Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A little holiday (chocolate) cheer

I had some food photos and recipes to post, but this week has been a blur. Like many people the Sandy Hook Tragedy has been on my mind all week. Working at a K-8  school definitely made it all more real and horrifying to imagine for me. My school did a good job of putting in the safety and emotional supports needed for teachers and students this week. I was also home sick most of this week with gross bronchitis, cold, and fever.

So, with that being said, I haven't done much cooking this week. But I've been antsy sitting around the house, especially since I love being out at this time of the year.  I did a little project today to get some holiday spirit in my week, and make a little treat for teachers after a long semester (and week). My after school program shares space with lots of teachers, so I like to make little holiday gift thank yous instead of buying random crap that ends up being overpriced.

Growing up my mom always went a little overboard with the gifts she gave my sister and my teachers at the holidays. She would make homemade breads, candy, lemon squares and more. I remember her always being up till 2am the night before putting it together. She was/is definitely hard core.

I'm not quite as hardcore. At all. But, I did take some inspiration from the "bark" she would make our teachers. It's festive, pretty, cheap, and easy.  The great thing about this is that you can use your chocolate of choice and any combo of toppings: peppermint, chopped nuts, caramel, cookie crumbles, pretzels, graham crackers, orange zest. Basically whatever!

To keep it simple and cheap I did toasted coconut and dried cranberries. I would usually also do pistachios to add some festive color, but I was worried about nut allergies at school.  My mom always did white chocolate with cranberries and pistachios.

Chocolate Holiday Bark:

1 lb chocolate of your choice ( I got the big 1 lb milk chocolate bar at TJs, but you could do any dark chocolate for dairy free)
1/4 cup of each topping

1. Grease a baking pan (I use a 9 by 12 inch)
2. Put parchment paper over greased baking pan.
3. In a double boiler(or with a heatproof pan over simmering water pot) melt chocolate.
4. As soon as all chocolate is melted, pour evenly across baking pan.
5. Use a baking spatula to spread evenly (but doesn't have to be perfectly even, and can be pretty thin, like 1/4 inch thick)
6. Sprinkle toppings evenly across hot chocolate (I then press the toppings lightly into the chocolate with the back of the spatula to make sure it is stuck in the chocolate).
7. Place pan in fridge for an hour (or until solid)
8. Break sheet of chocolate into pieces. They don't need to be even but can be the size of your liking.
9. Put in bag and tie with ribbon!( I like to string on a tag with the ingredients as well)


Holiday Partay in a bag!
I'll be in NYC and Portland,ME for the next 10 days or so. Hopefully I"ll kick this cold(knock on wood) before I leave. Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Latkes for the win

Pheewwww. And done!

This week was a blur. My after school program ended it's fall session last night, which means 2 kiddo free weeks ahead. We had our parent night/student showcase last night, which went really well. But it meant a crazy week of preparing and executing the event. Burnt myself out a bit, and per usual, woke up this morning with a sore throat, stuffy nose, and aches. Seems to be what happens after a week like this week.

But I've got some fun things on tap for the weekend, so I'm taking today to rest, rest, rest. Fingers crossed this doesn't get worse. Weekend plans include a Chinese dinner at my fiances organization, and a Hanukkah/winter holidays party at our apartment tomorrow night.

Tomorrow night's party will have some seasonal festive Hanukkah bites including latkes(Trader Joe's- I'm lazy) and some crock pot pot roast (I'll post my recipe after the partay). Additionally we'll have some small bite appetizers, which is my favorite way to eat!

The highlight of last week's eats was a kick off Hannukah dinner at my parents. My mother's latkes are the BEST. So crisp and delicious! Also had some fabulous brisket, chopped salad, and vegan chocolate cupcakes for dessert. I could eat stacks and stacks of these latkes...

Looks like your average salad. But so much more. Chopped romaine, tomatoes, olives, cukes, feta, and lemony dressing.

Latkes and Brisket. Best Ever.

I don't even try to attempt to make my own latkes. First, the smell permeates everything in the house you cook them in, which drives me crazy. Also, I just couldn't make them this delicious!

On another note, I'm doing mostly gym workouts. My run on Sunday ended with my shins getting aggravated again which was frustrating. Just getting overall frustrated with my runs, so trying to rest and take a break. Not liking it though.

And to end things.........

Best Hanukkah gift ever. I don't know where to start because everything looks so delish!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The week in recipes and some twinkly lights

Once again, I neglected my posts. Oh no! As we get close to winter break, things with the kiddos are busy busy, and I've been exhausted. I have made time for some cooking though! Here is a little photo(with some recipes) recap of some highlights from the last week or so.

I also threw in a twinkly light photo from beautiful Boston at this time of year. I seek out all outdoor lights displays I can. I'm a little obsessed. Yesterday afternoon, I went for a run through the twinkly lights. So lovely!

This is the park strip in the middle of Commonwealth Ave. The lights go all the way from Boston Commons to Kenmore Square. They are on every night till like March. Go to it! Now!
I have been taking long stretches between runs to make sure I don't strain my shins again. The benefit is that when I go on a run now, my legs feel so much better and rested, and I've also been trying out some new types of classes and exercise (Check out my Weekly Exercise page to see what I'm up to).The downside is I'm having trouble building up mileage. I also don't have an upcoming race anytime soon, so that also makes it hard. I like to have a goal I'm working towards, so it's hard to build up mileage with no real race or set distance goal in mind.  Maybe I'll check out if there are any races in the late winter/early spring I'd be interested in....I"m thinking my next challenge will be a 10 miler.

