October 28, 2011

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Hi there!  Terrible blogger here.  I have missed you guys, but honestly leaving DC after work on Fridays and not getting back to DC until Sunday night made it really hard for me to keep up with this.  We kept cooking and eating and running over here, but at the end of the evening, after the dishes were done and the laundry was done and lunches were made, I just did not have the desire to sit down and rehash it.  I have the beginnings of a few posts on meals we've cooked over here, but first I thought I'd fill you in on what has been taking up most of my energy the past month: being a jetsetter! Sort of. If taking the Megabus to NYC qualifies as "jetsetting."

So, without further ado, a somewhat brief recap on my adventures of late.

1. We went to NYC. It was awesome.  Among other things I: ate at an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant the length of a city block; walked across the Brooklyn Bridge; had Tasti-D-Lite for the first time (verdict: yummy, but Frozen Yo is better); had a lengua taco (verdict: not a fan); and...saw NEWSIES!! I have loved that movie since I was a little girl, so I jumped at the opportunity to get tickets while we were in the area.  It was amazing!  Never fear, Brooklyn is here!

Sushi. So many different kinds of sushi.


My sister showed us around her grad school campus.

2. I ran 7 miles in Central Park. My first 7 miles! And then ate a yummy egg and cheese bagel.

3. We went to Baltimore.  I have two close friends that I've known since high school who live up there, and our mutual lack of cars means that we don't see each other as often as we should.  So MG and I took the Amtrak up on a Saturday to spend the night.  We: had a picnic in a beautiful park; had a delicious and fun meal of vegetarian moussaka homemade by my dear friend and cook extraordinaire, Rachel; enjoyed Indian buffet; visited a cool free art museum; and played Scattergories in a sculpture garden.  I love my friends!


The moussaka assembly.

Friends, food and wine. Pretty much all you need.

4. I ran 8 miles on the National Mall.  My first 8 miles!  And then ate a yummy egg and cheese bagel.

5. MG finished his civic duty on a trial, so we celebrated with Frozen Yo.  Also he surprised me one day after work by having 3 loaves of pumpkin yeast bread in the oven when I walked in the door.  I love him.

6. MG and I did a little paint your own pottery and then went out for a fantastic Vietnamese dinner for one of our monthly secret dates that we plan for each other.

The artist at work.


Lemongrass chicken for him, pork bun for her.

7. We went to New Jersey for the wedding of one of MG's friends from high school.  It was a beautiful wedding and I loved meeting all of his friends.  It was also the most extravagant wedding I have been to, foodwise.  During cocktail hour I ate my weight in Chinese food, Italian food, shrimp cocktail, and perhaps a bacon-wrapped scallop or two.  And I tried caviar (verdict: love it! Wish it wasn't so freaking expensive).

Approximately 1% of the full extent of the cocktail hour food and drink spread.

The caviar station. That guy looks creepy, but I can overlook that for expensive fish eggs.

8. Went to a panel talk at the National Archives featuring three former White House chefs who collectively served presidents from Carter through Obama.  Highlight: learning that Amy Carter used to ask the chefs to help her bake cookies, then would run off in her roller skates and let them burn.  Also the time that one of the chefs was instructed to destroy a box of expensive caviar that Gorbachev brought to President Reagan, because it was a security threat. The chef decided it was worth dying for and took it home. See #7, above.

We have one more trip to make, this time to Wisconsin for the wedding of two of my best friends from law school.  I can't wait to celebrate with them, but it will also be nice to have a weekend at home and get back into a normal life routine.  Once we return, Cookies and Kale will be back to its regularly scheduled programming.  Happy Halloween!

Photo source: Lynn Dairy

October 4, 2011

Meatless Monday: Shirley's Southwest Chili Soup

Yes, it's Tuesday.  Better late than never, right?

I had planned to post this recipe last night for Meatless Monday, but then I decided that testing out my new three-tiered cooling racks was a better idea. The fact that testing them involved baking these amazing pumpkin chocolate chip cookies played no part in the decisionmaking. I promise. However, I can't say I regret the decision :)

More delicious than blogging.

Anyways, on to the post! My maternal grandmother is a pretty amazing woman.  She's in her 80s and super active and healthy.  One of her favorite pastimes is cooking.  In fact, at her 80th birthday party several years ago, she insisted on making almost all of the food herself.  I have a lot of vivid memories of food that my grandma prepared for my sister and me as children.  Some were more complex, some were as simple as melted havarti cheese with scallions on a baguette.  I love visiting my grandma because she always has new things for me to try.

