Archive | November, 2013

Thanksgiving

28 Nov

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“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual…O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.”

― Henry David Thoreau

Virtual Thanksgiving Menu

28 Nov

Okay- so y’all already know that I love the NYT Vegetarian Thanksgiving. This year they have totally outdone themselves and have included a GLUTEN FREE section. God is good, all of the time.

In other news– I’m headed to BFKef’s family homestead this year, but if I were making Thanksgiving dinner for my loved ones (who include a few gluten-free/sugar-free eaters, a few ALL MEAT ALL THE TIME eaters, a few traditionalists, and a few vegetarians), this is what I’d make to please us all:

The Starters:

Baked Kataifi-Wrapped Goat Cheese

If there were lobsters present at the birth of Jesus, there was definitely phyllo served at the first Thanksgiving.

Thai Red Curry Pumpkin Hummus

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What better to whet the appetite than spicy fall flavors?

and how about some Roasted Corn and Tomato Soup?

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Mmmm corn. The most delicious non-nutritive filler since soy.

The Sides:

 Beet-Fennel-Heirloom Carrot

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Are we warmed up yet?

Sweet Potato and Apple Cakes

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I could probably just eat a batch of these and be very, very grateful.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Pomegranate

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Just yum.

Paleo Jalapeno Cornbread

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Not exactly sure how corn bread can be made without corn– but I’d love to find out.

Roasted Beets and Carrots with Tahini Dressing

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It was a poor choice to make this list on an empty stomach.

The Main Event:

Portobello Mushrooms with Roasted  Pumpkin Mash and Caramelized Walnuts

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Is your belt unbuckled yet?

Cornish Game Hen with Clementine Glaze and Cranberry - Almond Quinoa Pilaf

Gotta give the meat lovers something to look forward to–those wine glasses in the back are for me, after all this cooking!

The Sweets

Chocolate Almond Cookie Pumpkin Ice Cream Sandwiches

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And how could I choose between these two final desserts? Since this is a virtual meal and I don’t actually have to prepare anything, I think I’ll cook both.

Pumpkin Pie Caramel Biscoff Cheesecake

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Bourbon Vanilla FIG Bundt Cake

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You really didn’t think we’d have a feast without FIGS, did you?

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Still Not Sure What You’re Making for Turkey Day?

27 Nov

Still Not Sure What You’re Making for Turkey Day?

Place your bets and take your chances!

Five For Friday: What I Do to Get Moving

22 Nov

Okay, so here’s something to ponder: why oh why does doing good for our bodies so often require fighting against every instinct we have?  The obvious answer is that our instincts have been totally effed by modernity’s conveniences and vices, but, logic aside, I sense a flaw in design. I mean, really– no one ever gets tendinitis from eating a cupcake, but there’s a whole host of ailments named after their corresponding physical activity: tennis elbow, runner’s knee, jumper’s knee, etc.  I’d like to put a note in Evolution’s comment box to suggest that the healthy choice and the path of least resistance ought to intersect somewhere. But, while I’m on hold waiting to speak to the supervisor about that one, it looks like we’re  just gonna have to find things to motivate our own damn selves.

So what do I do to unglue myself from the couch and get moving? Here are five tricks I use on days when I’d rather eat a steak dinner with Dick Cheney than go running:

1- Use your unhealthy amount of screen time to do something good for you. When I feel like skipping a run, a quick click through a fellow runner’s blog can be the kick in the pants I need to get out there. Mary was there as my running coach when I ran my first-ever 5.5 miler and is now an official speed demon, Courtney gives practical and real advice about races, training, and DC running, and my friend Krisha posts on Facebook about 10 times a day about how her pre-schooler can run a 5k. It’s not about competition, it’s about solidarity–if these awesome ladies who are all as busy/tired/whatever as I am can get out there, I sho’nough can too!

morgan freeman2- Watch your language. I have found AMAZING success using the methods of this (very, very small) study: 30 women were asked to make a health/wellness goal and take action toward it for ten days. Group 1 was given no tips/tricks for meeting their goal and the only guidance they got was to “just say no” to things that were counterproductive to their goal. Group 2 was told to use the word “can’t,” as in, “I can’t miss my workout today.” Group 3 was given coaching to use “don’t” (eg: “I don’t miss workouts.”). After ten days, Lifehacker says:

  • Group 1 (the “just say no” group) had 3 out of 10 members who persisted with their goals for the entire 10 days.
  • Group 2 (the “can’t” group) had 1 out of 10 members who persisted with her goal for the entire 10 days.
  • Group 3 (the “don’t” group) had an incredible 8 out of 10 members who persisted with their goals for the entire 10 days.

It’s worth clicking above to read the whole thing- but the short story is that by saying things like, “I don’t miss long runs” instead of, “Come on Chef Kef… can’t miss this run” has really helped me stick to my workout guns.

3- Buy inspirational workout gear. I know, I know- this is not my favorite tool in the arsenal, but when all else fails, a snazzy new pair of running tights is bound to get me hitting the pavement. Even if it is 35 degrees and I can’t be sure that they were not made in a sweatshop somewhere. Clearly, I have some evolving to do myself. I currently have my eye on these guys, but luckily for me I am more or less sticking to my fitness (and financial) goals lately.