Now, on to the food!

Big batch of kale pesto this week. Tossed with oriochette pasta(from TJs), kalamata olives, and sprinkled with parmesan cheese(Approximate recipe follows. I estimated the amounts, since I usually just eyeball it as I blend)
I added chicken to the mix the 2nd night we had it.
Kale Pesto:
1 large bunch kale(any variety)
1/4 cup chopped nuts of choice(I like walnuts or almonds)
1/4-1/3 cup parmesan cheese( I freshly shred it)
1/4 cup olive oil 
1/4 cup water (or a little less if you like thicker)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp lemon juice or red wine vinegar

1. Put kale, nuts,and cheese in food processor. 
2. Drizzle oil through top while blending, then do the same with the water(this is based on how liquidy you like your pesto. I also try to limit the amount of oil,but you can definitely add more to make it more saucey)
3. Add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste.
4. Blend and add more oil or water until reach desired consistency.

One of my favorite Sunday dinners is a good roast chicken. You can then use it throughout the week. We used it in the pasta and made some chicken salad with it later in the week. When I first roasted a chicken about 1 1/2 years ago, I loosely used a Thomas Keller recipe I found online. I now do some variation on that. The key is the heat level to get a good crisp skin! 

Some breast and drumstick. With sweet potatoes, wilted spinach, and slow roasted garlic and onions on the side.

Roast Chicken:
1 roaster chicken(I usually do about a 4.5-5 lb bird)
salt and pepper
olive oil

1. After cleaning out the bird, I put it in the roasting pan.
2. Sprinkle thyme, salt, and pepper into the cavity of the bird. 
Rub into cavity. Stuff cavity with 1/2 lemon, 2 garlic cloves, and 1/4 of an onion.
3. Lightly oil bird. Season generously with thyme, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Rub seasonings into skin.
4. Cook for 25 mins at 
475 degrees.
5. Turn down heat to 
400 degrees and cook for about 50 minutes(or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees). Add onions and garlic to roasting pan about 40 minutes into cooking, and let caramelize.
6. When it reaches internal temperature, remove from stove and let rest about 25 minutes before carving.
7. Serve with any assortment of goodness. I like some roasted sweet potatoes and a spinach salad.

****The high heat at the beginning creates a great crisp skin. Also I do NOT baste the chicken. I read that basting creates steam, and leaving it alone gives you a crispier skin. As you can tell, I'm all about the crispy skin.

And something random I found at a bookshop that includes one of my favorite people and one of my favorite creatures. 

Ok, that is all! I"ll be back soon with a recap of a fabulous dinner out from last weekend. Let's just say it included duck and mussels. Enough said.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

T-giving Recap a.k.a the week of food

Where to start.....

Well the last week consisted of lots of eating, lots of family, and lots of bustling around the city. Just a few family squabbles thrown it, but that is par for the course. I also was able to keep up with some exercise which made me feel good and not too lunky from all the Thanksgiving festivities.

Some Food highlights included:

- Thanksgiving, obviously. My mom and I did the majority of the cooking(my mom doing most) and my dad did the turkey. I love making all the side dishes and getting down and dirty in the kitchen all morning. I have to say though that cooking all day makes me exhausted by the time we eat. I enjoyed eating leftovers the next day, which did not include hours of cooking. My favorite dishes of the day were my mom's potato leek soup (Barefoot contessa recipe), the maple glazed carrots, and the cranberry/chestnut/sausage stuffing. Both the carrots and sausage stuffing are from a William Sonoma cookbook my mom found a few years ago, and we love it! Well..I also can't forget the Parmesan brussel sprouts AND pecan pie(homemade by my mom). So full! But not too full to eat it again the next day.
Green Beans with mushrooms and shallots!
Stuffing with sausage, cranberries, and chestnuts. Now that's the good stuff.

Maple glazed carrots
Parmesan brussel sprouts

- Lunch at The Parish Cafe with my fiance's parents. It is this great restaurant in downtown Boston. They have yummy salads and appetizers, but their claim to fame is the sandwiches. They have the recipes for sandwiches from a bunch of famous restaurants around Boston, and they recreate them. I got a great beet salad, and Robert (fiance) had a delicious chicken sandwich and a fried fish sandwich.

- BBQ! On Saturday night we got take out from Blue RIbbon BBQ which is delicious! We had some groupons from there that Robert saved up. We are using them to cater our wedding, so we had the family try it for the first time. Ohhhh burnt ends....they are a religious brisket experience. Must try!

Otherwise, life is back to normal. Lots of middle schoolers, lots of tiring days. But this is my favorite time of year, so I can't complain. Nothing is better than the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not only is there Hanukkah and potato latkes, but all the music, lights, and holiday cheer make me oh so happy! We're hoping to go see the "lighting" of the trees in Boston Common tomorrow night. I may faint from excitement.

