Tuesday, October 25, 2011

c-ville charm

After a fun weekend at Hoya homecoming with lots of friends and drinks and socializing... it's off to "detox" in the Virginia mountains with Caroline. Such a fun day with beautiful weather and the best of company. The day in pictures...

Great Harvest for lunch! Tofu + lettuce + tomato + onion + pesto + mayo of amazing Dakota bread. Never knew I'd like tofu cold but this herby local from Twin Oaks was vegetarian goodness and perfect after a heavy-hitting weekend of food and drink.

Hills of Charlottesville...

... and beyond.

All from Thomas Jefferson's home Monticello, which was such a nice place to visit. Jefferson was in interesting character and while I appreciate all of his contributions to America, I am not sure I'd want to hang out with the guy. A bit hypocritical, a slaveholder, and poor business man racking up the debt? Pass. But his beautiful estate? Just right on a beautiful fall day. 

And for dinner... 

pizza with meatballs, jalapenos, wild mushrooms, and fontina cheese. Clearly I made my own. It was tasty but not quite the pizza I made last week! (OK the crust was better but I miss the caramelized onions and squash). 

I had a little time to kill by myself and finally put on my sneakers. The 3 1/4 miles was painful, as expected, but I was happy to get back into running. The best part of the run was that I got to explore somewhere new. The second best was that I got to use the iMapMyRun app on my new iPhone- this app is perfect for my wandering tendencies while running because I can finally keep track of distance AND give into my curiosities. 

Did I mention we also had Sweet Frog, self-serve fro yo? Twice. Not kidding. Whatever- it's a vacation week for me!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

not quite a prius

When I said I've been cooking a lot since moving in, I wasn't kidding.  Most of that cooking occurred over the weekend, and I am still catching up in posting! It's nice to be back to cooking healthy lunches for work, and this week's lunch choice was a definite winner.

I've been craving some fall comfort food, even though the weather has not been quite as cool as I'd like. I debated chili's of all kinds, beef stew, and soup and in the end settle don developing my own vegetarian chili- or so I thought. Turns out the veggies in Trader Joe's looked too good and I came home with too many veggies (not that that is even possible) and not enough beans for a veggie chili. The result is a soup-stew-chili hybrid that is nonetheless quite delicious. 

Veggie Chili-Stew 
(serves 6-8)

1 zucchini 
1 red bell pepper (I used a few mini bell peppers) 
1 medium zucchini
1 yellow onion 
3 carrots (peeled) 
3 celery stalks 
2 Russet potatoes 
1 container Cremini mushrooms
1/2 cup frozen corn
15 oz can red kidney beans (rinsed)
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 TBSP chili powder 
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper 
1 -2 teaspoons smoked paprika 
1 bay leaf 
salt + pepper 
1/4 cup EVOO

  1. Chop all vegetables (except corn). Make everything about the same size; make sure the potatoes are on the small side so that they will cook through.
  2. Heat stock pot and add EVOO to hot pan. Saute onions for 1 minute. Add potatoes, carrot, and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes or until carrots are beginning to soften.  Stir frequently with a wooden spoon.

  3. Add peppers and mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes. Add zucchini and cook another 3 minutes. Season with more salt and pepper. Stir frequently throughout to avoid sticking.
  4. Add crushed tomatoes, beans,  and 1/2 cup of water or vegetable stock. Add frozen corn, chili powder, cayenne, smoked paprika, and bay leaf. If the mixture looks too thick, add more water or stock. 
  5. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender. Taste after 30 mints and season with salt, pepper and other spices as needed. Remove bay leaf.
  6. Serve hot. Suggested toppings: avocado, sour cream, croutons, cheddar cheese, chopped tomatoes.
Note: Flavors develop a lot overnight. This is one of those recipes that tasted OK in the pot, but great when reheated after two days in the fridge. I froze about half of the recipe for lunch another week because it made so much. 

I'm still adjusting to the luxury of time that my new place gives me... I should work out every day or close to it because I now have the time to do it, but laying on my very own couch is just so much more tempting  some days. Today the rain made it that much more tempting, but I did sign up for a 15K in December (YIKES) which means this shoe lazy thing is going to have to end SOON. I really need to find a training plan... then again, we all know how I did with a training schedule for the triathlon. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

pizza project

I went a bit crazy last week with meal prep and the best thing I made was this pizza. For those of you who know me, homemade pizza was my college specialty. While others perfected jungle juice, I practiced making homemade dough. My favorite thing to do was to make gobs and gobs of pizza dough and have lots of people over to enjoy a variety of pizzas.

