Archive for the ‘Dinner’ Category

Kale Sweet Potato Bean Soup

With the marathon just five short days away, I’ve noticed a few things:

  • I am craving a long run and was recently caught running in place by a friend
  • I have a hard time talking about anything but the marathon (and am therefore nervous I’ve become boring and won’t have anything to talk about after the marathon)
  • I am very thankful I have amazing friends and family who put up with my one track mind :)
  • The hypochondriac in me has come out…every small ache in my legs might as well be a fracture (these are called “phantom pains” and are totally normal, but knowing that doesn’t make them feel any less intense)
  • I am much slightly more emotional than usual (I’ve teared up during every run in the past two weeks thinking about the race)
  • And finally…I’ve become consumed with eating nutrient dense foods – as shown in this Kale Sweet Potato Bean soup I prepared today…

To sum up a pretty intricate term, “nutrient dense” foods are foods that are rich in nutrients and low in calories.  (Side note – I’m not sure I completely agree with how nutrient density is used because I believe healthy fats – which are high in calories – deserve more positive attention, but I do believe it’s a great system to incorporate into one’s diet).

So I’ve been filling my plate with tons of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  To have some fun this week, I decided to see how many nutrient dense foods I could fit into one meal (totally normal for an R.D.-to-be, right? :) )

I came across a recipe on FitSugar.com for Kale Potato Bean Soup.  The kale was the star of the soup.

Kale is a nutrient powerhouse (even more so than spinach!).  It contains calcium, iron, Vitamin A, C and K and endless antioxidant properties.

I decided to swap the recipe’s suggested white potato with a sweet potato for its high fiber and potassium content.  I also doubled the suggested amount of carrots and celery, and grabbed the black beans and garlic.

(Almost forgot the onion!)

I then gathered all of the remaining ingredients.

And followed the directions until I had a huge pot of nutrients.

The final product was better than any canned soup I’ve ever had.

Kale Sweet Potato Bean Soup
Modified from FitSugar’s recipe

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
1 medium peeled sweet potato
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups organic vegetable broth
1 large bunch of chopped kale, stems removed
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added black beans (drained and rinsed)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

1. Heat a large pot oven over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan.
2. Add garlic, onion, carrot, potato, and celery and sauté for 7 minutes or until tender.
3. Toss in salt and pepper and cook 1 minute.
4. Stir in 4 cups vegetable broth and kale. Bring to a boil and cover. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
5. Place drained black beans into the pot. Bring to a boil again. Reduce heat and simmer for another 5 minutes.
6. Stir in vinegar. Serve up in a bowl and add a bit of shaved Parmesan cheese on top!

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The Countdown Begins

The marathon is officially one week from today.

The carbo-loading has begun.

The weather is incessantly being checked.

Bedtime is officially 10pm every night for the rest of the week.

And the only conversations I’m capable of fully being a part of revolve around running.

More marathon posts to come this week!

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During my latest trip to Headhouse’s Sunday market, I felt the presence of all four seasons around me.  Spring was in the air on this 70 degree morning…

Summer was still holding on through some gorgeous heirloom tomatoes…

Winter even made an early appearance in the form of chestnuts…

But, alas, Fall stole the show.  There were bright orange pumpkins…

and baskets of peppers…

cartons of apples…

and homemade apple butter (my favorite!)

boxes of pears filled with varieties I’ve never seen before (this Asian pear is now my new obsession)…

and containers of heirloom lima beans…

Despite all of the delicious foods above, I zeroed in on this gorgeous Sicilian eggplant.  I recently tried this variety for the first time and found out that, unlike regular eggplant, the Sicilian type does not need to be salted before cooking (a step that once led to me wasting three perfect eggplants and has kept me from attempting any eggplant recipe since).  The Japanese variety does not need to be salted either, but they’re often too small to create the traditional eggplant recipes, like lasagna, rollatini or parmesan.  So once I spotted these, my squash fixation subsided for a moment and I began picturing Italian comfort food.  (Fun fact – Eggplant is actually a fruit, specifically a berry.  Who knew??)

