Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lemon Spaghetti

On Friday before I left work, I perused some of my favorite food blogs to find a yummy pasta dish for my pre-run dinner.  I found a recipe for lemon pasta on the smitten kitchen blog and I was set!  It seemed like a refreshing, light, new twist on a pasta dinner.  And it was!  It was so good I could barely wait long enough to take some pictures of this tasty dish!  A side of steamed asparagus rounded off the entire meal. 

But I write with a word of caution for anyone who has recently developed acid reflux but refuses to take appropriate medication!  I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like my chest and my throat were ON FIRE!  I was awake for hours waiting for this uncomfortable pain to pass.  Needless to say, a 16 mile run on three hours of sleep was not in the cards on Saturday!  So I had to wait until Sunday, with it's warmer, stickier morning weather.  Lesson learned: lemon pasta + acid reflux - zantac = ouch.  Instead of a run on Saturday, I went straight to the pharmacy for meds so I can enjoy my delightful lemon pasta leftovers.  In short, this pasta dish is worth any associated pain!  This recipe will make 3-4 servings. 

1/2 pound dried spaghetti or linguine pasta
2 lemons
2 tbls heavy cream
2 tbls olive oil
bunch of basil, chopped
handful spinach, washed
big handful of grated Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper

Bring a big pot of water to a boil.  Salt the water liberally and add in your pasta.  Once it's cooked to al dente, reserve about a cup of the pasta water and drain.  Rinse and dry the pot (if you want to do the next step in this pot and save your dish washing).

Meanwhile, zest the two lemons and reserve the juice from about 1 1/2 of the lemons.

In the dried pasta pot, bring the olive oil, cream, lemon juice, and about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to a boil.  Boil for 2 minutes over medium-high heat.  Remove from heat and add in your cooked pasta.  Toss to coat with the sauce, and add a bit more of the pasta water to thin the sauce if you'd like.  Add in the basil, spinach, and cheese and toss again.  (The spinach will still have a bit of a bite to it.  If you want it to be more wilted, add it in to the boiling oil/cream/water mixture.)  Salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy.  (And don't forget the antacids if you require them!)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kale Chips

I've come to realize that all people fall into one of two categories: you either crave salt or you crave sugar.  I don't mind the occasional candy bar or giant chunk of delicious brownie, but more often than not, I'm all about the salty snacks.  The other night I was staring into my cupboards, looking for something salty to munch on, and there was nothing.  (I apparently had been exercising willpower during my previous grocery store run....)  So I opened the fridge and again, nothing.  But then I spied a huge bunch of kale that I'd bought at the Farmers' Market a week back and I knew I was saved! 

It's true!  You can make a delicious, salty, crunchy, and somewhat healthy snack out of kale.  It's truly miraculous.  So I whipped up some kale chips and ended up eating the ENTIRE giant bunch of kale that night.  Hopefully I managed to reap some health benefits from that salty binge fest.  But you seriously need to try out this recipe.  It's easy, salty, and yummy. 

Big bunch of kale
Extra virgin olive oil
Seasoning salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Wash the kale and be sure that it's very dry.  Tear or cut out the ribs in the middle of each "leaf" of kale -- they won't taste too good.  Tear or cut the kale into medium-sized pieces. 

Put the kale pieces into a bowl and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Toss to coat the kale in the olive oil.  You don't need a ton of olive oil here!!  Sprinkle on your favorite seasoning salt to taste.  Spread the kale pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Try to keep them in one layer in order to ensure that they get crispy.  You make need to bake on two pans or in two shifts.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the kale pieces have brown edges and are crispy.  Put into a bowl and enjoy.  Then try your hardest to stop eating won't be able to...I promise. 

Mmmmm, best snack ever.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Carb Time! Baked Parmesan Risotto

This weekend I had a bit of a reprieve from my marathon training.  Months ago I signed up for the Warrior Dash, figuring it would be a nice change of pace from my regular training runs.  Plus there was the added bonus of getting to skip (well...prolong....) my first 18 miler of the season!  Since I was running an atypical run, I thought I'd make an atypical meal of preparation carbs....but what?

Barefoot Contessa to the rescue!  An easy Parmesan risotto...that you bake in the oven?!  Yes please.  I love risotto.  It's creamy and delicious, but in order to cook it correctly, you have to pay attention.  Classic risotto requires you to gradually add cups of simmering broth to arborio rice in order to develop that starchy, creamy consistency.  There's a lot of stirring and a lot of watching.  All well and good, but maybe not for a Friday after work.  This recipe yields all of the classic taste and texture of risotto but without all of the attention to detail.  Love it!!!  This will serve 4-6 people.  Or one person with a TON of leftovers!

