Archive for the 'parmesan cheese' Category

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

03
Jan
11

spicy parmesan grilled shrimp and tabbouleh.

Well Happy New Year, readers. I hereby resolve to make this the sweatiest and spiciest year of them all. These first two days have been pretty decent, so all signs point to continued success for the next 363. As I danced away 2010 on New Year’s Eve,  a trusty vodka soda in hand, I spent a brief moment reflecting on all I experienced last year. My passport was covered in cobwebs of neglect since I’d tucked it away in 2005, but I revived it in March to go to Mexico and in June to visit Israel. I went to California twice while it was frigid in NYC, and I was even fortunate enough to experience Malibu in all its glory. Yep – I saw it nakey. I went to Austin and had the best damn fish taco of my life, which I bought from the back of a food trailer. I was promoted at work in May, and then I moved to my own apartment on arguably the best street in the East Village (next to 7th street) in October. Quite the eventful year, 2010. I’m sad to see you go.

It will be tough for 2011 to compete with my self proclaimed “Year of the Vacay” that was 2010. I hate to go all “lowest common denominator” on you and deem it the “Year of the Stay-cay,” but that’s pretty accurate as to how I see the year panning out. I’ve bought adorbs dishware, my first ever flat screen TV, and I recently upgraded to a 2-disc Netflix program, so I’m beginning to understand the joy in nesting. I also became reacquainted with the novel I started a few months back, and I’m hoping to actually finish it this year. It’s a marathon, yo. Books are so very long. In the meantime, I’m strongly considering giving birth to another blog that will operate in a more stream of consciousness manner. Stay tuned for that…

In between all the Netflix-ing I’ve been doing, I’ve managed to kick my glutes into shape. Who’s that girl logging an average 60-90 minutes of intense cardio along with more challenging strength training? Oh, that’s just me. I’ve been spinning, stair stepper-ing, ski machin-ing, and hitting a yoga class at least once a week. Suzanne Somers in the height of Three’s Company fame, you say? Well, I guess I have been mistaken for her once or twice.

doppleganger

I need to be bikini-ready for a wedding in Mexico this February, so I can’t exactly take my sweet time getting there. I’m off to quite the sweaty start.

As far as the spicy side is concerned, I’ve had a confusing last few weeks as there seems to be a holiday dinner party every other day that I need to mentally prepare for. The chances to cook have been pretty limited, but everything slowed down once a blizzard slammed the east coast and dropped 20 inches of snow outside my door.

I found myself ill-prepared, as my refrigerator boasted a modest two eggs, a bunch of parsley, and bread crumbs. I found myself impotent to create new meals from such limited ingredients, and I had just two dollars in cash on my person. Delivery was out of the question, and Fresh Direct had put a temporary moratorium on all deliveries. Nice one, blizzard. You win this round.

Left to my own devices, I ate poached eggs and worked on my novel for the full two days. On the third day, I emerged from the apartment to find an unplowed winter wonderland outside:

post-blizzard

I so badly wanted to get to the Middle Eastern restaurant across the street for my falafel fix, but a guaranteed face dive in the snow kept me away. I decided to go home and make my own tabbouleh instead, because the market on my side of the street was much more attainable.

As someone who credits half her body weight to the existence of the chickpea – and more specifically, hummus – I’ve rarely attempted to make my own dishes. My sister and I once made a meal of Mediterranean sides in college, but I credit that olive tapenade, hummus and tabbouleh to her and her alone. I vaguely remember adding colorful commentary while I thumbed through Vogue and halfheartedly toasted pita chips, but I don’t recall actually making anything.

In my post-grad years, I once famously bought a jar of tahini so I could start making my own hummus. The tahini mostly sat in the refrigerator and worked on creating a rusty ring on the shelf from its tin container. I may have made my own hummus just once, but that one occasion reminded me of how much I loathe cleaning food processors. I went back to buying.

I was left with no choice last weekend as the Middle Eastern food craving had already hit, and I was a sea of snow away from the people who prepared it so skillfully.

I found this tabbouleh recipe in the Jewish cookbook that my dad gifted me a few months back:

Ingredients:

tabbouleh

1 package tabbouleh mix
2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 red onion, finely sliced
½ bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 small bunch fresh mint, chopped
juice of 2-3 lemons
¾ c of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

In actuality, the recipe called for cracked wheat or bulgar wheat, but the only open market was not too sophisticated. I wasn’t able to find either of the above, so I was forced to cheat with the ready packaged tabbouleh mix. I’m so ashamed.

