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.