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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 49

And yet another dessert recipe makes its way into 68 Days of Gourmet. I told myself that I wasn’t going to make any more desserts and that I really needed to make appetizers instead but then I found myself with a serious craving for an apple dessert last night.

It was totally worth it. Does it get any better than warm apple pie/cobbler/crisp and vanilla ice cream? So basic but so satisfying. Comfort food dessert.  I love how easy crisps are – no fooling with pastry crust. I think this was ready to go in the oven in less than 20 minutes – including peeling and cutting the apples. There is nothing fancy about this recipe – it’s just basic and delicious.

I must recap my weekend for you. It was definitely jam packed on the fitness front. Friday morning I attended hot vinyasa at Y2. I am convinced that this is the perfect way to start off a Friday and kick off the weekend. I literally pop out of bed when my alarm goes off at 5:45 and I am NOT a morning workout person!

I taught BodyPump Saturday morning. I was still pretty sore from teaching last Thursday (I guess my body was a little weak coming off of the sickness) but there’s nothing like seeing 21 people up bright and early on a Saturday to get you motivated! I’m really loving that I’m starting to recognize faces and get to know some of the regulars in my classes.

Saturday afternoon was all about the yoga. Last week I signed up for a 3-hour yoga boot camp at Y2. It was 2 hours of hot vinyasa and one hour of long slow deep (holding positions for 5+ minutes). Being relatively new to my practice, I was pretty nervous. I am so happy to report that the class was awesome and I not only survived but felt great. I even managed to be one of 3 or 4 people to hold a plank for 5 minutes! I love the feeling I have at the end of a big fitness achievement (finishing a race, surviving yoga boot camp, etc). It’s great to know that you’ve given it everything you have!

So maybe that gives you a little more background on why I was so ready for my apple dessert last night! :wink:

One year ago: Spicy Thai Noodle Bowl with Tofu

Apple Crisp
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook)
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

FOR THE TOPPING
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/8 teaspoon cinnamon (1 just kind of eyeballed it – probably more like 1-1 1/2 teaspoons)
3/8 teaspoon salt (again, probably used more like 1 teaspoon)
2 sticks unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into tablespoons
1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped

FOR THE APPLES
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 pounds apples (recommended fuji or jonagold)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 navel orange

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3 1/2 to 4 quart baking dish.

FOR THE TOPPING
Combine flour, sugars, cinnamon and salt in a food processor and blend until well combined. Add butter and pulse until mixture forms large clumps. Transfer to bowl and mix in pecans with your fingers. Alternatively, whisk together the flour, sugars, cinnamon and salt and work in butter and pecans with your fingers or a pastry blender.

FOR THE FILLING
Whisk together sugar and cinnamon. Peel, quarter and core apples and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices. Add apples, lemon juice and orange zest to sugar mixture and mix until well combined.

TO ASSEMBLE AND BAKE
Spread apples in prepared baking dish. Crumble topping evenly over apples. Bake until topping is golden brown, 45 to 60 minutes. Let cool a bit and serve warm.

Yield: 8-10 servings

*Note: I easily cut this recipe in half and used a smaller baking dish.

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 48

I hope you didn’t think I’d disappeared. My sore throat ended up morphing into laryngitis and a bad upper respiratory infection and we were out of town. I’m just now starting to feel normal again. To give you any indication of how bad I’ve been feeling, I haven’t worked out since Friday morning. Whatever was going on in my chest was not good and I needed to rest.

In slightly more interesting news, we did a five-course chef’s tasting dinner at Woodfire Grill on Friday night. For those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s Top Chef contestant Kevin Gillespie’s restaurant in Atlanta. I’m going to post a recap of that dinner tomorrow night and my experience meeting Kevin!

And now onto the food you see pictured above. I found this recipe for Chicken Hawaii while I was searching for older recipes to make for the 68 Days of Gourmet project. The recipe was originally published in 1953 and featured some of our favorite ingredients – coconut, curry, pineapple, chicken – it was a must try.

