Well hello again

To say it’s been a while would be an understatement.  What have I been up to?

I’ve graduated law school, taken and passed the bar exam, and gone from being a full time student to a full time law clerk.  I’ve traveled to Iceland with my mom and completed my first half marathon.  And I’ve made some great new friends along the way.  I’ve skied (and eaten) my way through Vermont, traveled to New York City and seen several shows including the New York City Ballet’s the Nutcracker and Billy Joel (and to eat French macaroons, obviously).  I’ve also started hiking more regularly … mostly to make friends with other people’s puppies.

When I was in law school there never seemed to be enough hours in the day.  I day dreamed of the future, thinking to myself “once I’m done with school, and I’m working, I’ll have more free time.”  More time to read the long list of interesting books I’d been adding to since graduating from college, time to learn to paint and antique the hand me down furniture in my apartment, time to learn to bake croissants and host whimsical brunches for my girlfriends.

Well, the future is here, and there are still the same number of hours in the day that there were when I was in law school.  To say that the transition from being a full time student to a full time worker is an adjustment is an understatement.  But with every day and week that goes by it gets easier, and I find ways to accomplish what I need to and learn to let go of the things that do not matter (if the couch doesn’t get vacuumed this week, the world will not end, trust me!).

I’ve learned a few things during the past few months.  Never underestimate the power of surrounding yourself with positive people.  It’s the quality not the quantity of friends that counts.  Take care of your body.  Getting older and seeing friends lose parents is scary.  Over the past few months I’m constantly amazed by how much I can accomplish in one hour per when I put my mind to it - go for a hike, go for a run, prepare healthy meals for the week so that when you are tired you have something ready to go and are less tempted to make a dinner out of grilled cheese and chocolate… Make time for yourself.  Even if it’s only for ten minutes, turn off your cell phone and do something for yourself.  And I don’t mean crossing something off of your to do list… I mean doing something for you.  Take a walk outside, take a bath, light a candle, strike a yoga pose (preferably not in your cubicle if  you’re wearing a dress that day). But you get the idea :-)

Well, that’s all for now.  But don’t worry, I’ve got a stash of yummy recipes up my sleeve that I’ll be posting over the next few weeks.  To name a few:  spicy citrus cod with basil basmati rice, chicken pho, fried eggs with spicy kale bacon hash, coconut macaroons, and flour less chocolate cupcakes with chambord whipped cream.

Stay tuned!

Blueberry Cinnamon-Streusel Coffee Cake

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Ingredients

Streusel Topping:
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt (if you are using unsalted butter)
1 ½ cups flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
6 tbsp melted butter

Filling:
8 oz blueberry jam (I like Stonewall kitchen Maine Blueberry jam – which you can find on sale for $3.99 when they have their holiday stock up sales)

Cake:
¾ cup butter (softened, not melted)
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp baking powder
3 large eggs
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp cinnamon
¾ cup sour cream (or 6oz plain greek yogurt)
1 ¼ cups milk (anything from skim to whole)
3 ¾ cups flour

Directions

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13″ pan.

2) Make the topping by whisking together the sugar, salt, flour, and cinnamon. Add the melted butter, stirring until well combined. Set the topping aside.

3) To make the cake: In a large bowl, beat together the butter, salt, sugars, baking powder, vanilla, lemon zest, and cinnamon until well combined and smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream or yogurt and milk until well combined. Add the flour to the butter/sugar mixture alternately with the milk/sour cream mixture, beating gently to combine. Pour/spread half of the batter (a scant 3 cups) into the prepared pan, spreading all the way to the edges. Spread the blueberry jam evenly atop the batter. Pour/spread the remaining batter atop the filling.

4) Sprinkle the topping over the batter in the pan.

5) Bake the cake about 55-60 minutes until it’s a dark golden brown around the edges, medium-golden with no light patches showing on top, and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

This recipe is my variation of King Arthur Flour’s “Cinnamon-Streusel Coffee Cake”

Quick, Easy, Healthy -- Quinoa Burgers, Green Bean Fries with Garlic Mayo, and Homemade Sweet and Sour Pickles

My great grandmother was not the first volunteer to try this Pinterest-inspired vegetarian dinner.  Let’s just say quinoa is not in her 94 year old vocabulary.

