Tuesday, February 28

Top Chef University on Gilt City for $69 (regularly $199)

Big thanks to fellow eater and college BFF Courtney for sharing this amazing deal with me.  Gilt City is offering a special deal on Top Chef University until March 5. 

For $69 you get a one year membership to Top Chef University which includes 12 courses taught by Top Chef winners and contestants like Stephanie Izard, Carla Hall, Spike Mendelsohn, Richard Blais, and Dale Levitski to name a few. 

This annual membership which usually goes for $199 includes over 200 video lessons and provides recipes with each lesson.  It's more than recipes though, it's technique as well, on everything from stocks, soups, sauces and salads to beef, seafood, poultry, pasta, desserts, global cuisine... you get the point!  See the full list here.

If you're interested, check out the deal here.  I just bought mine and can't wait to try it out over the next few months.  I figure at best I learn some new things and get to experiment with some fun new recipes.  At worst, I've subscribed to a somewhat exclusive mini Food Network channel staring all my favorite Top Chef contestants.

Almost completely unrelated... Courtney (the bearer of this exciting tip) and I have been friends since the very first day of class our freshman year at Virginia Tech.  We met during the first class of the day, realized we went to neighboring high schools and oh, that we had 3 out of our 5 classes together that semester.  We had at least 3 but sometimes as many of 5 of our classes together over each of the following 7 semesters and she was an integral part of my collegiate experience.  Despite our nearly 12 year friendship we have taken exactly one good photo together which required professional hair and make up along with a professional photographer.  Clearly our time together is better spent catching up over margaritas, doing all night studythons, cheering on the Hokies and being deviant during class.

Thanks again for the heads up on the deal Pea!  


Sunday, February 26

Fresh Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Like almost everyone else these days, I've got the Pintrest bug.  I've pinned a handful of recipes over the past month but this is the first one I've actually tried and it was AMAZING.  I'm not so sure if that's a result of Pintrest or the fact that it's also a cookie recipe contest winner.


I set out to make these last weekend with the intent to keep half for Roy and I and give half to some friends.  Only they were delicious.  And even Roy, who doesn't care for lemon flavored desserts, was sneaking away with two or three cookies at a time.  So being the flexible people that we are, we adapted and kept them all for ourselves :)


These cookies are a perfect afternoon snack and they're great with a cup of tea.  They're a bit chewier than regular sugar cookies and the lemon flavor is bright and fresh.  You can actually see the zest in the batter.  The sweetness of the powdered sugar is a beautiful compliment to the tart lemon.  There's a reason this was the winning cookie recipe! 


Foster joined me to catch some Sunday sun while I baked and he agreed, 3 out of 3 stars.


These are beautiful spring cookies, great for Easter Sunday, any kind of girls lunch or afternoon tea,  or for a break from your usual sweet chocolate treat. 

Now please excuse me while I go make a second batch to share with those friends I mentioned... 


Lemon Crinkle Cookies
Makes 2-3 dozen
30 mins active, 60-70 mins total

½ cups butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 whole egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoons baking powder
⅛ teaspoons baking soda
1-½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease light colored baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whip in vanilla, egg, lemon zest, and juice. Scrape sides and mix again. Stir in all dry ingredients slowly until just combined, excluding the powdered sugar. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again briefly.

Pour powdered sugar onto a large plate. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms begin to barely brown and cookies look matte (not melty or shiny). Remove from oven and cool cookies about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

*If using a non-stick darker baking tray, reduce baking time by about 2 minutes.

Friday, February 24

"Secret Spaghetti"

[Reposting this since the previous version was showing up incorrectly, sorry!]

After seeing Jamie Oliver's tv show Food Revoluion two summers ago, I became interested in the idea of adding more vegetables to every day dishes.  Specifically, spaghetti.  I took my Mom's standard recipe (sauce + ground beef) and then gave it my own spin.  I swapped in ground turkey and added loads of veggies like chopped green peppers, diced onion, mushrooms, and garlic. 