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
5 cups simmering vegetable stock, divided
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tbls butter, diced
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 cup frozen peas

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Put the rice and 4 cups of the simmering stock into a dutch oven.  Cover and bake for 40 minutes, or until the rice is al dente and most of the liquid as been absorbed.  Remove from the oven and add the remaining cup of stock, cheese, wine, butter, salt, and pepper.  Stir vigorously for about three minutes, until the rice is thick and creamy.  Add the frozen peas and stir until heated through.  Serve and enjoy.

I wanted some more veggies to go with my starchy rice, so I steamed some broccolini and topped it with a pinch of salt.  Delicious!  A great way to get prepared for the Warrior Dash!  Though, if you ran it too, you'll understand that proficiency in mountain climbing would have been MUCH better preparation......

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Friends on Food - Nestle Tollhouse

It's only Tuesday and I'm already counting down the minutes until the weekend.  Do you ever have one of those weeks?!  It's approximately seven billion degrees outside, which inhibits my ability to run (making me cranky) and my desire to cook (making me hungry and therefore more cranky)!  Today I could not really fathom getting up off my couch, let alone turning on the oven, so it was a bowl of cereal and a big glass of water for dinner tonight!  In lieu of a tasty recipe, I thought I'd post a little food humor instead.  This exchange always cracks me up!

From Season 7 - The One With Phoebe's Cookies

Monica: Well, I mean what about friends of your grandmother’s? Wouldn’t they have the recipe?
Phoebe: Well, you know I may have relatives in France who would know. My grandmother said she got the recipe from her grandmother, Nesele Tolouse.
Monica: What was her name?
Phoebe: Nesele Toulouse.
Monica: Nestle Tollhouse?!
Phoebe: Oh, you Americans always butcher the French language.

If you really want to see the exchange, there is a slightly-blurry video with Spanish subtitles HERE :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Carbo Load! Or Zucchini and Squash Pasta...

If you remember from one of my previous posts, I'm on the hunt for new pasta dishes to help me survive this year's marathon training season.  This last Friday, I tried out a recipe that my friend Leigh gave me.  She got it from her mom, who got it from a short, we can't identify the source but whoever came up with this recipe did a great job!  It's actually a light, summery pasta option, with great veggies and a super light sauce.  The oregano really makes this dish pop, with its woodsy flavor.  Totally complements the bite of the feta cheese.  And I'm not saying that it's magic or anything, but my 15-mile run the next morning was beyond awesome.  (No sarcasm!)  So the pasta might be magic....!!!

1 12-oz package of dried fusili pasta (or any short, textured pasta will work)
2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
3 tbls unsalted butter
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tbls chopped fresh oregano, or 1/4 tbls dried*
1 lb medium zucchini, quartered and sliced thin
1 lb medium yellow squash, quartered and sliced thin
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup feta cheese

mmmm fresh veggies....
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add large pinch of salt and throw in the pasta.  Cook until just shy of al dente (it should have a bit of a bite to it).  Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid, then drain the pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or dutch oven, heat the butter and 3 tbls of the olive oil over medium heat until butter has melted.  Add the onion and oregano, season with salt and pepper.  Cook about 5 minutes, or until onion has softened.  Add in your zucchini and squash, stir frequently for another 5 minutes.  Add the broth and bring the mixture to a simmer.  Remove from heat and cover; keep warm until pasta is ready.

Add the pasta to the skillet along with 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking liquid.  Toss to combine and season again with salt and pepper.  Simmer for 2-4 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and the pasta is coated.  Spoon into bowls, top with feta and a quick drizzle of olive oil. 

close up of all that magical goodness
This is a great recipe to use on a summer night just for fun or when you're looking for a carb-y treat!  Enjoy!

*Food Tip: More often than not, you can substitute dried herbs for fresh herbs in a recipe.  But be SURE to reduce the amount called for by half!  Dried herbs are more potent than fresh, and if you use the same amount, you'll be in for a not-so-tasty surprise!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm always trying to find ways to put vegetables into desserts.  Mostly because carrot cake is SUCH a success....the veggie/dessert combo cannot be limited to just that!  So while I was re-reading Animal Vegetable Miracle (read it!) to get some recipe ideas for June/July produce, I zeroed in on the "Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookie" recipe.  I held off on this recipe until I made it to the St. Paul Farmers' Market this weekend so I could buy fresh, homegrown zucchini.  If it's going into my dessert, it's gotta be top quality.  The cookies were soft, almost cake-like, and delish.  Turns out zucchini cookies makes a great finishing course!  This recipe will make about 2 dozen small/medium cookies.

