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.