I was so excited about serving the coconut curry braised chicken with all of the fun toppings – lime wedges, pineapple, toasted coconut and chopped macadamia nuts. It smelled amazing while it was cooking but then kind of fell flat in the flavor department. I was so disappointed. There just wasn’t enough curry flavor and it was kind of bland. I was explaining the lackluster dish to my dad and he made a good point, the whole can of full fat coconut milk that I added to the curry mixture probably just washed out the flavor. And he made another funny point that in the 1950s people were really just starting to experiment with bold flavors and served a lot of bland dishes. Maybe this was pretty cutting edge in 1953!

So while I won’t be making this again, I still enjoyed cooking it and liked the idea of serving the dish with toppings so it can be customized to each diner’s taste.

One Year Ago: Lady Strawberry Cake (a show stopper!)

Chicken Hawaii
(Recipe source Gourmet, January 2006 – originally published in 1953)

Ingredients:

1 (3- to 3 1/2-pound) chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
3 tablespoons peeled fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1 tablespoon curry powder (preferably Madras)
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
1 (13 1/2- to 15-oz) can unsweetened coconut milk (not low-fat)

Optional accompaniments for serving: rice, toasted coconut, fresh pineapple cubes, lime wedges, mango chutney,  chopped salted roasted cashews, macadamia nuts or peanuts, chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Directions:

Rinse, pat chicken dry and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Heat oil in a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat. Brown chicken, turning occasionally, 8-10 minutes. You will probably need to do this in 2 batches. Transfer to plate and reserve fat in pot.

Add onion, ginger, garlic, cinnamon sticks and bay leaf to fat in pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is browned, about 5 minutes. Add curry powder and flour and cook over medium heat for 1 minute, stirring  constantly. Stir in sugar, coconut milk and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring and scraping up brown bits from bottom of pot. Return chicken and any accumulated  juices to pot and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through. This should take around 20 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165 degrees. Discard cinnamon sticks and bay leaf. Season with salt to taste.

Serve chicken over rice with sauce from pot and toppings.

Yield: 4 servings

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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 46

It’s been a great weekend! Full of beautiful weather, spending time with our adorable nieces, running (!!!) and pancakes. As my regular readers know, it’s kind of a tradition of ours to make a big Sunday breakfast. This morning Brandon chose pancakes and turkey bacon. We are usually waffle people and I will totally admit that I am not skilled at making pancakes. They’re just one of those foods I can’t seem to master – kind of sad!

I decide to test out two recipes from The Gourmet Cookbook in hopes that I would find a better, more successful pancake recipe. For Brandon, I chose Ruth’s Pancakes (from editor in chief Ruth Reichl) which were described as the pancake to choose if you needed to “pull out all the stops for an extremely special breakfast.” Given the amount of butter the recipe called for I would hope that you would only use this recipe for special occasions! For myself, I chose Whole Grain Pancakes with plans of covering them in almond butter and Greek yogurt.

The results were interesting. I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the way Ruth’s Pancakes cooked. I tried two different skillets (cast iron and non-stick) and couldn’t seem to get them to cook and brown evenly. Also, they were not as light and fluffy as I hoped. I was going to consider them a failure until I served them to Brandon and his first comment was that they tasted delicious – much better than they looked. I’m guessing that the problems I had with the cooking might have been related to the amount of butter in the batter. These were passable this morning but not the perfect recipe to solve my pancake cooking problems.

On the other hand, the Whole Grain Pancakes totally exceeded my expectations. They were fluffy, perfectly golden, cake-like and had a true whole grain flavor. I don’t know if I loved the addition of cornmeal to the batter because they definitely had a cornmeal taste to them but they were still great. I would definitely make them again. I topped mine with almond butter, plain Greek yogurt and maple syrup. Very filling and stayed with me through a big afternoon.

The weather was amazing here this weekend. Sunny and highs in the 60s. Made it through a 4.5 mile run yesterday with minimal leg pain and minimal post-run soreness. Maybe whatever muscle I pulled is finally healing. Saturday night we headed over to my in-laws house for homemade pizza and visiting time with our cute nieces. I can’t resist sharing this picture with you! Happiness!