My grandma has lived in a lot of places in the U.S. throughout her life, but she's spent a considerable amount of time in Arizona.  She loves Mexican and Tex-Mex food and in addition to making enchiladas, tostadas and burritos, makes her own salsa and enchilada sauce.

MG and I went to visit her in May of this year and one of the things she prepared for us was her Southwest Chili Soup.  Texans will probably be offended that the word "chili" even appears in the title, so as a disclaimer, no, this is not chili.  First, it doesn't have any meat or even fake meat.  Second, it has beans, which purists say don't belong in chili.  Third, it's soup.  It's the consistency of soup.  But while it may not be chili, it is a hearty, warm and filling meal that has all the flavors and goodness of a bowl of vegetarian chili.

My grandma has this recipe written on an index card and she copied it out onto an index card which is now in my recipe binder, so if there is an original source, I have no idea what it is.  I've also added corn to the recipe, because I love corn.

All the ingredients (also my multivitamins. Nice phototaking skills, Esther)

Since May I've made this three or four times, which is impressive because I generally am too distracted by new recipes such that I rarely make the same recipe more than a couple of times a year.

NB: my grandma's recipe calls for sherry at the end.  She told me that this was her addition and insisted that I put it in because it makes it "so much better." (My grandma channels Julia Child from time to time). Obviously this is completely optional, but if you don't have a problem with putting sherry in, I do think it gives the soup a little something extra.

The hard stuff.

Grandma Shirley's Southwest Chili Soup
Probably originally adapted from a magazine, somewhere...

Serves 4-6.

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 small can diced green chiles
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder OR 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 and 3/4 cup vegetable broth (or use Better than Boullion with equal amount water)
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained (I prefer using the fire-roasted variety)
1 can (14.5 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (14.5 oz) kidney or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn (or fresh if it's in season!)
1/3 cup sherry
cayenne pepper, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven at medium heat.  Add onion, chiles, chili powder, cumin and garlic. Cook and stir until vegetables are tender.

Add broth and tomatoes.  Heat to a boil.  Reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Add beans and corn, cook 5 minutes longer or until hot. Add sherry and simmer for an additional 3 minutes. Finally, season with cayenne, salt and pepper.


October 1, 2011

New Month's Resolution: October

I cannot believe it's October already! I really feel like it was only a couple of weeks ago that MG was having his wisdom teeth out and I went to Miami.  But this morning, in case there was any doubt that fall is here, we woke up to 53 degrees and a grey fall sky threatening rain.

We're not to be deterred, though, so in addition to watching Ohio State play this afternoon, we're going over to the Crafty Bastards Fair to do a little early Christmas shopping (and possibly buy some things for ourselves while we're at it).

Last month I decided to start setting monthly goals for myself and share them with you. My September resolution was to try to snack only if I was actually hungry (and not for other reasons, like boredom).

This month, my goal isn't exactly food related, but it is health and fitness related.  And, as I mentioned in my first post, part of my desire to have a blog is not just to share delicious recipes with you, but also to have a place to share some of my successes and challenges in staying fit in general.  So, for all you foodies out there, I hope you will indulge me in talking a little bit about my October goal: to run a 15K.

I've run off and on since I was in college (although there was a lot of "off" in there). The summer before my 3L year I did the Couch to 5K running plan and ran my first 5K.  Since then I haven't always been consistent, but becoming a more committed runner was one of my challenges for myself when I decided to lose weight last New Year's, and I'm happy to report that not only have I stuck with it, but I'm loving it (I won't say every moment.  But many of the moments :) )

Finally, a race photo where I am smiling!
Photo credit: Marathon-photos.com

The Navy 5 Miler that I ran last weekend was my 10th race. I've now run several 5Ks, 8Ks and 10Ks, and I run regularly several times a week, usually 4-5 miles at a time.  When MG decided to sign up for the Hot Chocolate 15K, I started thinking about doing it too, but I had some fears. Although 15K isn't *quite* 10 miles, it's pretty darn close, and the idea of running that far was (and still is) pretty intimidating. But I remembered how scary the idea of running my first 5K was and then, in turn, how scary the idea of running two times that seemed, and I decided that there was no reason why I couldn't tackle this too (also the running jacket is pretty sick). So, on December 3, weather and health permitting, I will be running 9.3 miles, and then celebrating my achievement with Ghirardelli chocolate.

Although this race isn't until December, I've made it my October goal, because as I've previously mentioned we're traveling quite a bit in October. So the real challenge in my training will be to commit to waking up and running 7, 8, and even 10 miles while away. One the one hand, I always enjoy running in new places, because it's a fun way to see the city. On the other hand, I'm realistic, and I recognize that once I'm there, it may very well be a challenge to get myself out of bed.

