Sunday, February 28, 2010

Family Day

E and i are so blessed to have such wonderful families. i wish we lived a short drive away from all our siblings but we have half very close.
we started yesterday watching our niece and nephew play basketball games with E's mom. then had lunch with the whole gang. i cannot say enough wonderful things about my "in-laws". i am very lucky that they don't feel like my in-laws but they have made me feel like family. it was a fun morning full of cheering on EA and RJ (they both won their games) and a nice lunch at a local york pizza place.
RJ #34 - scored several baskets for his team!
 EA #45 - quite the asset on the defense. she never left her girl!
after a short nap, E and i were off to have dinner with my parents. we wanted to have drinks at hamilton tavern before dinner but it was packed at 6:30 so we headed right to mo's fisherman's exchange. mom and dad had been raving about this place ever since they went with friends for mom's birthday in january.

i had an apple martini while we ordered apps. this place is a true maryland seafood restaurant. they are not skimpy with their portions. i seriously don't think i have ever seen a bigger crab cake. and they make them the way crab cakes should be made - jumbo lumps of meat, just enough filler to hold it together.
i ordered oysters chesapeake to start. 6 oysters topped with shrimp, lumps of crabmeat, spinach, and a lemon cream sauce. these were so good! i had two, but could have easily made this my meal.
for dinner, i had crab imperial. it was basically a crab cake with imperial sauce on top. it was HUGE. the picture doesn't do it justice. it was a big as my hand! i had about 1/8th of it i was so full from the oysters. but, i enjoyed every last bite of this for lunch today.

if you live in the baltimore area and haven't been to mo's. you must go. it's worth the drive (they have many locations). for the price, this seafood can't be beat and it's not possible to walk away hungry.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Granola Bars and Salad Niçoise

first of all, here is what the coconut butter looks like. this is the only brand that i have been able to find that makes coconut butter. there are lots of different brands of coconut oil though. although very worth trying in it's own right, make sure the jar says coconut butter if that's what you are looking for.
on to the granola bars! i adapted this recipe from a one called thick chewy granola bars (originally adapted from a king arthur flour recipe). wow, what a chain of adaptations!

i have been trying up granola bar recipes for quite some time now. i have found ones that i like but never one that i love. well, i think i may have found a keeper this time. they turned out really well and the best thing about making granola bars is how much you can change them. i did maple chocolate pecan but you could add anything you have on hand that sounds good. fruit, nuts, chocolate, coconut, cereal, etc. i used maple syrup to sweeten these bars but you could use honey or agave nectar too. you could probably omit the brown rice syrup too if you want. i'll try that next time. i also want to try the nut butter next time. maybe i'll do chopped almonds, almond butter, and dark chocolate chips (i love chocolate in my granola bars). i'd also like to try using coconut oil instead of butter and doing coconut chocolate chip bars.
processing the oats to make oat flour
dry ingredients
another thing to note is that you could make these in an 8x13 pan and cut them into long, thin bars like the traditional granola bars. i thought i would like mine thicker and chewier, so i used an 8x8 pan and came out with thick squares. i haven't tried it but it think long and thin would make them crispier.

Maple Chocolate Pecan Granola Bars
(makes 20 squares)

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
1/3 cup oat flour (1/3 cup oats, finely ground in a food processor or blender)
1/2 cup sucanat
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (or dried fruit or other flavor chips)
3/4 cup raw chopped pecans (or any kind of nut)
1/3 cup nut butter (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbs melted butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbs brown rice syrup
1 tbs water

preheat the oven to 350°F. line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper, allowing the paper to hang over two ends so it forms a sling. spray paper with non-stick cooking spray.

combine dry ingredients (first 7 ingredients). in a separate bowl, whisk together remaining wet ingredients (including nut butter, if using). add wet ingredients to dry and stir thoroughly until mixture is completely coated and crumbly.

pour into baking dish and press down firmly, packing mixture into pan.

bake for 30-45 minutes (it will take less time if you use an 8x13, more if you use and 8x8 and they are thicker. you want the top to be lightly golden and the edges to be a darker brown.

allow to cool on a wire rack. remove from pan using parchment paper sling and allow to cool even more until set. cut into desired shapes once completely cool. store in airtight container or wrap individually in plastic wrap if sharing.