I found these three recipes on Pinterest.  Happily, they were all successes!

Quinoa Burgers

These vegetarian quinoa burgers are tasty, packed with protein, and best of all easy to make.  They are great on top of salad or in a pita with baby spinach, tomato, and garlic mayo.

Ingredients:        (makes approximately 10 burgers)

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup low-fat small curd cottage cheese
  • 1 medium carrot, finely grated (OR 1 cup shredded zucchini, squeezed)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Olive oil for frying

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl combine the cooked quinoa, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, carrot (or zucchini), eggs, flour, green onions, garlic, pepper, cumin and salt.  Mixture will be slightly sticky. 
  2. Heat a frying pan over medium low heat.  Add 2 – 4 tbsp olive oil.  Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, drop quinoa mixture into heated pan.  Lightly flatten to 1/2 inch thick.  Fry until golden brown (about 5 minutes on each side).
  3. In order to ensure the burgers do not fall apart, make sure the bottom of the pan is coated with olive oil and use a thin spatula to flip the burgers over.

Per burger: 132 Calories, 8g Protein, 5g Fat, 12g Carbs (2g Fiber); 0g Sugar; 200mg Sodium.

Crispy Parmesan Green Bean Fries

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups fresh green beans (wash and snip the ends off)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp Salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp Pepper (or to taste)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Place green beans on prepared baking sheet, making sure they are evenly spread out and none are laying on top of each other (this is necessary to ensure crispness!) Mix cheese, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Sprinkle seasonings evenly over green beans.  Place baking sheet with green beans in pre-heated oven and bake for 10-15 minutes (until golden brown and crispy).  Enjoy immediately.

Garlic Mayo Dip (for Green Bean Fries)

This garlic mayo is great with Crispy Parmesan Green Bean Fries and home made sweet potato fries.  It is also great on burgers and sandwiches.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Mayonaise
  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp Lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Put all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.
  2. Serve immediately.

Sweet and Sour Pickles

Ingredients:

  • 2 English hothouse cucumbers (1 1/2 pounds total), washed, unpeeled, very thinly sliced 
  • 1 tbsp Coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup Distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Finely chopped fresh dill
  • 3 tbsp Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Place cucumber slices in colander.  Sprinkle with salt; toss to coat.  Let stand 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, for the dressing, in a large bowl, stir vinegar, dill, sugar, and pepper until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Drain cucumbers and pat dry.  Add cucumber slices to bowl with dressing and stir to blend.
  4. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes (no longer than 2 hours).
  5. Serve cold.

Pinterest Success Story – Quinoa Burgers

Susumid

Made only twice a year (Christmas and Easter), these chocolate and almond cookies do not disappoint. The key ingredients are chocolate, roasted almonds, orange zest, and “vinacotta” (a syrupy liquid made from raisins).

Recipe will be posted soon! I need to track down the original from my great grandmother.

Susumid

Calzungit

These almond and lemon filled cookies are a favorite of my great grandma’s around the holiday time. Think crispy fried dough with lemon almond sugary goodness.

Filling

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb almonds (ground fine in food processor with pinch of water) 
  • 1/2 lb sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 lemon (zest and juice)
  • 1/4 tsp clove
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. In a medium sauce pan, add sugar, 1/2 cup water, and lemon juice. Turn heat to medium-low, stirring the mixture until the sugar is dissolved.

Dough

Ingredients:

  • 1lb flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Enough water to get the dough to form

Directions:

  • In large bowl, add flour.  Make a well in the middle and add oil.

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  • Work dough with hands. Add water (1 tbsp at a time) and continue working dough, adding water as needed, until dough forms a ball.

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Cookies

Ingredients:

  • Almond Filling (above) 
  • Dough (above)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Olive oil and vegetable oil to fry

Directions:

  1. Take a small piece of dough.  Using a pasta machine, work dough through the machine starting on #10 working down to #1 (thinnest setting). The dough will stretch and lengthen into a long strip.
  2. Take long strip of flattened dough and place on floured surface.
  3. Brush side of dough facing up with egg.
  4. Using a teaspoon, drop spoonfuls of almond mixture in middle of dough about 1/2 inch apart.
  5. Fold dough over filling, sealing edges by pressing with fingers.
  6. Using ravioli cutter, cut dough around filling into semi-circles. Repeat until all of the dough and almond paste has been used.
  7. Line a large bowl with paper towels and set aside.
  8. Fill medium sauce pan 1/3 of the way full with mixture of 50% olive oil 50% vegetable oil.  Heat pan on medium-high heat.  When oil becomes hot, reduce heat to medium / medium-low heat.  Fry cookies 4-5 at a time until golden brown.  Cookies will sink to bottom at first, and rise to top once they begin to cook.  Once golden brown remove cookies from oil using a spider or slotted spoon and place in bowl lined with paper towls.  Sprinkle with sugar.  Repeat until all of the cookies have been fried.