In exercise news, I did my first spinning class and loved it. Went by so fast and pushed me harder than I usually ever push myself while exercising. And the bumpin' music makes it fly by. I've done a few runs, and my shins have felt OK (knock on wood), but i"m still trying to slowly build up mileage again. Hoping for 4 miles this weekend....we'll see!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ode to the appetizer meal

Our Thanksgiving week of festivities kicked off with a little get together at our apartment. It was cozy to say the least, with 8 people in our little living room. Tonight we are having a full dinner with all of my Fiance's family. Should be ultra cozy!

One of my favorite types of meals is an appetizer spread. I think that's why I love tapas so much, because you get to have a variety of little bites and graze all evening. I think I end up eating much more because I"m just munching away, but it's such a fun(and easy) way to eat and entertain. Growing up we'd often have Friday night appetizer "dinner" in the living room in front of the fire. We'd have things like bread and cheese, hummus and carrots, and often a big salad as well.

So to entertain our family last night, we'd did an appetizer spread. So yum! My father is the ultimate appetizer man. If he was left to his own devices he'd eat salami, bread, and cheese for every meal. Also  a side of corn chips and salsa. That is all that man needs.

Our spread included:

- Cheese, salami, and cracker platter (the photo was before I put the cheese and salami out)
- Jalapeno jelly I made and canned last year (for the crackers and cheese)
- Olives
- Hummus and Carrots
- Blue Corn Chips and Salsa
- Big Salad of arugula, toasted almond slivers, avocado, tomato, mushrooms. Gorgonzola and mustard vinaigrette on the side.

It was such a lovely night of relaxing while chatting, drinking wine, and eating little plates of food for hours.

Tonight we're doing a pasta and salad dinner for my fiance's family, who is seeing our apartment for the first time. The pasta dish is one that we love. It is Penne with chicken sausage, artichokes, tomatoes, and olives. We then bake it in the oven topped with some Parmesan cheese.

I'll be sure to snap some photos and do a more detailed recipe after tonight!

Today is a half day for kids at school, so I'm scooting out early to try and get in a nice run. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, November 19, 2012

When the running stars align

I had one of those runs on Saturday. It was the kind of run that reminds you why you love running in the first place.

My runs over the past few weeks have been frustrating. Just having a period of tough runs and couldn't seem to get in my groove. I'm also struggling with some shin splints, and it was so frustrating that during each run around mile 1-1.5, my left shin would start to hurt really bad. I was just not feeling running and was having trouble remembering why I enjoy running.

So I tried to actual let myself rest, and didn't run for the week. I went out Saturday for a run, a little nervous about how it would feel. It was good. Really good.

Not only did I run 3 miles without any shin pain(knock on wood!), but it was one of those runs that was at the perfect place, at the perfect time, and I was loving it. I love running in the fall, especially in the late afternoon, just before it gets dark.

I went on a run down Commonwealth Ave in Boston, which has a park strip that runs through the middle of the street, which is perfect for running. Every year they light the 10 blocks of trees along this path with twinkling lights. I was wondering when this would happen. As I was getting in my running groove, enjoying the pinkish fall sky, and the beautiful foliage, I saw that there were people stringing lights up in the trees. And then...BAM! The twinkling lights were turned on.

It might have been a "you had to be there" moment, but it was quite magical. The mix of no leg pain, a fall evening, and festive outdoor twinkling lights, gave me a good runner's high.

We'll see how the next run I do is. I'm trying to take at least 3 days between runs to allow my shins to not get aggravated again.

Hopefully I'll get another nice twinkly lights run.  I'll be back later this week with some food updates. We have family in town for the holiday week so there have been lots of dinners out or at my parents house. Not much cooking for myself this week, but I"ll be making the meal on Thursday with my mother, so I'll snap some cooking photos.

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Weekend adventures and eats

Long weekends are always a mixed bag. I love the extra day off, especially when Sunday night feels like Saturday. Very lovely. But, short weeks seem to send students into a bit of a tizzy. They are always a bit off when they return to school after that extra day off. All things considered, most students did well today. Rainy weather and no outdoor recess is always a tough combination. Lots of pent of energy explodes around 2:20 when I begin working with kids. Definitely means I"ll get a good night sleep tonight.

Because I didn't work yesterday, I had some extra time to cook and make a big batch of soup. I followed Kath's recipe I've been eyeing for awhile. Definitely is worth it to cook dry beans instead of canned. I also made a few changes including....
- Didn't use bacon, but added chicken sausage at the end.
- Added about 1 Tbsp of red wine vinegar at the end to add some good acid to balance the flavors.
Big pot of goodness
 So warm and comforting! I made some garlic bread on the side, which I haven't made for years. I took a baguette and rubbed it with garlic cloves. Then added some olive oil, salt, and pepper and put it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 mins. The perfect dipping utensil for soup!
Dipping magic

In the afternoon I also made a batch of granola. My fiance loves granola for his yogurt in the morning, and I do an improvised granola that is different each week. My basic recipe is:

-3 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 cup flax seeds
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
-1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 cup raisins
-1/4 cup chopped nuts(usually almonds)
- 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips.

Easy Granola Recipe:
1. Mix together dry ingredients and almonds (not raisins or chocolate)
2. Pour honey and vanilla into dry ingredients, and combine until evenly coated.
3. Put granola on a greased baking pan(or line with parchment paper).
4. Evenly spread granola on pan and bake at 250 degrees for 40 mins.
5. Check every 15 minutes and stir granola in pan. Remove when oats are lightly browned.
6. Let cool and add raisins and chocolate.