It's simple, delicious and super hearty without offending your waist line.  Hence the name secret spaghetti... you'd never know this dish is jam packed with so many veggies!  It's a secret :) 

I've been relying on recipes like this to beef up my daily fruit and veggie intake in the new year.  I love eating comfort food that packs a nutritional punch too.

This recipe is embarrassingly easy since it starts with jarred sauce.  So easy that I'm ashamed to post an actual recipe at the bottom.  This is too easy to warrant a recipe.  But I'm doing it anyway in case someone wants to see the process. 

This is perfect for hectic worknights.  It would work equally as well with a homemade sauce and with whatever veggies you have on hand, feel free to switch it up!  In general, it's pretty impossible to mess up.  The sauce needs to simmer for 30 minutes to cook the meat but you could leave it over low heat for an hour.  Or cook it earlier in the afternoon or the day before and then reheat it when you're ready.

I serve over whatever pasta I have handy and add in some slices of cheesy garlic bread and a green salad.  And a glass of milk.  For some reason spaghetti makes me crave milk.  So weird.


PS: if you can afford it, go with organic spaghetti sauce (and ketchup for that matter).  Organic tomatoes deliver up to 30% more of the antioxidant lycopene which is said to help reduce your risk of cancer.  Well theoretically "30% more".  You know how the FDA works.


Secret Spaghetti
serves 6-8
15 mins active, 45 mins total

Favorite jarred spaghetti sauce
1/2 lb ground turkey
2+ cloves minced garlic
1/2 onion, roughly diced
1 green bell pepper, roughly diced
Large handful of mushrooms, chopped
Sprinkle of dried oregano (optional)
Handful of basil or parsley (optional)

Pour sauce into a large saucepan.  Crumble ground turkey into sauce and stir to combine. Set on stove over medium heat and cover.

Chop onions, garlic, peppers and mushrooms.  Add to the sauce (you can add each one as you finish chopping or hold them and add all at once), stir.  Add herbs, salt and pepper if desired.  Cover and let simmer until turkey is cooked, about 30 minutes total.

While the sauce simmers, cook pasta.  Combine pasta with sauce and serve.

Saturday, February 18

Hide & Seek with Vegetables - Week 4 update

I just wrapped up week 4 of my 2012 fruit and veggie resolution.  I'd like to say it's gotten easier but while some of these changes are becoming habits (like eating a healthy afternoon snack) others are starting to see their novelty wear off (like counting my daily servings).  I'm still trying to get a grasp on what constitutes one cup of all these fruits and vegetables.  And then I'm working on raising the motivation to actually CONSUME a cup of carrots or grapes or whatever - on a repeated basis. 

I'm averaging about 4 servings a weekday (calling it a cup might be a stretch).  A lot of it is pairing the healthy foods with the other foods that I love (chocolate, cheese, crackers), working to make these choices a habit, and then hiding vegetables where I can.  For example, loading up my spaghetti sauce with extra veggies, making fresh banana bread, putting peppers and onions in with my chicken enchiladas, and adding fresh tomatoes into pasta dishes.

I'd say it's working out well so far.  But it still requires weekly planning to make sure I have the right food in my house and then focus during the day to make sure I'm not making an impulse grab but instead going for the fruits and veggies.

I know I'm going to have to get more creative to keep this rolling for the next 4 weeks.  I have the added challenge of a very busy March coming up so it will be interesting to see how this progresses.

For now, here are some of the things I've been eating to keep the fruit and veggie count up.