So, I hope you don't mind if I share updates on my progress over the next 10 weeks.  In exchange for your patience and support, I'll share some yummy recipes. Most of which will probably involve pumpkin. (J/k). (Sort of).

How will I cook you? Let me count the ways.

And finally, go Buckeyes!!

Reader Survey: What are your October resolutions?

September 30, 2011

A Sweet New Year

Happy New Year!

Wednesday night marked the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  In addition to attending synagogue, it is traditional to welcome the new year with a festive meal and dishes involving apples and honey (for a sweet new year).

I have been very lucky during my six years in D.C. to have developed a great group of friends with whom I often celebrate Jewish holidays.  Not all of them are Jewish, and the group changes a bit from year to year, but I definitely feel like these people are my family and I always look forward to sharing my holidays (and holiday food) with them.  This year, a good friend of mine has been gracious to open her apartment and kitchen for both Passover and Rosh Hashanah, so last night we co-hosted a small dinner party.

The menu consisted of: matzo ball soup, sweet noodle kugel, roasted root vegetables and the main attraction - roasted leg of lamb.  For dessert, MG made a spiced apple cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting and our friends made an oatmeal apple crisp, which we devoured.  And, of course, there were apples, honey, and my personal favorite, round raisin challah.

We made a serious dent. 
From back to front: lamb, roasted veggies, noodle kugel, finger gun.

Unfortunately, I am still adjusting to my role as blogger and I got so caught up in enjoying my evening that I forgot to take pictures until the end.  On the one hand, I'm happy that my blogging didn't take precedence over my enjoyment of the evening, but I did hope to have some nicer pictures to share with you.

Apples in dessert form: the aftermath.

I hope that whatever holidays you have coming up in the next few months are as happy and filled with friends and food!  Shanah tovah!

September 25, 2011

Post-Race Brunch: The Heights

I am not a morning person.  Not at all.  If I'm going to wake up before 8 am there had better be a good reason like "if you don't get up and go to work, eventually you will be fired" or "if you don't get up and go to the airport, you will miss your flight to Miami" or "if you get up now you can have peanut butter, run 5 miles, and then have brunch."  

Pre-race fuel.

We found a stowaway in MG's gym bag. 
Sadly, he wasn't registered, so we had to leave him at home.

This morning involved the last.  MG and several of our friends and I ran the Navy 5 Miler around the Pentagon.  It was my first race of the fall season (I have 4 more to go), and it was great!  For the first time, I really felt ready for a race.  I've run a few races now, and generally I feel like I *can* do it, but not that I'm necessarily as prepared as I could/should be.  But this was probably the first race I've ever run where I felt like I was truly ready.

He loves it when I force him to pose for pictures at 6:15 a.m.

Despite some threat of rain in the forecast, the weather held, and although the humidity was less than desirable, overall we had good weather.  I was really proud of how well the race went for me.  I achieved my goal and ran a PR, and felt good throughout the race, despite not being very good at operating my watch or keeping an eye out for mile markers. 

Afterwards we came back, took showers (and had a much needed cup of coffee) and then headed out to a restaurant in our neighborhood for brunch.  Despite being a stone's throw away, I'd still never been to the Heights, so we decided that we'd take advantage of the weather and enjoy our breakfasts and beverages on their patio.

I treated myself to a Bloody Mary (my favorite drink, and not just because it comes with olives to snack on) and MG had a Bell's beer (I can't remember what kind).

Celebrating one race down!

For brunch I ordered the spinach, tomato and zucchini benedict, which came with an awesome spicy tomato sauce (I do not like Hollandaise).  

One of the better Benedicts I've had, and I do consider myself a connoisseur.

MG ordered the huevos motulenos, which was an awesome combination of black beans, chicken, plantains and avocado, with two eggs any style on top.  Although my dish was really delicious, after I had a bite of MG's I had a little bit of buyer's remorse.  I should have known that anything with "plaintains" in the ingredient list would be the best choice.  But, there will be a next time :)

If you look carefully, you can see a plantain peeking out from under the eggs.

We shared home fries and fruit salad - I wasn't impressed with the home fries, they were a little soggy and didn't have a lot of flavor.  The ones at Busboys and Poets are definitely better.  


Although I'll probably need a nap later, it's always exciting to feel so accomplished (and so contentedly full) before noon on a Sunday!  Totally worth the early morning alarm.  