One last thing.......

When I was away in the Berkshires this weekend, we got this delicious hard apple cider. It was made in Mass with Roxbury Russetts, which are named for the Boston neighborhood where the tree was first grown. Pretty cool....and quite the delicious drink.

Just added an exercise page to the blog. I'm using it as a way to keep track of my workouts each week and hold myself accountable.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Hot/Cold Salad

Salads are one of my food staples. We have a salad with dinner most every night. We often do a "big salad" as the main course for dinner, especially in the heat of the summer. Summer salads are packed full of fresh veggies, and often chicken salad or hard boiled eggs to make it a meal.

But one of my all time favorites, particularly in the fall, is my "hot/cold salad". I love a salad of fresh greens and crunch raw veggies(radishes, peppers, turnips etc. in the fall) with a nice warm element on top. My go to is a top my salad with a warm scoop of brown rice and some tofu. The warm rice and cool, crunchy veggies are such a great compliment to each other. It's also nice and filling.

Recently I have a new salad combo that I can't get enough of. It seems a bit weird but it is so good. I make a salad with arugula and veggies. Then I make some tuna salad for protein. My tuna salad is usually:

- 1 can of tuna (usually Trader Joes Albacore tuna)
- 1 Tbsp mayo
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mayo
- 1 tsp dill
- pepper and salt to taste

Then I put roasted acorn squash on top for the warm element. It is just so good and comforting.  My roasted acorn squash method is:

Roasting Acorn Squash:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds
- Drizzle squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper
- Drizzle with about a tsp of maple syrup on each side.
- Put cut side up on a baking pan (add enough water to the pan to surround the squash and avoid burning)
- Cook about 40 minutes or until squash is tender and lightly browned on top.

You can swap in any other protein(chicken, tofu, eggs) or another squash, like butternut. It's an easy and filling weeknight meal.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Playing catch up

I'm a bit behind in my posts. It was a crazy work week so I didn't have a chance to chat about last weekend. As for THIS weekend I had a lovely trip to the Berkshires with my bestest lady friends. It was filled with beautiful weather, yummy meals, wine and cheese cocktail hour, and lots of time to catch up.

But let's back up to last week. As far as exercise it was a tough week to get motivated. The cold weather last week made it difficult to get motivated to get out of bed early or go to the gym after work. Now that it gets dark early, I just want to go home and relax after work. I've realized I need to exercise in the morning or it just won't happen.

I got in a few runs last weekend, but I am having some shin splint issues, which is new for me. I then  rested all week from running to try and recover from them. We'll see how they feel tomorrow when I attempt another run. All I know is shin splints are quite uncomfortable and frustrating.

Last weekend was my fiance's bday, so we did lots of good eating. Not the healthiest weekend of food, but birthdays are all about indulgence and celebration. Saturday we went to a cozy local Italian restaurant for a delicious meal. We had a yummy antipasto to start which included cheese, bread, olives, and prosciutto and salamis. I got a pasta dish that had a creamy(but no dairy) tomato/white wine sauce and chunks of cod. It was really well seasoned and the fish was light and tender. He got a gnocchi with a meat ragu. All around delicious.

For the actual bday, we did some lunch at a sports bar, and then I made a birthday din. His favorite food is lasagna, but since I'm lactose intolerant we don't ever eat it. But, I love making lasagna and thought this would be a great chance to do it. Here is the lasagna recipe I used. It was easy and delicious.
Lots and lots of cheese

For sauce I used Prego brand Fresh Mushroom. I also added in some chicken sausage to the sauce. Since I can't have dairy, I made myself some penne with the lasagna sauce, spinach, and parmesan cheese. So good! I can have parmesan because it's aged and the lactose sugars break down in the process.

Pasta for the non lactose lady

For dessert I made apple crumble. Always a favorite. I don't have a specific recipe, but here is my approximate recipe:

5 Macoun apples
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch of allspice
4 Tbsp Earth Balance(or whatever butter you use)

1. Mix together filling and cook in a greased pan for 30 mins at 350 degrees. Have it covered with tin foil while cooking.
2.  Mix topping ingredients with a fork until it has an even crumbly texture. Pour over filling after it has cooked for 30 mins.
3. Cook for another 30 mins uncovered, or until top is lighted toasted, and filling is bubbling.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Cooking with Sandy

What a week. I hope everyone on the East Coast is safe and didn't suffer too much damage. The damage done to NY and NJ is terrible. My thoughts are with them all. Here in Boston we were lucky to too not have too much damage, just lots of rain and wind. We were lucky to not even lose power at our apartment. I had two days off of school, so that resulted in hunkering down and cooking, working out in the living room, reading, and catching up on some TV. Very relaxing.

Cooking during the storm included a roast chicken(I'll post my go to roast chicken recipe later this week) and some amazing pumpkin chocolate chip cookies(gluten and dairy free). YUM! I'm very lactose intolerant, so any tasty dairy free deserts are good in my book. I got the recipe online at this website but adapted a little. The original recipe is on the link, but my adapted recipe is below:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Coookies:
2 cups almond flour
2 Tbsp coconut(unsweetened and shredded)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
dash of salt
Dark chocolate chips(1/2 cup or more)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl.
3. Mix wet ingredients together in a bowl.
4. Slowly mix in dry ingredients into wet, into well mixed and incorporated.
5. Scoop heaping Tbsp size balls on a lined baking sheet. Press down with palm to flatten cookies a bit.
6.Cook for 20 mins at 350.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A little food improv

I'm tired. Working with middle schoolers is like a daily workout for the mind and body. Oh my, what a week so far!