while i waited for E to get back from DC for dinner, i had a wonderful snack of triscuits with roaring 40's bleu cheese and a glass of reserve merlot.
to carry on my french theme, we are having salad niçoise for dinner tonight. i wanted something light with lots of veggies. i needed to use up some green beans, cherry tomatoes, and potatoes and had a ton of lettuce. so, salad niçoise was perfect.
the first time i ever had salad niçoise was actually in paris. the summer after my freshman year in college, my AC and UB took me to france. it was such a wonderful experience and i can't say enough about how much i love france (and italy for that matter). i will always be grateful to AC and UB for taking me and their generosity throughout my life for that matter. anyway, one day while there, UB ordered a salad niçoise and i had no idea what it was. out came the beautiful plate and i have loved it ever since. what a genius idea - throwing a bunch of different vegetables, hard boiled eggs, potatoes, tuna, anchovies, capers, and black niçoise olives together with a simple vinaigrette. perfection. it is a meal that's for sure, but i never feel stuffed after, just pleasantly content.
one never quite tastes the same as they did in and outdoor cafe in paris, but alas, it's as close as i can get for the moment.
anyway, the more i thought about having salad niçoise for dinner the more i realized we really have everything needed for the salad. E had hard boiled some eggs earlier in the week, we almost always have tuna on hand (it was canned tonight instead of fresh. grilled tuna steaks would be wonderful in the summer) as well as capers. the only thing i didn't have was anchovies. i have started keeping anchovy paste on hand for dressings but no whole ones.
the salad was wonderful without them. it hit the spot. here is a recipe for salad niçoise according to the master of french cooking herself, juila child.

Carrot Cupcakes

we were supposed to have our new windows installed today but that was canceled at the last minute because of the crazy high winds today. i guess they are calling it a snow-icane. a mix of a snow storm and a hurricane. we aren't getting much snow (only about an inch so far) but we certainly are getting wind. it's crazy!

anyway, i had been saving these two recipes for today since i knew i would be stuck in the house almost all day with the window guys here. i was excited to make these, so i went ahead and made them anyway.
first up, carrot cupcakes. i found this recipe on sometimes i just really want something wonderful, warm, and baked but i don't want all that refined flour and sugar. this recipe met that goal. i changed a bit so below is my modified recipe.
these were so good! i was surprised because of how good they are for you. the first one i tried warm with coconut butter on top instead of icing.
this was my first time trying coconut butter (i finally found it at whole foods after much searching. i should have looked there first.) i have read a lot about how good coconut butter is supposed to be. about how it tastes like coconut icing. it was amazing! after i tasted the coconut butter on the cupcake, i decided not to pre-ice them with cream cheese icing. i still made the cream cheese icing but will let the consumer (probably only either E or myself) decide what to slather on top.
of course, i tried the cream cheese icing to compare (i like to put the icing in the middle of the cupcake like a sandwich so i get icing in every bite:) i actually liked the coconut butter better. i also liked knowing the coconut butter is so much better for me. and using that kept the whole cupcake clean eating! it's soooo good. worth the $12 for the jar. promise.

Carrot Cupcakes
(makes 21 cupcakes)

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup coconut oil (place jar in warm water till it liquefies)
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 cup unsweetened crushed pineapple, drained
2 cups shredded carrots 

preheat oven to 350 degrees.

combine all dry ingredients (including walnuts). in a separate bowl, combine all wet ingredients (coconut oil through crushed pineapple)together. add in dry ingredients and stir well to combine. add carrots and stir again until well incorporated.

using an ice cream scoop (or large spoon) scoop batter into paper-lined muffin tin. (i used reusable silicone muffin cups - they are awesome!)

bake for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. let cool completely before icing.

i'll post the other yumminess i made today after i eat some lunch . . .  
*maple chocolate pecan granola bars*
coming soon . . .

Thursday, February 25, 2010

G is for Green, and Grass, and Good for You, and Guacamole!

E and i had a training session with G this morning that worked us over good! when we got home, i decided we should try one of the amazing grass amazing meal packets i picked up at whole foods yesterday. i figured i could just dump it into our normal post-workout green monster instead of the usual protein powder and we would have some added nutritional benefits besides just protein.

let me tell you, this stuff is good for you with a capital G! it is a combination of greens, protein, fruits and vegetables. i bought two different packets to try yesterday. this one, pomegranate mango infusion, and original blend. i tried this one today because i had strawberries, mango, 1/2 a banana, and spinach already in the blender. i also added some milk and agave nectar.

this was the greenest tasting green monster i have ever had - hands down. the first sip was interesting. i wasn't expecting it to taste so, well . . . green. i do not recommend adding this to your first ever green monster. if i were to make it again, i would not have added the extra spinach. i would have used a whole banana (it adds a lot of flavor and natural sweetness) and perhaps used some fresh fruit rather than frozen. or, i may have just forgone the other fruit altogether since i couldn't tasted anything over the wheat grass flavor. the 2nd sip was better and halfway through the smoothie i was used to the taste. plus, i just kept telling myself how good this stuff is for me. i mean, check out the ingredient list:
(sorry the picture is a little blurry) i mean, they couldn't pack more good, green stuff into this envelope if they tried. i couldn't taste the pomegranate or mango at all, but, i would still drink it again. if i was starting to feel a little under the weather or a slight bug creeping up on me, i'd down this stuff for sure. it must be able to fight anything!

lots of errands, cleaning, tax fixing (yes i have to file an amended tax return, ugh, long story), and dog-sitting today/ blah, blah, blah. then on to the good stuff . . . dinner!

