Monthly Archives: November 2009

Stewing and Struggling

This weekend I did something kind of stupid.  I agreed to run a 5K the day after giving blood.  I thought it would be easy for me seeing how I run much farther than 3.1 miles on a regular basis.  I think I underestimated the toll it takes on your body when you give blood, especially when you’re super short like me.  The 5K was the training run for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and included obstacles, trail running, stair running, and the beastiest hill I’ve seen in a long time.

Here is a picture of me WALKING during the race.  I have never walked during a race before.  But by the time I got to the beasty hill and ran half way up it (after the obstacles) I seriously thought I was going to faint.  One of the officers tried to encourage me to keep on running up the hill, but I told her I just gave blood yesterday and if I kept running she was going to be scraping me off the pavement.  And then, when I got to the top of the hill I started running again, several officers were standing at the top of the hill trying to offer us Krispie Kreme doughnuts.  About one mile back another officer had shouted that there were doughnuts and bagpipes waiting for us at the end.  So that bit of information coupled with the fact that I was pretty mentally tired, led me to believe that the race was done and that I had reached the finish line.  Granted, this race was a pretty small race and the first time this race had ever occurred.  So, I thought maybe they didn’t realize that the end of the race should be more obvious.  After about 30 seconds of walking I realized that I was completely delusional and that the race was not over.  I ran about another 1/10 of a mile to the race end where I promptly grabbed water and plopped down on the curb.  It was the worse race ever for me.  It was more of a fun run than anything, but I had no idea I would feel so horrible running it.

Following the run was breakfast at Panera and a mad cleaning spree as well as some grocery shopping at TJ’s – my favorite weekend activity.  Brad and I invited some friends for dinner and while I cleaned I had chuck roast, carrots, and potatoes stewing in the crockpot.

This is Brad’s mom’s recipe.  I called her for it and everything.  Basically it’s about 3 lbs. of chuck roast browned first, and then combined with about 2 cups of chopped carrots and 2 cups of chopped russet potatoes.  A few cups of water and a small can of tomato sauce with plenty of salt and pepper and you’re set.  I didn’t have all day so I put the stew on high and it cooked for about three hours before our friends arrived.

My proudest cooking endeavor of the weekend was honey wheat bread.   The recipe comes from Food Network, but the website is not very descriptive, especially if you are a newbie bread maker.

I clearly remember the first time I had this bread.  Brad had decided to make bread at like 9 pm.  This is not the kind of bread you make quickly.  So I had been anticipating the bread for several hours and then fell asleep while smelling it baking.  Eventually, Brad woke me up and handed me a piece of bread with butter smeared all over the top.  I didn’t even open my eyes, which may have added to the transcendental experience of this bread.  It was the best bread I had ever tasted.  One day I will try another bread recipe, but for now I don’t have any desire to venture out because I truly am in love with this bread.  It’s oaty and crunchy and soft in all the right places.  It slices just right if you want to use it for sandwiches.  It is perfect with a great soup or stew, which made it really great with the beef stew.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 4 cups bread machine flour
Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the yeast in the warm water and stir, allowing the mixture to rest for at least 5 minutes.  Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl: all flours, salt, and rolled oats.  In a separate smaller bowl combine melted butter, brown sugar, and the yeast and water mixture.  Mix well and slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.  Sometimes I use the kitchen aid mixer to mix but usually I mix by hand.  Bread is funny and takes a little careful handling sometimes.  Plus, mixing thick dough with your hands is therapeutic.  Spray one large baking sheet with non-stick spray, divide dough into two lumps and put in pan or on sheet.  I like to use the sheets because the bread comes out more rustic-looking.  I form the loaves with my hands so they have the shape of a large egg.   Allow bread to rise until it’s at least triple in size.  The recipe says to let it double twice, but my impatient self has found that I just let it rise until I notice it is much bigger than it was originally. To rise properly, it needs to be in a somewhat warm space.  I took the little table that sits in our foyer and carried it over to our gigantic windows, placing the sheet with the dough on the table, and allowed it to rise for at least 2 hours.  I am not really an exact-ist when it comes to cooking.  Like my Mamaw says, “You’ve got to feel it.”  So feel it, I do.  When I feel like the bread has risen enough, it’s ready to bake.
Bake until golden brown.

