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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 53

I didn’t get a great photo of this salad…it was late and dark and we were hungry…but it’s really delicious. I don’t think a salad can get any better than warm melty goat cheese atop a bed of baby greens with a simple vinaigrette. The warm goat cheese rounds are so easy to make and definitely worth the extra effort. This salad is an easy way to kick up a date night or company dinner another notch!

After our late night Sunday (we didn’t get home until 3:45 a.m.!), it’s taken a while to get caught up this week. I decided to take Monday as a rest day in an effort not to push my tired body too hard. I ran a quick 1.5 mile sprint on the treadmill and taught BodyPump on Tuesday. I went suuuppperrr heavy on my weights and as a result my lower body is really sore! Sometimes it just feels good to push it! This morning I went to a hot vinyasa yoga class before work and took Sullie for a 3 mile jog after work. The weather was beautiful. I think it was 75 degrees today. I can’t wait until this weather is here to stay. I am so much more motivated to run when the days are longer and the weather is nice.

Let’s talk quickly about early morning yoga classes. When I first started practicing, morning classes were a huge struggle. My balance was off and my focus just wasn’t there. Over time, I have become more accustomed to practicing in the morning and I can’t believe the difference in my energy level when I get a good class in before work. I don’t know if it’s the backbends or what but I feel so great and energetic for the rest of the day. And I can compare this to the mornings I teach BodyPump – completely different energy levels. So that’s my interesting tidbit for the day!

Also, just wanted to throw out to you guys that I am ALWAYS open to feedback and suggestions. Please let me know how you’re feeling about the new fitness spin in the posts. I’m still figuring out how I really want to blog about fitness and nutrition – I don’t know if it will be an evolution of this blog or a new blog? Let me know your thoughts!

And one more note…I have 12 recipes left to make for 68 Days of Gourmet and I’m looking for inspiration! Leave a comment or send me an email at bakinandeggs (at) gmail (dot) com if you have suggestions or something you’d like to see. It would be most appreciated :)

One Year Ago: Indian Spiced Chicken Burgers (still one of our favorites – we love this dinner!)

Baby Greens with Warm Goat Cheese
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook, published in Gourmet January 2002)

Ingredients:

1 large egg white
2 teaspoon water
4-6 (1/3-inch-thick) rounds soft mild goat cheese, cut from a cold log (use dental floss for easy cutting)
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs (preferably Japanese panko)
2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch of sugar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 cups mesclun (mixed baby salad greens – about 2 ounces)

Directions:

Whisk together egg white and water. Dip cheese rounds in egg, letting excess drip off, then dredge in bread crumbs, pressing lightly to adhere. Chill 15 minutes.

Whisk together vinegar, salt, mustard, sugar and a pinch of pepper in a small salad bowl. Add 2 tablespoon oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified.

Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté cheese until golden, about 30 seconds per side. Remove cheese rounds from pan.

Add greens to dressing and toss gently to coat. Top with warm goat cheese rounds.

Yield: 2 servings

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Just a quick post to wish you all Happy St. Patrick’s Day and share our dinner with you. We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day one day early because Brandon won’t be home for dinner tomorrow night. I made corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and soda bread. For some reason, I’ve always been a huge corned beef fan and asked for this dinner all the time when I was growing up!

Due to time constraints, I had to make the corned beef in the crockpot. I was leery that it would dry out but it actually turned out pretty well. I think I’ll still prefer boiling it in the future but this worked for a weeknight dinner. I cooked the vegetables and potatoes separately using some of the cooking water for the corned beef when I got home. The cabbage wouldn’t have fit in the crock pot and I knew it would be complete mush if I let it cook all day.

This was my first time making soda bread and we really enjoyed it. It was super simple to make and tasted great. A nice accompaniment to an Irish feast! I opted to use a very basic soda bread recipe – we weren’t interested in caraway seeds and golden raisins. I would describe it as a cross between a biscuit, scone and bread. I enjoyed a slice with butter and jam after dinner!

Corned beef and cabbage will always remain one of my all-time favorite dinners! We can’t wait to enjoy the leftovers.

One Year Ago: Simple Broiled Mahi

Corned Beef and Cabbage
(Recipe source Bakin’ and Eggs)

Ingredients:

1 package corned beef with seasoning packet
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 bay leaf
Enough water to cover
1 small head cabbage
Baby carrots (if desired)
Medium-sized red potatoes

Directions:

Place corned beef in a slow cooker with seasoning packet, garlic cloves and bay leaf. Add water until barely covered. Cook on low for about 6 hours, until fork tender.

Cut cabbage into quarters and place in a large stockpot with potatoes and carrots (if using). Add some of the water from the corned beef plus enough fresh water to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes, until cabbage and potatoes are tender.

