Archive for the 'mushrooms' 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

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03
Jan
12

whole wheat carbonara & spicy turkey burgers.

Ah, blog! Look at you! It’s been ages! There’s soo much to catch up on. Like, where to begin? Let’s begin with the sweaty side of things. First off, I am fully committed to spin, I’ve found a dance class I just lurve, and I joined a fancy new gym that actually makes me want to partake in Jacob’s Ladder cardio machines and saunas and shit. I just want to go inSANE. Rut, you have officially been beaten. All signs are pointing to 2012 being the most well rounded fitness year yet. No longer will I fall into trendy fitness money sucks or obsessive cardio. It turns out that, despite several attempts at brainwashing, I have not been lacking the secret to fitness or food intake. Not in the least. The key is simply moderation and variety, and I, like, vow not to forget that this year. I’m thisclose to conquering both. Insert evil laugh ‘here.’ Muahaha.

I recently discovered Weight Watchers recipes are kinda fun. They take foods I like and make them less fatty! Now that sounds like something I’d be into. I’ve always been terrified/fascinated of a few meals that are infamous for being incredibly indulgent and defibrillator-compatible. One of those is spaghetti carbonara, which has been on my “sigh, if I had 6 more inches of height, I’d totally eat a bowl of that one day post day-long boot camp sesh and not follow it by 6 straight hours of self loathing” wish list for decades. Imagine my surprise when I found this whole wheat carbonara recipe! Delightful.

Ingredients:

whole wheat carbonara

8 oz uncooked whole-wheat spaghetti
3 slices turkey bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 large egg, beaten
1 large egg white, beaten
6 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
1 c baby spinach
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

I altered the recipe a little, since the original called for regular bacon and no spinach. I added that in for funsies.

Anyways, you start by cooking the pasta as instructed on the box. Drain and set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over a medium-low heat. Add bacon and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until bacon is crisp, about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove garlic; leave bacon and bacon fat in skillet. Add spaghetti to skillet; toss well, add spinach, cook until just wilted. Remove from heat. Add eggs and cheese; toss well to coat. Season to taste, and eat immediately. ‘Twas a good diet version. I may be ready to try the real thing at some point. Of course, I’ll have to wait for a day with ample time to self-loathe afterward.

I’ve also become pretty enamored with the Whole Foods app on my phone. What? I can juggle multiple apps. I made this Tomato Bulgur soup with quinoa a few weeks ago:

tomato quinoa soup

Ingredients:
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup uncooked bulgur wheat (I used quinoa)
1 (14-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon feta cheese crumbles (optional)

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, bring 1/2 cup broth to a simmer. Add onion and garlic and cook about 5 minutes or until onion is translucent and tender. Stir in coriander and cinnamon and cook 1 minute. Add quinoa and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. As I said, the recipe calls for bulgur. Nothing against the original star, but I happened to have some unused quinoa just hanging out in my freezer, so that’s why I went with the substitute. Add remaining 3 1/2 cups broth and tomatoes with their juices and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 10 to 12 minutes or until quinoa is tender. Stir in lemon juice. Garnish with parsley and feta.

Ugh, I LOVE this soup. It has all the Indian and Moroccan spices one could ask for, and I’m a big fan of any soup that you top with lemon juice, parsley and feta. So delicious. I highly recommend this one.

One of my less successful dishes came in the form of spaghetti squash. To be fair, I didn’t follow a recipe and just improvised, but that’s because I was totally sold by some infomercial where a woman makes it due to her easy-chop device and I thought it was about time I tried that, sans device.

Ingredients:

spaghetti squash pasta

1 spaghetti squash
2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
cocktail tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp basil, fresh, chopped
3 tbsp Parmesan, grated

I pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees like a recipe instructed, and cut the squash in half length-wise. I scooped out the seeds and pulp and baked the squash for about an hour. At this point, I was starvles the clown yet it was still tough to the touch. I had eaten more than a socially acceptable amount of Parmesan while waiting for the squash, so I had a “eff this” moment and made do. I cut the squash into fry-like pasta and topped with tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil and Parmesan. Don’t judge me. It was decently delicious, actually, because you can’t really go wrong with that combo.