I don’t like to say how long the bread should take in the oven, because every oven is completely different.  I often find that I have to add or subtract 5 minutes or so from every recipe.  So, you really need to watch the bread in your own oven to determine what is best for you.  Mine takes around 30 minutes.  But I don’t really turn the timer on, I just remove the bread when I feel like it’s ready.  I let it sit awhile before slicing into it because the bread will continue to cook.  This bread is amazing with butter.  Between the beef stew and the upcoming stew I’m about to share with you, one loaf was gone in 2 days (we did share with our dinner guests).  The second loaf is in the fridge and being saved for Brad’s parents when we make the long drive to Currituck, NC for Thanksgiving.

The second stew of the weekend came after I conquered 10.5 miles on Sunday.  Ironic that I was dying running a 5K the day before, but enjoyed a pleasant > 10 miles the following day.  Okay, so it wasn’t that pleasant, the last 2 miles was ran in the cold rain.  Seeing how we have plenty of NC coastal shrimp in the fridge (we had 16 pounds in August and  probably have about 10 pounds now), I thought a shrimp stew/soup was in order.  We literally could write a cookbook called What to Do with 16 Pounds o f Shrimp.  We have tried everything.  I think our favorite has been shrimp and grits made with a bit of yellow curry, cumin, mozzarella, and parmesan reggiano.  It’s one of my specialties and I will post the recipe in the near future.

My shrimp stew was inspired by a Cooking Light recipe.

  • 1 3/4  cups  chopped red onion
  • 1  cup  chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2  cup  chopped celery
  • 1  garlic clove, minced
  • 2  cups  chopped baking potato
  • 3 cups of veggie broth
  • 2 cups of frozen corn (thawed)
  • 1 pint of organic cherry tomatoes
  • 1  (6-ounce) can no salt-added tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon  black pepper
  • 2  pounds  medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • Old bay

Saute bell pepper, celery, red onion, and garlic until soft in a large pot.  Add broth, potatoes, tomatoes, tomato paste, cilantro, and corn.  Boil for about 10 minutes.  Add shrimp and allow to simmer for about 10 more minutes.  Add salt and pepper.

I allowed my stew to sit on the warm setting of our stove top for about an hour until dinner was ready.  We added Old Bay as an afterthought and it really set the stew off.  If I had to do this over again I would definitely add about 2 Tbsp. of Old Bay during the second step. When I put the leftovers in the fridge, I added a generous scoop of Old Bay.

Oh my geez this was good.  As I was eating leftover at lunch today at work, I couldn’t help but notice the sweetness added by the corn and cherry tomatoes.  Brad would like to add that it was de-li-cious and looks forward to eating it three days in a row.  As for his review of the beef stew, he has had it for breakfast for the past two days, so I guess that’s a good sign as well.

On another note, Brad and I have been looking for a Christmas tree skirt for 2 years with no success.  Does that mean we’re picky?  It took me exactly 3 years to find a tree topper that I like.  If anyone knows of a great store that sells tree skirts, I would love to hear about them.

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Food of Many Colors

Two weekends ago, when it was really warm in Charlotte, I made cilantro turkey burgers with cranberry salsa and a very pretty salad of tomatoes, spinach, carrot ribbons, corn, and green goddess dressing thinned out with a bit of lemon juice.

To be completely honest, it wasn’t the best turkey burgers I’ve ever had.  Brad makes these really awesome ones with sage and grated apple. My cranberry salsa was made by pulsing about 1 1/2 cups of cranberries in the food processors and letting them marinate in 3 Tbsp. of raw sugar.  After setting for about 30 minutes I added a de-seeded chopped jalapeno, 1/2 a chopped apple, the zest of one orange, and several generous squirts of lemon juice (probably about 2 Tbsp.)  The recipe came from Simply Recipes.  The turkey burgers weren’t delicious enough to post the recipe.  I will definitely post Brad’s turkey burger recipe when he makes them again.  They are much better.

And here it is again on the balcony where we ate.  I love love love eating on the balcony when it’s warm out.  Too bad that night was the last night that we will be able to dine outside.  It has gotten pretty chilly in NC now.  But I do love the fall and am super excited to spend Thanksgiving with Brad’s parents on the coast this upcoming weekend.