I decided right there in the middle of the market that it was about time I attempted to make a lasagna, something I’ve never made before because I’ve always equated with being heavy and unhealthy.  I did a quick search and came across this recipe.  Whole wheat pasta?  Part-skim ricotta?  Layers of tomatoes, basil and eggplant?  Done and done :)  I added the tomatoes and basil leaves to my bag from the market, and stopped at the grocery store on my way home to pick up the remaining ingredients.

Here is sliced eggplant, before roasting.  Instead of using a grill, I simply roasted the eggplant on the stove – about 3 minutes on each side until it softened and browned a bit.

Layering was the best part, although I had to refer to the recipe more times than I’d like to admit to remember the order – one layer of sauce on the bottom, then pasta, sauce, cheese, basil, tomatoes, eggplant.  Anddd repeat.  Easy enough, right?  Clearly my first lasagna made me nervous :)

Here it is, mid-layer #1…

I also made an easy caprese salad with some of those colorful heirloom tomatoes pictured above, and some store bought pesto and mozzarella cheese.

And finally, the lasagna!  Unfortunately I made an amateur cooking mistake and failed to convert the 180 degrees Celsius to Fahrenheit.  My Chem I teacher is frowning at me somewhere and my perfectly timed plan of going for a run and coming back to a house smelling of basil, cheese and tomatoes was ruined.  After an extremely slow 45 minutes at 35o degrees Fahrenheit, it was finally (finally!) finished.  It is not a good idea to delay dinner for a girl in her 8th week of marathon training.  Lesson learned.

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I’m now 90% convinced pull-back weeks in marathon training are necessary.  The other 10% will come if I can successfully complete 16 miles on Friday.  My confidence in the pull-back week comes from the fact that my past three runs have been some of my fastest yet.  Here’s the recap:

Friday, 5 miles:  9:20 pace
Sunday, 6 miles:  9:02 pace

And as for Tuesday’s 6 mile tempo, I averaged 8:34 for the 4 tempo miles -

Mile 1:  warm-up
Mile 2:  8:35
Mile 3:  8:30
Mile 4:  8:36
Mile 5:  8:35
Mile 6:  cool-down

Other than an 8k I did last spring where I paced 8:25, I haven’t run that fast for 4 miles straight…ever.  Hence my newfound love for the pull-back week :)  Clearly my legs needed some time to recover after 14 miles.  Now that I’ve gotten my speedwork in for the week, and I haven’t had a long run in over 10 days, I’m itching for a long and relaxing 16 miles on Friday.  Now I just need to come up with a game plan on how to fuel for this one!

For 14, I simply took in 2 gels since that’s what’s always worked for me for my halfs – although I remember wishing I had some sort of electrolyte replacement (which is probably completely mental, but isn’t almost everything about running??).  Right now I am planning on bringing 3 gels and two Nuun tablets to try in my water.  I’ve never tried these before, but I’ve read about them in a few different places and the guy at the running store raved about them (selling through enthusiasm gets me every time).  Nuun tablets are simply an electrolyte replacement (as opposed to a sports drink like Gatorade which has sugar/carbs).  They dissolve easily in water, which is perfect for my run on Friday since I’ll be carrying my water bottle and have access to fountains every few miles.  If these work, they might even be my solution for race day.  According to the website, one Nuun tablet has:

active ingredients level (mg)
Sodium (carbonates) 360.0
Potassium (bicarbonate) 100.0
Calcium (carbonate) 12.5
Magnesium (sulfate) 25.0
Vitamin C 37.5
Vitamin B2 500mcg

Pretty good stats!  It’s hard to believe I’m at 16 miles already.  I have no time goal in mind for this run.  If I feel strong during my last few miles, I’ll be happy.

Now onto some eats :)  When I was in Philly today, I made a quick stop at the Schuylkill River farmers’ market.  I didn’t have my camera on me, but you can see a recap of that market here.  Due to limited cash funds on me, I couldn’t go crazy buying everything I saw (probably a good thing!), so I kept it simple and bought some berries and fresh figs (!!)

