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Archive for the ‘One Dish’ Category

68 Days of Gourmet: Day 61

Gourmet named this recipe Spicy Boiled Crabs, Shrimp, Potatoes, Corn and Garlic. I put a Southern spin on it by subbing sausage for the crabs and calling it by its true name, Lowcountry Boil. I think the crabs would have been a fun addition but not in the realm of  possibility for tonight’s dinner.

Lowcountry Boil is a simple, one-pot dinner full of deliciousness. We served it at our rehearsal dinner when we got married in Charleston and requested it for our joint birthday party last year. It’s a great party/entertaining dish but also fun and easy for any night! You can easily scale the amount of ingredients to the number of people you’ll be serving. It’s also easy to control the spice level. If you love spicy foods, feel free to be a little heavy-handed with the seasonings. You cook this in such a big pot that the spices are really diluted.

It’s also relatively healthy and filling. We usually sub chicken or turkey smoked sausage. My favorite way to serve Lowcountry Boil is on a big platter so everyone can pick and choose what they want. And really hot homemade cocktail sauce (the more horseradish, the better!) on the side.

If you’ve never experienced Lowcountry Boil it is a must try this Spring/Summer. Perfect for your next get together – casual, a little messy and fun! I can just picture serving this outdoors with rolls of paper towels and sweet tea in mason jars – what can I say? I was definitely born and raised in the South!

One Year Ago: Easy Spanakopita

Lowcountry Boil
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet, June 1996)

Ingredients:

2 (3-ounce) packets Zatarain’s crab boil or 5 tablespoons Old Bay  seasoning (or more – adjust to taste)
1 tablespoon cayenne (or more adjust to taste)
1/2 cup table salt (might want to reduce to around 1/4 cup)
3 lemons, quartered
2 onions, halved
1 1/2 pounds small potatoes (about 2 inches in diameter)
2 whole heads of garlic (not separated into cloves)
6 ears of corn, shucked and halved
24 ounces smoked sausage (2 packages), cut into 2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning, or to taste, for sprinkling over  boiled seafood
3 pounds large shrimp (about 30, preferably with heads)

Directions:

In a very large stock pot or kettle (7- to 8-gallons) bring 5 gallons water to a boil.

Add Zatarain’s crab boil or 5 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning, cayenne, salt, lemons and onions to boiling water and boil 5 minutes. Add potatoes and garlic and boil for about 10 minutes. Add corn and sausage and cook for about 5-10 more minutes, until corn and potatoes are tender.

Add shrimp and cook until they turn bright pink, about 2-3 minutes, careful not to overcook. Drain pot and transfer to a platter. Sprinkle with Old Bay seasoning and serve with cocktail sauce.

Yield: 6 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 56

A dinner salad was a must on this week’s menu. The temperatures have been in the 80s and the days are getting longer and longer. A perfect reason to enjoy a cool, flavorful salad with grilled chicken. I browsed through the grilled chicken salad recipes from Gourmet on Epicurious and this salad was the standout.

It was super easy to prepare – the chicken only has to marinate for 15 minutes and while it’s grilling you can prepare the tomato mixture and plate the salad. This salad is a great healthy and quick option for a weeknight dinner.

Our Easter weekend was awesome! We celebrated my grandmother’s 80th birthday (say happy birthday to Mema – she reads the blog!!!) and cooked up a storm. I baked my favorite Lady Strawberry Cake and the crowd pleasing Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. I can’t resist sharing this picture of Mema with her TWO birthday cakes!

I’m teaching FOUR BodyPump classes this week. I predict that I will be sore by the time Sunday rolls around. We’re teaching the new release and it’s really tough – the squats and lunges make me want to cry! And I have some news for you guys…I am going to register for the Marine Corps Marathon tomorrow. I’m so nervous to commit to a race that is 6  months out but it’s a big goal of mine to run a big city marathon and I’ve heard great things about this race. I’ll start slowly building my base in the coming months and really ramp up my training in July. Ahh! I can’t believe I’m 100% committing to another marathon.

And now salad!

One Year Ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart (YUM!)

