30 Days of Cooking Challenge, and all my other thoughts

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I did a first draft of this post and quickly realilzed I had a lot to say and it was not so really related. Enter: A list.

1. 30 Days of Cooking Challenge So I’ve been an extreme cooking rut. I basically just go to Trader Joe’s, buy whatever veggies look good, chop + sautee + add protein. One pan meal, set for the week. Also, incredibly boring going on week like 14 of it. Seriously.

Hence, I am doing 30 days of cooking, and posting on my blog to keep myself accountable. Needs to be done.

2. I rearranged my apartment. It now makes sense. I rearranged the studio so I now officially have a kitchen half and a bedroom half. It was a little awkward before, and was done pre-dining room table.

apartment photo of studio kitchenJust so we are all clear on this situation, I live in about 200 square feet. Had to get that collage action on because you literally could not get far enough back to get a picture of the whole half of the apartment with the kitchen action happening.

3. Those empty walls will soon be filled. #Adulthood The glaring lack of artwork will be remedied tomorrow when I go get a large frame at Michael’s. The source of my mother’s panic attack upon entering my apartment will be cured! I will also feel like an adult because my walls will not be (a) empty, (b) covered in frameless posters, or (c) adorned with a tapestry.

4. Day 1 of the challenge was pretty uneventful Back to cooking, I have no exciting pictures because my apartment has been a disaster zone while I rearrange and spring clean. My dinner was totally uninspirational and a total result of needing to clean out the fridge. It was TJ’s broccoli slaw sauteed up with some caramelized onions thrown in a whole wheat wrap quesadilla-style with some chopped white cheddar. It was kind of amazing and I hate that. I did watch the Cooking channel while I ate it, so I pretended like it was a real meal.

5. BFF podcasts are what’s up. My latest obsession: Tripping Out with Alie and Georgia. I got turned onto them via iTunes recommendation because of my love of the Joy the Baker podcast. I hate Apple a little less because I am now BFFs (in my head) with Alie and Georgia via virtual crashing of slumber parties. Then the Cooking channel was like what? you like BFF podcasts and food? And also TV? Here’s an incredibly awesome TV show.

6. Cookies are delicious. Since that dinner was pretty lame, I made cookies. It was therapeutic. I haven’t baked in about 4 months. Possibly 5. Challenge on!

7. My latest fitness obsession. Speaking of cookies…I am obsessed with this workout lately. My back feels like such a champ.

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Brussels Sprouts and Chicken Sausage Pita Pizza

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Pizza craving: Kind of met. I mean, what is it about putting something in the form of a pizza that is just so satisfying? I’m totally of the belief that appearance/form are just as important for taste as the ingredients.

Brussels Sprouts and Chicken Sausage Pita Pizza 2

So pizza craving + need to be healthy = this concoction. And apparently Brussels sprouts on pizza works, so it happened.

Brussels Sprouts and Chicken Sausage Pita Pizza 1

On an unrelated note, 80 percent of what I eat now comes from Trader Joe’s. I really didn’t get it. Until I did.

Also, finally gave in. Reading Gone Girl, and I can’t even take a break to do the laundry that has overflowed from my hamper and now is taking up way too much of my studio. And that’s totally the reason I haven’t done laundry, and it has nothing to do with my hatred of laundry.

(And yes, there is a bite taken out of the pizza in these. Can’t stop/won’t stop).

Brussels Sprouts and Chicken Sausage Pita Pizza

One serving

1 large whole wheat pita

2/3 cup shredded Brussels sprouts

1 sun-dried tomato chicken sausage link, chopped

1/4 cup shredded mozzarella

2 tbsp. grated parmasean

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. black pepper

Preheat toaster oven to 400F.

Sautee chicken sausage, seasoning and Brussels sprouts over medium heat in a greased pan until Brussels sprouts soften.

Sprinkle half the mozzarella over the pita. Spread sauteed Brussels sprouts and chicken sausage over pita. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top. Cook for 10-12 minutes.

