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Archive for the ‘Seasonal’ Category

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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At 6:30 this morning I took off for an easy 6 mile run around my neighborhood.  The weather was absolutely perfect and it was clear other people thought so, too.  Throughout my run, I passed a man who must have been 70+ years old, a group of about eight 50+ men and women running together, two young women speed walking and a few bikers.  It was more people than I’ve ever seen on that same route and it was so nice to get a smile and wave as I passed each person.

For some crazy unknown reason, my body decided to wake up at 4:45am this morning.  I decided to be “productive” and flip through a new cookbook I just bought – Clean Food by Terry Walters.  I first saw this book recommended by Ashley at The Edible Perspective, who raved about its simple recipes and fresh approach to using ingredients.  Clean Food is “a seasonal guide to eating close to the source” so the recipes are separated by season, which is perfect for my Farmers’ Market Challenge this summer!

*Quick note – This is a vegan cookbook.  I am not vegan or vegetarian, but I tend to gravitate towards these types of cookbooks because I love that the focus is on unique ways to use fruits, vegetables, grains and beans.  I love discovering new ingredients, cooking methods and seasonings.  Plus, every dish I’ve made from a vegan cookbook has come out amazing.  I also own Eat, Drink and Be Vegan and Veganomicon.

As I read through the introduction, the author offered the following descriptions and advice:

  • “Clean food” is defined as food that is naturally grown and minimally processed.
  • The more processed fruits and vegetables are, the less nutritional value they hold.
  • Balanced nutrition can be easy with real foods.
  • We have a choice in the foods we eat.  And so the more informed we are, the better choices we’ll make.
  • Find the “clean foods” that you like and experiment with ways to use them.  There is no need to force down broccoli if it’s not appealing to you.  Eating should always be an enjoyable experience.
  • Eat colorfully.
  • Start slowly.  Small changes add up to big changes over time.

Every one of those points couldn’t be more true. I appreciate that she adds at the end that its best to start slowly and that small changes are significant.  I think it’s easy for people to become intimidated at the idea of giving up certain types of foods in their diet.  But there is no need for a complete diet makeover overnight.  I’m a big believer in starting to make changes by adding foods to your diet instead of removing.  So for instance, if a standard dinner is pasta with tomato sauce, add a fresh component to it – like roasted vegetables or cooked beans.  Experimenting with different foods and ways of cooking them will make using fresh ingredients less intimidating over time.  Trying new foods is just another reason reason to check out your local farmers’ market.

So at 5am this morning, I was inspired by this book to start cooking.  What, you ask?  Why, cookies, of course!  Anyone who has ever baked knows there’s something relaxing about combining ingredients using just the right measurements to create something delicious.  I created the Banana Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Instead of using eggs (not vegan), the recipe called for two ripe bananas to hold the ingredients together.  Also in the mix was maple syrup, oatmeal, unsweetened coconut flakes, canola oil and whole wheat flour.  I added cinnamon and used raisins instead of chocolate chips.  The result was more of a cross between a muffin and a cookie – light, sweet and chewy.  It was delicious!

I’ve already had two today and I think another one is calling my name now…

I can’t wait for my next visit to a farmers’ market to create some more of these amazing recipes.

Question:  What’s your favorite cookbook and why?  I’m always looking for new ones to add to my collection!

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