Parmesan Crisps

Parmesan Crisps. cruncy. parmesan. enough said.Parmesan. Crunchy. Need I say any more?

These crisps might win the prize for easiest recipe ever. Grate the cheese, bake the cheese, done. And what you get in return for this extreme effort is a delectable, not to mention beautiful, garnish for a big bowl of tomato soup. Or a savory mid-afternoon snack. Or a delivery device for thick dips (runny dips will leak through the holes in the crisps). The options are endless for these little golden “lace” beauties.

Parmesan Crisps

Adapted from Ina Garten, Food Network

INGREDIENTS:

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grate half of the cheese with a coarse grater and half of the cheese with a very fine grater.
  3. Drop tablespoons of the grated cheese onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Leave about 1″ all around each “mound”.
  4. Bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
  5. Allow crisps to cool for 5 minutes and then remove them from the parchment with a spatula. Serve crisps at room temperature.
     Enjoy!
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You gotta start somewhere…

My alarm went off hours too early this morning – at 6:00 am. After a late, but very fun, night with some great friends, the very last thing I felt like doing was getting up for a run. Especially one that involved dealing with large crowds and that required effort to get to Central Park to participate.

It seemed like every excuse in the book was readily at my fingertips…my husband is sick and I’m starting to feel slightly under the weather; my shins were sore – those are just a few. Plus, I was super tired. After debating myself for about 30 minutes, and realizing a decision had to be made, I laced up my shoes and headed to Central Park.

Having just moved to NYC, this was my first race in the city. I was slightly intimidated with the process of finding registration and getting my number and such, but by the time I arrived it went very smoothly and I had about an hour to kill before the start of the race.

Both before and during the race, I was inspired by so many different people. People facing challenges much greater than mine, who had the will and determination to “just keep going” and put one foot in front of the other. In the initial phase of the race, when my legs were feeling like lead and all I wanted to do was stop, these folks kept me going. If they were out here doing this, surely I could too.

The view from the "slowsies" corral at the Run as One 4M in Central Park

I’m still new to running – I’ve only been doing it for about four months, and in those four months I pretty much took almost two months off while I was dealing with our move to NYC. So, for really only two months’ worth of training so far, I was thrilled to make my goal of a 15:00/mile pace over the four mile course. My official time was 1:01:36, but I had pulled off for a minute during the race to adjust my shoes, and RunKeeper had me at just under an hour when I hit the four-mile mark. I realize a one hour four-miler is nothing to write home about; but for me, this was a personal record. After a morning of fighting with myself at every turn, I was so proud of myself for getting out there and pushing through the race.

I started this blog to share my adventures in learning to cook with my friends and family. Today, I have decided to add an additional component to that of sharing my journey to continue to get healthy and fit. I don’t think of myself as being inspirational, but if I can help just one person out there, who can look at me and say “if she can do it, I can do it,” I will be happy.

To start that point, I want to share a few photos to begin to document my journey. This was me, at my heaviest, “trying” to run the inaugural A2A 5k in Ardmore, OK. This was one of the worst “non-tragedy” moments in my life. I wanted to quit, but thankfully my friends made me finish, but it was ugly in all aspects. I felt like I wanted to die after crossing the finish line, and could barely get the energy to even jog across the finish line. This photo was snapped right as I crossed. Seeing this photo was a huge wake-up call. I had no idea I looked that bad; and I felt even worse than I looked. It was time for a change. (sidenote: I cannot believe I am even letting this photo go public!)

Lots of workouts, sweat and soreness later, so far I am down over 65lbs. I feel stronger than I ever have before. Today, after the race, I walked to the Jamba Juice at Columbus Circle and then back home. I looked at my FitBit when I got home, and I had already traveled 9.1 miles today before 11 am! What a change from the “wake-up call” 5K, when I couldn’t even walk to the bleachers for about 10 minutes.

These are photos from a few months ago. Why do I have sunglasses on and only one shoe on? Well, I think I had sunglasses on because my eyes looked terribly tired that day, and the shoe issue? I have no idea…it’s bizarre.

Unfortunately, sometimes life gets in the way of our goals, and the weight loss has slowed down a little the last two months during the move to NYC since I wasn’t working out regularly. But, I’ve still been losing slowly during that time and that in itself has been a victory. And now, I’m back in the game full time.