Since college however, I haven't done much cooking for others and I have YET to perfect my dough. So, in a burst of inspiration I got to work on another dough recipe I found, this one from the blog Shutterbean.  The best part of this dough? No kneading and very few steps in the rising process. Of all the dough I've made, this is the first one I didn't have to fight with to get it into shape. BINGO!

I altered the recipe a little by making it partially whole wheat. Toppings wise, I was inspired by some fall ingredients that are coming into season and settled on roasted fennel and butternut squash with caramelized onions and goat cheese. Tons of veggies disguised as deliciousness. Right up my alley.

First, the dough...

Super Simple Pizza Dough
(adapted from Shutterbean)

  • 2 cups whole wheat bread flour 
  • 1 3/4 cups white bread flour 
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast 
  • 3/4 tsp salt 
  • 1 tsp sugar or honey
  • 1 1/3 cup warm water 
  • EVOO for pan

  • Stir together 1/3 cup very warm water, yeast, and sugar. Allow yeast to sit for 15 minutes to activate (it should get foamy and double in size). Mix in flour and additional 1 cup of water while mixing with a olden spoon or your hands. I usually stat with the spoon and then use my hands once mixing becomes too difficult. 
Cover the dough and let rise at room temperature for about 2 hours. You need a tight seal. I used a kitchen cloth and pan cover that fit my bowl, but plastic wrap is another good option.
Dump dough on cutting board; use a sprinkle of flour to prevent sticking. Cut in half to make two baking-sheet sized pizzas. I froze 1/2 but you could also put 1/2 in the fridge for use within 24 hours.

Roll out dough or manipulate with hands. I used a rolling pin since this recipe makes thin dough- it reduces holes. Oil baking sheet and add toppings. Bake at 500 degrees for 15 -25 minutes to desired doneness of crust. 
eco-friendly alternative to plastic wrap :)

Roasted Butternut Squash and Fennel 

Toss small cubes of butternut squash and slices of fennel with EVOO, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Bake at 425 degrees until soft and starting to brown. Put to side for pizza topping or use in salad.

Caramelized Onions
Heat 1 TBSP EVOO and 1 TBSP butter in pan. Add 1 sliced red onion to pan. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, dried rosemary, and red chili flakes. Cook until brown and soft, up to 1 hour on low. low and slow is KEY here.

Layer Toppings:
Caramelized Onions 
Fennel and Squash 
Goat Cheese

Pizza with Fennel, Squash, and Caramelized Onions with Goat Cheese

I've been noshing on this pizza for meals all week. It tastes great with a drizzle of balsamic or a splash of hot sauce. I'm a sauce girl when it comes to pizza usually so a little extra sauce is right up my alley. Extra goat cheese, another type of cheese, or fresh herbs would all be great additions too. Make this and impress someone- so easy!

Off to work. Good thing its less than a five minute commute!

all things french

In a few hours I will bombard you with recipes of a new found city girl. But for now I will leave you with pictures of the macaroons I got on Saturday from Laduree. Apparently these are the best on Paris and only recently made it stateside. First US location? Right in my neighborhood. It was my first French macaroon experience and my are these overpriced confections delish. Want to romance a foodie? Forgo the flowers and spring for the rise macaroons. It won't save you money but maybe you can share least?

p.s. this is my first iPhone mobile blog entry. If it comes out ok it may be the first of many!

Friday, October 14, 2011

let the adventures begin

There's nothing like a kitchen (and mess) of your own to inspire some cooking. 

I've only been moved in a week, but the cooking has cooked in FULL FORCE. I'll cut to the chase with this entry and discuss the cooking fun that's gone down so far. 

Quick Tortellini-Spinach Soup
(recipe inspired by a similar recipe by Ellie Krieger)
makes 3 dinner-sized servings

4 1/2 oz fresh spinach tortellini (half a package) 
2 cloves garlic 
1 yellow onion
15 oz can diced tomatoes (with juice) 
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups fresh baby spinach (chopped) 
1/2 cup frozen vegetable medley of choice (mine had corn, edema me, and red peppers)
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes 

1. Heat 1-2 TBSP EVOO in a pot. Chop onion and garlic and cook in EVOO until onions are translucent. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (to taste). 
2. Add tomatoes and broth. Simmer 5 minutes 
3. Add frozen vegetables. Simmer 5 minutes. 
4. Add tortellini and baby spinach right before serving. Cook until tortellini is hot and spinach is wilted, maybe 5 minutes or so. Serve immediately for best taste from the tortellini. Packs well for lunch, but the tortellini gets a bit too soft- though it was still good enough to eat 3 days in a row at work!

Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Fennel

I decided to try cooking with boneless, skinless chicken thighs for a bit of a change. I seasoned the chicken with garlic powder, smoked paprika (lots!), salt, pepper, and lemon juice. I threw that on a baking sheet with some fennel, which I dressed with EVOO, lemon, salt, and pepper.