I believe the first time I was introduced to fresh figs was at a restaurant out in California’s wine country.  I fell in love instantly.  I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to try them in a recipe on my own!  Aren’t they gorgeous?

I decided to roast another acorn squash and create a “lazy girl’s fig and squash pizza.”  After realizing I had about 10 minutes to cook before heading to class, I threw a handful of spinach, a few slices of roasted squash and two spoonfuls of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese onto a whole wheat wrap and baked it in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes.

And then I topped it with sliced fresh figs.  This pizza had only five ingredients and was delicious.  The salty cheese complimented the sweet squash and figs perfectly.  Now I just need to figure out how to incorporate the leftover figs into my breakfast!

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Ever wonder how you can turn two of these…

…into this???

No?  Me either.  That is, until I was left with two lone zucchini, a handful of cherry tomatoes and a block of ‘I-need-to-be-used-asap’ Parmesan cheese.  Let me explain.  I knew I was heading to the beach for the weekend, so I never re-stocked my refrigerator for the week.  So my options were 1) have a bowl of cereal and call it a night or 2) get creative.  I chose the latter :)

I did a quick Google search and saw this recipe from the NYTimes.  I was too hungry to read it…I simply saw the picture, glanced at the ingredients, and got to work.

To begin, I heated two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan and added two garlic cloves and a handful of cherry tomatoes.  While this was all heating together, I turned to the zucchini.  First, I used a vegetable peeler to remove and discard all of the skin.  Then I continued peeling each zucchini until I reached the seeds.  My method was to peel one side, then the opposite side, then peel what was left (simple, I know, but looking back I think rotating the zucchini might be easier).  What I got was a bright green pile of raw zucchini ‘linguine.’

Next I added the ‘linguine’ to the pan with a little bit of sea salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes (to taste).  I tossed everything together for about five minutes – until the zucchini looked cooked and slightly brown in some areas.

Finally, I plated the pasta and grated some Parmesan on top.  This was honestly amazing.  I wasn’t even sure I was going to share it on the blog until I took my first bite.  I’m not going to be so bold to say that it tasted like real pasta.  Let’s be honest – nothing will ever hold a candle to real pasta, but this is definitely one of the best guilt-free pastas I’ve ever had.  I can’t wait to try this again with other sauces! 

Have you ever used a vegetable in a creative way for a recipe?  I’ve made my fair share of spaghetti squash (and can’t wait for fall when it’s available again!), but I would love some new ideas!

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The Good:

  • getting my 8 mile ‘long run’ out of the way before the weekend
  • running with a friend in Philly along the river (I’ll join you any other time before 9am!)
  • leaving time for an hour of tennis tomorrow morning due to doing my long run today :)
  • finally learning that running in the summer heat does not work (see ‘bad’ below)

The Bad:

  • running the day after weight lifting for the first time in months
  • 1pm, 95 degree temperatures, humidity and no clouds
  • having to stop and walk multiple times due to heat
  • realizing this probably shouldn’t count as my long run for the week due to the walking
  • deciding that a 6 mile run will make up for that this weekend

The Delicious:

  • Goat Cheese and Beet “Caprese” Salad

  • Summer Veggie Pasta Primavera

This was such an easy dinner to throw together!  Here’s how you can do it, too:

Beet and Goat Cheese “Caprese” Salad

- heat the oven to 400
- place the beets on tin foil and drizzle a TBSP of olive oil on top, them wrap them up in the foil tightly (all together)
- heat them in the oven for about 45 mins (this depends on size – check halfway through to see where they are – but be sure to wrap the foil tightly after)
- for the “caprese” look, I used sliced goat cheese that I bought from Trader Joe’s and then cut out circles using the rim of a champagne glass (any type of goat cheese will work, though!)
- for the dressing, I combine 2T balsamic vinegar, 2T olive oil and 1T honey and drizzled it on top

As for the Summer Veggie Pasta Primavera, I looked to Giada for guidance.  I followed her recipe here, but used some of my recent summer veggie buys, including yellow squash and corn.  I also used fusilli instead of farfalle pasta.  I didn’t have any carrots on hand, but I’m sure they only only would have added to it.