I still have a long way to go, but I’m going to get there. You have to start somewhere, and just put one foot in front of the other. That’s the plan.

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Sugar, sugar

Yesterday was a gloomy day in NYC and we were in the mood for some warm comfort food. Enter, Brown Sugar Pork Chops. This super easy, super fast (20 min total) recipe is packed with flavor.

The chops were served with Brown Sugar Stewed Apples and Butternut Squash (shown underneath the chops in the photo), for which I will post the recipe in the next few days. The combination of the pork and the apples/squash was fabulous – one I definitely would recommend for anytime you need a good hearty comfort food fix.

Brown Sugar Pork Chops

Prep: 12 min / Cook:  8-12 min
makes 2 servings 

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 boneless pork chops (3/4in thick)
  • salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 1 small onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp. orange juice
  • 1 tbsp. packed dark brown sugar
  • crushed red pepper, to taste (opt.)

DOING THE DISH:

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the pork chops on both sides with generous amounts of black pepper and salt. Place the chops in the hot oil for 6 to 8 minutes, turning once halfway, until they are golden brown on both sides. Remove the chops from the pan, set them on a plate and cover with foil to let them rest and keep them warm.
  2. Now for the sauce. In the same skillet, sauté the onions over medium heat until soft and tender (about 4 minutes). Push the onions to one side of the pan, and remove the pan from the skillet. Add the OJ and the brown sugar and return the pan to the heat. Stir the onions into the sauce and degrease the pan, incorporating all the great “bits” the pork chops left behind into the sauce. Cook for 1-2 more minutes until the sauce is well blended.
  3. Plate the pork chops and spoon the sauce and onions over each chop. If you’d like, sprinkle each serving with crushed red pepper to taste.

Source: I honestly can’t remember where I got this recipe from…if someone knows, please let me know so I can add it here!

 

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Broccoli with Lemon and Shallots

The Final Product

Although not complicated or fancy, this yummy dish is a great side dish for when you want something simple and fast. Prep to plate, it is about a ten minute dish that packs a lot of punch for the minimal effort. The original recipe called for it to be paired with broccoli rabe, which would step it up an extra notch, but I didn’t have any so I just went with the broccoli, and it was delicious.

Broccoli with Lemon and Shallots : The Ingredients

Broccoli with Lemon and Shallots

adapted from Bon Appetit

Makes 2 Servings

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 tsp grated lemon peel
  • 3/4 lb broccoli
  1. Prep the broccoli and shallots. Cut the broccoli into small florets and chop the shallots.
    Broccoli Florets
  2. Sweat the shallots. Melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and lemon zest and sauté for about two minutes. Make sure to throw some salt into the pan to help bring out the flavor in the shallots.
    Sweaty shallots
  3. Cook the broccoli. Add the broccoli and 1/4 cup of water to the pan and cover. Cook the broccoli until it is tender and the water has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve.
    The broccoli incubator
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Ginger Lime Salmon

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I am a semi-new salmon convert. In fact, until about a year ago, I had only tried the fish once and had completely written it off. Last year, after reading about salmon’s many health benefits, I gave it another try on a whim and I have been hooked (addicted) ever since. I hate that I lived in the Northwest for three years without eating one bite of salmon while I was there. If only I had known what I was missing out on! People would get so excited about Copper River salmon season (a VERY short window), Sockeye salmon, King salmon, and on and on and on. It seemed at the time that all I ever heard about was salmon. Oh what I would give to be back in those moments and be able to savor freshly caught salmon that was cooked to perfection. Since I haven’t finished work on my time machine yet, I guess I’ll just have to settle for salmon cooked in my own kitchen. That’s not such a bad thing if you’re equipped with this recipe.

When we were at Costco recently, we discovered that not only is it the best place to buy four bottles of Worcestershire sauce or 30 pairs of socks, but their fish and meat sections are to die for. The price for two HUGE full fish-length fillets of sockeye salmon was only five dollars more than what we had paid the weekend before for two serving-size portions! So we picked a package up sliced the fillets into portion-sized servings and froze them individually and we have really been enjoying having such nice pieces of fish at the ready.

This dish is one of my favorite go-to salmon dishes. I actually make it a lot for lunch. When you look at the ingredients and read through the directions, it may seem slightly complicated, but once you have made it once or twice it becomes very easy and only takes about 12 minutes to prep and cook the dish. The great thing about it is that when served, it looks like something that took way more time and effort than 12 minutes!