Spicy Parmesan Turkey Meatballs

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I always had this idea that I didn’t like meatballs. I don’t know why, it was just on the never ending list of things I didn’t like for no reason at all.

Spicy Parmesan Turkey Meatball 1 For whatever reason the other night, I decided maybe I would like meatballs. I had this grand idea about making some homemade pasta and throwing some turkey meatballs on top with some tomato sauce. I grabbed the first recipe that popped up when I googled turkey meatballs, made some adjustments, and put my little convection oven to work.Meatball 2I decided to test one from the first batch out of the oven, and then I just stood in the kitchen and ate 5 more. Woah. Yeah, I kind of like meatballs.

So clearly these are delicious on their own, but they are also awesome with brown rice and tomato sauce (how I ate them the next 3 days). And I think these would be pretty awesome as turkey burgers too.
Meatball 3

As you can see by the pictures, I went a little heavy on the green onion. I reduced the amount in the recipe below – there is a thing as too much onion.

Spicy Parmesan Turkey Meatballs

Makes 30-35 small meatballs

1 pound ground turkey

1/2 cup whole wheat panko crumbs

4 stalks green onion (about 2/3 cup)

1 egg

1/4 cup parmesan

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. coriander

1/2 tsp. cayenne

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Roll into balls about 2 tbsp. Broil at 400F for 12-15 minutes, until browned on top.

New York Citaaaay: Cappy Updates

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So, I am here. Officially moved to New York City. The move was quite the adventure, mostly just traumatizing for Cappy. I wanted to get some Cappy updates here, some apartment photos in another post, and then back to food. I made some sun-dried tomato, ricotta and black pepper ravioli the other night that was to die for, and I need to share that with you all. But for now, neurotic Cappy photos.

My sister built a huge barrier so Cappy couldn’t break into the front seat for the 12 hours we spent in the car driving up:

Cappy in the car 1

She spent most of the time trying to get through this side. I liked it.

Cappy in the car 2

My mother booked a hotel for us claiming Cappy was a service dog. I think they knew it was a hoax solely based on her behavior in the lobby. I had to drag her into the elevator as she dramatically clawed at the closing doors. She was no less neurotic or awkward in the hotel room:Cappy in the hotel

This dog was a ball of nerves when we got to the apartment. Continuing her quest for the Most Awkward Dog in the World title, she crawled inside the car top carrier that was on the floor and just sat there like it was totally normal until I spread out the duvet for her. In true Cappy fashion, once she had the duvet to sleep on the nerves calmed. That’s all an apartment really needs…Cappy in the duvet

And once she got to Central Park it was all good. Tail does not stop wagging once we get through the gates. Just look at that view! This spot is 5 minutes from my apartment.

First Trip Central Park

Once the bed was delivered (we got here Sunday, bed arrived Tuesday), Cappy didn’t leave it for 8 hours. She still spends almost every second in it. No food, limited water, just bed. Girl after my own heart.
Cappy in the new bed

So here we are. The apartment is almost in order, so apartment pictures to come. Just wanted to get the full Cappy update out there to the world. Her fans are having withdrawal! We just got internet, so her personal blog will launch soon. There’s demand for it she just can’t deny.

One-Pan Tomato, Artichoke and Feta Pasta

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This is one of those great “what do I have in the fridge meals.” For the past week, I’ve been eating this killer quesadilla. But for some reason (health?), I decided to not re-stock my cheese drawer. Result = no Mexican shredded cheese for the quesadilla. Also, no tortillas. And no black beans because for some reason (deliciousness and elitism), I decided I was going fill my pantry with dry beans.

So I did what any normal person would do: I converted the quesadilla to a pasta dish, classed it up a bit, and ate my face stupid.

One-pan tomato and artichoke pasta 1

You can do this in 30-minutes flat. Or, if you are one of those classy snobs with a stove that boils water in under 15 minutes, 20-minutes flat. The key to this one is really letting the onions caramelize and giving the tomatoes time absorb all the delicious onion and garlic and olive oil.

One-pan tomato and artichoke pasta 2

Now before I throw this recipe at you, let’s have a quick analysis of whole wheat pasta.