Continuing on my quest of have less-fatty versions of foods I fantasize about, I decided to make turkey burgers tonight. I found this great recipe on Epicurious and made a few adjustments, as per usual. Since it was a holiday (?) today, I was off work and able to make it to Trader Joe’s at the off-peak-ish hour of 2 p.m. Since there was no cranky elderly lady ramming into me with her obscenely full cart, I was able to actually browse. I ended up buying some of my old stand-bys from the earliest days of this here blog! Like, I got my Habanero Lime salsa and this Champagne-Pear Vinagrette I almost proposed to back in ’09! It was magical.

lover from '09

Ingredients:

1 1/4 pounds lean ground turkey
1/2 c Panko bread crumbs
1 cup Habanero Lime salsa
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
cooking spray

I altered this recipe quite a bit. The original called for cilantro, but I had parsley on hand so I went with that. Also, I added in the bread crumbs to help the burgers stick and eliminated the vegetable oil to save calories. All proved to be nice alterations.

You start by mixing the ground turkey, bread crumbs, salsa, shallots, parsley, hot sauce, cumin, salt, and pepper in large bowl. Shape turkey mixture into six round patties. The recipe said 4, but I found this makes 6 quite large patties.

Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add cooking spray. Add burgers; cook until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Reduce heat to low. Sauté until burgers are cooked through, about 4 minutes, turning occasionally.

I roasted some kale and mushrooms in a 375 degree oven with a couple of cloves of minced garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. I served this fancy garlic aioli mustard sauce atop the burger and alongside the kale. Delicious. My champagne-pear vinagrette better watch out. It can be replaced. See below:

spicy turkey burger, roasted kale and mushrooms

31
Oct
11

spinning round two, pumpkin soup.

Breaking news: I am ready to give spin another chance! I know; I’m just as shocked as you are, Sweaty/Spicy masses. It seemed we were wholly unmatched when I attended my first 6 a.m. class nearly three years ago, but it’s possible there was just a learning curve to dealing with the pitch black room, blasting techo and overly amped-potentially-roided-out instructors? Either that, or tastes change and that’s what I now consider motivation? In any event, I went to a class here last Friday, and I’m dying to return. The class was short (45 minutes), I sweat (buckets), and I got two entirely separate endorsements of how toned Soul Cycle-enthusiasts become (once they drop several hundies). SOLD.

This new obsession couldn’t have come at a better time, because I’m starting to lose my daily gym motivation as it’s turning to Winter far too early. It’s just not the same when you need to strip away 17 layers of clothing to change into gym clothes at lunch. And going before or after work is out of the question these days. The days are getting shorter and it’s already getting darker earlier, and that’s a notorious motivation assassin. Blerg.

I’m making more of an effort to eat healthy these days to make up for my gym aversion, though. I made this quinoa primavera courtesy of my Whole Foods app:

Ingredients:

quinoa primavera

1 c quinoa
2 c water
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ c finely chopped red onion
½ lb asparagus, ends cut off and discarded, the rest cut into spears
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 c frozen peas, thawed
1 c shredded cooked chicken
1 c thinly sliced spinach leaves
1 tsp paprika (my addition)
juice of one lemon (my addition)
salt and pepper, to taste

You start by rinsing quinoa under cold water, and then drain it. Combine water and quinoa in a medium saucepan, and bring it to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until water is absorbed.

I had no cooked chicken in the house, so I bought thin breasts and seasoned them with paprika, salt and pepper. I baked in the oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, and removed from the oven.

Meanwhile, I heated the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and then added onion and asparagus. Cook about 5-7 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and peas, cook for one more minute. Stir in chicken and quinoa, add spinach and stir until it wilts, 3-5 minutes. I added lemon juice, salt and pepper, and ate.

Admittedly, this dish is kind of bland. I hate to waste food, so I added hot sauce when I ate it the next few nights. In retrospect, it would have been good if it were made to be creamy, so I think next time I’ll add Greek yogurt or something to give it some body.

That was the first Whole Foods app recipe I made, and it was kind of a fail despite looks. I learned my lesson judging the spin class too soon last time, and have deprived myself of nearly 3 years of a rock hard bod because of it. And, so, I gave it another chance.

I made a kale, mushroom and polenta sauté courtesy of the Whole Foods app.

kale, mushroom, tomato and polenta saute

Ingredients:

Canola oil cooking spray
½ lb button mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes (my addition)
red onion, sliced (my addition)
5 Roma tomatoes, slice (my addition, it called for sundried tomatoes)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
1 18-oz roll pre-cooked polenta, sliced
¼ c grated Parmesan cheese

I learned my lesion before with the bland quinoa recipe, so I manipulated this one a bit. You start by heating a large skillet over medium-high heat with cooking spray. The recipe actually calls for olive oil, but I’m not one for greasy kale so I went spray instead. Add onions, mushrooms, salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic and polenta, and cook for another few. Add kale and ¼ c water, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for another couple of minutes until the kale wilts. Toss well, season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, and serve in a bowl. Top with Parmesan, and consume.