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Calzungit

Pork Scalopine

This dish is based on a recipe I found in Martha Stewart (March 2013). I have added a few additional ingredients (lemon and garlic) and eliminated others (I’m not a rosemary person). This dish is great served over spaghetti, or served over a simple salad of arugula and micro greens and paired with oven roasted yukon gold potatoes.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs pork loin, cut cross wise into 6 thin slices
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
1 lemon, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 cup dry white wine

Recipe:

Pound pork slices until approximately 3/8 inches thick. Season with salt and pepper, and dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Transfer to baking rack and let stand about 10 minutes. **

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in large non-stick saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and melt, swirling to coat bottom of pan. Add 3 pork slices in a single layer and cook, flipping once, until both sides are golden brown and pork is cooked through (about 4-5 minutes total). Transfer cooked pork to serving plater and cover with foil. Repeat with 3 remaining pork slices.

Once all of the pork is cooked (and placed on the serving platter), add garlic, capers, and sage to the pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add lemon slices and wine and cook until liquid is reduced by half. Stir in remaining tablespoon of butter and melt. Pour sauce over pork.

**If you opt to serve the pork over pasta — before starting to cook the pork, fill a pasta pot 1/2 full of water and turn on high heat. When water comes to a boil, salt, and add 1 pound of spaghetti. Reduce to medium-high heat. Cook spaghetti 7-8 minutes until cooked al dente.

Pork Scalopine

Rustic Eggplant

This dish is something I came up with last weekend while I was playing “clean out the fridge.”  It’s hearty, delicious, and may take the cake as the perfect rainy day comfort food.  Note: for those of you who aren’t huge fans of eggplant, give this dish a try!  The eggplant is subtle and the tomato and cheese are the real stars.

Ingredients:

  • 1 eggplant
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan, divided
  • Dash of sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2-4 tbsp kalamata olive oil (enough to generously coat bottom of large sauté pan)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 6 oz grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1/2 lb pasta

Recipe:        Cooking Time (about 40 minutes)

  1. Peel skin off eggplant (you can do this using a knife or a vegetable peeler) and cut into 1 inch by 1 inch cubes.  In a medium-size bowl mix flour, 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, sea salt and fresh grated pepper.  Dredge eggplant in flour mixture, shaking off excess.  Place dredged eggplant in a separate medium size bowl.
  2. Heat water in large pasta pot over high heat.  Once water comes to a boil, salt and add 1/2 pound of pasta (I usually use ziti rigate, rigatoni, or the curly q ones I used in this photo).  Lower heat to medium-high, cook pasta 7-10 minutes until al dente.  Drain, add 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil (so that it does not stick together) and set aside in a covered bowl.
  3. While your pasta water is heating up… heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil in large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add eggplant – making sure not to overcrowd.  Turn the eggplant every few minutes so that it cooks evenly.  Add additional tablespoon of oil if the pan looks dry.  Cook eggplant until it turns light golden brown (about 10-15 minutes total).
  4. At this point, there should only be a small amount of oil left in the pan (enough to sauté your garlic, onion, and grape tomatoes).  Turn heat to medium-low.  Add garlic, onion, grape tomatoes, and red pepper flakes to the pan.  Stir occasionally.  Cook 5-10 minutes until onions are golden brown and grape tomatoes are soft.
  5. Turn heat to low.  Add tomato sauce and cannellini beans to pan, stirring to mix all of the ingredients together.  Add pepper to taste.  Cook 5 minutes.
  6. Pour cooked pasta into sauté pan and combine.
  7. Pour pasta and eggplant mixture onto a serving platter.  Sprinkle parmesan cheese and fresh chives over the top and serve.

Rustic Eggplant