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Help a sista out

I’ve kind of taken a break from posting during the week, but had to drop by to tell you about Chocolate Covered Kindness which is being orchestrated by Chocolate Covered Katie.  Basically all you have to do is visit her site and Foodbuzz will donate money to a good cause.   Click here to find out more about the project.

I know that I only have a handful of readers, but hey, every little bit helps right?  While you’re there, definitely check out her fudge babies recipes.  I made the original version of fudge babies this weekend and am already dreaming of different variations.  They’re totally yummy, all natural, and way cheaper than store-bought bars.

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Swordfish Siciliana & Double Broccoli Quinoa

Brad has been dropping hints that he would like us to eat meat more.  It’s not that I don’t eat meat, it’s just that I don’t really enjoy meat that much.  I’ll eat it when I want it but that does not happen very often.  I will definitely eat it when I am out to eat and it is the healthiest option, like sopa de pollo (chicken soup) at a Mexican restaurant.  I do really enjoy fish and luckily when planning dinner the other night I remembered that there was some swordfish in the freezer that I had picked up the week prior.

Oh what to make…google will know.  I found this recipe for Swordfish Siciliana on Cooking Light’s website.

Of course, my recipe was a bit different because I very rarely follow any recipe word for work, even when baking.  And I adjusted the recipe (in my own little non-mathematical way) for two people.

Non-stick Spray

2 6 oz swordfish steaks

salt and pepper

sprinkling of almonds

2 cloves of garlic, minced

sprinkling of dried cranberries

the juice of about 1/4 of an orange

1/4 of a red pepper, coarsely chopped and roasted in the oven for 10 minutes

 

I sprinkled the fish generously with salt and pepper on both sides and sauteed for 5 minutes on each side. I removed the fish from the pan, added more non-stick spray as well as the dried cranberries, juice, and red bell pepper.  The juice was absorbed almost immediately so I turned the pan down to low, stirred the mixture around, and allowed it to cook for about 3 minutes. This was served over the fish.

For my side, I knew I wanted to use the half crown of broccoli that only had about one more day of shelf (refrigerator)  life.  I absolutely love the combination of flavors that Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks comes up with.  Her dishes always have these unique and complex combination of flavors that totally work.  Her Double Broccoli Quinoa Recipe really intrigued me and I knew that I had to try it.  I only had half of the main ingredients needed (the broccoli and quinoa), but luckily there were only two of us for dinner.

My take on the recipe is below.

1/2 cup quinoa

1 cup of vegetable stock

1/2 crown of broccoli, coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves

1/3 cup of slivered almonds

3 tbsp of grated parmesan reggiano

salt

1 big squirt of lemon juice

2 tbsp of olive oil

2 big splashes of skim milk

2 tbsp of crumbled goat cheese

I cooked the 1/2 cup of quinoa in 1 cup of vegetable stock.  Then I covered the broccoli in water in my Pampered Chef microwave steamer and cooked for 1 minute.  I took about 3/4 of it and put it in the food processor with the garlic, almonds, parmesan reggiano and pureed while slowly adding the olive oil.  I then added the milk while the mixture was still processing and the lemon juice.  I stirred the mixture in with the quinoa (when it was finished cooking) and added the remaining broccoli as well.  I sprinkled generously with salt and added another big squirt of lemon juice for good measure.  I served with the crumbled goat cheese on top.

Dinner for two

The color alone made this a beautiful meal.  The sweet and salty combination on the fish was absolutely delicious.  I apologize for the less than stellar pictures.  My camera’s battery was dead and I didn’t want our food to get cold so I snapped these with the iPhone.  The broccoli  pesto along with the goat cheese gave the quinoa a velvety texture that was so good.

Swordfish Siciliana & Double Broccoli Quinoa

Brad really like this meal, as did I, and will definitely be making it again.

 

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Butternutty soup

I really love to make soups, especially those that involve winter squash like butternut.  Last week I finally decided what to do with the butternut squash that had been sitting on my counter for a week by looking at multiple recipes and merging what I liked about each in one delicious soup.