For snacks...
  • Apple and Cheddar - where has this combo been all my life!  I'm loving sliced apples and cubed cheese.  I typically grab prepackaged cheese sticks at the store so I can just throw them in my bag.  Super easy.
  • Cheese, grapes and Rosemary Garlic Triscuits - speaking of those cheese sticks... grab one with a handful of Rosemary Garlic Triscuits (thank you Carey for bringing those into my life, they're DELICIOUS), and then a handful of grapes. 
  • Banana Nutella Toast - this is really good when I'm craving something sweet and chocolatey.
  • Guacamole and Chips - avocados are full of good fat and Lord knows I can eat enough guacamole to make this count as a serving.
For dinner...
  • Spaghetti sauce - add chopped bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions to your normal sauce.  I'll post my version of this later this week. 
  • Chicken enchiladas - add chopped bell peppers and onions to your normal chicken and cheese mixture.
  • Stirfry - pick your favorite fresh veggies or grab one of the bags of pre-chopped frozen veggies at the store.  A 12 ounce bag of chopped red bell pepper, broccoli, onion, mushroom and watercress is $1.99 and cheaper than you could possibly buy everything fresh.  And so easy!
  • Veggie meatloaf - I have an amazing recipe from Bobby Flay that I'll share soon, it's got balsamic vinegar and is not your momma's meatloaf!
  • Chicken Nachos - making it completely acceptable to eat nachos for dinner and still have a balanced meal.
  • Make your own pizza - Bobboli dough, canned pizza sauce and whatever veggies and toppings you prefer.  Switch it up and use BBQ sauce, red onion and chicken for a different take.

Wednesday, February 15

Super Bowl-worthy Pepperoni Bread

Here is the recipe for one of my FAVORITE football foods - pepperoni bread with banana peppers.  It was one of the highlights of this year's Super Bowl for me. 


The original recipe comes from our old Chicago friends Dave and AY (aka: the other Lindsay) who now live in Cincinnati with their beautiful new daughter Alaina.  Like all of the other AY recipes that pepper my recipe box, this does not disappoint! 

The most complicated part of this recipe is putting the process of making this bread into words.  Fortunately, I have photos to make the process easier :) 

Start by bringing some pre-made pizza dough up to room temp for 20 minutes so it's easier to work with (you can find pre-made dough in the deli/fresh foods section of your grocery store).  Then roll it out on a floured surface to be roughly the size of a cookie sheet. 

Starting in the top left corner lay down the pepperoni in rows leaving a half inch border around the edge.  As you can see from the photo below, this isn't like pizza.  Don't use the pepperoni sparingly.  Cover the dough, let the edges overlap a little.  I use turkey pepperoni because I think it's a little less greasey and I can't tell a difference between turkey versus real pepperoni.  Cover the pepperoni liberally with mozzarella cheese. 


Drain a jar of banana peppers, tear up the larger chunks and sprinkle them across the dough.


Then slowly gather the edge on the far side and begin rolling it towards you.


Your roll should look like this. You'll be able to see the pepperonis under the dough and you'll be worried it's going to bust but it won't, just be gentle.


Pinch the edges and ends closed and bake for 20-25 minutes.


Pair with warm marinara sauce, brownies (Duncan Hines chocolate chunk), beer, friends, a good football game, and enjoy!




Super Bowl-worthy Pepperoni Bread

1 pre-made pizza dough
1 package of turkey pepperonis (or about 15 medium thickness slices of regular deli pepperoni)
8 ounces of shredded mozzarella
1 jar of mild banana peppers

Let refrigerated dough come to room temp for 20 mins.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out dough on a floured surface until it is roughly the size and shape of a cookie sheet.  Starting in the top left corner lay down the pepperoni in rows leaving a half inch border around the edge. 

Cover the pepperoni with mozzarella cheese. 

Drain a jar of banana peppers, tear up the larger pieces and the sprinkle over the pepperoni and cheese. 

Slowly gather the edge that's farthest from you and begin rolling it in.  Gently place the roll on a cookie sheet and pinch the edges and ends closed.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden and crispy. 

Sunday, February 12

Maple Glazed Salmon

Before the holidays I mentioned a cooking class that the Royfriend and I took with some friends.  We made a delicious sweet potato hash among other things like Gruyere fondue and pumpkin donuts with a chocolate dipping sauce.  This is the salmon that we made during the class, it's supposed to go on top of the sweet potato hash. 


It's covered in a fragrant maple and soy glaze that's incredible!