Whole wheat pasta is not created equal. In fact, some brands are totally delicious and some are absolute crap. It’s like some genius decided to make the pasta taste healthy instead of delicious. You don’t have to convince me! It says whole wheat on the box! I’m talking to you, Barilla.

I’ve tried a lot of different brands over the years, and I’ve determined the absolute best is the generic Harris Teeter organics line. (For those of you outside the Southeast, this is a local grocery store chain.)

Since I lived in New York City for a few months, and I’m moving back up in a few months, I needed an alternative. Enter: Whole Foods 365 Brand. Delicious. Not mind-blowing like HT, but delicious all the same.

Conclusion: Go for the cheap generic brands because they couldn’t care less about flavor, they just care about price. No fancy ingredients, no special type of wheat, just the cheapest of the cheap. Perfect.

One-pan Tomato and Artichoke Pasta 3

 

One-Pan Tomato, Artichoke and Feta Pasta

serves 4

4 servings whole wheat pasta

1 1/2  tbsp. olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered

3/4 cup artichoke hearts*

1/4-1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper, depending on your spice preference

salt and pepper to taste

2 oz spinach (3-4 handfuls), chopped

1/3 cup crumbled feta

Prepare pasta as directed.

While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in large pan over medium heat. Add onions. Let onions just begin to brown, about 5-7 minutes. Lower heat to medium-low, add garlic, tomatoes, artichoke, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper. Sautee 3-5 minutes, until the tomatoes soften. Add the spinach and sautee another minute.

Add the pasta and feta, mix and serve.

*I used the Kirkland Signature marinated artichoke hearts – incredible – so if yours are not marinated, add a little extra olive oil to the pan when you add the artichokes

 

Ingenuity be damned

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As I’ve mentioned before, I used to be extremely picky. I lied. I am still extremely  picky. I eat more foods now, but I still want what I want, how I want it, when I want it. So when I come up with all these recipes, the process goes something like this:

1. Something catches my eye in Google Reader. Title looks delicious!

Google Reader Starred Items

2. Open the post. Pictures look delicious!

3. Read the recipe. Realize half the ingredients are disgusting (AKA not to be trusted). For example, bananas. Also, mayo. And peaches – don’t even get me started. And no, it’s not that I haven’t had them in season and fresh and from the local farmer that puts just a little bit of magic dust in with the seed. I’ve had the best of the best, and I have no interest in fuzzy fruit.

But the past 3 months my brain has deteriorated. I have all these fantastically delicious foods I want to share with you, but all the recipes are just a little off: The cookies were a little too melty, the granola was a little too sticky, the tomatoes were a little too roasted (artistically blackened, let’s call it). And these were supposed to be cookies, but they taste just like muffins:

Cookie fail

So I gave up. I stopped blogging. I didn’t stop experimenting, but I sure as hell was not posting these disasters to the Internet. I love you all, and I wouldn’t want your precious graham crackers wasted on an only-irresistible-when-you’re-really-getting-into-the-Olympics-slash-drinking-party no-bake brownie bars.

No-bake brownie barsSo for now, here are a few of my favorite recipes that I have been living off of the past few weeks. Because sometimes it’s better to just trust the experts:

1. Angela’s No Bake Peppermint Patty Bars – If you are a peppermint fiend like me, add 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract to the bar mixture in step 4 and use 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract in the chocolate in step 6.

2. Lauren’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Peanut Butter Brownies – But trust me on this, double the cookie dough layer. So amazing. This was for a friend’s birthday. Don’t live off this, unless you want to stop spending all your money on food and start spending it on new pants.

3. Adrianna’s Avocado Hummus – Spread on sourdough toast, add turkey. Heaven.  The absolute best way to use up questionably soft avocados.