The results were a thick, rich, delicious deep orange soup that is filling and warming to the soul.  The recipe follows.

1 butternut squash

2 6-7 inch long carrots

1 red bell pepper

4 cups of vegetable stock

1/2 cup of skim milk

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp dried thyme

2 garlic cloves, minced

salt and pepper

nonstick spray

Remove the skin of the butternut squash (I like to use a veggie peeler), remove the seeds and chop in 1 inch cube pieces.  Slice the carrots in circles about 2 cm. thick.  Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray and spread squash and carrots evenly on the sheet.  I used two sheets.  Salt well and roast at 500 degrees for 20 minutes.  Chop the red bell pepper in 1 inch strips and place on the baking sheets with the other veggies.  Roast all veggies for 10 additional minutes. Saute garlic until beginning to slightly brown.

Roasting VeggiesMeanwhile, simmer the veggie stock with the thyme, sauteed garlic, and red pepper flakes.  When the veggies are through roasting, add them to the simmering stock.  Allow mixture to simmer for 20 minutes.  Use a food processor or immersion blender to puree the entire soup mixture.  Put soup back in the pot (if you used a food processor) and add the milk stirring well.

Soup is delicious if served immediately, but even better after bring refrigerated the following day.  Up the deliciousness with some add-ins.  I really love a tablespoon of almond butter or peanut butter which makes the soup butternutty.  Another favorite topping is a dollop of Greek yogurt.  Parmesan reggiano or mozzarella would be delicious as well. Butternutty soup

After eating this soup for the past 3-4 days, I have found that I like to accompany it with Kashi TLC crackers or a half sandwich with whole wheat bread smeared with humus and a slice of Jarlsburg.  Yum!

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The last 36 hours

So I have been a little MIA since Sunday afternoon.  Sometimes it is just difficult to find the time to blog, especially when I feel like I haven’t given Brad enough attention (or we haven’t been alone for more than an hour the entire weekend).  Anyway, I did however remember to snap a photo of most of the things I ate.

Before dinner on Sunday night I did about 45 minutes of high energy yoga.  This totally confirmed for me that I am really really bad at yoga.  I am so inflexible, which makes yoga really painful and frustrating.  I’m trying to see this as a new challenge and not something to give up on.  Hopefully I can put some time into working on this at least once a week.  I think this is the extent of my goal for now, plus trying to really stretch after all other exercises. 

The tuna steaks Brad had been marinating all day went great with roasted corn on the cob and mashed cauliflower.  Yes, I know it looks like meat and carb overload, but that is not mashed potatoes.  I love mashed cauliflower!  I could eat it forever sans potatoes and never miss out on the lack of starchiness. 

more delicious than it looked

My tuna kind of fell apart while I was transferring it to the plate.  Take my word for it, the meal was a lot more delicious than it looks in the photograph.

I also took two frozen bananas (one for me and one for Brad) out of the freezer, whipped them in the food processor and added a bit of PB and pumpkin butter.  Double yum!

Two whipped frozen bananas

I turned in early wishing I had another day of weekend.  

 

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Shopping and snacking

My trip to the mall was very successful!  On the way I had an apple and a luna bar as a small lunch.

Luna and Apple

At the mall I got a really great black dress that will serve double duty during Brad’s company Christmas party and my brother’s wedding (I’m a bridesmaid) next June.  I really really love it.  🙂

I also dropped by Crate and Barrel to spend the gift card my brother and his fiance gave me for my grad school graduation last May.  I got a teapot (super excited about) and a tiny little cutting board.  All of our cutting boards are pretty big so it will be nice to have a size more convenient for cutting up a small amount of veggies and fruit.

When I returned home I had a mini smoothie to hold me over until dinner.

Mini Green Mocha Smoothie

The smoothie was made with 1/3 cup of skim milk, 1/3 cup of vanilla yogurt, 1/2 scoop of chocolate whey protein, 1 tsp of instant coffee, and a small handful of spinach.  I call it a “Green Mocha”.  Yum!

Brad has been marinating tuna steaks in a mixture of soy sauce, ginger, and freshly squeezed orange juice all day.  We were going to grill it for dinner tonight, but it’s pretty cold and misty outside so I think the oven will be used instead.  Photos to come!

 

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