I’ve made many iterations of kale, but this has to be one of my favorites. It ties with the cannellini beans and lemon juice recipe, which is one of my old stand-bys. Delicious. Whole Foods app, you’ve redeemed yourself.

Now that it’s basically committed to Winter outside, I’ve decided it’s time to start making soups. Unfortunately, my immersion blender croaked earlier this summer while I was making salsa (sigh), and so I bought a new one earlier today. It’s Halloween weekend, so I figured it would be economically sound if I made a pumpkin soup that also happens to be a Weight Watchers recipe.

Don’t mind if I do.

adorbs

Ingredients:

3 ½ lb pumpkin
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 c vegetable broth
1 ½ tsp fresh sage, minced
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

This guy has nothing to do with anything, but I thought he was precious so he made this blog’s guest list.

You start by pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut pumpkin in half, horizontally, and scoop out seeds and membranes. Set pumpkin halves cut-side down, place garlic clove under each half. Bake one hour.

I baked these earlier this afternoon as make-ahead, and then stored them in the refrigerator as I dragged myself to yoga. I will never understand why I go to yoga so begrudgingly, but I’m always so insanely proud I went. It’s one of life’s mysteries, I suppose.

Later on, I scooped the pumpkin flesh out of the shells into a large bowl. Add garlic and two cups of broth. I then pureed with the immersion blender, which not surprisingly resulted in a kitchen covered in pumpkin guts. After the mixture is smooth, pour the puree into a large saucepan. Stir in remaining one cup of broth, sage, salt, allspice and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, reduce to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Top with sage and serve.

I would add butter to this soup and a little heavy cream; although I’m not surprised Weight Watchers omitted those two fatties. They’ll make the guest list next time:

pumpkin soup with sage

 

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

25
Jul
10

phyllo dough pizza, fruity/nutty couscous

There are few things in life that terrify me – roaches, drowning, life without peanut butter – but phyllo dough may have just made that elite list. This is no slight to baklava; I’m a huge proponent of all honey soaked foods. In fact, I’ve been known to seek them out as late night drunk food in the hood. I guess my aversion stems from the fact that I finally tried to cook with phyllo dough, and I found it to be crazy laborious. It’s just so damn unreasonable. It’s this paper thin pastry that, in the grand scheme of things, takes up so little mass that it could be disregarded altogether. Then certain people (Greeks) find the most amazing uses for  it, so some decide to try their hand at it. Sooo I decided to make a vegetable pizza on phyllo dough.

First of all, phyllo dough requires you defrost it overnight in the refrigerator. Ordinarily I turn my nose up at such rigid defrosting rules and try and expedite everything in the microwave, but I actually listened to the phyllo and tossed it in the fridge before I went to work. As if that weren’t enough defrosting, the phyllo dough requires you leave it at room temperature for 2 hours before you want to use. Who has this kind of time? I gave it an hour at most. Every recipe I found online suggested I layer the dough with melted butter and cheese, but I decided to go with just butter. There would be cheese on the pizza, but what kind of a jackass needs it between every layer of crust? It’s pretty greedy.

veggie pizza on phyllo dough

Ingredients:

6-7 sheets phyllo dough

4 tbsp melted butter (1/2 stick)

1 zucchini, sliced

4 roma tomatoes, sliced

1/3 cup baby spinach

1/3 cup baby portabella mushrooms

fresh mozzarella, sliced

salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

I pre-heated the oven to 375 degrees, and went to work. The phyllo layering was, like, so strenuous. I mean, it required me to use the force of one pinkie muscle to pry the sheets apart, but I went in with the strength of all finger muscles at once. I ripped nearly half the sheets in the package just pulling them apart, and melted butter was involved all the while. I finally managed to layer about 7 sheets of pastry in a 15X10 in baking pan. I then went about laying the toppings in there, and misted the whole situation with olive oil. I baked for about 25 minutes, until my mozzarella was golden and the crust was starting to brown.

veggie pizza on phyllo dough

The end result was pretty delicious, despite all the labor. My roomie and her man each had a piece, and they reported back nothing but raves. Plus, the buttery dough smelled amazing while it was baking. I liked how light I felt after eating like three slices. Although it’s a bitch, I’d work with the phyllo again.

On the sweaty front, I’ve been trying to mix things up to keep myself engaged. After almost a decade of treadmills, ellipticals, and free weights, the gym becomes like an old ball and chain. Although there’s a heat wave in NY right now, a friend and I decided to run the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday.  It was SO lovely. At times I felt as if I were running through an oven, but it was such a fun and different way to go about the same old thing. We had iced coffee in Brooklyn Heights (frickin adorable), and then ran back towards Manhattan. Sweat in the eyes notwithstanding, I can’t wait to get at it again.