4. Kelly’s Kale Chips – Add 1/4 tsp. cayenne. Yum.

5. Courtney’s Zucchini Latkes – All zucchini because yellow squash is gross.

6. Lucky Charms. Not a recipe, just essential. This is what I bought at the grocery store the other night at about 10 p.m. To answer your questions: Yes, that’s lemonade beer, and yes, it’s delicious. And yes, the water squirter is incredible, shoots a solid 20 feet, and I am extremely depressed that I left it at my parent’s house. #NeverGrowUp

Grocery Store Trip

Margarita Cupcakes with Lime Filling

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If I could have one cake recipe for the rest of my life, it would be this one. It is absolutely amazing. The perfect yellow cake.

But who wants cake when you could have cupcakes? And who wants yellow cupcakes when you could have margarita cupcakes?

Margarita Cupcakes

I’d like to say I made these the first time for Cinco de Mayo or Mexican July 4 (a family tradition), but that would be lie. I’m pretty sure it went something like this:

I want cupcakes. What kind should I make? (Takes sip of margarita) I wonder if margarita cupcakes are a thing? (Google search) They are! Perfect.

They were a huge hit last summer, and my roommate requested a repeat for her birthday last week. I got a cupcake corer for my birthday a few weeks ago, so a lime filling obviously became essential.

Margarita Cupcakes Filled

So here they are: the perfect margarita cupcake for Cinco de Mayo, Mexican July 4, or, you know, Saturdays.

Margarita Cupcake Filling Shot

Margarita Cupcakes with Lime Filling

Makes 12 cupcakes

Lime Filling:

Adapted from Elly Says Opa Key Lime Pie Cupcakes

4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

4.5 ounces sweetened condensed milk

4 ounces lime juice

2-4 tbsp. powdered sugar

Place cream cheese, condensed milk, lime juice, and 2 tbsp. powdered sugar in a bowl and mix on low  for 30 seconds, until combined. Add powdered sugar to desired sweetness. Refrigerate the filling for at least 2 hours.

Margarita Cupcakes:

Adapted from Brown-Eyed Baker Margarita Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, at room temperature

Juice of 2 limes

2 tbsp. Tequila

1 tbsp. orange liqueur

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add eggs one at a time, mixing until completely combined after each addition. Add lime, vanilla and tequila. Mix until combined.

With low speed, alternate adding 1/3 of the dry ingredients with 1/4 cup buttermilk until fully mixed. Mix until just incorporated.

Divide the batter between 12 muffin cups and bake 25-30 minutes, until slightly golden and a skewer shows only moist crumbs attached. Rotate the pan at the halfway point.

Allow cupcakes to cool completely. Use a cupcake corer to core the cupcakes. Fill up to the top with the filling. I transferred the filling to a plastic bag and cut off the tip to do this. Frost the cupcakes using recipe below.

Margarita Frosting:

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 3/4 cup powdered sugar

2 tbsp. lime juice

1/2 tbsp. orange liqueur

1 tbsp. tequila

Green sprinkles for topping

Whip the butter on medium high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Add the lime juice and tequila, and mix on medium-high speed until incorporate and fluffy. If frosting is too soft, add more sugar.

Roasted Strawberry & Honey Cornbread

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Do you ever get a compulsive need to bake? Mine usually come on Sundays. I’m catching up on blogs, and all of the sudden I need to make one of the recipes with some variation.

Whole Roasted Strawberry & Honey Cornbread

Last Sunday (well, Sunday at 2 a.m. when I couldn’t fall asleep and was catching up on blogs on my phone), it was this roasted strawberry buttermilk cake over at Joy the Baker. I saw it, and I needed to make it. But it needed cornmeal. And honey. And my roommate’s birthday was coming up in three days, which meant an overload of cupcakes, so it needed less sweetener.

Slice of Roasted Strawberry & Honey Cornbread

Enter: Roasted Strawberry & Honey Cornbread. Because really, how perfect is it when the honey is already in your cornbread?

Roasted Strawberry & Honey Cornbread in Pan

(Anyone notice how the original recipe is “cake” but mine is “bread”? I swear there’s a reason that’s not “now I can eat it for breakfast,” because that’s never stopped me before. This recipe really is less sweet. Just think of it as fancy cornbread, honey included.) 
 