Grilled Chicken Salad
(Recipe source Gourmet, August 2005)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon mild honey
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup olive oil
6 chicken breast halves with skin and bones (3 pounds total) – I used 2 boneless skinless breasts and halved the lime vinaigrette
2 large tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (2 cups)
2 medium shallots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise (1/2 cup)
8 ounces mesclun, thinly sliced (6 cups) – I used baby greens
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced – omitted because the store was out of basil – so disappointing :(
Sliced avocado (if desired – I added this)

Directions:

PREPARE THE CHICKEN AND SALAD
Whisk together lime juice, honey, red pepper flakes and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking.

Transfer chicken to a 1-gallon sealable plastic bag and add 1/3 cup lime vinaigrette, then seal bag. Marinate chicken at room temperature 15 minutes.

Transfer another 1/3 cup lime vinaigrette to a bowl, stir in tomatoes and shallots, and marinate until chicken is finished cooking. Transfer another 1/3 cup lime vinaigrette to a large bowl and set aside for cooked chicken.

Remove chicken from bag, discarding marinade, and sprinkle all over with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.

TO COOK CHICKEN ON A CHARCOAL GRILL
Open vents on bottom of grill and on lid. Light a large chimney starter of charcoal briquettes (80 to 100) and pour them evenly over 1 side of bottom rack (you will have a double or triple layer of briquettes).

When charcoal turns grayish white (after 15 to 20 minutes) and you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack for 3 to 4 seconds, sear chicken breasts, starting with skin sides down, on a lightly oiled rack over coals, uncovered, turning once, until well browned, 5 to 6 minutes total.

Move browned chicken breasts to side of grill with no coals and cook, covered with lid, turning over occasionally, until just cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes more.

TO COOK CHICKEN USING A GAS GRLL
Preheat all burners on high, covered, 10 minutes, then adjust heat to medium high heat.

Sear chicken on lightly oiled grill rack, lid down, until well browned, about 3 minutes per side.

Turn off 1 burner (middle burner if there are 3) and arrange all seared chicken on rack above shut-off burner. Cook seared chicken, covered with lid, turning over once, until just cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes. Internal temperature should be 160 degrees.

TOSS GRILLED CHICKEN IN VINAIGRETTE
Transfer hot grilled chicken to large bowl with lime vinaigrette and turn to coat. Leave in bowl 5 minutes, then transfer to a platter and loosely cover with foil.

ASSEMBLE SALAD
Toss together mesclun, basil, tomato mixture and salt to taste. Slice chicken and arrange over salad. Drizzle with some lime vinaigrette and serve.

Yield: 6 servings

*Note: I used 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts and cut the lime vinaigrette in half.

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 52

I have yet to find the perfect pizza dough recipe so it was definitely something I wanted to try during 68 Days of Gourmet. And unfortunately, I will be continuing the search for the perfect pizza dough because this was not it. This dough wasn’t bad just average. It was pretty difficult to work with – sticky and tore easily. There was pretty much no way I was going to get it into a circle when I was shaping the dough so we ended up with very strangely shaped pizza. Luckily, things looked up once I topped it with all the fixings for barbecue chicken pizza and baked it on a hot baking stone. The dough was crispy and chewy (good for thinner-crust pizzas) and the flavor was nice. Barbecue chicken pizza is a great flavor variation from your typical pizza. If you’ve never tried it you must!

I’m blogging from Atlanta. I’ve spent the weekend here visiting my parents while Brandon has been in New Orleans for a bachelor party. He’s flying back to Atlanta tonight and then we’re making a late night drive to Charlotte. His flight has been delayed and he’s not getting in until 11 so we won’t get back to Charlotte until 3 a.m. at the earliest. Tomorrow is going to be a long day at work!

It’s been a nice and relaxing weekend hanging out in Atlanta with my parents. When I arrived late Friday a yummy pizza from Grant Central Pizza in East Atlanta Village was awaiting…along with some strawberry shortcake (one of my favorite desserts!). Saturday morning I visited a yoga class at Yoga Samadhi in Inman Park. Since the weather was so beautiful, there ended up only being one other guy in the class. It was pretty nice having a semi-private lesson and the instructor, Stephanie, was great! Saturday night we had reservations at Nino’s. It’s a family owned Italian place that’s been open since 1968. It was old-school Italian and really delicious. I believe that there is infinite value in keeping things simple and traditional.

Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend!

One Year Ago: Banana Nutella Muffins

Pizza Dough
(Recipe source Gourmet, June 2003)

Ingredients:

1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 3/4 to 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading, divided
3/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees), divided
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

Stir together yeast, 1 tablespoon flour and 1/4 cup warm water in a measuring cup and let stand until mixture appears creamy on surface, about 5 minutes. (If it doesn’t, discard and start over with new yeast.)

Stir together 1 1/4 cups flour and salt in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture, oil and remaining 1/2 cup warm water and stir until smooth. Stir in enough of remaining flour (1/4 to 1/2 cup) for dough to come away from side of bowl. (It is normal for this dough to be stickier than other doughs you have made.)

Working with floured hands, knead dough on a work surface until dough is smooth, soft, and elastic, about 8 minutes. Relflour hands and work surface when necessary. Alternatively, use a stand mixer fitted with the bread hook and knead on low speed for 8 minutes.

Divide dough in half and form into 2 balls. Generously dust balls all over with flour and put each in a medium bowl. Cover bowls with plastic wrap and let dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/4 hours.

To bake, preheat pizza stone in a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes. Add whatever toppings you would like and use a pizza peel or well floured baking sheet to slide pizza onto baking stone. Bake for 18-20 minutes, start checking pizza for doneness after about 15 minutes.

Or try our favorite Barbecue Chicken Pizza!

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 47

This is going to be short and sweet. I am sick for the first time in almost two years and need to get to bed! My throat is so sore but luckily no fever. I made this Thai Beef Noodle Soup on Monday night when the sore throat was first making its appearance. It has great flavor. The ginger and lime juice gave the broth so much flavor. And I’m usually not really into beef-based soups but thought it was perfect in this dish. I had some leftover noodles and whipped up another batch of broth using chicken stock and left the beef out – also delicious.

Needless to say, there isn’t much to report on the fitness front. I taught BodyPump Monday morning but after that the sickness started creeping in. I was really feeling ick by Tuesday. It has taken every ounce of my willpower not to go to a yoga class the past couple days but I know that my body needs the rest and my instructors and classmates would not appreciate my attendance while sick! I’m itching to practice though since I’ve missed my regular Sunday and Tuesday classes. But since I’ve been sick my appetite has been a little off and I’ve struggled to get enough fruits and veggies in. Hopefully a good night of sleep will be just what I need!

Thai Beef Noodle Soup
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet, February 2008)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon mild honey
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound flank steak (I used a flat iron steak, much cheaper!)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 large shallots, thinly sliced (1 cup)
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Thai green-curry paste (or more if you want to kick it up a little)
2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus extra slices for serving
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and cut into 3-inch pieces
3/4 pound dried Asian egg noodles

Directions:

Mix together soy, honey, 1 tablespoon fish sauce and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a shallow baking dish. Add steak and turn to coat. Marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes.

While steak marinates, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat until it shimmering. Cook shallots, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes. then cook shallots, stirring occasionally, until browned well, about 8 minutes. Add ginger, garlic and curry paste and cook for another minute. Add add broth and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Stir in lime juice, remaining tablespoon fish sauce and salt to taste and keep warm, covered.

Heat grill pan or large skillet over medium-high heat, then lightly oil. Cook steak, turning once, about 12 minutes total or until internal temperature reaches 120 degrees for medium rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss bell pepper and scallions with remaining tablespoon oil, then grill, turning frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

While steak stands, cook noodles following package directions. Drain well, then add to vegetables and mix well. Divide noodles among 4 bowls and top with 1/2 cup broth. Cut steak in half lengthwise, thinly slice across the grain and serve on top of noodles. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Yield: 4 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 45

This might seem like a strange combination but just trust me on this one – it’s good. What was not good was my decision to start this risotto at 8:45 after I got home from yoga. I was so hungry I didn’t know if I’d make it through all the stirring! Risotto isn’t hard, it just requires constant attention and a block of time. I was expecting this risotto to be a simple weeknight dinner but it really surprised me. The flavors green pea and bacon flavors were great together and the addition of lemon zest and juice at the end added an unexpected brightness. I also really appreciated not having to open a bottle of wine to make this dish!

