaving my gym, but I’m too attached to the convenience and reliability of it all. So, how’s about a little breaksie? That was my mode of thinking this past month, at least. I requested a freeze for the month of October, and I decided to see how I could manage without the security of my gym. It’s midway through the month, and I’m a tidbit conflicted. I forced myself to start dancing again, and I briefly thought it could replace cardio. On the one hand, it does make for a more interesting workout, but I was unprepared for the inferiority I’d feel when stepping into any form of dance save hip hop. My technique is – to be kind – shit. At least that’s how I feel when dancing alongside such skilled tweens. I found a studio where the teachers manage not to make me feel like a jackass for trying an intermediate level class, and yet I do. I have dipped my toes into African dance, though, and I’m pretty impressed. Thrashy, yes. Ab work, tons. But I’m still feeling it.

See below for my halibut:

grilled halibut with peas, red bell pepper and mint

10
Nov
09

portabella mushroom & tofu burger.

I’m a couple of weeks deep in Project: Get Hot for Thanksgiving, and I’m coming away with a few lessons learned. First off, I’m not fit to give up cheese. I stayed cheese-free all last week, and then come Friday I chose a pear, brie and walnut crepe for dinner. I thought, “you’ve had your fun; that was the last time,” and then Saturday hit. I had lots of queso blanco for dinner at Caracas, and then I went to a house party during which time I gave the cheese and cracker platter quite a bit of action. So, yeah, the anti-cheese collective (me and dairy-free me, obviously) has disbanded and gone our separate ways. Secondly, I learned that I miss dancing so badly it hurts. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t listen to Jay-Z without some sidewalk hip action. It’s awkward, so I’ve decided to bring it indoors where it belongs. Tonight I’m starting a new hip hop class. It’s too soon to tell, but it just may be my favorite thing on the planet.

My exercise routine could use a little variety. I’ve been running every day, and honestly it all starts to feel a little tedious. Like, where the hell is this going? I’m not saying I’m done with it, but I’m running miles and getting nowhere. After Sunday brunch on the Upper West Side, I decided to walk all the way home. And that’s approx 9 avenues and 70+ blocks. In short, it’s a shitload. My feet were feeling it when I tried to take that motivation to the gym that night. In the name of ped preservation, dancing it is.

I stole this from google images, but it's hip hop

Although I’ve given up on giving up on cheese, I’m still trying to severely limit its presence in my diet. I decided to make a Portabella mushroom burger for dinner last night, and I held the cheese. Believe it.

I started with a Portabella mushroom and a yellow bell pepper, and I seasoned both with salt, thyme and olive oil. On the side, I cut some sweet potatoes into mini chips, and I seasoned them with salt, chili powder, cayenne pepper and olive oil. I roasted all in the toaster over at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

I cut a thin piece of tofu and pan fried it in some olive oil over medium heat. It took about five minutes on each side, and then it got all goldeny brown. Delicious. I cut a ciabatta roll in half and put a little olive oil on each side, and then I toasted that for about five minutes in the Panini Press.

Once the mushroom and peppers were ready, I removed them from the oven and built my sandwich. I looove seedy mustard, so I put lots of stone ground mustard on one side along with my ever-present arugula. The other side housed my tofu, the shroom and the pepper. I served it alongside my chip shaped roasted potatoes. It was enormous and delicious, and the sweet pepper contrasted really well with the savory pepper and mushroom. See below:

portabella mushroom and tofu burger alongside sweet potato chips

 




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