Luckily there have been a few good eats and some good exercise that occurred. Not always the best workouts, but they happened. Hitting the gym after work at 7:45pm, is not always the best. I felt good after, but was completely exhausted and it was hard to give it my all.  This morning I did a solid 2.5 mile run before work. Such a lovely crisp fall day. My ipod shuffle was not charged, but it was actually a good break. I just enjoyed the fall weather, the Charles  river, and some time to myself to think.

Highlight of the week was my version of Bibimbop, the Korean rice bowl dish. It is not an authentic version, but it is quite delicious anyways. The authentic version would have kimchee and various pickled veggies, along with a seared protein of sorts. It's our new go to weeknight meal.

So easy. Here are the steps:

1. Make a pot of rice. I like brown rice.
2. Chop up some raw veggies. I like doing radishes and peppers.
3. Saute some greens with onions and mushrooms( I like bok choy and kale).
4. Throw some protein on. It's a great way to use up leftover chicken, tofu, or tempeh(my fav choice).

Put this all together in a bowl. The last step is fry an egg and throw it on top. I like an over easy egg. I break the yolk immediately and then mix it all together. So good!

This is all just an improvisation. The main idea is to have a warm rice bowl(with whatever you like in stir fry) and have an egg on top. I also recommend throwing on a hot sauce at the end.

Goodness in a bowl. Mix that up!!

Now I"m gonna dig into this!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Nothing original..but all delicious!

It's been a week/weekend of some good cooking and eats. And a few runs thrown into the mix.

First, Running....

I'm trying to build a good base. My weekly plan is...
- 1 rest day
- 2 days of cross training, usually elliptical
- 3-4 days of running(1-2 shorter runs, 1 mid length run, 1 longer run)

I'm not doing any speed work, just trying to build up some more endurance with distance. Also trying to not lose the momentum I got training for my first 10k. We'll see how it goes. I've been starting to feel sick(every one at my school is sneezing everywhere) which means I'm "taking it easy". I"m not always so good at that. But I got in a 4.5 run on Friday and some cross training yesterday.

Now, food!
 Made some recipes this weekend from some of my favorite blogs/recipe sites. No original recipes, but all things I've been wanting to try out.

 On Friday I made stuffed acorn squash from daily garnish blog. So good! I adjusted a few things...
1. Added chicken sausage to the stuffing
2. Added a little honey to the dressing

Roasted Acorn Squash..yumm!
Little chicken sausage thrown in
Woke up this morning(Sunday) and wanted to try something new. Decided to throw together Kath's Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal. Good way to start the day and fuel to run. I changed a few things...
1. Almond milk since I can't have dairy.
2. Added some flax meal for extra umph.

Good start to Sunday. Plans for today include...a little shopping at the new Marshalls, hopefully a run, and enjoying my crock pot soup tonight after drinks with friends! Love when dinner is cooking all day without needing my attention. Got the recipe from a friend last year that found it only. Busting with flavor and sooo easy to make.
See you in 8 hours!

I'm back

It's been almost 2 months since my last post. Not sure why I disappeared. Life just took over and the blog went to the wayside. But I'm back, and hoping to enjoy writing and sharing my obsession with fall and fall cooking/running/celebrating.

Since I"ve been gone...

1. My after school program started up. This was part of my disappearance. Handling 60 middle schoolers every day took over my life. Now it's getting a little smoother.

2. I ran a 10K!!!! In less time than my goal. I had a goal of 1 hour and 5 mins(10:30ish pace) but I finished in 59 minutes(9:30ish pace)! It was definitely the hardest thing I've ever done physically. But wow, what a feeling. As they say, it really is all mental. I also had the training in and had built up my legs and endurance, but a lot was mental and just pushing myself. My most useful mantra was "pain is temporary, pride is forever". I just kept thinking about finishing and knowing that(as a type A person) I would want to know I pushed myself as hard as I could during the whole race.

3. I got older. Had a lovely bday. The lovely fiance got me a garmin(so much fun for the race), took me out for a fabulous dinner, and went to open studios in a local Boston neighborhood. So lovely! Had a fun night of drinks, chatting, and relaxing with my favorite peeps the Saturday eve of my bday. Love my cozy friends.

So, I'm back. Food and pics will be coming in later posts. And I"ll do a full recap of the Tufts Women's 10k. I recommend it to everyone. It was great!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Celebrating Julia Child

I'm in a bit of running slump right now. I"m in the third week of my 10k training plan, and I'm just struggling. Just having runs where I feel worn, tired, lunky, and just plain bleeeh. Running is never easy, but right now it feels so hard.

I'm trying to tell myself it could be the heat or just normal running slump. But it's frustrating. Hopefully i can ride it out and it'll improve. Just frustrating!