What’s your favorite pasta dinner to throw together during the week?

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While training for my half in May, I fell completely off the wagon with strength training.  Plans were to jump back on over the summer, but a demanding Anatomy and Physiology class got in the way.  And then there was vacation.  And then post-vacation blues.  And now?  No more excuses. It’s marathon training season and I need to get back on track.

In all honesty – I really don’t enjoy strength training.  I’d rather run for 2 hours than spend 30 minutes lifting weights.  But not only is it a necessary cross training component during marathon training, but it’s necessary in life to keep bones strong, avoid injuries and prevent problems related to aging like osteoporosis (I know – strange to think about in your 20′s – but better to develop these habits now, right?).  Running.com has a great article about the reasons to strength train.  In short, it says that with strength training you’ll…

  • become a more efficient runner,
  • burn more calories,
  • increase your endurance and reduce fatigue,
  • reduce your risk for injuries, and
  • run faster.

With all of those amazing reasons, I knew it had to be part of my training schedule.  So tonight I took Body Pump at my gym.  It’s a 60-minute circuit class that covers all the weight lifting basics (squats, lunges, presses, curls, etc…).  Let’s just say I have a lot of room for improvement.  It’ll be interesting to see how I feel after a 4 month routine of taking this 1-2 times a week!

Post-gym I came home to create a protein rich dinner…Vegetarian Tacos!  I went out for a Mexican dinner in Philly last night for a not-so-healthy-but-totally-amazing dinner at Lolita…but that only left me wanting more.   With local tomatoes and leftover corn from my farmers market trip last week on hand, I knew I had the start to a delicious and healthy meal.

I used this recipe from Epicurious as a guide but changed the ingredients a bit.  For my tacos, I used the following:

2 T olive oil
2 cloves chopped garlic

1 container mushrooms, chopped
2 chopped red bell peppers
1.5 cups roasted corn
1 can kidney beans
1 medium onion, chopped
2 T cumin
2 T chili powder
1 T oregano
two handfuls of spinach
soft corn tortillas
sea salt to taste

Items for toppings included:

1 large chopped avocado
1 large chopped tomato
0% Greek Yogurt (as a sub for sour cream)
Hot salsa :)

This was enough for 3 people, plus leftovers.  They were delicious!

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The New York Times recently wrote an article entitled “Now, Chefs Court Farmers for the Best Ingredients.”  The article is about how Jonathan Benno – the former chef de cuisine at Per Se – will use local ingredients from specialty farms in NY, NJ, CT and PA at his new restaurant at Lincoln Center in New York.  Benno explains, “These days, carrots are in the ground Friday and on the plate Saturday night.” Local is certainly the trend in dining these days, but some restaurants have been doing it for years.  Talula’s Table is one of those restaurants.

I first expressed my desire to go to Talula’s when I visited their stand at Headhouse.  I fell instantly for their truffle white bean dip and have been infatuated with the idea of going ever since.  However, reservations are difficult to come by since there are only two tables – one in the main market area and one in the kitchen.  It was only through a cancellation and a very nice invitation by a friend that I was actually able to go.  The meal and experience lived up to all of my expectations.  It was a perfect combination of fine dining using fresh and local ingredients and a cozy and warm atmosphere.

Talula’s website describes the dinner perfectly:

  • “After the market closes each day we serve a seasonal eight-course tasting menu – our “Farmtable Dinner”- to just one party an evening. One group of between eight and twelve guests is served an elaborate menu of only the finest ingredients at their best. Each item is sourced and prepared specifically for each evening…”

By day, Talula’s is a market, so an amazing assortment of specialty foods lines the walls.  You can find jams, breads, coffee, teas, chocolates, granola, meats, cheeses and so much more.