I started by making the mix as instructed on the box. I was to mix the grains with the seasoning mixture with one cup of boiling water, and then remove from heat. It asked me to refrigerate for half an hour, and so I did as told. Meanwhile, I prepped all my veggies. La di da. When the tabbouleh was ready, I added the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, parsley and mint. Then I added lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. It was so tangy and herby, just as the recipe predicted. I ate it the first night as is.

The second night, I grilled some shrimp and ate them alongside the tabbouleh. While the Panini Press was heating up, I threw together this fun little rub to dip them in pre-grilling.

shrimp

Ingredients:
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
1/4 c Panko bread crumbs
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp red pepper flakes
dash of salt

I dabbed my grill with canola oil, dredged my shrimp, and let them grill for about two minutes each side. I’ve watched several hundreds of hours of the Food Network through the years, so I’m aware that for anything to stick one needs a binding element, such as egg. I was maybe a little over zealous with my shrimp rub, because I knew I’d like to avoid turning a simple, 5-minute meal into a more drawn out, painful process. As a result, the majority of my rub ended up stuck to the grill, and solely the flavor of the lemon juice penetrated the shrimp. I have a secret habit of eating grill scrapings and enjoying them far more than the actual intended meal, so I was all too happy to scrape off the cheesy mix and use it to top the shrimp. I did as such, and enjoyed a few shrimp with my tabbouleh. Don’t they look good together? It was yum, too:

spicy parmesan shrimp and tabbouleh

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

26
Oct
10

farro salad.

I’ve recently fallen victim to habits similar to the Home Decor Obsessive (HDO. Don’t google; I’m pretty sure I invented this disorder, and if not it’s probably an offensive acronym in French or Dutch or something. Bitenuker). I moved just a week ago, and bare walls are not, and have never been, my forte. They’re the equivalent of an undressed salad – ‘taint happening. I’m going to need some extra virgin olive oil or Annie’s Green Goddess immediately. I feel this compulsive desire to get these nakey walls covered by any means possible, so’s not to terrify the occasional visitor by their state of undress. A coffee table can wait. So I don’t have household scissors, refrigerator magnets, or curtains in my bedroom that prevent all of Tomkins Square Park from seeing my business. So what? That’s all secondary. What’s really important is that I just bought this sweet vintage mirror/window combo that’s going to make my living room look like it’s 700 square feet, which I’m pretty sure is a LOT of feet. Also, I bought a gorge piece of art that has gotten like 12 favorable comments on facebook since yesterday. So, win.

That being said, it’s obvious that I can’t afford cable just yet. No matter, for I’ll turn to cooking and exercising for entertainment. More material for the blog, you say? Someone’s astute.

I’m still mid-gym freeze month, and it’s been a feat. I’ve had to turn to the great outdoors more than once for my endorphins fix. How unnatural. I ran outside like seven times last week, which far exceeds anything I did at the height of track fame. I’ve hardly been using those muscles all month due to my trial gym separation, so it actually made an impact on my physique. It turns out I’m NOT dead inside, which was a total relief. I’d made the mistake of thinking so when my body plateaued last month, but all it took was some variety and a temporary stoppage to start responding. My calves are coming back, and I think I saw a quad this morning. Lower abs are historically next, so it looks like I’ll find a use for my 90s baby tees soon enough.

Nothing compliments baby tees like an arugula salad, so I made just that for lunch yesterday.

arugula salad

Ingredients:

2 cups arugula
1/2 block extra firm tofu
1 plum, sliced
1/2 oz brie, chopped
1 tbsp grey poupon mustard
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

I started by sautéing the chopped tofu in one tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan. It’s worth noting that my dad sent me some high quality new cookware courtesy of Rachael Ray, so you can infer that I’m mostly using my new toys from here on out. Oh, also, aren’t my new dishes adorbs? This place is my mecca. While the tofu was sautéing, I laid down a bed of arugula and topped it with the sliced plums and chopped brie. I whisked together the mustard, honey, and olive oil for a tangy homemade honey mustard dressing, and added a little salt and pepper to the mix. Tofu – on. Honey mustard dressing – drizzled. Et voila. One of my more attractive lunch companions.