Basic Irish Soda Bread
(Recipe source Bon Appetit)

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I used 1 1/2 cups whole wheat and 2 cups of white)
1 teaspoon baking-soda
3/4 teaspoon salt (I used 1 teaspoon)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, plus a couple more tablespoons if necessary

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly flour a baking sheet.
Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Mix in enough buttermilk to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball and turn out onto lightly flour surfaced.  Knead just until dough holds together, about 1 minute. Shape dough into 6-inch by 2-inch-high round. Place on prepared baking sheet and cut a 1-inch-deep X across top of bread, extending almost to edges. Bake until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, 30-35 minutes. Transfer bread to rack and cool completely.

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 51

Part two of our Greek feast – check out my homemade pita bread here. This dinner has been on the list since I first began researching recipes for 68 Days of Gourmet. I thought Kefta and Zucchini Kebabs with homemade tzatziki sounded great. Unfortunately, the kebab thing was not happening! I tried to putting these meatballs on skewers but immediately knew that there was no way they would stay on the skewer. They were falling off. I made a game time decision to cook them inside in a skillet and all was well and tasty with no grilling disasters!

I think one of the biggest milestones you make as a home cook is the ability to deal with situations in the kitchen that don’t go as planned. I had a lot going on in the kitchen – homemade pita bread, making tzatziki, assembling the meatballs and marinating the zucchini. It would have been easy for me to get frustrated and give up on the dinner but I just decided to make the best of it and cook the meatballs and zucchini on the stove top instead. I made a different kefta recipe last year using this method so I knew it would work out.

I don’t blame the recipe for my meatballs not coming together. I forgot to buy pine nuts for the meatballs and don’t know if they might have been a detrimental part of the binding. Regardless, this turned out to be a great dinner. We stuffed our pitas with the keftas and taziki and ate the zucchini on the side. Brandon enjoyed the leftovers in pita sandwiches for lunch.

Quick update on fitness recently. 10 workouts in the last 8 days – all yoga, running (!!!) and teaching BodyPump. Overall, I’ve been feeling great but kind of hit a wall today. I’m a big fan of the time change – love having daylight when I get home to run and hang out outside – but it was really tough getting up at 5 to teach BodyPump this morning. I felt so out of it and exhausted all day. Decided just to relax on the couch, catch up with the DVR and make homemade pizza this evening after work. Exactly what I needed. Sometimes you just need to listen to your body and rest!

One Year Ago: Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella and Basil Salad

Kefta and Zucchini Kebabs
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet, January 2006 – originally published in 1980)

Ingredients:

FOR THE TZATZIKI SAUCE
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (I subbed parsley)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

FOR THE ZUCCHINI
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
2 medium zucchini (around 1 pound), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices

FOR LAMB MEATBALLS (KEFTA)
2 slices firm white sandwich bread, torn into small pieces
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves (omitted, I just increased the parsley)
1 pound ground lamb
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted and finely chopped (omitted because I forgot to buy them!)

12 (10-inch) wooden skewers, soaked for 30 minutes

Directions:

FOR THE TZATZIKI SAUCE
Stir together yogurt, mint/parsley, garlic and salt in a small bowl and chill.

FOR THE ZUCCHINI
Whisk together lemon juice, sugar, salt, pepper and oil in a large bowl and stir in zucchini slices. Marinate at room temperature while making meatballs.

FOR THE KEFTA
Cover bread with water in a bowl and soak 10 minutes. Squeeze handfuls of bread to remove as much excess water as possible and transfer to a bowl.

Pulse onion and herbs in a food processor until finely chopped. Add mixture to bread along with lamb, salt, spices and pine nuts. Mix with your hands until well blended. Form lamb mixture into 36 balls (about 1 tablespoon each).

TO ASSEMBLE
Prepare grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium heat for gas). Thread 6 meatballs, 1/4 inch apart onto each of 6 skewers.

Thread zucchini lengthwise onto remaining 6 skewers (5 slices per skewer). Cut sides should be on grill, leaving 1/4 inch between slices. Grill zucchini and lamb on oiled grill rack, turning over once, until golden and just cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve warm with yogurt sauce.

Alternatively, saute zucchini and meatballs over medium heat on the stove top (in separate skillets) until cooked through, 6-8 minutes.

Yield: 4-6 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 21

I have to admit that I had a mini-meltdown during menu planning this week. I was all over the place and couldn’t make a decision. Sometimes menu planning is so simple for me – it all just comes together. Other times – not so much.  I was just really over thinking it for some reason. While we were unpacking groceries, I was rambling off the menu selections for the week. Brandon seemed pretty pleased with his options so I guess I pulled it off.

We decided to keep it simple tonight with salad and a baked potato. But not just any salad…Frisee Salad with Lardons and Poached Eggs. I flagged this one in The Gourmet Cookbook because a) Brandon loves bacon and b) he thinks pretty much any food is even more delicious topped with an egg. One of his recent favorites has been a fried egg on hamburgers. Extra protein?