4- Train for something. The most dedicated I’ve ever been to running is when I’ve had a training plan to stick to. As we’re moving into winter (read: as I just want to sit on the couch watching the SVU Marathon that was on last Sunday and that will be on again next Sunday), I’m toying with some spring races as bait to keep me going. So far the Parkway Classic 10M, Rock ‘N’ Roll Half, Prospect Park Duathlon and Capitol Hill Classic are on my list of possibilities. And that should keep me busy right through the spring thaw.

5- Stick with the rule of 7.5. I read somewhere (probably Self magazine circa 1999) that your body needs 7.5 minutes to really tell you how it feels about physical activity. So when I reallllllly don’t feel like working out, I tell myself I only have to do it for 7 minutes and 30 seconds. If I still feel like crap, I can quit (on these days, its amazing how fast I can sprint back to the couch when I could barely even get over 6 MPH on a treadmill)– but more often than not I realize that I very, very rarely regret a workout and just keep going. Isn’t always a workout to remember, but at least I got it in.

What do you do to keep up your motivation?

Occupy the Grocery Store: Butternut Spaghetti with Pine nuts and Peanut Sauce

20 Nov

photo(2) Despite never really loving pasta so much as a gluten-eater, pasta imitators have become some of my favorite foods. It is entirely possible that this has less to do with the foods and more to do with my commitment to contrarianism–but today’s recipe will blow the hair back of anybody with a palate, pasta lover or otherwise.

I’ve written once before about how butternut squash can morph into pasta faster than Alex Mac can melt into a puddle. This time, I skipped the traditional pasta accoutrements and went for a sweet-and-salty combo: butternut with pine nuts, steamed kale and a peanutbutter soy sauce. Mmm mmm good!

Butternut Spaghetti with Pine nuts, Kale, and Peanut Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled
  • 1/4 c of pine nuts
  • as much kale as you’d like- I used about 1 c shredded
  • peanut butter (watch for added sugar if you care)
  • soy sauce (tamari for gluten free)
  • juice of 1 lime

Assembly

1.Holding the peeled butternut vertically, make the “spaghetti” by grating it with either a julienne peeler or a fork.

2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Throw in the pine nuts and let them cook for about 2 minutes. Then, throw in the butternut spaghetti. Do this in two batches if your pan isn’t big enough for the butternut to be fairly loose in the pan- it can overlap but it shouldn’t be tightly packed. Use tongs to throw the squash around so it cooks evenly.

3. When it has the consistency of al dente, throw in the shredded kale and cook until wilted. Remove from heat.

4. To make sauce, start with 2 TBS peanut butter and 1 TBS soy sauce. Mix together, then add some lime juice. Continue adding/stirring until you get taste/amount you like. I do not love salty food, so mine was heavy on the lime juice and lighter on the tamari. You do you.

5. When ready to serve, mix the sauce over the squash/nuts/kale and mix well. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Fall Fun + “Skinny” Apple Yogurt Cheesecake

19 Nov

BabyKef, CousinKef and I have made a little tradition out of apple picking. As previously noted, CousinKef is an amazingly-talented nutritionist who has her finger to the pulse of the local health food scene (ask her about her illegal unpasteurized milk circle!). As such, we have headed to her favorite minimally-chemicaled pick-you-own spot, Larriland Farm.

Last year, we picked beets to our little hearts’ delight. This year, the broccoli was just waiting for us to come and take it home. Obviously, before we could get down to the business of actually harvesting broccoli, we had to spend about 35 minutes taking absurd pictures of ourselves with surrounded by fields of green. As one does.

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Once we got that out of the way, we were free to scoop up all the broccoli and apples our arms would carry out. Which, for the record, is a whole lotta broccoli.

We’ll get to the broccoli in a day or two (hint: it’s a broccoli and hazelnut soup!), but today it’s all about the apples. Previous psychoanalyses have surfaced the plight of the butternut in light of pumpkin-mania and modernity’s tendency to totally disregard chestnuts as a thing of the past– but who is examining the implications of apple’s fall from grace as the original fall fruit? Sure–some superstar hybrids have kept the apple brand afloat (honeycrisp! pink lady!), but until I see Facebook posts by the hundred thousand squealing about the hot apple cider someone just overpaid for at Starbucks, I’m going to continue worrying about my homestate’s most delicious produce export.

To keep the love alive, I decided to make this  apple cheesecake, made with (what else?) Greek yogurt. I liked this a lot- it was un-sweet enough to qualify as a breakfast food and definitely tastes like fall. I will say, however, that it definitely has that “skinny” taste– as in, “I just made the most awesome skinny version of cheesecake” which is, of course, very different from “I just made a cheesecake.” So if what you want is a healthy-ish fall food that won’t put you in a coma, try this.  If you want a cheesecake… make a damn cheesecake.