In the photos, you’ll notice that there seems to be a smaller amount of everything (especially when you see the sauce) than is specified in the recipe…I was only making one portion so everything is quartered in my photos. I hope you enjoy this savory salmon!

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Ginger Lime Salmon

adapted from Essentials of Healthful Cooking, Williams-Sonoma

Makes 4 Servings

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 8-10 small pieces
  • 2 limes
  • 4 serving-size salmon fillets, skin removed
  • 4 tsp ginger, peeled and finely minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 tbsp sake
  • 1 1/4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°.
  2. Prepare the limes. Use a veggie peeler to peel 4 long, wide strips of zest from one of the limes. Cut these strips lengthwise into long, skinny julienne strips. Squeeze the juice from the lime and set it aside. Cut the second lime into thin uniform slices (try to get at least 8 out of it if you can). Set the slices aside.
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  3. Prepare the salmon. Lightly dry off any excess moisture from the salmon with a paper towel. Cut a 12″x12″ square of parchment paper and lay it flat on the work surface. Place one salmon fillet in the center of the paper, and sprinkle it with about 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper, then with 1 tsp of minced ginger. Place some of the julienned lime zest across the fillet and finally top it with 2-3 evenly-spaced lime slices. Repeat with remaining 3 salmon fillets. Seal the packets by bringing together the long sides and folding them to create a seal, and then folding the sides under the salmon fillet to secure the flaps. Place all four packets on a baking sheet and place into the oven.
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  4. Bake the salmon. Bake the salmon until it is just barely translucent at it’s thickest point – or about 9 minutes per inch of thickness. Once done, remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the salmon rest in the packets for a few minutes.
  5. The sauce. While the salmon is baking, it’s time to prepare the sauce. Place the shallots, sake, lime juice and Worcestershire sauce into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until the liquid is reduced by a third (about 4 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter pieces to create a nice creamy sauce. Pour the sauce into a small bowl.
  6. Assemble the final dish! There are two ways to serve this dish. The first is to place a packet on each plate and allow each person to open their “present” and then pour the sauce on themselves; or you can open each packet and use a spatula to place a fillet on each place, and then drizzle the sauce over the salmon. I prefer to go with the second method, simply because it provides a cleaner, more elegant look, but the packet-on-plate method could be nice if you wanted the cooking method to be kind of a conversation piece for the dish.
    20111003-Ginger-Lime-Salmon-0023
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Pinot Noir BBQ Sauce

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Bobby Flay has to be one of my favorite celebrity chefs. His modern southwestern cuisine and grilling magic always makes my mouth water. So, when I saw a show where he was making burgers, my interest was piqued, since there’s always room for a good burger recipe. But after watching his process, it wasn’t the burger that was begging to be recreated in our kitchen, but the barbecue sauce he put on top of the burgers – Pinot Noir BBQ Sauce. We were about to smoke some ribs and that seemed to be the perfect condiment to make. The sauce was such a hit that we have since made it many times and it always gets rave reviews.

With a perfect blend of savory, spicy and sweet flavors, this sauce delivers the sweetness a barbecue sauce needs with a subtle punch courtesy of the ancho chile powder, california chili powder, smoked paprika and chipotle chilis.

Pinot Noir BBQ Sauce
adapted from Bobby Flay

makes approx. 4 cups of sauce

  • 4 cups pinot noir (or another dry red wine)
  • 2 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 4 tbsp local honey
  • 4 tbsp Black Strap molasses
  • 4 tbsp  ancho chile powder (available at Williams Sonoma)
  • 4 tbsp  dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp organic Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika (can sub regular paprika if needed)
  • 2 tbsp cabernet red wine vinegar (any red wine vinegar will do)
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp California Chili powder (available at Williams Sonoma or sub cayenne powder)
  • 2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped, plus a little bit of extra adobo sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper (I used Hickory Smoked Sea Salt for this recipe, available at Williams Sonoma)
  1. In a large sauce pan, reduce the pinot noir over medium high heat, until it is reduced by about half.
  2. While the wine is reducing, combine all the other ingredients plus one and a half cups of water and simmer over medium-low heat, until well thickened, approximately 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pour the reduced pinot noir into the mixture and blend well.
  4. Pour the sauce into a bowl and let it cool. It will continue to thicken a little while it is cooling.
  5. Once cool, store sauce in a container in the refrigerator, it will keep for about a week. For easy serving at a party, pour the sauce into a squirt bottle.
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Ginger Spiced Pecans

This recipe was made to give us a simple snack to help beat the afternoon drowsy spells.The ginger powder in coating on the pecans gives a faint bite without being overpowering, while the Splenda (or sugar) and salt give the pecans a nice mix of savory and sweet taste. After eating a few bites, it was decided these actually end up tasting oddly similar to popcorn. They’re a great pick-me-up in the afternoons and a great fix for your sweet or salty tooth.