Unhappy to report that my left leg is not getting much better. After my run on Monday it was swollen and sore. Boo. I planned on running the RaceFest Half Marathon in April but that’s not looking good for me unless my leg starts feeling better. I’ve taken the rest of the week off of running but I’m going to test it out again this weekend to see how it’s feeling. The high here is 60 degrees on Saturday and Sunday and I can’t wait to get outside! It’s been such a cold and wet winter. I’m going to embrace the two days of nice weather to the fullest!

I taught BodyPump tonight and felt like pushing it a bit. Went super heavy on my weights for squats and back and hamstrings. Maybe the Olympics are inspiring me to be a better BodyPumper!? ;) (Seriously – did you see Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn win their gold medals? Amazing!)

And time for bed…up early tomorrow for my 6:30 hot vinyasa class. Can’t wait! Hope I’m not feeling too sore from BodyPump.

Risotto with Bacon and Green Peas
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet, January 2009)

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
2 bacon slice, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons shallots, minced (my addition – omit if desired!)
2/3 cup Arborio rice
2/3 cup frozen green peas
4 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Bring broth and water to a simmer in a small saucepan.

In a separate heavy saucepan, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add garlic to bacon fat in pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat.

Add 1/4 cup hot broth mixture and simmer briskly, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding hot broth mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring frequently. Make sure each addition has been absorbed before adding the next. Rice is done when tender and creamy but al dente, about 20-22 minutes. You might not have to use all of your broth but  reserve leftover broth mixture to thin the ristotto before plating.

Add peas and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes.

Stir in cheese, butter, lemon zest and lemon juice. Thin risotto with some of reserved broth mixture if desired and season with salt and pepper. Top with bacon.

Yield: 2 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 37

It’s Wednesday night…which means I’m on my own! Brandon is in a bowling league (seriously) on Wednesday nights so I get to enjoy a night of eating whatever I want and watching what  I want on TV. Glorious! :) Tonight I had leftover Coconut Red Lentil Curry, a salad and a chocolate chip cookie.  It’s always some sort of meat-free feast!

It’s been a very relaxing night. I took the day off from exercising because I haven’t had a rest day in over two weeks and I’m just tired and my body needs a break. I’ve started teaching a BodyPump class on Monday mornings at 6 a.m. and it’s been a big adjustment. The 5 a.m. wake up call is very early for me. I know I’ll get used to it but so far I feel like I start the week in a sleep deficit.  The good thing is that I have a class full of people up early with me and they are ready to work!

Yesterday I went to a hot vinyasa class at Y2 Yoga. I’m so sad that my one month unlimited “new student” pass is ending! My brother-in-law and his wife gave me a pass to try this studio for Christmas. Obviously, I’ve definitely been using the free month to its fullest extent! So now I have to make the decision whether to buy a 10 class pass or a month unlimited. There’s about a $25 difference in price. I’m just not sure which is the right fit. I know I’ve been all about the yoga lately but I’m starting a new half marathon training plan on February 1. I dont’ know if I can fit in teaching BodyPump, running 4-5 days a week and utilizing a month unlimited pass to it’s fullest extent? Thoughts?

Okay…back to food. I’m sure you’re confused about the meaty pasta dish in the picture above since I’ve been going on and on about vegetarian dinners and working out. I made this dish on Monday night. It’s a Greek dish – Lamb and Eggplant Pastitsio. I was craving eggplant and love Greek food so this recipe hit the spot.