So, onto food which is more fun. The other night I did my favorite soba dish. This was one of my favorite adaptation because:

1. I roasted A LOT of eggplant to put into it.
2. The raw green beans and crunchy yellow zucchini hit the spot.

Yesterday for lunch, I had one my favorite things....Summer Salad! I'm going to miss having such wonderful ingredients for salads when summer is over. It is so easy to make such a fresh, beautiful, delicious salad in summer. I threw a big glob of hummus on this and ate with some pita. Totally hit the spot. Seriously, you just can't find a tomato that color in the winter.

Included was....
Red leaf lettuce
Green beans
Heirloom Tomato
Yellow Zucchini
Green Pepper

Yesterday would have been Julia Child's 100th bday. I adore her. And it made me so happy to see this as the google homepage photo yesterday. I watched a bunch of videos on the pbs website of her show The French Chef to celebrate. She is one fabulous lady!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Weekend Musings

Saturday was hot and heavy.

Hot because it was very humid and I spent the first 6 hours of my day outside.

Heavy because there was a lot of lifting of corn bags and crates of vegetables to be done.

That all means I was working at the Farmer's market on Saturday. Hot and heavy, but lovely despite it. For these reasons:

1. I was outside (and under a tent, so not too bad)
2. I got to play with veggies all day.
3. I came home with a giant bag of veggies for the week!
4. Got in my workout for the day, while getting paid :)

My favorites are the cherry tomatoes. We have about 7 or so varieties we sell. So sweet and beautiful to look at. The strangest thing is that winter squashes and apples are appearing at the market. I love fall, but it just feels to early!

As much as I love fall, the end of summer means that the school year is gearing up. My students are great, but it means longer, more intense days. Gotta get myself mentally prepared. But for now I"ll enjoy the last few weeks of summer...and the deliciousness that comes with it.

I came home with a bag full of:

  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Beets
  • Sun gold cherry tomatoes(the best)
  • Eggplant(Japanese and Calliope)
  • Cukes
  • Plums and Peaches
  • Garlic
Cooking plans for the week include:

1. Big salads of all those glorious items
2. Soba Noodles with veggies
3. Ratatouille(depending on how hot it is this week)
4. Dill potato salad end the weekend I got to eat some delicious pasta at my parent's house. Full of chicken sausage, artichokes, olives, capers, and tomatoes! Yum! And play with my favorite cat friend. She is also very distraught that the Olympics are over :(

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Soba it up!

Last week and part of this week was filled with eating out. We had family in town so that included some delicious meals out, and a yummy bbq at my parent's house. What is better than hotdogs, homemade potato salad and coleslaw, and blueberry cake!

My mother is the best cook around! But I miss being in the kitchen and cooking it up. So today I went to the farmer's market downtown. I grabbed all the good stuff I could get my hands on. It was late, because I went after work, so they were low on some things. But I got...

  • Japanese Eggplant
  • Pattypan squash
  • Yellow Peaches
  • Cucumbers
  • Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes
  • Field Tomatoes
  • Basil 
I could eat sun gold tomatoes all day, every day.

 I used most of the items for salads and munchies for hummus dipping. I threw together another batch of pesto(previous post for recipe) to freeze.

** If you get basil and don't plan to use it right away, a great way to extend its life is to put it in a glass of water(like flowers) and leave it in the fridge.

One of my newest(last few months) dish to make for dinner is soba noodles. I used to eat them when I was young and then rediscovered them. They are so versatile AND great chilled in the summer. Robert and I have been eating this dish at least once a week for the past few months. The great thing is that you can throw anything in. I stick to the same marinade/sauce, but just put in whatever veggies I have around.

Sadly I completely forgot to photograph this dish last night. I stuffed it in my mouth too fast and then realized I hadn't grabbed a shot. Next time, I promise!

Soba with tofu and veggies:
Dressing: For the dish AND as a marinade(for tofu and roasted veggies):
**This is enough for a serving that uses a little of half a pack of soba (about 3-4 servings)
  • 1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder (or 1/2 fresh clove minced)
  • 3 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Added salt and pepper to taste
Veggies in the mix this time(can be changed based on what is available):
  • Kale- julienned in slivers
  • pattypan squash
  • green beans
  • scallions
  • edamame beans
Cooked ( I just lightly cook these in the oven at 350 F until done; the eggplant takes longer than the mushrooms so I pull them out first)
  • Mushrooms- crimini
  • Eggplant
Other Suggestions(raw or cooked): Zucchini, roasted garlic, tomatoes, bok choy, cabbage.

  •  Press tofu under weights(between paper towel) for 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Slice tofu into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • Dip each slice in marinade (or marinate tofu in sauce overnight for better results)and place on baking sheet
  • Bake tofu at 350 F for about 40 minutes (or until lightly browned) flipping after 20 minutes.
  • Let tofu cool and then cut into cubes.

Put it all together:
  • Combine noodles, veggies, and tofu.
  • Dress noodles with about 3/4 of the dressing.
  • Place in fridge to chill.
  • When chilled, add the rest of the dressing to the noodles and combine(often when the noodles chill they clump together, so the extra dressing loosens things up)


Friday, August 3, 2012

Beans that are a good way.

It's hot here. The Northeast is humid and feels like a sweat lodge right now. Despite this, I was determined to make a batch of pickled spicy green beans...a.k.a. mean beans. I have accumulated a bunch of beans and need to pickle them up!