Roasted Strawberry & Honey Cornbread

Adapted from Joy the Baker’s Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Cake

For the roasted strawberries:

8 ounces medium strawberries, hulled and quartered

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. honey

pinch of salt

For the bread:

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 tbsp. baking powder

1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. honey

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

roasted strawberries

To make the strawberries:

Preheat oven to 375F.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or greased aluminum foil.

Cut each strawberry into quarters and place in mixing bowl. Add honey, olive oil and salt, and toss until each strawberry is coated. Arrange strawberries in a single layer across the baking sheet.

Roast strawberries for 40 minutes. The juices will thicken, but remove the strawberries from the oven before the juices start to burn.

To make the cake:

Heat oven to 400F. Butter an 11-inch cast-iron skillet. I used a cake round, but I’m sure the cast iron would be much better.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, applesauce and honey.

Add the buttermilk mixture all at once to the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined and no lumps remain. Spoon batter into the prepared pan. Top the batter with all the strawberries and juice.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool to room temperature before slicing to serve.

Cake will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for 3 days.

 

 

Burrito-Inspired Spinach Salad

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If I could live off one food group for the rest of my life, it would be Mexican. The rice/beans/cheese variety cannot be topped. So naturally, when I saw this homemade burrito bowl pop up in my Google reader, I had to have it for dinner.

burrito inspired spinach salad

I was deep in cleaning mode (two months of CPA prep courses start this week, so I am trying to get things in order before they begin), and I quickly discovered that while I was living in New York City, my rice had been infiltrated. No problem, I could just sub quinoa.

Spicy Quinoa

Then I realized I had leftover tomatoes and mushrooms from the pizza from the other night. Again, no problem, just sub that for salsa.

black bean and quinoa salad

Then I realized I had a lot of spinach to use up, so I should probably throw the burrito bowl on spinach – there’s nothing wrong with a bit more spinach in your diet. I did grow up on Popeye.

Black bean and quinoa spinach salad

Clearly, this is no longer a burrito bowl. I’d say it is “burrito-inspired cuisine.” And really, who doesn’t love that?

Black Bean and Quinoa Spinach Salad

Serves 2

2 large handfuls of spinach
¼ cup black beans
½ tsp. cumin
½ cup spicy quinoa
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
Sprinkle of shredded mozzarella and cheddar
¼ cup fire-roasted tomatoes
1 tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup mushrooms, chopped

For the quinoa, bring 1 cup water to boil with a dash of salt and the crushed red pepper. Add the quinoa and reduce to simmer, cooking for 15-20 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms, and sauté for about 10 minutes. Drain the mushrooms and mix with the tomatoes.

Over the bed of spinach, layer the quinoa, cumin, black beans, mushrooms, tomatoes and cheese. Serve while the toppings are still warm.

Sun-Dried Tomato, Spinach and Feta Whole Wheat Quick Bread

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It’s a mouthful to say, and it is by no means light on tongue either. This is one hearty bread.

Sun-dried tomato, spinach and feta whole wheat quick bread

Slowly, without realizing it, my diet over the past few weeks has devolved into basically just oats, nut butter and vegetables. As I started upping the mileage on my runs, I desperately needed to add some non-oat based carbs, and this bread was a great way to do it.

I love of all things disgustingly healthy, so this bread is insanely good for you. I won’t lie though, adding some butter takes it to a whole different level. Just do it.

Slice of sun-dried tomato, spinach and feta quick bread

Sun-dried Tomato, Spinach and Feta Whole Wheat Quick Bread

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup whole wheat all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 egg
½ flax egg (1/2 tbsp. ground flax seed + 1 ½ tbsp. water)
4 oz. unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 ½ cup spinach, chopped
½ cup sundried tomato, chopped
1/3 cup crumbled feta
Nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375F. Whisk together flours, baking soda, salt and pepper and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, applesauce and almond milk. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and mix well. Stir in spinach, sundried tomato and feta.
Spread batter out in a greased loaf pan. Sprinkle nutmeg over the top. Bake in a loaf pan for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand another 10-15 minutes. Serve with butter.