I was going to take today off of running and go to my Sunday afternoon yoga class but Brandon suggested a trip out to the U.S. National Whitewater Center for trail running with Sullie and I couldn’t say no! He never wants to run with me so I wasn’t going to pass this opportunity up. We got in about 4 miles and had fun checking out the trails.

It’s been a great weekend! :) Up early tomorrow to teach my 6 a.m. BodyPump class.

Ruth’s Pancakes
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook)

Ingredients:

1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil, divided
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Whisk together milk, eggs and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a medium bowl. Whisk in butter until combined. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Whisk in egg mixture until just combined. Do not  over mix.

Heat 1/2 teaspoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour 1/3-cup of batter into skillet, working in batches of three. Cook until bubbles have formed on top and popped, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until undersides are golden brown, about 1 more minute.

Serve immediately with maple syrup or hold in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.

Yield: 3-4 servings (8 pancakes)

Whole Grain Pancakes
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for skillet if desired
1 1/2 cups whole milk (I used skim)

Directions:

Whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together yolks, oil and milk. Add to flour mixture and stir until just combined. Let batter rest for 5 minutes, batter will thicken. (If batter is too thick to fall from spoon, add another tablespoon or 2 of milk.)

Beat egg whites with a handheld mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently whisk into batter until well combined.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Brush with vegetable oil (I skipped this because I was using nonstick). Pour about 1/4 cup batter into skillet and work in batches of about 3-4 small pancakes (or freestyle whatever size you want!). Cook pancakes until bubbles appear on surface and begin to pop and edges are set, about 2 minutes. Flip and continue cooking for another minute or 2, until underside is golden brown.

Serve immediately with maple syrup or hold in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.

Yield: 4-5 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 44

I’ve wanted the ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid mixer for years now. They’re not that expensive, I don’t know why I didn’t just buy it for myself. I was so excited to finally receive the attachment this year for Christmas. I conducted a little poll a few weeks ago on Twitter to see what flavor of ice cream I should make for the first batch. The crowd favorites were Salted Caramel and Maple Butter Pecan. I decided to go with the Maple Butter Pecan because the method was a little simpler. But the Salted Caramel will definitely be making an appearance soon!

This ice cream is so good. How can it not be with pure maple syrup, heavy cream, whole milk and toasted pecans? It’s definitely a splurge. I could only eat a small scoop of this at a time because it was so rich – and this is coming from a huge ice cream fan! I think that I’ll save recipes like this for special occasions and try to use lighter ice cream recipes for everyday consumption.

So after taking two rest days last week, I managed to step it up on the fitness front over the weekend. I attended two 90 minute hot yoga classes and ran 3.5 miles with the pup (in the snow!!!). My leg is definitely still super sore and I have to ice it right when I get in from running but I can make it through short distances. I’m excited to share that my yoga practice was on this weekend. I was feeling really strong and balanced. Loved it.

This morning I taught BodyPump and couldn’t resist taking Sullie for a quick 3-miler when I got home from work. Love that it’s staying light until after 6 p.m.

And I leave you with a cute picture of Sullie in the powdery soft snow we received unexpectedly this weekend and the recipe for delicious Maple Butter Pecan Ice Cream!

Maple Butter Pecan Ice Cream
(Recipe source Gourmet, August 1997)

Ingredients:

3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon maple extract (I substituted vanilla extract)

Directions:

In a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add pecans and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Season with salt, to taste. Cool pecans and chill. (Buttered pecans may be made up to 3 days ahead and chilled.)

In a medium heavy saucepan bring cream, milk, maple syrup and salt just until boiling, stirring occasionally. In a separate medium bowl beat yolks until smooth. Slowly add hot cream mixture to egg yolks in a slow stream, whisking constantly, and then pour back into saucepan. Cook custard over low heat, stirring constantly, until a thermometer registers 170 degrees. (I did not have to reheat my custard in the saucepan, it was already 170 after being added to egg yolks.) Pour custard through a sieve into a clean bowl and cool. Stir in extract. Cover surface of custard with plastic wrap and chill, at least 3 hours or overnight.