It was so good…the cinnamon added an awesome warm flavor to the lamb sauce and the nutmeg I added to the cheese sauce complimented it perfectly. Although it took a couple hours start to finish, the end result was totally worth it. And it’s not all hands on time – lots of simmering and baking time in there too. I thought the double layer was really fun – you mix the bottom pasta layer with the meat sauce and the top pasta layer with the cheese sauce. Yum! I’m so embarrassed to admit that we both went back for not only seconds but thirds! And we had the leftovers again last night. If you’re a Greek food lover this is a must try. And just a side note, I think you could sub beef for the lamb if you’re not a fan of lamb.

Lamb and Eggplant Pastitsio
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet, October 2001)

Ingredients:

FOR THE LAMB SAUCE
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound lean ground lamb
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 (28- to 32-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

FOR THE CHEESE SAUCE
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 garlic clove
1 whole clove or a pinch of nutmeg
1/2 pound feta, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs

FOR THE PASTA
10 ounces penne (3 cups)

Directions:

FOR THE LAMB SAUCE
Heat oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook 3-5 minutes, until softened. Add lamb and continue cooking over medium-high heat, stirring to break up lumps. Cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, salt, oregano, cinnamon, sugar and pepper and cook another 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in eggplant and tomatoes. Gently simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is just tender, about 40 minutes. Remove lid and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes more. Season generously with salt and pepper.

FOR THE CHEESE SAUCE
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

While meat sauce is simmering, melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. Whisk in milk and add garlic clove and whole clove or nutmeg. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Add feta, salt and pepper and cook, whisking vigorously, until cheese is well incorporated.

Beat eggs in a large bowl and slowly add sauce to eggs, whisking constantly.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water. Slightly undercook the pasta since it will finish in the oven. Drain in a colander. Toss half of pasta with lamb sauce and half with cheese sauce.

TO ASSEMBLE PASTITSIO
Pour pasta with lamb sauce into a 9 x 13 baking dish, spreading evenly. Spoon pasta with cheese sauce on top, spreading evenly.

Bake uncovered, in middle of oven until bubbling and top is golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Yield: 6-8 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 36

This vegetarian goodness was warmly welcomed after a weekend of splurging for Charlotte Restaurant Week. Friday night we went to BLT Steak and Saturday night we went to Sullivan’s. Both meals were delicious but very indulgent!

I taught BodyPump on Saturday morning and was very excited to have a great crowd! Love seeing people up and knocking out their workouts on Saturdays. Later that morning Brandon and I headed over to Y2 Yoga for a power 1 class. Saturday was Yoga Day USA so I couldn’t miss out on practicing! I headed over to Y2 again today for hot yoga. I’m happy to report that I practiced 6 out of 7 days this week!

After yoga I was famished. This dinner was so easy to put together and a nice change from all the steakhouse dinners we enjoyed this weekend. Honestly, it wasn’t my favorite curry that I’ve ever made but was still very good. My favorite vegetarian curry is still this Butternut Squash Curry which also happens to be from Gourmet!

Heading to bed early tonight…teaching BodyPump at 6 a.m. tomorrow.

Coconut Red Lentil Curry
(Recipe source Gourmet, December 2006)
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 fresh jalapeño or serrano chile, finely diced, including seeds
2 cups water or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils (about 10 ounces)
1 (13- to 14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk (I used lite)
1 pound zucchini (about 2 medium), diced
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro sprigs (omitted, cilantro is Brandon’s least favorite herb!)

Steamed brown or white rice, for serving

Directions:

Heat oil in a 3-4 quart heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until edges are golden, about 6 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, salt and chili pepper and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Stir in water or broth, lentils and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and then cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in zucchini and simmer, covered, until lentils and zucchini are tender, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and serve over rice with cilantro sprigs scattered on top.

Yield: 6 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 29

I feel terrible that I’ve been such a bad blogger this week. I started in the hole since I didn’t get to make my weekly menu and grocery shopping trip. It was a major pain to scramble every night to figure out what to have for dinner. Now we’re back in town and settled back into our routine.  I promise that I have lots of fun cooking and baking projects planned for this weekend that I can’t wait to share with everyone!

