Monday, December 31, 2012

Pomegranate Lemonade

If you're still looking for a sassy cocktail to ring in the new year, look no further.  A little sweet and a little tart, this pomegranate lemonade is ready to be made sparkling!

Pomegranate Lemonade
recipe by Shannon

1c water
1/4c honey
3/4c meyer lemon juice
1/4c lemon juice
1c pomegranate juice
2-6c seltzer
sparkling wine, if desired
pomegranate seeds, for garnish

Begin by making a honey simple syrup.  Add water and honey to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until the honey dissolves.  Remove from heat and set aside.

To a pitcher, add lemon juices (strain if necessary), pomegranate juice and honey simple syrup.  Begin by adding 1c of seltzer, mix and taste.  Adjust to taste with more seltzer, as desired.  Serve with sparkling wine, if desired.  Garnish with fresh pomegranate seeds.

May 2013 be filled with tasty eats and fitness milestones!!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Shortrib Risotto

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday!  As luck would have it, we got just enough snow for a white Christmas :)  A few days at home with my family was fabulous, but all too short...

While I tend not to make meals that take 4 hours to cook, I apparently got stars in my eyes when faced with a few days at home!  Awhile back I had seen Dan's recipe and was intrigued by the shortribs + chocolate + cauliflower.  While it was a bit intimidating, I knew the three hours of braising time was hands-off and with a good plan of attack it would be totally do-able.  This is definitely not a weeknight meal, but was perfect for a nice dinner with some good friends.  I bet it would also be perfect for your new year's eve dinner as well!

Here was my plan of attack:
Prep veggies and sear ribs (30min)
Braise ribs (3hr)  [prep remaining ingredients during braising time]
Make broth (30min)  [put cauliflower in to roast once broth is boiling]
Make risotto (30min)

It worked out to be about 30min on the front end, then about an hour once the braising was done.  Understanding the recipe beforehand and mise en place were the keys to success!  I've also included a few tips, including the option to make this into a weeknight meal by braising the shortribs ahead of time (on the weekend).

Shortrib Risotto w/Chile Chocolate Cauliflower
slightly adapted from Food In My Beard
Serves 4

For the braised shortribs:
1T extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2lbs bone-in grass-fed short ribs
3 stalks celery, diced
4 medium carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh thyme sprigs (I used a small bunch)
1t yellow mustard seed
2t coriander seeds
1 parmesan rind
2 dried chiles (I used 1 pasilla negro and 1 new mexico chile)

Preheat oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Dry off your shortribs and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Add to the hot pan and sear on all sides, a few minutes on each side.  Remove ribs from the pan and set aside in a dish.

Preheat the oven to 300deg.

Lower the heat to medium-low and add celery, carrots and onion to the pan.  Stir and cook until they soften and start to brown.  Add garlic and cook another minute or two.  Return the shortribs to the pan along with any accumulated juices.  Add remaining ingredients and then enough water to come ~1/2 way up the meat (mine was probably 2/3, and could be as little as 1/3 of the way up the ribs).  Cover the pan and transfer to the oven.  Braise the ribs for ~3hours.

This was my first time braising, so I had to do some reading to figure out what the heck I was doing.  In case you're in the same boat, the goal here is to heat the liquid to a gentle simmer and have steam forming inside the dutch oven to aid in cooking.  I checked mine at one point and it was at a robust boil, so I cracked the lid ever-so-slightly (perhaps it was ok or maybe I should've just lowered the oven a bit).

Tip: While the shortribs are braising in the oven, get the rest of the ingredients ready and then go do a load of laundry, hop on your bike trainer, or do whatever else needs taking care of!

When the meat is done braising, remove the pot from the oven.  Place the ribs onto a plate and let cool a bit (mine had completely fallen off the bone at this point).  To make a stock from the braising liquid, put the pot on the burner and bring to a rolling boil for ~20min.  Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a fat separator.  Press on the solids to remove as much liquid as you can, and then discard the solids.  Let the liquid settle for ~5min, and then strain off the fat.  Add broth to a medium saucepan and put on low heat for the risotto.

While the braising liquid is boiling, pull off the meat from the shortribs.  I don't like fat on my meat, so I was quite...  precise ;)  I have since read a tip that you can cool the ribs in the fridge overnight for easy removal of fat.  Reserve the meat for the risotto and discard the fat.

Tip:  This could be prepared in two steps- day 1 braise the shortribs and make the stock, day 2 reheat stock and make the risotto and cauliflower.