Freeze custard in an ice-cream maker (following the instructions for your manufacturer). Fold in chilled pecans. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer to harden. Ice cream will keep for about 1-2 weeks.

Yield: 1 quart

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 43

It’s funny how certain recipes get really popular in the food blogging world. I saw these Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites on Pink Parsley a couple months ago and thought they looked fun. Then I noticed the original recipe was from Gourmet – even better! I thought these would be a kid and adult friendly snack at my niece’s second birthday party a couple weeks ago. Since seeing the recipe on Josie’s blog, they’ve been popping up everywhere. So for my food blogger readers – I apologize if you’ve seen this one several times already.

I am sorry that I’ve been so slack with the blog this week. I’ve had a lot going on and no time to sit down at night to update. We have friends coming to stay with us tonight so I’ve been a busy bee trying to get our tiny apartment presentable and ready for guests. Also, we’ve been dealing with house hunting drama. Thought we finally found something we were excited about making an offer on this week but it didn’t work out. I am seriously sick of looking at houses! It’s been a long process.

It’s been a pretty lackluster week on the fitness front too. More rest days than I’ve had in a long time – which maybe isn’t a bad thing considering the injury and general soreness I’ve had the last several weeks. I taught BodyPump Monday, hot vinyasa yoga Tuesday, rest day Wednesday and taught BodyPump last night. Today is looking like a rest day too. I set my alarm to go to yoga this morning but we didn’t make it to bed until midnight last night (so late for us) so I was not ready to get up at 5:45 a.m. Hoping to get some good yoga classes in this weekend and test my leg out with an easy run.

Update on 68 Days of Gourmet: I’m on day 43 and ready to get this project wrapped up. I did some work this week planning out the rest of the recipes that I’m going to make. Trying to look back to make sure that I have a good balance of all the different recipe categories and a good mix of old and new. I still have a few recipes left to pick so let me know if there’s something you really want to see. I’m happy to take requests. :)

These Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites were a good snack for the birthday party but not something I think I will make again. This was my first time making soft pretzels and I enjoyed the process of making them. It was fun and different. But in the end I didn’t think these were worth all of the work. There just wasn’t enough ham and cheddar flavor to them and I think the dough itself could have used a little salt. I even added more ham and cheddar than the original recipe called for.  Also, I will say that they were much better warm out of the oven than served room temperature.  I’m really surprised that I didn’t love these because they did receive great reviews from the other bloggers who made them?

Promise more updates over the weekend and next week! I’ve got some good stuff planned!

Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites
(Recipe source Gourmet, October 2009)

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar, divided
1/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees)
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (3 ounces) finely chopped country ham or regular ham, divided
1/2 cup finely grated sharp cheddar, divided
6 cups water
4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 to 2 tablespoons sea salt or kosher salt

Directions:

Stir together yeast, 1 teaspoon brown sugar and warm water in a large bowl. Let stand until foamy, 5 to 8 minutes (if mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast). In a separate bowl, stir remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar into warm milk until dissolved.

I used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer for the following steps but you can definitely just follow these directions: add 2 1/2 cups flour and the milk mixture to yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a soft dough forms. Add up to 1/2 cup additional flour, a little at a time, if necessary (which it probably will be – this is an extremely sticky dough). Turn out dough onto a floured surface and gently knead with floured hands a few times to form a smooth ball. Transfer to a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room (ideally around 80 degrees) until doubled and bubbles appear on surface, about 2 hours. Tip – I like to let my bread rise in the oven. I turn it on for a minute or two then switch it off and place the bread in there to rise.

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and cut into four equal pieces. Working with floured hands, gently roll and stretch one piece of dough to form a 12-inch-long rope. Flatten dough and arrange so a long side is nearest you. Roll out to a roughly 12- by 4-inch rectangle with a lightly floured rolling pin. Gently press one fourth of ham and cheese into lower third of rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border along bottom edge. Stretch bottom edge of dough up over filling and press tightly to seal, then roll up as tightly as possible to form a rope. Cut rope into 12 pieces and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Make three more ropes using the same method. Let rest at room temperature, uncovered, 30 minutes (dough will rise slightly).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in baking soda. Cook pretzel bites in batches in gently simmering water, turning once, until slightly puffed, about 20 seconds total. Transfer with a slotted spoon to baking sheets.