I don't can the pickles, because I find that doing the traditional water bath canning method affects the texture of the pickled items (either cukes or beans). Also, we eat these fast! Instead you can make "refrigerator" pickles After you jar them, you let them sit in the fridge for 3-4 days, and then crack them open. They stay good in the fridge for 3-4 weeks. And we eat them in about a week, so there is no need to worry. I"m sure you'll eat them just as quickly.

I got a mix of green beans and yellow wax beans. You can really use anything.

Wash and dry the beans. Then cut off the ends.  For jars, the store I went to only had 1/2 pint mason jars, so I used them. Because they are small I had to cut most beans in half. You can use any size jar for these.

I wash and dry the jars first. I don't know if this is necessary but I like to do it.

Then I make the "pickling liquid":

  • 2 1/2 cups white vinegar (with 5% acidity)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup salt

*Mix in a pot and bring to a boil.

While that is boiling I put in my flavorings. I call these means beans because they are spicy. But you can do whatever flavor combos you want. I'm not a huge spicy fan, but these have a nice heat. If you like a bit of heat, but not burning, this amount should work for you.

In each jar I put...

  • 1/4- 1/2 tsp Cayenne
  • 1 tsp dried dill or 1 sprig fresh dill
  • 1 clove garlic

Then, I pack in the beans. You need to leave about 1/2 inch of headspace in the jar. The liquid should cover the beans and still leave that 1/2 inch of space in the jar. When liquid starts boiling, ladle it into jars. The liquid should cover the beans.

Then wipe the jars and edges, put on the lid, and screw on the jar band. Let them sit on your counter until they are at room temp, and then place them in the fridge.  After 3-4 days, crack them open!

AND when you are done with the beans, keep that brine. It is SO good for Bloody Mary's, dressings, and lots more!

We went through the last batch in 1 week, so I'm counting the hours until these will be good and ready to crunch into. Maybe some snazzy Bloody Mary's with the last batch's brine will be used this weekend.....

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Trying to embrace the summer heat

Despite the humidity I am enjoying summer this year more than I usually do. I haven't been to the beach much, which is the one thing I'd like to improve over the next month.

Part of my summer enjoyment might be that after an exhausting year with middle school students, the summer feels like a much needed relief. I also can't get enough of the summer foods. I just want to walk around farmer's markets all day and make food with/eat everything I see.

That being said, fall is still my favorite season. Crisp autumn days cannot be beat by this gross humidity.

Tuesday I stumbled upon a Farmers Market downtown. Well, not really "stumbled". More like I knew it was happening, and took a longer route home to go to it. Totally worth it. It was glorious. One of the vendors has the most beautiful displays of their beautiful vegetables. They are the farm that is partners with one of my favorite restaurants, and uses the vegetables in their amazing middle eastern dishes.

The veggies are always great from there. But I think I'd buy them anyways just based on the displays. They have quite the veggie artist/sales team at that vendor.

I had to remind myself that my fridge is still full, so I just got some blueberries and basil. I kept the buying under control. That basil is going into a nice batch o' pesto. Yum!  I'm not a fan of super oily pesto, so I've adapted my method to get it tasty and fairly smooth, but without lots of oil.

This makes enough to coat pasta to serve 4, or 2 batches to serve 2. I always add some arugula for some bite, and sometimes kale.

4 cups basil leaves
1 cup arugula
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (sometimes a little more based on taste)
1/4 cup nuts (walnuts are my favorite but any work)
3 Tbsp EVOO (more if you like it creamier)
1 Tbsp water
pepper and salt to taste

Blend in food processor until at desired consistency.
** I like to add the oil through the top spout on the food processor as I pulse it. Slowly add as you blend.

I apologize for the low low quality photo. The camera phone doesn't quite capture the pesto pasta goodness. Doesn't look too great, but tastes oh so good.

Robert's brother is in town so there may not be too much cooking this coming week. We'll see what happens. I'll find some ways to make the boys some veggie dishes.

Off to finish this grant so I can do some gym time. Got in "Week 1, Day 2" run for the 10k training plan yesterday, so I'm gonna do some cross training and circuits today. Goal: Do lunges without tripping/falling over in gym like the other day.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Food thoughts for thought

I'm not one for food fads. Ok, I sort of am. Most of the time, my eating philosophy is "eat food". This is the mantra of Michael Pollan (Omnivores Dilemma and In Defense of Food books). I'm obsessed with him and these books changed my life.

So, that is how I eat most times. I believe that eating real whole foods is best way for me to eat. That is my definition of a healthy diet. I do enjoy reading magazines and articles about the newest "super food" and sometimes I get on the trend boat. But I try to always take it with a grain of salt. To me, the best way to be healthy is eat real food. Unprocessed and whole foods. And if it is somewhat processed...I try for the fewest amount of ingredients.

That being said, I enjoy a bag of potato chips and gummy candies of all kinds. I don't eat perfectly all the time and enjoy some crap items. I mostly cook in a "healthy" way, and try to make food that provides all the things that fuel and sustain our bodies. I want to treat my body well. When I go out though, I like to indulge. I love the art of cooking and eating the rich foods that great chefs can make. Since a young age I've been fascinated by food: growing it, cooking, eating it (the main fascination). My favorite thing to read growing up was menus we had in our kitchen drawer from restaurants and/or cookbooks. I didn't develop a love of cooking until a few years ago, but I loved watching people cook and reading about people cooking and eating. I'm forever fascinated by gifted chefs. They are truly artists to me.