Not too sweet, not too salty.  Lots of flavor with the inclusion of garlic and fresh rosemary.  And definitely my new favorite salmon recipe.  It was one of those meals where the dinner table conversation was continuously interrupted by "this is so good...." "...amazing..." and "new. favorite. meal.".  Both of us remarked several times that this was better than we remembered. 


It's crazy easy to make.  Most of the ingredients are things you've already got in your pantry.  Just dump them in a small pot, heat to a boil, and let it simmer for 10 mins to reduce.  Then brush it on the salmon and bake.  Because I like to make my fish fresh each night, I have the fish monger wrap the 4 fillets separately into 2 packages.  Then I split the sauce in half and reheat it before glazing and baking the salmon on night 2.

The original recipe includes fresh grated ginger and a paste of roasted garlic.  Because I'm lazy I omitted the ginger and just used minced garlic instead of the roasted garlic paste.  Survey says that you can't tell and the modifications work just as well.  Do whatever works for you.

I served this with a side salad and some roasted asparagus sprinkled with fresh Parmesan Reggiano cheese.  Very good - out of 3 possible stars, it got 4!


Maple Glazed Salmon
4 servings, 20 mins active, 30 mins total

1/2 cup cooking grade maple syrup
1 Tbsp ginger, freshly grated (I omitted this)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
3 cloves roasted garlic, smashed into a paste (I minced 3 cloves garlic instead)
2 tsp rosemary, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
4 5-6 ounce salmon fillets, boneless and skinless

Mix together maple syrup, ginger, lemon juice, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, garlic, and rosemary in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until thick and glazy, about 10 minutes.

Place the salmon fillets on a parchment-lined baking sheet and season with salt and pepper to taste.   Generously brush the tops of the fillets with the maple glaze and roast in a 375 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.  Baste the fillets with additional glaze while they are roasting.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, February 9

Grilled Cheese Makeover

I love grilled cheese.  It's one of my favorite food groups, along with chocolate chip cookies.  I'm pretty sure half my meal plan freshman year went to grilled cheese and mashed potatoes at Owens.  And grilled cheese is what I order from room service the night before every big work event. 

Last month my beloved grilled cheese got a makeover.  It's very simple - mustard

My Mom had suggested adding mustard earlier in the fall and then over the holidays I had cheese toasts at a cute bar in New York City that were oozing with mustard and covered in bubbly cheese.  AMAZING! 

I replicated at home using deli mustard (a grainy mustard is best) and a combo of Munster cheese and cheddar cheese.  Butter the outside of the slices like you normally would but spread a fair amount of mustard on the inside of the slices and then layer with cheese and deli meat.  I make my grilled cheese over lower heat and cover the pan with a bit of foil to help melt the cheese.  And those are some delicious Alexia frozen sweet potato fries in the background, which are quickly becoming one of my new favorite things! 



Thursday, February 2

Super Bowl Eats

The Super Bowl is one of my favorite food holidays.  We didn't have plans set until just yesterday but I've known what I was making since January 5.  Pepperoni bread and chocolate chunk brownies.  Probably some other stuff too, but that's what I've had my sights set on. 

Unfortunately I'll be doing all the cooking this weekend so I won't be able to share recipes until after the big game.  For now I'm sharing a few links in case you're on the hunt for ideas and inspiration. 

Pioneer Woman's Top Ten Food Picks for Super Bowl Sunday - a collection from one of the best

Straight from Wisconsin Corn and Sausage Chowder - in case you're feeling less appetizer, more dinner

Buffalo Wing Chicken Dip - feels indulgent but is secretly healthy

Not Guac Avocado Dip - be unique, do something other than salsa and guac!  If you're put off by the darker color that the balsamic vinegar gives this dip, use white balsamic.

Dump Cake - conveniently Super Bowl themed this year as it includes blueberries and cherries and the Pats and Giants colors are red, white and blue.

BBQ Chicken Nachos - make the BBQ chicken mix on Saturday and just heat and serve on Sunday.  Another option with lots of flavor and healthy ingredients.