Ginger Spiced Pecans
original recipe from Martha Stewart c/o Eat Make Read
makes 5 cups

  • 5 cups raw pecan halves
  • 1/2 cup Splenda (you can sub 1/2 cup sugar if needed; no quantity differences with the Splenda we needed)
  • 2 tsp flaky sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp local honey
  • 2 tsp canola oil

1. Preheat oven to 325°.

2. Place the pecans on a baking sheet (or two if needed), in a single layer. Toast at 325° for 10 minutes, or until pecans are fragrant.

Ready for roasting

3. Mix the sugar, salt and ground ginger in a large bowl (one large enough to hold all the pecans). Make sure to break up any clumps of the ginger, resulting in a very well-blended mixture where the ginger isn’t very noticeable at all. This is to ensure the pecans get an even coating of ginger within the mixture.

Dry Ingredient Mixture

4. Warm a large skillet over high-heat. Add the canola oil and honey, and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to medium.

5. Add the freshly roasted pecans and move the pecans around rapidly to get them all coated with the honey/oil mixure.

6. Pour the pecan mixture into the large bowl containing the sugar/ginger/salt mixture. Using a pair of tongs, mix the pecans into the powder mixture until all the pecans are well coated with the mixture.

7. *Optional step* Before transferring the mixture to its air-tight storage container, dump it into a strainer and shake it a little bit to get all the excess powder off that didn’t stick to the pecans.

Sifting excess powder from the pecans

8. Allow the pecans to cool off and store them in an air-tight container.

Ginger Spiced Pecans

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Brown Butter Pecan Broccolini

Based on my childhood, my parents wouldn’t even believe the following declaration, but I promise, it’s true: I love broccoli. This stubby green veggie that haunted me as a child has now become my go-to veggie for easy-to-make side dishes. So I was thrilled when, earlier this year, I discovered it’s elegant cousin – broccolini. It’s like the designer version of broccoli! To me, the one turn-off of broccoli is that it can appear kind of messy with the cute short stubs that cause it to lay every which way on a plate. This issue is fixed with broccolini, which lies beautifully and can really make a statement on any plate.

In this recipe, a decadent mixture of browned butter (I could just stop there…what’s not amazing with the addition of butter?), flavorful shallots, garlic and pecans coat the broccolini creating a dish that feels so special but is so easy to make. Paired with a new york strip and some mashed potatoes, you can have the perfect steakhouse dinner in the comfort of your home.

Ingredients for Brown Butter Pecan Broccolini

Brown Butter Pecan Broccolini
adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2008 c/o Caviar and Codfish

Makes 6 servings

  • 4 large bunches of broccolini, with tough ends of stems removed
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 shallots, minced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup pecans
  • kosher salt

1. Crush the pecans. I find it easiest to put the pecans in a Ziploc bag and use the back of an ice cream scoop to crush the nuts. For a small quantity, it’s an easy solution that prevents having to clean the food processor.

Crushing pecans the easy way...

2. Boil water in a pot large enough to hold all the broccolini. Once boiling, submerge broccolini in the water and boil for 4-6 minutes, until tender and crunchy. If you like yours to be softer, simply leave it in the water for a little longer until done to your liking.

Blanching the Broccolini, part 1

3. Once broccolini is done, strain it and immediately place it in an ice bath to prevent it from cooking any further.

Blanching the Broccolini, part 2 : The ice bath

4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Once melted, add the shallots, garlic and crushed pecans. Throw in a pinch or two of sea salt to season the shallots as they are cooking. Cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until the shallots are slightly caramelized and tender.

The makings of the sauce...

5. Get ready to brown the butter. Turn the burner to medium-high and stir the mixture constantly until the butter turns a nice rich dark caramel color and has a nutty aroma.