1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 tbls vanilla extract
1 cup white flour
1 cup wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmet
1 cup shredded zucchini (this was about half of a large sized zucchini)
12 oz chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the beaten egg, butter, brown sugar, honey, and vanilla extract.  You can use a handheld mixer or just beat it together with a whisk for a few minutes.  (Good arm workout!)

In a smaller bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Blend the dry ingredients into the wet ingreidents.  Stir in your zucchini and chocolate chips.  Mix well.

Drop spoonfuls of cookie dough onto a greased baking sheet, or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Flatten the cookies with a spoon.  Bake for 10-15 minutes.  And you have to try just ONE fresh out of the oven....

Mmmm....melty chocolatey goodness.  Oh and it's totally healthy for you!!  Enjoy!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Training Season! Or lots and lots of pasta....

I seem to have issues.  About four years ago I went from hating all things related to running and being spent after a 1-mile run, to training for marathons.  Seriously, it was like an overnight transition.  I watched my dad, my sister, and my brother run the Twin Cities Marathon one year and it was like a light flipped on in my head: if those fools can do it, I certainly can too.  Now I've started the training season for my fourth Twin Cities Marathon.  I told you...I have issues. 

But as soon as you integrate running into your life, pounds of pasta inevitably follow.  From June through September, I eat a pasta dinner nearly every Friday night in order to carb up for my Saturday long run.  It might even be that you're supposed to carbo load two nights before your long run, but it is safe to say that THIS is always a bad idea:

After three training seasons of subsisting mostly on noodles with olive oil and garlic salt (which is still one of my favorite dinners!), I decided that I need to branch out.  I need to find some easy, healthy pasta recipes to get me through this summer!  If you happen to be training for a summer run, then you might also be interested in some new pasta dishes.  If you just happen to enjoy eating a lot of noodles (who doesn't?), then hopefully you'll find something great to add into your repertoire.  I plan to add some great pasta dishes to this blog over the course of my training season.  So enjoy part one -- a classic dish of pasta al pomodoro. 

4 roma tomatoes, peeled* and seeded, and cut into large pieces
3 cloves garlic
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
1/2 angel hair pasta (or any other long noodle you have on hand)
2 tbls freshly chopped basil

In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat the olive oil under medium low heat.  Add in the garlic and saute for a minute or so.  Add your tomatoes and reduce the heat to low, stirring occasionally. 

Bring a pot of water to a boil and throw in a small handful of salt.  Add your noodles and cook according to the directions.  Once the pasta is finished, your tomatoes should have broken down and the olive oil should be a rich color.  Oh, it'll smell amazing. 

Using tongs, take the pasta out of the water and transfer it into the skillet/dutch oven.  Don't drain the pasta!  Putting in wet pasta allows you to keep some of the starchy cooking liquid.  It'll help create a creamy quality to your tomato "sauce".  Probably not authentic, but it's still good! 

Top your pasta with freshly grated pepper and a sprinkling of basil.  Feel free to add some grated cheese if you like.  Even a small squeeze of lemon would be good to add a bit of brightness. 

Enjoy this tasty, classic dish!  Happy trails! 

*Quick Tip: Peeling the tomatoes is completely optional.  With roma tomatoes, I don't like the skins.  If you used other varieties, such as heirlooms, the skins will break down along with the tomato flesh.  To peel a tomato, bring a pot of water to a boil and add in your tomatoes.  Let them boil for 1 minute and remove.  The skins will peel right off with a knife!  Then chop and seed as usual.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Food Trucks - Chef Shack

I am still delighted that food trucks have taken up their mobile residences here in St. Paul.  It's awesome to have some good lunch options and on nice days like today, I even enjoy making a mile-long trek with work friends to find these magical trucks.  Today was "Food Truck Court" on Kellogg and Wabasha in downtown St. Paul.  Once a week the St. Paul food trucks all meet in one location for a "food court" made of up these trucks.  It's a great idea -- more to choose from and the opportunity to learn about more of these great food trucks.  They were all lined up on Kellogg: Gastrotruck, 128 Cafe, Chef Shack, Magic Bus, Fork in the Road, and a handful of other smaller vendors selling brats and even doggie treats!  Andrew Zimmern of that extreme food show made an appearance at the food truck court....apparently he was shooting a commercial for some fruit drink. 

I perused the options at all of the trucks and there were some good ones!  I thought about the portobello sandwich from 128 Cafe that I'd sampled before, but decided it was time to try something new.  The menu at Chef Shack really peaked my interest.....