I actually made several changes to this recipe but it still turned out fabulously. First, we don’t love frisee – we usually pick it out of the salad mix or its left uneaten on the plate. You can’t even buy it on its own at the grocery store  where we shop and I was not going to make  a special trip for it. I had some baby arugula mix in the fridge so decided to go with that. Second, I realized I was out of red wine vinegar so I used a splash of white wine vinegar and a splash of balsamic instead. And last, I opted to use my egg poacher rather than use the written method for poaching eggs.

I will definitely be making this salad again. How can you not love this combination? And the warm bacon dressing is amazing…although I had to put it in the back of my head that it was essentially bacon grease and vinegar. This is a great easy weeknight dinner paired with soup or a baked potato. It would also be an impressive first course for a dinner party.

Frisee Salad with Lardons and Poached Eggs
(Recipe adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook, printed in Gourmet February 1999)
Printable Recipe: Frisee Salad with Lardons and Poached Eggs

Ingredients:

1/2 pound frisée (French curly endive)
6 ounces slab bacon or thick-cut bacon slices (about 6 slices)
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons shallot, chopped
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Directions:

Tear frisee into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. If using slab bacon, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices. Then cut bacon slices crosswise into 1/4 inch thick strips (these are your lardons).

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, cook bacon, stirring occasionally. Remove skillet from heat when bacon is golden and beginning to crisp. Set skillet aside.

In another skillet, place 1 inch of warm water and set aside. Fill up a 4-quart saucepan halfway with water and stir in white vinegar. Bring liquid to a simmer. Break each egg into a teacup one at a time and slide into simmering liquid. Immediately push white around yolk with a slotted spoon, working gently. Egg should be oval in shape and yolk should be completely covered by white. Using the same method, add the remaining 3 eggs. Simmer eggs for about 1 1/2 minutes for runny yolks up to about 3 minutes for firmer yolks. Immediately transfer eggs to skillet of warm water.

Reheat bacon in its skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook for about 1 minute, stirring often. Add red wine vinegar and boil 5 seconds. Immediately pour hot dressing over frisée and toss with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide salad among 4 plates and top with drained poached eggs. Season eggs with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 17

I was so excited to prepare our Thanksgiving feast with my dad this year. It’s rare that we have the chance to be together in the kitchen and we’ve never cooked the Thanksgiving meal together. This was the first year that Thanksgiving was at my parent’s house instead of my grandmother’s house and while Brandon was in law school we stayed in Birmingham for Thanksgiving due to finals. My mom pitched in with two killer desserts – Sweet Potato Pecan Pie and Apple Cranberry Pie.

We emailed back and forth about the menu for several weeks. We had the main dishes set but wanted to mix things up with the side dishes. I spotted these Creamed Leeks on the Epicurious Thanksgiving Guide and thought they sounded like the perfect accompaniment to our meal. I’m embarrassed to admit that I had never worked with leeks before and I was oh so thankful that my dad had taken to the time to watch a video of the test kitchen director cleaning and preparing the leeks for this recipe.

I wasn’t sure how these would go over with the dinner crowd but I was happy to find that they were extremely well-received. I did get several comments on what a different side dish it was (which was what I was going for!) but everyone enjoyed them – some even went back for seconds.

These Creamed Leeks would be a fabulous side dish to any holiday meal!

Creamed Leeks
(Recipe source Gourmet, November 2006)

Ingredients:

3 1/2 lb leeks, root ends trimmed
2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (from a country loaf, crusts discarded)
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
3/8 teaspoon black pepper, divided
6 tablespoons(3/4 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees (we had other things going on in the oven and couldn’t have the temperature that high so we cooked them a little longer at a lower temperature).

Cut each leek into an 8-inch length, measuring from root end, and halve lengthwise. Then cut crosswise into roughly 1 1/2-inch pieces, you should have about 8 cups). Wash leek pieces in a large bowl of cold water, agitating them, then lift out and transfer to another bowl. Repeat with clean water, then drain leeks well. Watch this video if you have never worked with leeks before.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a medium sized heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir in bread crumbs, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp and pale golden. This should take around 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add leeks and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover the skillet but leave the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape. Cook for about 12 minutes, until tender, stirring occasionally.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer leeks to a gratin dish. Slowly pour cream over leeks and scatter bread crumbs on top. Bake for about 15 minutes, until cream is bubbling and thickened and crumbs are golden brown.

*Notes:
– Bread crumbs can be cooked 1 day ahead, cooled completely uncovered and kept in an airtight container at room temperature. Scatter bread crumbs over leeks just before baking.
– Leeks can be cooked and assembled in dish with cream (but not sprinkled with crumbs) 1 day ahead. Cool completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered.


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