I was looking for something simple to make last night for dinner. I was browsing through the easy and healthy weeknight meals gallery on Epicurious and sent the link for this Portuguese Kale and Potato Soup recipe to Brandon. I was shocked when he said, “I’d eat that.” I still firmly believe that it’s only because this soup included sausage in the ingredient list! Also, kale is one of my grandmother’s signature dishes so Brandon has discovered that he loves it. I love using kale in recipes – it packs a HUGE nutrient punch. Check out this overview of the nutrients in boiled kale.

So back to my struggle with blogging and dinner this week…I work out pretty much every day after work. I usually don’t get home from my workout until after 7 p.m so if I haven’t planned dinner, it’s very challenging to make it happen. I’m very proud to share that it is extremely rare that we eat out on a weeknight. I always have something planned for dinner. I know I continue to harp on the importance of meal planning in advance but it makes a huge difference. I was stressed all week this week trying to pull together dinners and make time to get to the store.

On Monday Brandon and I went to a Vinyasa Basics yoga class at Y2 Yoga. It’s a newer yoga studio with smaller classes. I thought the class was pretty easy but it’s always nice to get back to the basics. Brandon enjoyed the class and got some great work in on perfecting the basic positions.

I planned on running with Sullie Tuesday after work but got stuck at work until 6:45. I still had to go to the grocery to get stuff for dinner (again, pre-planning people!) so by the time I got home at 7:30 I was hungry and cranky and it was freezing cold and dark. The run didn’t happen.

I set my alarm to get up and run Wednesday morning. Sullie is great motivation to get out of bed because she really needs the exercise and to get out of the apartment. We did an easy 3-miler but it was freezing – about 20 degrees and windy! Wednesday night I went to a power yoga class at Y2.

I planned on running today but got called at the last minute to sub BodyPump. Literally, at the last minute. I had to leave work a few minutes early to go home and grab my music, change and get to the gym. I hit terrible traffic and ended up being 10 minutes late to class. I felt terrible because I know how disappointing it is to have the workout you committed to cut short but hopefully all the push-ups we did made up for it! I ran 3 miles on the treadmill after.

So, hopefully I’ll be updating the blog A LOT more frequently and you won’t have to get a whole run down on my week in fitness in one post! I had this Kale and Potato soup for lunch today and it totally satisfied me for the whole afternoon! And I think the leftovers were even better today!

I made quite a few modifications to the original recipe. The original calls for only adding the kale in the last 5 minutes of cooking. There is no way it would have been done in that amount of time. We like our kale tender so I added it with the potatoes. Honestly, I didn’t  really follow the cooking directions at all for this recipe. I just did what made sense to me. But the soup turned out great and is an easy and nutritious weeknight dinner.

Portuguese Kale and Potato Soup
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet, November 2009 – the last issue ever :( )

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound chouriço or linguiça (smoked Portuguese sausages) or kielbasa, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (uh, I used kielbasa)
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound russet (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (2-3)
6 cups water or chicken broth (I used half and half)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 pound kale, stems and center ribs discarded and leaves torn into small pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
Hot sauce, like Sriracha, for serving

Directions:

Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add sausage and garlic and continue to cook 2-3 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper and then add potatoes, water or chicken broth, kale, paprika and salt to taste to the pot.

Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, until kale and potatoes are tender. Mash up some of the potatoes with the back of a fork to thicken the soup a bit. Taste and do a final season with salt and pepper. Serve with a drizzle of hot sauce.

Yield: 4 main course servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 28

Happy New Year everyone! The holidays have been busy for us with lots of family time and traveling. Since we spent Thanksgiving with my family this year, we stayed in Charlotte and celebrated Christmas with Brandon’s family. We rang in the new year in Asheville with The Avett Brothers and then headed to Atlanta on New Year’s Day for yet another Avett Brothers show and to spend the weekend with my family. It was so good to see them! My mom, Brandon and I went to the Georgia Aquarium on Saturday afternoon while my dad stayed home prepping our amazing dinner! He made Paul Prudhomme’s Seafood Gumbo. SO DELICIOUS! He made his own seafood stock and made the perfect roux. It was exactly the dark color of Paul’s in the book. It was full of oysters, crab, shrimp and fresh andouille! I roasted up some okra for a side dish and my mom made my favorite banana pudding recipe. Yum! I love going home and enjoying my parents cooking! :)