Bake until puffed and golden-brown, about 15 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if cheese oozes out a bit.

When you remove pretzels from oven, brush with butter and sprinkle with salt. Serve warm or at room temperature with a honey mustard dipping sauce, if desired. (See original Jalepeno Honey Mustard in original recipe or see my favorite honey mustard here).

Yield: 4 dozen pretzel bites

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 41

Sometimes I struggle with side dish variety. It’s too tempting to make things that are easy and familiar. I wanted to make sweet potatoes with the fig and chili glazed pork tenderloin that I made last night but had an urge to roast them and not just bake them. I browsed through some online recipes at epicurious.com and thought that the spice mixture for these Roasted Spiced Sweet Potatoes sounded perfect to compliment my pork.

The sweet potatoes turned out just as I had hoped. The combination of sweet, savory and spicy was so delicious and would work well with a variety of meals – a fabulous addition to our side dish rotation!

I don’t have many updates on the fitness front since we last talked. My lower calf/upper ankle was extremely sore after yoga Tuesday and all day Wednesday (something I did running Monday). It’s so frustrating because it’s the same leg (left) that always gives me trouble. I had achilles tendonitis when I was training for my first marathon last year and that leg is just still not right. I still get all kinds of weird “popping” sensations and tightness in that spot. You’d think that six weeks of extremely easy running + yoga would leave me ready to start training again but my leg disagrees. BOO! So yesterday I attempted to run a couple miles but it was pretty painful. I came home and iced and foam rolled. It feels much better today so I’m going to attempt my 6 mile training run this weekend. I taught BodyPump tonight and will be heading over to Y2 tomorrow after work for the Prana Dance Party. Tanner has a DJ coming to spin while we practice. Apparently, DJ Hyfi is into yoga and travels around to yoga studios to DJ. Love it – should be fun!

I’m teaching BodyPump Saturday morning and then we’re going to look at houses…AGAIN…hoping we find something this time! I’m ready to be done with house hunting! The weather is supposed to be pretty bad here again this weekend (lots of cold rain, sleet, but no snow this time) so hopefully we’ll be able to go look at houses and I can get my run in. I’ll be talking to y’all soon with updates!

Roasted Spiced Sweet Potatoes
(Recipe source Gourmet, January 2002)
* Total disclosure…I did not measure out the spices below or grind them. I just used ground coriander and left the fennel seeds whole. It was just easier that way!

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon coriander seeds or ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 lb medium sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with foil (for easier clean up), shiny side down. Spray with cooking spray or drizzle with oil.

Coarsely grind coriander, fennel, oregano and red pepper flakes in an electric coffee/spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Stir together spices and salt.

Cut potatoes lengthwise into 1-inch wedges.

Toss wedges with oil and spices in a large roasting pan and roast in middle of oven 20 minutes. Turn wedges over with a spatula and roast until tender and slightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes more.

Yield: 4 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 40

Part two of Sunday’s impromptu brunch. I happened to have all the ingredients on hand for this frittata and it was delicious and easy. A great change from our normal eggs over medium. Also, this really stayed with me all day. I wasn’t  hungry for hours after eating this.

It’s been a busy week so far. I braved the icy roads on Monday morning to teach BodyPump at 6 a.m. Although it was a small crowd we still got a great class in. After work Monday I headed to the Y again to hit the treadmill for day one of my new half marathon training schedule. I really wanted to run outside but there was still a lot of ice on the sidewalks and Brandon told me that my clumsiness + the ice = recipe for disaster. I ran a half mile warm up, 3 miles at tempo speed (about 8:30 pace) and a half mile cool down for a total of 4 miles. After a lot of deliberation I decided to use the Furman FIRST program. I’ll run three times a week – tempo, speed and long. This plan just seemed to work the best for my schedule with teaching BodyPump and maintaining my yoga practice. I don’t think I’d ever want to follow a three day a week program for marathon training (just not enough miles and time on the road) but I do think that it’s great for me to maintain a balance for half marathon training. I’ll keep you guys posted on how it works for me.