I just think Giada de Laurentiis is the coolest. Wait, have I mentioned that before? Weird. It’s such a discreet admiration. I made her Mediterranean Farro Salad last night, and it was a hit. With me. I totally approved. It calls for:

my girl Giada

Ingredients:

10 ounces farro (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
8 ounces green beans, cut into 1 to 2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup pitted black olives
1 medium red pepper, cut into thin strips (totally forgot this ingredient)
3 ounces Parmesan, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
1 small bunch chives, snipped (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Start by boiling four cups of water in a saucepan and add the farro. For those just joining, farro is a grain that has the texture of a couscous and the looks of a quinoa. Reduce to a simmer, cover the pan, and cook for 20 minutes. Add 1 1/2 tsp of salt and simmer for 10 more minutes, then drain completely. Meanwhile, boil water in another saucepan for the green beans. Add those, cook for two minutes, and then blanch in ice water. Drain and set aside.

Stir the green beans, olives, Parmesan, and chives into the farro. I also would have stirred in the red pepper, had I remembered its place in this recipe. Fail. In a small bowl mix together the sherry vinegar, olive oil, mustard, pepper, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine. Pour over the farro salad. Combine and consume.

Yeah, Giada wins again. I loved this tangy salad and its good looks too. See below:

Mediterranean Farro Salad

19
Sep
10

roasted shrimp and baked clams.

In 1991, I went through the obligatory phase in which I obsessed about all things “The Little Mermaid.” We’re talking multiple Ariel dolls, swimsuits, tent, bedspread, watch, etc. If collecting Ariel paraphernalia were an Olympic sport, I would have broken records in the second grade. I had the entire movie memorized and would proudly recite it daily in conjunction with the movie, which I watched anywhere from 5-10 times every day. And, yet, I can’t recall one fantasy of devouring Sebastian shumai or grilled Flounder tacos. Odd.

Enter 2010, and suddenly I’m this seafood obsessive who craves Ariel’s friends on the daily. Fo realz. I recently made a roasted shrimp with champagne-shallot sauce that was all kinds of amazeballs.

roasted shrimp with champagne shallot sauce

I found it courtesy of my old standby, Epicurious. Oh, Epi, you’re always there for me when creativity abandons me. You’re like my safety school.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup minced shallots
3 1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 3/4 lbs uncooked shrimp, deveined
3 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
2 1/4 tsp grated lemon peel
1/2 cup butter, room temp
green beans
2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley

I brought some champy back from Israel, so it was a relief to find some use for it that didn’t involve wearing my high heeled slippers and eating gold. I’m getting sooo sick of my Tuesday night routine.

You start by simmering the champagne and shallots until they reduce to 1/2 cup, which takes 25 minutes. Combine oil, shrimp, 2 1/2 tsp thyme, and lemon peel in a bowl, and toss together with some salt and pepper. Meanwhile I boiled the green beans in some salted water for a few minutes, and those were good to go.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees, and arrange shrimp on baking sheets. Roast for about 6 minutes, or until opaque. Meanwhile, bring sauce to simmer, remove from heat, and whisk in butter along with 1 tsp thyme, and 1/2 tsp lemon peel. Add salt to taste, and voila. Make a bed of green beans, put shrimp on top, spoon sauce on top, and garnish with parsley. Delicioso.

littleneck clams

I’ve also been having a not-so-covert affair with bivalves, and so I decided to bake some recently.

Ingredients:

16 littleneck clams
1 bunch Italian parsley
3 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic
1 shallot, minced
a few drops of hot sauce

I had just returned from a weekend of gluttony in the central Fla., and I was craving something non-muffin top inducing, if at all possible. I researched and found solely sub-par baked clam recipes, and so I was left to my own devices. I started by steaming the clams in a tight fitting pot over moderately high heat for 5-7 minutes. They eventually bloomed, if you will, and looked as they do above. Check.

I mixed together breadcrumbs, about 2 tbsp Parmesan, garlic, shallot, salt, pepper and hot sauce in a large bowl. I then shucked the clams, and added those into the mix as well. I threw away half of each shell, and used the other half as a bed for my clam mix. I divided the mix among the shells, topped with more cheese, and put under the broiler for about 3-4 minutes. They were so tasty and easy to prepare, and I only had to pair with a small salad to be full. Loves it.

As far as the sweatiness goes, I’ve been logging hours with my good friend, Gym. I try to mix it up with the variety of machines, but it comes as no surprise that I’m nearing yet another rut. It’s quite a bit of time spent with Gym for minimal results, and I realize that it’s less about the time spent and more about how one tricks one’s body. It’s damn near impossible to do weird exercises in my cramped room or in a gym full of spectators, though. I’ve been going back and forth trying to decide whether to get a trainer or try crossfit, and I’m treating this week as my sampler. A revamping is straight ahead, and I, for one, am thrilled. Stay tuned, and see below for my clams:

stuffed and baked clams




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