6. Once the butter is browned, quickly add the broccolini and reduce the burner to medium-low and heat the broccolini through. Give the mixture a taste and add salt and pepper as desired. Plate the broccolini and spoon some extra sauce/pecans on top.

Sunday Steak Dinner
Once more, please excuse the horrible photo, but this is the only shot I have of the completed dish until next time.

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Garlic Mashed Caulitaters

Sunday Steak DinnerPlease excuse the horribly lit photography…we were having some technical difficulties.

Briefly referenced in the last post, last night we took a stab at a low-carb friendly steakhouse dinner. When I think of a steakhouse, I obviously think of steaks, but beyond that is one item that is a must-have: mashed potatoes. The yummy carb-and-butter-loaded goodness that seems to be the perfect compliment to a nice juicy steak.

Well, obviously, potatoes are not on the low carb “approved foods” list (darn!). So, we decided we would try another idea we had read about in a few places – making “mock” mashed potatoes with cauliflower (which we have coined “caulitaters”…I know, it’s cheesy). I know what you’re thinking…cauliflower?? I too was very skeptical. BUT I can say with confidence, that although it is not the exact same taste as mashed potatoes, this recipe comes VERY close and is very yummy. I realized way after the fact that I forgot to take a pic of the finish mashed caulitaters on their own, hence the “whole plate” image above.

One tip that we are going to try next time (and I will post the results if they turn out better), is to use a food processor to blend everything together rather than an immersion blender. With the immersion blender, I couldn’t get everything smooth enough, so you’ll see in the photo that they were a little lumpy. But they were still very yummy and we are definitely going to add these to the weekly line up to help curb the carb cravings!

And, a little bit of the Caramelized Shallot Compound Butter makes these even tastier! And since first impressions are key, a little sprinkle of fresh chopped chives is a nice touch that also adds some good flavor to the dish.

Ingredients for "Caulitaters" (Mock Mashed Potatoes)

Garlic “Caulitators” with Shallots
Serves 2 

  • 1/2 medium head cauliflower
  • 1/2 tablespoon cream cheese, softened
  • 1/8 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon straight chicken base or bullion (may substitute 1/2 teaspoon salt)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh or dry chives, for garnish
  • 1/2 medium-sized shallot, minced (optional)*
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  1. Start boiling a pot of water large enough to hold all of your cauliflower.
  2. Cut the cauliflower into small pieces. Put them in the boiling water for about 6 minutes, until very well done. You want them to be nice and soft so that they fluff up easily.
  3. Drain the cauliflower, and immediately dry them off completely with paper towels. You do not want the cauliflower to cool down, so act quickly. Get them as try as you can and then transfer to the food processor.
  4. Add the garlic, pepper, shallots, chicken base, butter and cream cheese (everything except the chives) to the food processor and process until the mixture is a nice, smooth, fluffy texture similar to that of steakhouse mashed potatoes. Or, if you like your potatoes a little chunky, do the same to your cauliflower – they maintain a similar texture so it will work great.
  5. Serve the caulitaters with a nice sprinkling of long-chopped chives for garnish and enjoy!
* If you want even more flavor in the potatoes, caramelize the shallots first; If you don’t like onion-flavor in your potatoes, simply leave the shallots out.

 Recipe adapted from George Stella

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Caramelized Shallot Compound Butter

The goodness that is compound butter...

I have just been introduced to a new phenomenon…compound butter. I know I have eaten it many times before – honey butter, cinnamon butter, garlic butter, etc. – but I never thought of making my own. So when we decided to have a Sunday steak dinner, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to dive into making the yummy stuff.

For this recipe, I combined two recipes into my own concoction. It was SOOO easy to make. Simply let the butter come all the way to room temperature – which, if you’re like me and totally impatient, is almost impossible. But you need the butter to be nice and soft so you can easily mix things into the butter. Then, just put all your ingredients into a bowl, add the butter, and use the back of a fork to mix everything together.

Once you’ve got a beautiful, blended butter mixture, dump it out on a piece of parchment paper and spread it out a bit, and then roll the parchment paper around the butter to form a nice log of butter. Twist the ends of the paper to seal it and stick the log into the fridge so it can harden to a consistency that’s easily sliced into beautiful discs.

Here’s the recipe:

Caramelized Shallot Compound Butter

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots, caramelized in a little bit of butter
  • 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

This is screaming to be placed atop a hot NY strip!

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