Our menu for the evening was presented to us when we sat down, although I’m pretty sure all twelve of us memorized the menu online on July 1 when it was posted :).  We had one vegetarian in the group and she was given an alternative menu, which turned out to be just as delicious.

We started with appetizers, which included Barbecue Chicken on a Mini Bunand Lobster Tarts.  Each small bite was incredible and a perfect start to the eight course meal ahead.

Talula’s is a BYOB and prepares a list of wine pairings according to the meal that is being served that night.  We followed every recommendation and showed up with 12 bottles of wine in tow from Moore Brothers.

After enjoying the Hors d’ oeuvres, we were presented with Hot Smoked Salmon, Foccacia Tartine, and Sunny Girl Beets.  The beets were unlike any I’ve ever tasted before. 

Next up was the White Eggplant Soup, Eggplant Frites and Fennel Pollen.  Now the restaurant was definitely cozy, and I was among friends and family, but it’s never really appropriate to lick your plate.  Although I wanted to…

So instead I used this warm bread with Gorgonzola cheese inside to clean my plate :)I should really just called this “butter with flour” because that’s what it tasted like. It literally melted in my mouth.

Now this is where the dinner really took off.  This would be Goat Cheese Gnocchi, Sweet Corn Veloute, and Kennet Mushrooms.  I’m not really sure how to describe this other than to say it was perfection in a bowl. 

Talula’s owner, Aimee Olexy, was gracious enough to let me into the kitchen when the chefs were plating our next dish, the Local Flounder, Zucchini, Garden Herbs, and Tomato-Anchovy Vinaigrette.  It was wonderful to meet them and watch them in action.  Every dish received special attention.

The first meat dish of the evening was the Marget Duck and Confit, Fat Fried Potatoes and Berry Scented Duck Sauce.  I’m not a huge meat eater, but I heard many claims around the table that this was “the best duck I’ve ever had.”  However, that was not the last “best ever” I heard that night.

The best ever?  The Beef Cheek Risotto with Arugala Gremolata and Cave Aged CheddarThis. Was. Incredible. Again, I don’t eat much meat.  But I’ve decided that when I do, I won’t discriminate.  So…duck?  Sure.  Beef Cheek Risotto?  Bring it on.  This was by far one of the best dishes I’ve ever had in my life. There was a chorus of “ohhhs” and “ahhhs” echoed in the presence of this dish.

Cheese is cheese is cheese, right?  Not so.  When a market that specializes in artisanal cheese gives you a cheese plate, you savor every bite…and your neighbor’s if they’ll allow you to. 

Coffee was served as we tried to find room in our stomachs for dessert.

Dessert was a play on “peaches and cream.”  We had a Summer Peach Tatin with Chester County Cream.  It was the perfect light ending to an amazing meal.

Dinner at Talula’s was truly an amazing experience I won’t soon forget.  Thank you to everyone at Talula’s for an incredible evening!

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Before I leave for Israel, I want to share a gorgeous meal my Mom recently cooked (a major benefit of living at home while in school).  My Dad picked up 10 mangoes at a farmers’ market near his work.  I’m not sure how these mangoes ended up at a local New Jersey farmers’ market from Mexico, but I don’t ask questions when my Dad comes home with fresh fruit.  So the challenge was what to do with 10 ripe mangoes.  After a quick Google search, I came up with this Grilled Fish with Mango Salsa recipe.  It’s light and uses minimal ingredients – most of which we had on hand.

For a side dish, I referenced my new Clean Food cookbook (I love this book) and found a Black Bean Salad recipe in the ‘Summer’ section.  It’s similar to this one, but without the cayenne.  The ingredients list matched the mango salsa recipe – including fresh cilantro, red onions, ground cumin and lime – so I knew they’d be a perfect match.  (Note – Mangoes are tricky to cut.  And can be very messy.  For instructions on how to cut a mango, watch this video.)