for dinner i made pizzas! i made E his favorite - cheese and peperoni.
i, however, was feeling in a south-of-the-border mood so i made mine a mexican pizza. i used a whole wheat pocketless pita for the crust (which E and i both really liked and would definitely use again). then i added mexican-style corn (just corn with peppers and chili peppers), black beans, and diced tomatoes with green chilies
then i topped it with lots of shredded mexican cheese . . . mmmmm
after 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven, they looked like this:
i then spread homemade guacamole on top of mine. in the words of ina garten THE barefoot contessa, "how bad could that be?"
the answer, not bad, not bad at all ina. Y-U-M!!!
i only wish i had spread guac on half because my eyes were bigger than my stomach tonight. i only ate half of this bad boy. hopefully i salvaged it by scrapping off the guac and wrapping both the leftover guacamole and pizza tightly with plastic wrap. lunch tomorrow? check!

alongside our pizzas, i made kale chips for the first time. i have seen these puppies around the food blog world for quite some time now but just got around to trying it tonight.
what a great way to get some greens into your diet! plus, kale is sooo good for you. 

basically, you just cut or rip off some kale leaves into bite-sized pieces. wash and thoroughly dry them (a salad spinner would work perfectly). spread them out on a parchment lined baking sheet. drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper (i also sprinkled a little parmesan cheese on mine because i was in a sprinkling meed) and bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes. keep an eye on them and pull them out when the edges start to brown. 
they are literally as crispy as thin chips. they almost melt in your mouth too. so light, crispy, and airy. it almost doesn't even seem like you are eating anything. 
the best part, they really don't taste like kale. dark, leafy greens have never been my favorite. i don't really like kale cooked (or spinach for that matter) and raw kale is a bit too green tasting for me. but these "chips" were great. E liked them too. i will be making those again too!

an excellent meal if i do say so myself, excellent indeed!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fish Tacos

i have to say, i am a little excited with myself. today i did a new yoga pose i haven't done before. i held bird of paradise pose. yay! i admit, that my leg wasn't extended straight up like this very talented girl, but it was a start. i'd like to think N would be proud of me:) the pose really does look like the flower, doesn't it?

i guess it affected me because i was in the mood to do something a little different in the kitchen tonight too. i had some tilapia in the freezer and since i am trying to use stuff up that we have stashed in the chilly temps, i made fish tacos with a lime sour cream. it was delicious!

i "grilled" the tilapia after sprinkling both sides with a little salt, garlic powder, and chili powder. (i don't think you can technically call it grilling on an stove, indoors. grilling requires actual fire, but i used a grill pan to get the look of grilling but unfortunately you can't substitute that smokey grill flavor.) meanwhile, i stirred together 1/4 cup of light sour cream, 1/4 cup of 0% fage, juice of 1/2 a lime, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and 1/4 tsp of chili powder. i let that sit so the flavors could mingle and get to know each other while i finished grilling the fish.
i cut up some cherry tomatoes and opened up a beautiful looking avocado and will use the other half to make a little guacamole tomorrow.
to assemble to tacos i used a whole wheat flour tortilla and spread about a tablespoon of the lime sour cream, then layered the fish

with the sliced avocado and tomatoes, 
sprinkled some shredded mexican cheese on top, wrap it up, and dug in.

so good and refreshing. i could really taste the lime. this would be a great, quick summer meal (or a winter meal when you are longing for the summer:) the only thing i wish i had in there was some cabbage for a little crunch. next time . . . because there will be a next time.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oh My Hot Chocolatiness

i finally tried angela's hawt cocoa. i had some leftover coconut milk from a recipe and wanted to try it out. first, let me tell you, this is some rich, dark, hot chocolate. it is almost like chocolate soup it's so rich. it would be good as a treat or dessert perhaps.

i changed her recipe a bit. you can find the original here. below is what i used.

Hawt Cocoa
(serves 1)
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup skim milk
2 tbs cocoa powder
2 tbs agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla extract

whisk all ingredients together in a small saucepan until very hot. garnish with toppings (i used 4 mini marshmallows). enjoy!

today is national pancake day! now, i can't pass up an opportunity to make pancakes and i certainly can't dishonor to nation by not having pancakes today. i made whole wheat ones and they were good. of course, E and i needed some protein so i cooked up some sausage to go with it.

Whole Wheat Pancakes
(makes 16 medium pancakes)
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tbs ground flaxseed

whisk together wet ingredients. add in dry ingredients and let mix sit 10 minutes while the skillet heats up.
pour 1/4 cup of batter onto skillet and flip when bubbles begin to form on surface of pancake. keep warm or serve immediately.

i also did another Angela thing - i added an almond butter swirl to some of the pancakes. i got to idea here but of course, changed it up a bit.
Almond Butter Swirl (for pancakes)

4 tbs barney butter (or any almond butter or peanut butter for that matter)
4 tbs no sugar added applesauce
1-2 tbs milk

whisk almond butter and applesauce together. add milk 1 tbs at a time until the consistency is thin enough to pipe onto pancakes. add mixture to a ziploc bag. cut the tip off the bag and pipe swirls onto the batter of the pancakes (before you flip them).

**happy pancake day!**
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