A quick word about the people working at this food truck before I get to my rave review of the food.  It was hot out, it was busy, and they were still so cheerful and happy to answer my questions about their menu offerings!  They even made some recommendations on different sauces and accompaniments I could add to my lunch.  Glorious!  I just love being around people who love being around food.
But the food.....oh the food.....  I read the words "sweet potato tacos" and did a double take.  I had no idea that sweet potatoes could be fashioned into decent tacos.  I asked the delightful people in the truck and learned that the tacos include pureed sweet potato, organic black beans, a cabbage slaw, and a spicy sauce.  Sounded good, so I ordered that and an Arnie Palmer to try and beat the heat.  Within a minute my tacos were up!

OHMYGOSHAREYOUKIDDINGME!!!  I was blown away.  Seriously.  Just thinking about these tacos now makes my heart ache with longing.  Who knew that sweet potatoes combined with black beans made such an amazing veggie taco?!  The sweet potato puree was silky and sweet....the black beans added that hearty element of all good tacos.  The slaw had a perfect crunch and that sauce added a bit of spicy flavor without being over powering.  I used a couple drops of their hot sauce, which was the perfect little boost for these delicious tacos.  Plus the taco shells were crazy good!  Thicker than your store-bought shells...think of a cross between a taco shell and maybe naan bread.  It tasted like it had been held over a flame to get a bit of a char.  YUM. 

I devoured these two tacos in approximately 4 seconds.  Well, that's an exaggeration, but it took extreme willpower to eat slowly enough to savor each bite.  This has opened up a whole new world for me and my love for veggie tacos.  Sweet potato 

OH!  And lest I forget, the Arnie Palmer was a rockin' beverage for this bright summer afternoon.  Well done Chef Shack.  Now please come to the Grand Avenue neighborhood on a daily basis.  Thanks.

p.s. Here is a new interactive map that will show you the location of the food trucks in Mpls and STP and give you links to their websites!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Quinoa with Chickpeas & Sundried Tomatoes

I know, I know....I've been out of the kitchen for a while.  With the growing heat in Minnesota and my aversion to food after a training run, it's been challenging for me to find motivation to cook!  But tonight the stars aligned and I decided it was time.  Actually, it just so happened that I always have the ingredients for this great dinner dish in my pantry, so I could be both lazy and motivated at the same time!  I got the original recipe for this quinoa dish from my friend Jillian but I lost the recipe somewhere down the road and I've started making it up as I go along.  It's transformed into the recipe here, but I have to credit Jillian and Max for the inspiration!

I'm always looking for great ways to use quinoa.  It's a wonderful and healthy grain with a glorious texture.  In fact, this dish is full of healthy ingredients -- fresh greens, fresh herbs, protein from the chickpeas, and the quinoa.  The sundried tomatoes aren't too shabby, and their addition gives the entire meal a bit of a kick.  But once you top it with cheese, it's like heaven in your mouth.  Most of these ingredients can be swapped out for something else to suit whatever you have on hand.  In short, it's yummy, easy, and good for you!  This recipe will make 2-4 portions as a main dish, and 4-6 as a side dish. 

1 cup dried quinoa, rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
8.5 oz jar sundried tomatoes; take out half of the tomatoes and chop roughly
Several large handfuls of fresh spinach
2 tbls fresh herbs, minced (basil is great)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
1/4 - 1/2 cup feta cheese (you could use goat cheese as well)

Cook the quinoa according to the package directions in a medium saucepan (it's similar to rice, with a 2-1 ratio of wet to dry).  Substitute the broth for water in the directions.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat.  Drizzle 1-2 tbls of olive oil and heat briefly.  Add in the minced garlic and saute for one minute.  Add in the chopped sundried tomatoes and saute for another minute.  I usually add a dash of the olive oil from the jar of tomatoes as well.  Add your can of chickpeas along with some salt and pepper to taste.  Saute the chickpeas for about five minutes. 

Add in half of your spinach and gently toss the spinach around in the pan in order to wilt it.  Once the spinach has reduced in size and wilted, add the rest of the spinach into the pan and lightly wilt that batch.  This gives you two textures of spinach -- some more soft and some with a bit more substance.  Once the second batch of spinach is lightly wilted remove the pan from the heat.

By this time, your quinoa should be ready.  Combine the quinoa and chickpea mixture, and add the basil.  Dish up your servings and top with a sprinkling of feta cheese and some freshly grated black pepper.  Oh joy!

a close-up shot of all the happiness!