September 24, 2011

Early Edition: Almond Joy Oatmeal

Now that the weather is cooling off, I'm starting to eat more oatmeal for breakfast.  I love oatmeal, but during the summer I usually prefer cereal with cold milk to beat the heat.  I'm excited to be breaking out the Quaker again, though, and I've been finding a lot of oatmeal recipe ideas from some of the blogs I follow.

During the week, I normally have my oatmeal with 1/2 a banana, some peanut butter, chia seeds, and lately, pumpkin puree.  But weekends are for being decadent, right?  So this weekend I decided to surprise MG with oatmeal based on one of his favorite candies: Almond Joy.

Using some great inspiration from Chocolate Covered Katie (check her out!) on how to turn oatmeal into a delicious morning sweet treat, here's what I came up with:

Makes 1 serving

1/2 cup Quaker Old Fashioned Oatmeal
1/2 cup almond or skim milk
1/2 cup water
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 banana, cut up
1 tbsp slivered or sliced almonds, toasted
1 tbsp shaved coconut flakes
1/2 tbsp semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp chia seeds
sweetener to taste (1 packet of stevia in mine, 2 tsp brown sugar in MGs)

The night before:
Mix the oats, milk, water, cocoa powder, extracts and banana in a bowl.  Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate overnight.

When you wake up:
Remove the plastic wrap and microwave the bowls for about 3 - 3.5 minutes (keep an eye on them so the oatmeal doesn't overflow!)  Meanwhile, toast the almonds in a small skillet over medium heat.  When the oatmeal is hot and thickened, add sweetener, if desired.  Finally, top with the almonds, coconut, chocolate chips and chia seeds.

Enjoy a delicious coconutty, chocolately morning!

One satisfied customer.

September 22, 2011

Spicy Sausage, Two Ways: Part Two

As I discussed in Part One of this epic series on how I used a pound of ground sausage, this meal was part of an effort to eat our way through the rather large quantity of meat in our freezer after we combined kitchens.

For my second meal, I wanted to do something that would make an easy lunch.  Around the time I was contemplating what to do with the meat in the freezer, I found a recipe on Serious Eats for Lentil and Sausage Soup.  Since lentils are basically awesome in all forms, this seemed like a promising option.  Turns out I made a good call - the sausage and olive pasta was good, but this was the real winner.  This is officially my new favorite cold weather soup.  Again, I basically just followed the recipe, with these changes:

1. I used 1/2 lb sausage, and I did not form meatballs.  I just browned it in a ground state.
2. Added a clove of minced garlic.  Garlic is supposed to be healthy, but I just think most things taste better with garlic.
3. I added 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced - put this in when you add the lentils and broth. DO IT. This is half of the reason why I think the soup is so awesome.
4. Added 1/2 bag of baby spinach at the end and let it cook down, uncovered, for about 2 more minutes.

I had this for lunch with a big piece of toasted whole wheat and flax bread that smeared with a little butter and a lot of Dijon mustard. Fun discovery: warm, soft whole wheat bread with Dijon mustard kind of tastes like a hot pretzel with mustard!

Although clearly this recipe is not vegetarian, I hope some vegetarians out there have read this far, because I'm eager to see if this could be accomplished using Boca crumbles or TVP or something.  Ideally I will get around to trying this out, but if it doesn't happen and someone else does, please let me know how it goes!  I'm thinking that a basic soy ground sausage or beef would work, with some traditional spicy Italian sausage seasoning, like fennel and crushed red pepper.  This soup made me so ridiculously happy that I'd love for everyone to be able to enjoy it (and I'd like to be able to make a vegetarian version for myself as well).

Lentil, Sausage and Sweet Potato Soup
Adapted from Serious Eats

Makes 4 servings.

1/2 lb hot Italian sausage, ground (again, if necessary, remove from casings)
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
1 celery rib, finely diced
1/2 lb green lentils, soaked for about 1 hour and rinsed*
4 springs of fresh thyme, leaves removed and minced
1 quart vegetable broth (I used Better than Boullion Vegetable)
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1/2 bag baby spinach, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the sausage and brown lightly, breaking it up as it cooks.

Add the remaining 1 tsp of olive oil along with the garlic, onion and celery.  Saute until the vegetables are soft, about 3 more minutes.

Add the lentils, thyme, sweet potato and vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat.  Simmer for 1 hour, or until the lentils are tender.  Add the spinach, stir and cook for 1-2 minutes more, until all the spinach has wilted into the soup.


*Confession time: I have some trouble figuring out the difference between different types of lentils at the store.  This might partially be the result of my grocery store only having a limited selection of lentils. I *think* I used green lentils, but they just look kind of brown to me, and the package just said "lentils." So there you are.  Tasted great though.