Caution - once you see these next two recipes you can't unsee them.  And you will spend days and weeks thinking about how and when you could make these (must have a crowd because having all of this to myself would be bad for my 2012 fruit and vegetable challenge).

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip

Brownies + Cookies = Brookies

Don't say I didn't warn you ;)

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, February 1

My Quest for Veggies - 2 week update

Every January my body comes out of the holiday food coma and begins craving healthy food again.  This year in addition to filling the fridge with healthier stuff, I started paying attention to what I was actually putting in my body.  The great realization is that I'm not getting as much balance as I should be.  So I decided to make my quest to eat more fruits and vegetables an official resolution. 

5 cups of fruits and vegetables each week day. 

I picked the number 5 after some haphazard research.  ChooseMyPlate.gov says I need 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables a day.  So I'm calling it 5 and taking whatever mix of fruits and vegetables it turns out to be.

After 2 weeks my key learning is -- this is hard!

Seriously, try it.  Spend the next few days tracking the fruits and veggies you eat.  Prior to this little challenge I was probably consuming 2 to 3 cups.

After focusing on this for 2 weeks I find that with thought and focus, I'm averaging about 4 cups/servings a day.  But that 5th serving... it eludes me. 

So here's where I am:
  • Have a veggie or salad dish made and on hand.  Something that makes 6-8 servings and requires no prep after the first time I make it, so I can easily tack it on to my lunch or eat it as a snack between conference calls.  It has to be something I WON'T be eating for dinner, that way I don't get bored or overdo it.  Week one it was tomato and cucumber salad.  Week two it was broccoli slaw.  Week three I'm going for a greek salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, feta and olives.
  • Effort is required. You already know this, but you have to make the effort to buy fruit and veggies and prep them in advance.  I'm already fighting my urge to eat something salty and decidedly non-fruit and veggie like, so the healthy option has to be super easy to grab.  I usually do my big grocery shopping on Sunday so I spend an extra half hour to wash and prep everything.  I typically take care of this while I'm waiting for dinner to cook.
  • This requires planning.  Nothing over the top, but enough to make sure that you've got necessary supplies in your kitchen and enough opportunities to get 5 cups over the course of the day.  For me, this means a bit more thought before I go to the store so I can be sure to get enough to last the week.  And consciously thinking about what my "daily tally" is a few times a day so I can adjust or make a different decision.
  • Cheat.  Thank goodness for V8 juice!  I'm using that to get me to 5 servings while I retrain my body to enjoy fruits and veggies more. 
  • Hide veggies where you can in dinner.  More on that in my next update post.
  • This isn't cheap.  Fresh fruits and veggies are expensive.  But someone made a great point recently - we spend tons of money to dress our bodies, decorate our homes, own nice things.  Why wouldn't you spend money on the things that you're putting INSIDE your body.  To me that made perfect sense, so I'm trying to pinch pennies on the dried goods and take advantage of sales.  Eat what's in season and use frozen when you can, that also helps cover the gap.

Right now, here's what a good, organized, planned day looks like, where I'm getting 4-5 cups a day -- half a cup of OJ (100% juice counts!) and a banana with my breakfast, some kind of salad or fruit with lunch, a small can of V8 along with whatever else I'm grazing on during the afternoon, and then a veggie and salad with dinner. 

It seems really easy written out like that, but not everything is a full cup and this assumes I have everything on hand and ready to go.  It also assumes I can resist the urge to eat something salty at 3pm.  Not every day is going to run so smoothly.  Sometimes the fridge is empty, I'm traveling, or it was a really, terrible, awful, very bad, no good day and dinner is going to be Taco Bell drive thru thankyouverymuch.  Those days wind up with me eating closer to 2-3 servings.

Now I'd love your help.  Any good veggie or salad recipes I should make?  I know I'm going to get bored in the next 2 weeks and I've got to have some other ideas in my back pocket.

And does anyone have a good broccoli slaw recipe??  I'm looking for a vinaigrette style dressing and also maybe a few key details on whether or not you're supposed to cook that stuff :)