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“Skinny” Apple Yogurt Cheesecake

Ingredients

For the Crust

For the filling:

  • 2 c plain Greek yogurt (do yourself a favor and just use Fage)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c sugar (I used coconut sugar– can’t tell you how sweet it will be with regular sugar)

For the topping:

  • 4 medium apples, cored and chopped
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Assembly

1. Preheat oven to 300F if you’re using the grainless grahams or 350F if you’re using the regular grahams and butter. Line a metal baking pan with parchment paper (9×9 if you’ve got a square one, otherwise mine fit in a deepdish round)

2. Prepare your crust. Either follow instructions for the dough of the grainless grahams AND DO NOT BAKE YET or stir the cookie crumbs and butter together.  Press whichever crust you’re using evenly into the bottom of your lined pan to form the crust.  For the grainless, bake at 300 for 15-20 minutes or until set and just turning golden brown. For the regular grahams, bake at 350ºF for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned. If you’ve made the grainless kind, turn the oven temp up to 350F once you’ve taken the crust out of the oven.

3. While the crust cooks, beat together the yogurt and eggs. Then add the cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar and stir until smooth. In a separate bowl, stir together the apples and 2 tsp cinnamon. Make sure all the apples get a nice coat of cinnamon. When the crust is cooked and cooled, pour the filling over the crust and even it out with a spatula. Distribute the apples evenly over the yogurt.

4. Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes, until the center is set and doesn’t jiggle.  Cool completely before serving. I found this was best after resting overnight. Enjoy!

Inn at Little Washington

18 Nov

Please allow me this post of unabashed gastronomic gloating. Last week a friend treated me to the culinary treat of the year: dinner at The Inn at Little Washington. This out of the way (read: wayyyy out of the way) restaurant has won countless awards over its 30-year lifespan, including James Beard Foundation Restaurant of the Year and a #1 rating on Travel and Leisure magazine’s Best Restaurant in the World list.

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All those awards worked against me, as I felt a little self-conscious whipping out my wayyy outdated phone to take pictures of my ten-course meal. So instead of drool-worthy shots of amazing food, you’ll have to put your thinking caps on and just imagine you were there with me, savoring every bite.

An Awesome Celebration of MollyMarymountKef

Truffle Dusted Popcorn
truffle grated at the table… it took every bit of self-control not to tackle the server, grab the truffle and high-tail it home!

A Shot of Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup

Salt-Roasted Shishito Peppers in a Miniature Skillet with Harissa
Served in a one-egg cast-iron pan on a bed of sea salt and star anise, this dish kind of reminded me of edamame. Prior to eating, our server leed me through the process of “seasoning the fingers,” which required opening a satchet of sage, mint and thyme, and rubbing it all over my hands. This way, each bite-sized pepper got some of the herbs’ flavor without interfering with the delicious homemade harissa served to the side for dipping. Talk about tableside presentation.

Heart of Palm Salad with Avocado, Fennel and Coriander-Lime Viniagrette
This was yummy,  but the best part was the description given by the server: “Hearts of palm, globes of avocado, spheres of fennel. Oh! And beware the spears of endive! They’ll getcha.”

Beet Trinity: Three Versions of Beets with Montchevre, Beet Sorbet and Orange Essence
Beets Beets Beets Beets Beets! Everybody! Beets!

Cannellini Bean Agnolotti with Burnt Lemon Butter and Marinated Toybox Tomatoes
My dearest Molls had called ahead to let them know that I’m a gluten-free eater, and The Inn did an INCREDIBLE job of taking that into account for me– they even gave me homemade gluten-free bread before the meal, which is a luxury I had forgotten about. That being said, I think they served this very gluten-filled thing to me without thinking, and I was getting kind of full (too much of that bread!) so I shared this one with the table.  The tomatoes were great, though.

Blake Pepper Lemon Risotto with Crispy Baby Brussels Sprouts
Oh my, oh my. I’m not really into rice, but I am really not about to pass up risotto in a top restaurant that comes with BRUSSELS SPROUTS. This was definitely a highlight of the night. Yum.

Japanese Eggplant Moussaka with Basil Tempura
Speaking of highlights, this WAS IT. I overcame my urge to point out to the server that all moussaka is, by virtue, made with eggplant and just focused on the beautiful little package in front of me. Instead of the traditional layering of goodness upon goodness and serving a slice casserole-style, these guys used the thinnest slices of eggplant to wrap the layers of cheese and tomato inside the eggplant like a present and then topped it with a giant, very-lightly fried basil leaf. Oh my sweet lord baby Jesus.

Pineapple Lemongrass Sorbet with Pink Peppercorn Granita
Just the perfect palate cleanser. So fresh tasting.

Cheeky Milk Chocolate “Flower” Pot de Creme with Strawberry-Basil Sorbet
This is what the rest of the table ate for dessert- the traditional pot de creme turned on its side to appear as if it had been knocked over so that the chocolate spilled out onto the plate, where a strawberry-basil sorbet made a beautiful “flower.” Below, a hastily-snapped blurry picture.

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All in all, a lovely dining experience. I can’t remember the last time a restaurant was so gracious about making gluten-free substitutions–especially such a highly-rated place, where often dishes are too micromanaged to allow for changes and swaps. Many many many thanks to my steadfast, hilarious friend Molly for being born and treating me to one of the most memorable eating experiences in a long, long while!

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