Tonight I headed to Y2 Yoga for a hot vinyasa class and it was HARD. The class wasn’t any harder than usual but I think my legs were done after my Sunday yoga practice and two workouts yesterday. My balance was off and I was just sore. But sometimes it’s good to have to dig down deep to make it through. It challenges you in a whole new way – both mentally and physically.

Back to the frittata. I will definitely be making this again. It was a Sunday brunch treat! I think this would be a great dinner too when you’re looking for something simple and flavorful. I think it would be nice with a side salad and a light vinaigrette.

Herbed Ham and Cheddar Frittata
(Recipe source Gourmet, January 1995)

Ingredients:

2 scallions, minced (I used about 2 tablespoons of minced shallot instead – delicious!)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced, or 1/4 teaspoon dried, crumbled
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, minced, or 1/4 teaspoon dried, crumbled
1/4 pound ham steak or thick ham slices from deli, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/3 cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (about 2 ounces)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Heat an 8-inch heavy, ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil, scallions or shallots and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 2 or 3 minutes.

In a bowl whisk together eggs, thyme, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste. Add egg mixture to scallion mixture and cook, without stirring, 2 minutes. Add ham and cook, without stirring, 8 minutes, or until edges are set but center is still soft.

While frittata is cooking, preheat broiler.

Sprinkle cheddar over top of frittata and broil about 4 inches from heat until cheese is bubbling, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with parsley and cut into wedges.

Yield: 2 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 39

At 10 p.m. last night, after a long day of cooking and prep for my niece’s 2nd birthday party, I announced that I was tired and over cooking for a while. I told Brandon if he wanted breakfast this morning he would have to brave the icy road conditions to go get bagels. And then I woke up and found myself in the kitchen making muffins and a frittata. Guess I just needed a good night’s sleep to turn my attitude around!

We got several inches of snow/ice in Charlotte this weekend. That pretty much means that normal life comes to a halt in the South. The roads are super icy and I was worried that the birthday party would be cancelled. They decided to go ahead and have it so I spent all of yesterday preparing the butterfly cupcakes, ham and cheddar pretzel bites and fruit skewers. Blog updates to come soon with the butterfly cupcakes and pretzel bites. Cannot wait to share the cupcakes – they came out better than I hoped and were a huge hit!

I took yesterday as a rest day – the weather was terrible and I had so much cooking to do. We took Sullie for a walk this morning. She had so much fun playing in the snow. This afternoon I went to my favorite yoga class at Charlotte Yoga. Just the best way to wrap up the weekend and get my mind ready for the week ahead.

I made a lot of modifications to the Applesauce Spice muffins. The original recipe called for almost a stick and a half of butter. That just was not happening this morning! I ended up using about 4 tablespoons of  butter (half a stick) and subbing 1/3 cup of plain yogurt for the rest of the butter. Also, I used half wheat flour and reduced the sugar. Felt much better about eating two of these delicious muffins this morning with those changes. They are tender, not too sweet and have a great apple spice flavor. A great way to mix up my normal banana muffin routine! The recipe below is my modification so check out the link below for the original recipe.

Applesauce Spice Muffins
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet, November 2003)
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

FOR THE MUFFINS
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup pecans or walnuts (3 1/2 ounces), coarsely chopped

FOR THE TOPPING
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

Preaheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare 12-muffin pan with cooking spray or cupcake liners.

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar and yogurt until well-combined. Slowly stir in butter, whisking until mixture is creamy. Stir in applesauce, then fold in flour mixture until flour is just moistened. Stir in nuts and divide batter among muffin cups.

Mix together topping ingredients and sprinkle over muffins. Bake about 20 minutes, until tops are puffed and golden. Cool in pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 12 muffins

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