When I go out to eat, I'm all about eating rich food. I my opinion rich food,which is made with good ingredients, is still healthy for me. Just in a different way. I don't eat like that everyday, but enjoy it when I go out or make a special meal.

This ramble above all comes from a bit of guilt/apprehensions I have about buying some chia seeds and PB2 today. It is ridiculous. I totally went for these food trends. I mean chia seeds are the "super food" of today. But hey, I kinda like being on the trendy health food train. Also, PB2 is one of those things that I thought couldn't hurt to try. Sometimes I just like to do what the people are talking about.

I love Peanut Butter and Almond Butter. Although I"m not a calorie counter, I know that it is not very good for you to eat a jar of peanut butter in less than a week. And that is what happens when I buy nut butters. Moderation is key, but I have trouble with that.

PB2 makes me eat some peanut butter tastiness and pre-workout protein power, without all that added fat. And truly it tastes like peanut butter..i Swear! I've tried some healthy foods in my day that I just can't convince myself taste good. Tofu noodles are one of them. Just couldn't get over the texture. Real pasta for this lady. But, PB2 is truly like peanut butter when you add liquid. Try it!

It also was great for making late night snack. I get the nighttime munchies. So instead of grazing on things all night that don't hit my spot, these cookies do it. They are pretty simple and not the worst choice for a late night sweet spot. Only 3 ingredients and light...but hits the sweet spot.

Got on the PB2 website.....

  • 1/4 cup PB2(add 2 TBSP water and mix)
  • 1/2 bar of dark chocolate (about 43 g.) melted
  •  3/4 cup Rolled Oats
  • 2 Tbsp Flax Meals
  • Mix, roll into little patties, and put in freezer for 1/2 hour.
Enough rambles, so....
Dinner was salad of farmer's market goodness...and some avocado of course. It went fast(the picture is Robert's with Gorgonzola. I'm lactose intolerant)....

On the side was some tuna salad and my version of a "french" potato salad. Boiled some new potatoes from the market, added scallions and capers. Then threw together this dressing..
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
- 1 Tbsp of EVOO
- 1/2 tsp dijon mustard.

 Whisked this up and then put some on the potatoes. There was definitely extra, so dress as much as you like. I like a lighter dressing on this.

YUM...that's it for now...aside from the beautiful ruby red blender that arrived today! Can't wait for smoothie in that tomorrow.

So glossy. I heart Mr.Blender.

Monday, July 30, 2012


After a early wake up on Saturday, it was nice to sleep in yesterday. I'm currently training for a 10k this fall. As a new runner, this will be my longest race so far to date. I just started running in Spring 2011 with the Couch to 5K, so this will be my next endeavor. Not far for most runners, but this will be tough for me. Running is hard for me. I love it and it's a good challenge, but it ain't easy.  I grunt and groan a lot on runs. But learning more about minimalist and "natural" running forms and shoes has been helping so much lately. Much less pain and more enjoyment. I'll discuss this more later.

Now...on to food! The main event.

I woke up and had a version of my morning shake. I've always been someone that can't eat right when i get up. This meant that I'd often get to work and feel tired, but my stomach was not ready for whole foods.....then I found shakes! The perfect way to get fuel, hydrated, and my stomach can handle it early in the morning.

My go-to green smoothie is...
-1/2 cup Trader Joe's Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
- 5-6 frozen strawberries(or fresh if I have them)
-1/2 frozen banana
-1/2 tsp. honey
- 3-4 large leaves of kale

Currently I use my immersion hand blender for this, but it is kind of a pain. SO I ordered a blender that should arrive in the mail this week. YAY!

For dinner, I did one of my new tacos! I improvise a lot on this, but my favorite is an avocado sauce that I make for the top. I adapted it from a bunch of different recipes I saw.

So the taco bar includes....

- Chopped up spicy green beans (my mean bean recipe to come)
-Sliced Sun Gold cherry tomatoes
-Black Beans
-Chopped Cilantro

For the Fish I used Halibut, but any light white fish works. My method was simple...

1. Drizzle fish with olive oil and lemon juice
2. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper.
3. Bake in 400 degrees F for 12-15 mins.
4. Break up into pieces for taco.

I also make a quick slaw that I love for good crunch in this taco. It is improvised so you can add these ingredients to taste for the sauce. As for the slaw items, I just use whatever I have that is crunchy in my fridge. Today that meant red cabbage, diced raw zucchini, diced raw broccoli stems, diced cucumbers, and onions.

Then I drizzle it with about
  • 1/2 tsp EVOO
  •  1 tsp Rice Vinegar
  •  Juice of half a lemon
  • Cumin
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
 I don't like things overdressed so I taste and add things as I go.
Great crunch factor!

AND THEN THE AVOCADO MAYO SAUCY THING! So GOOD! This is a bit improvised as well. I'm planning to get better at measuring and making set recipes in the future.

In a food processor....(This makes enough for about 10 taco toppings)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 small or 1/2 large avocado
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Mayonnaise (I used Reduced Fat)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • Sprinkle of Cayenne
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Blend in food processor and serve(It is the green mess in that yellow bowl. Doesn't look pretty but delish!)

What I love about tacos is that you can just put whatever you want on them and use up things in the fridge. Also, fish tacos are nice and light, so they are a great summer dinner.

Have a good Monday!