I was happy to arrive home yesterday and get back in the swing of our normal routine. I attend an incredible hot yoga class every Sunday afternoon at 4. It’s the perfect way to end my weekend and prepare my mind and body for the work week ahead. Since I was a little crunched on time given our afternoon arrival home and wanting to make my yoga class, I was looking for an easy meal. It is freezing here (seriously – lows in the teens, highs in the 30s – that is cold in the South!) and slow cooked meat sounded like the perfect dinner. Our grocery store had chuck roasts on sale so off I went to Epicurious to look for a Gourmet magazine pot roast recipe.

I found this recipe for Oven Braised Beef with Tomato Sauce and Garlic. It only had three ingredients and had received numerous positive reviews. Decision made. You don’t even brown the beef before placing it in the dutch oven! Can it get any easier than that? Off I went to the grocery to grab the ingredients. I threw everything in my dutch oven before I left for yoga and came home to an amazing smelling house!

I was a little nervous because the recipe called for so much garlic but it really mellows out in the oven during the long, slow cook and adds a wonderful flavor. I admit that I added a couple carrots and some onion during the last hour of cooking but it totally wasn’t necessary! I just wanted more veggies. Brandon decided that this should be my “go-to” method for cooking roasts.

I served last night’s roast over mashed potatoes with a salad and french bread. I’m making shredded beef enchiladas with the leftovers tomorrow night.

And now for the announcement:
If you’ve read the “About Jen” section of this site you know that my second love is fitness and nutrition. One of the questions I get all the time is, “How do you cook and bake all that food and stay fit?” Well…I’m going to start sharing that information with you on the blog. Don’t worry, I’m not changing the focus of this blog. It is definitely still first and foremost a food blog but I am going to talk about my nutrition and exercise for the day/week in my posts. If you’re not into it – simply scroll down for the recipe!

In a nutshell, it’s all about maintaining a balance. I’m going to talk about that balance in my posts. I hope I can provide a little bit of motivation and inspiration that you can enjoy delicious food and stay fit!

Let me know what you think in the comment selection below and if you have any questions! Eventually, I hope to add separate fitness and nutrition page to the blog but that’s later in 2010!

And now for the most delicious 3 ingredient roast recipe…

Oven Braised Beef with Tomato Sauce and Garlic
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet, February 2001)

Ingredients:

28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
3-3 1/2 pound boneless chuck roast, trimmed
1 head of garlic, separated into cloves (unpeeled)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Optional: potatoes, carrots, onions or any other vegetables you’d like to add
Accompaniment: mashed potatoes, orzo or egg noodles

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Generously salt and pepper roast. Place roast in a large dutch oven. Pour tomatoes over the roast and then scatter around garlic cloves.

Cover and bake for 3-4 hours, until roast is very tender and shreds easily. Break into chunks or shred and serve.

Yield: 6 servings

*Note: if you’d like to add extra vegetables, add them when you have about 1 hour left in cooking.

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 25

I love black bean soup. It’s easy, healthy and hearty. It’s been so cold here lately so I thought black bean soup and cheese quesadillas would be a great dinner. This was my first time making this recipe and overall I was very pleased with it. I was hoping for a little more kick spiciness-wise but otherwise it was perfect. The leftovers were even more tasty the next day. This will definitely be in my regular soup rotation!

Spicy Black Bean Soup
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet, December 2008)
Printable Recipe: Spicy Black Bean Soup

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 fresh jalapeño (2 inches), seeded and minced
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 (19-ounces) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups water (I used half water/half chicken broth)
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf

Directions:

Heat oil in a 4-to 5-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Saute onion and jalapeno for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano and salt and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Add black beans, water and bay leaf and simmer, covered. Stir occasionally until soup has thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.

Transfer 2 cups of soup to a blender or food processor (I recommend a food processor – use caution when blending hot liquids!) and purée . Return to pot and heat, stirring frequently. Discard bay leaf. Season with salt and serve.

Yield: 6 servings

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