I’m still not entirely over this whole Middle Eastern thing, so I made couscous for dinner last night. I decided to go spicy-sweet (shocker) with nectarines, apricots, pecans and dates:

from left: nectarines, apricots, dates, pecans

Ingredients:

Near East brand whole wheat couscous with toasted orzo

1 nectarine, chopped

2 apricots, chopped

4 dates, chopped

small handful pecans, chopped

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cumin

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Couscous is like the anti-phyllo, in that it requires like 30 seconds of your attention and then practically begs you to desert it for an episode of Arrested Development while it “does its thang,” if you will. Will you? That felt a little awkward…moving on. You bring two cups of water to a boil with a tablespoon of olive oil, and then add the contents of the couscous and toasted orzo. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover the lid for about 15 minutes.

When the couscous was done, I added all the fruits and nuts along with cumin and cinnamon. I tossed everything together with a little olive oil, and then covered the lid for 5 minutes to allow everything to get familiar. A word about that Near East couscous. I’ve had many a-brands of couscous through the years, and I am really impressed with this one. The whole “toasted orzo” component was a nice touch, and I love what it did for the flavor. Big fan.

Um, YUM. I loved everything about this dish, and it took maybe half an ounce of effort. See below for the final product:

spiced whole wheat couscous with nectarines, apricots, pecans and dates

26
Feb
10

veggie pizza with truffle oil and parmesan.

The weather has been all kinds of Bipolar lately. One minute it’s all “Aren’t I gorgeous? Check out my bright blue skies. How’s about some Sun? Done. Mild temps? You got it, baby,” and the next moment it turns all, “You want cold? I’ll give you cold. I’ll give you freezing, bitch. How’s 17 degrees? Wait, wait, I’m not done. How’s about two feet of snow? Want flurries for days?” And you’re left with cracked and bleeding knuckles and what can only be described as mild irritation.

Last weekend was one of the highs. I got to the point where I left the coat at home and wore loafers without socks to shop a little. Admittedly, I jumped the gun just a little on the lack of coverage, but damn was it a nice preview of what’s to come. I’ve started to feel like a hamster on a wheel at the gym every day, so it was fucking delightful to run outside. On Saturday, I went back to my track and ran two miles, and then I ran another couple of miles alongside FDR. Running alongside traffic is really underrated. I did the same thing on Sunday, except this time I did the track, the path along FDR, and then ran through the streets. I mean, danger? Never heard of it.

I just watched “Into the Wild” last night, and it actually changed my life. Like, I’m obsessed with this Emile Hirsch and (most) everything his character stands for, but that movie is also such a love letter to nature. Emile spends 3/4 of the movie looking all athletic and tanned and doing all kinds of risky outdoorsy activities, and I think that’s when I connected with him most. Of course, he gets all miserably Jesus on the Cross-like once he gets to Alaska. That’s not really of interest to me. Anyways, I was so ready to start running, hiking, paddling, etc.  As if on cue, the weather hit one of her lows yesterday.  We got like two feet of snow overnight and shitloads of snow ALL damn day. Who, me? Bitter? Never.

On the spicy side, I made the most delicious veggie pizza earlier this week. My friend introduced me to Chelsea Market, which I’m almost ashamed to say I had never checked out in my three years in NYC. It’s MECCA. The place is filled with fresh food markets, Italian specialty stores, delicious bakeries, etc. Also, it’s dirt cheap. I bought an entire week’s worth of groceries for $18.95! Suck it, Whole Foods. Anyways, my pizza was made of:

Ingredients:

Veggie pizza

whole wheat pizza dough

1 small Japanese eggplant, sliced

1 zucchini, sliced

tomatoes on the vine, sliced

cremini mushrooms, sliced

mozzarella, sliced

fresh basil

fresh thyme

olive oil

truffle oil

I started with some store bought dough, which you can get at Trader Joe’s for $0.99. You have to let it sit at room temp for about 20 minutes, so in that time I sliced up all my veggies and preheated the oven to 425 degrees. I rolled out my dough and put it in my little pizza pan sans oil. Risky, I know. I then laid all my veggies atop each other and sprinkled the whole thing with thyme. I drizzled both oils on top, and put it in the oven for about 20 minutes. I added the basil at the last 5 minutes so it wouldn’t wilt, and it came out all kinds of delicious.

I’m not sure how attractive it came out, but see below for the first piece I ate…which was followed by two more pieces. I served it with a little Parmesan cheese on top and doused it in red pepper flakes. So good! See below:

Veggie pizza with truffle oil and parmesan

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




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