The result was delicious and filling.  While I’m home, I’m trying to introduce new meals to my family.  My Mom is a great cook, but she definitely thinks of a “square meal” in a very traditional way.  As in, carbs come from bread, protein comes from meat, and vegetables come from salad.  While this is all true, there are so many other ways to incorporate these macromolecules (I’m immersed in sciences classes right now – go with it :) ) into your meals.

For instance, in this meal we have carbs from the black beans and vegetables from the tomatoes, corn and red peppers

Protein from the tilapia (and the black beans)…

And fresh fruit from the mangoes

All together to create a new take on the traditional “square meal.”

Question:  Has your idea of a “square meal” changed since you were a child? I definitely look at my meals differently now.  I stopped eating meat a few years ago (but have since brought it back to an extent).  In eliminating the type of protein I was raised eating, I had to discover new ways to incorporate it into my diet.  I now think its fun to play with my food and mix and match ingredients to create my version of a square meal.

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Memorial Day Weekend is supposed to be spent outside on the beach to welcome the unofficial start to summer.  Unfortunately for me, I had my first test for A&P on Tuesday and couldn’t take part in the festivities.  Despite the looming test, I refused to miss out on our Memorial Day barbecue.

Last week I was directed to put together a menu for my family to make while I studied.  I was to create a list of ingredients for them to buy and supply all recipes for them to follow.  That only partially came true.  I couldn’t stay away from the kitchen long – and so once the food arrived, my hands ended up in just about everything. 

While cooking, we opened a bottle of wine from Moore Brothers, a local wine store that sources wines directly from artisan winegrowers abroad (not exactly local, but the care they put into choosing each wine is incredible).  In college, I drank my fair share of white zinfandel and because of that, stayed far far away from anything blush colored for years.  But during a trip to California’s wine country last summer, I fell in love with rose wine (which is actually completely different from white zinfandel…who knew??).  This bottle was $16 and was possibly one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted.

Back to food – we started with a simple salad of arugula, heirloom cherry tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.  These tomatoes were the most gorgeous colors – reds, yellows, oranges and greens – this picture doesn’t do them justice.

After the salad, we had a ‘deconstructed caprese salad.’  Last week when I was looking for recipes, one of my first stops was RhodeyGirl’s blogSabrina’s recipes are always simple, delicious and described so well they’ll make you want to go out and buy the ingredients that day.  Her Caprese Barley Salad had that effect on me…and before I knew it, pearled barley was in my pantry :)  Per her recommendation, I added some more cheese than the recipe called for…but if you want to keep it on the light side, just use the original amounts.  This was so good.  The barley added such a fun texture to this traditional salad.  It ended up being a favorite among everyone at the table!

After seeing the recipe for Shaved Asparagus Pizza on Smitten Kitchen’s blog last week, I knew I had to make it.  I’ve oooh-ed and ahhh-ed over her recipes for far too long...it was about time I put one to the test.  This lived up to all my expectations.  We even decided to be brave and try baking an egg on top (Stella-style)…and it actually worked!  This was such an amazing and unique way to use asparagus.  The only place I strayed from the original recipe is in the pizza dough.  I used fresh whole wheat dough from Whole Food’s pizza counter instead of homemade.

Finally, for the main course (and the barbecue portion of our evening), we made grilled salmon using this recipe (the second one on the page).  I know I keep claiming that everything was amazing…but everything truly was.  I wish I could recreate this dinner every week!  Grilled peaches and ice cream was on the menu for dessert, but we were too stuffed to handle any more food.

This meal had an amazing combination of healthy fats (olive oil and salmon), protein (salmon and mozzarella and Parmesan cheese) and whole grain carbs (barley).  I enjoyed the salad, a slice of pizza, about a 1/2 cup of the barley and half a piece of salmon.  And had the leftovers last night :)

Lighten it up:  We had three “chefs” in the kitchen while cooking this meal, so I wasn’t in charge of preparing everything.  If it were up to me completely, I would have used half of the oil listed in both the pizza and salmon dishes and about half of the mozzarella cheese for the pizza.  While I welcome olive oil as a healthy fat in my diet, I’ve found that in most dishes, decreasing the amount doesn’t change the end result much.

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