The ORIGINAL plan was to throw everything under the broiler. However, 1 hour into pre-heating the oven was barely warm. (insert sad and angry face here).  So, I heated some vegetable stock and set about poaching my chicken. It was my first poaching experience and went pretty well (OK its basically fool-proof). The chicken was moist and lemony, though I don't think thigh meat it my favorite. The fennel, however, was AMAZING. Lemon + fennel is my new obsession.

Luckily the dish worked out and I discovered the broken oven before I really needed it. Next day- new oven! I was surprised at how quickly they replaced it. :)

White Bean Crostini
(adapted from William Sonoma Starters)

1 French baguette
1 can cannellini beans (drained)
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup EVOO
salt, pepper, smoked paprika (optional)
thyme or sage (fresh if you have it, though I used dried)
sun dried tomatoes packed in oil (sliced thinly)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat EVOO in pan. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
2. Add beans to pan and cook another 2 minutes, or until beans are heated through.  Season with salt pepper, herb of choice, and smoked paprika.
3. Transfer bean and garlic mixture to food processor. Squeeze juice from 1/4 lemon into mixture. Pulse into a coarse spread. Taste and season as needed.
4. Slice baguette and place slices on baking sheet. Place in oven for about 5 minutes, or until toasted.
5. Spread white bean dip onto baguette and top with sun dried tomato slices. Sprinkle fresh herbs on top if using.

I made these crostini to celebrate a coworker's birthday and they were well received. I don't feel like the dip is PERFECT but its simple, tasty, and easy to make from pantry staples. Will make again.

These recipes actually exclude all of the cooking I did tonight, but more on that next entry. 

After working a few nights, I did a bit of exploring today with a run downtown to Trader Joe's (54 blocks down plus a few crosstown). I carried my money, MetroCard, and a reusable bag with me (nerd alert) and hit the road. 

The length of the run wasn't bad (just over three) but the whole running through the city at rush hour thing was brutal and I ended up getting sick of dodging people about 2/3 of the way in and opted to walk. Lesson learned. 

Of course, I bought more at TJ's than expected and ended up with an extra bag. Darn Kennebunkport Pumpkin Ale six-pack for under $6 by check out was just too hard to resist. The rest of the overflow was veggie-related though and the total was only $40 dollars- turns out TJ's holds their prices pretty steady from NJ to Manhattan unlike every other store which is totally worth the "you are insane" looks I got on the subway. 

Off to bed after a night of cooking that ended with the smoke detector going off in my apartment around midnight. Good way to get evicted. 

I'm excited to be back in the cooking and blogging routine after much time away. :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

turning the key

i have been quite busy with moving over the last week or two, so there has been a serious lack of blogging occurring. i wish i could say that i'm changing the this moment, but i actually need to nap before work. already love the new place and i'm so happy with the way it's turning out. just need to hang art!

welcome to...

the kitchen,

dining room,

living room,


(infamous red-orange dresser by yours truly)

and bedroom.

all in one room...

just spent the day finishing up with apartment furniture building, a 4 1/2 mile run around the new neighborhood, and some cooking. more to come tomorrow!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

go bold

So much to blog, so little time. As if I weren't already busy as can be with moving, I decided to go into Manhattan all weekend for a work party Friday and The New Yorker Festival yesterday. Great choice, but not as far as packing goes! I'm mostly packed and my DIY projects are nearly complete. Here's a sneak peak at the easier of the two projects: 

Dresser so borrowed from my oh-so-generous Aunt Jen- 

All it took to revamp this piece was a little Pledge and ten glass knobs from Anthropologie (this color was supposed to be full price at $8.50 but was mis-marked as clearance at $2.95... apparently if its marked wrong though the customer gets the lower price... WINNING).

Love this simple change! Total dresser cost:less than thirty bucks. Take that IKEA.

As for that buffet piece I showed in an earlier entry- it's painted and nearly ready for showing off. Just a bit more drying. The only update I'm giving now is that I picked one of the paint colors below...

Yep, it's red-orange. I matched it to pick up the bit of red-orange in my duvet cover. Go bold or go home. 

More to come on The New Yorker Festival and my moving adventures, but for now I'm off to work.

Lunch at work this week is one of convenience/laziness: either Amy's Organic frozen chili w/ cornbread or Amy's Organic frozen veggie lasagna. To freshen it up I also packed carrots, sweet mini bell peppers, an apple, and a Chobani went in alongside. With the busy weekend and the move on Thursday I just couldn't get together making something for lunch this week. 

Happy Sunday!