For the risotto:
1T extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1c arborio rice
3/4c red wine
1/2c grated parmesan
1oz dark chocolate (70% or higher, I used Taza)
shortrib stock, see above
extra stock, if needed (I used vegetable)

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-low heat (I used the same dutch oven after the stock was ready).  Add onion, stir to coat, then saute for 5-8min, until softened but not browned.  Add garlic and rice, stir to coat and cook a few more minutes.  Add wine to deglaze the pan, scraping off all the flavorful bits at the bottom of the pot.  Stirring frequently, add ladles of stock each time the liquid cooks off (I used some vegetable broth once I was out of the homemade stock).  Cook until rice is al dente, ~20-30min.  dd the shredded beef back to the risotto, and a little more stock so the risotto is nice and creamy, not too dry.  Turn off the heat and add the parmesan and chocolate, stirring until melted and well combined.  Serve, topped with chile chocolate cauliflower.

For the chile chocolate cauliflower:
1 head cauliflower
2T butter, melted
1-2t chile powder (mine is pretty spicy so I used 1t)
11/2t cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 400deg.

Chop up the cauliflower into florets and add them to a large bowl.  Add chile poder and cocoa powder, then toss to combine.  Add the melted butter and toss until coated.  Spread on a baking sheet and bake 20-30min, or until tender.  Enjoy on its own, or on top of shortrib risotto.

Have you ever made shortribs before?  What are your New Year's Eve plans?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Spicy Chocolate Almond Cookies

While it is true year-round, I find that baking becomes more than just the act of measuring out some flour or butter, whisking egg whites or adding sugar.  It's a way for me to show how much I care, how grateful I am for those who have touched my life.

After spotting these cookies last year, they were at the top of my baking list this year.  I changed up the recipe a bit and added just enough heat to make each bite interesting.  I hope everyone that received these loved these as much as I did, and I suspect this will be the first batch of many!

Spicy Chocolate Almond Cookies
adapted from Saveur
yield: 5-6 dozen

The spice level of your cookie depends on the chocolate you use.  Mine was chipotle cinnamon, and there was some definite heat in the finish (Taza has similar flavors).  Feel free to adjust according to your tastes- try cinnamon or orange flavored dark chocolate for a less spicy cookie.

8oz almond meal (finely ground almonds)
1 1/2c evaporated cane juice
6oz spicy semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (*see headnote)
1 1/2t ground Vietnamese cinnamon
1/2t ground cloves
2 lg egg whites, lightly beaten

In the bowl of a food processor, add almond meal, sugar and chocolate.  Pulse until chocolate is finely ground and well distributed.  Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to make a thick dough.  Wrap dough tightly and refrigerate a few hours or overnight.

When you're ready to make the cookies, take half of the dough and place it between two sheets of parchment paper.  Transfer the remaining dough back to the fridge while you roll out the first half.  Roll out the dough to ~1/8" thickness.  Using cookie cutters, cut dough to your desired shape (the size will determine how many cookies you get).  If the dough is too sticky, pop it into the freezer (still in between parchment) for 10-15min and then try cutting again.  I found the warmer my hands got, the tougher the dough was to work with, so keep that in mind when handling the dough.  Transfer cut cookies to parchment lined baking sheets, spacing them 1" apart.  Re-roll scraps and repeat, then start with the second half of the dough from the fridge.

Let the dough dry for 3 hours.  (note:  I've seen some recipes that forgo this step, so I'm not sure it's completely necessary)

Preheat the oven to 300deg.  Bake until slightly puffed, 12-15min.  Let cool completely on cookie sheets.  Store in an airtight container.

Have you been doing any holiday baking??  If so, what have you been making?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Beef Stew

While I'm all for variety in my diet, I've recently come to appreciate cooking in larger quantities.  The more meals I can get out of an hour of cooking, the better!  As the temperatures start to drop, warm meals become the norm and soups/stews have been making an almost weekly occurrence.  This soup surprised me with its flavors, and because I so badly wanted to share it with you I snuck a quick picture before I brought the last serving to work for lunch!

Beef Stew w/Sweet Potatoes and Mushrooms
adapted from Joy the Baker
Serves 6

Feel free to use fresh mushrooms if you have those on hand!

3/4c white whole wheat flour (AP or whole wheat pastry will also work)
1 1/4lb stew beef (local, grass-fed if you can), cut into 3/" chunks
1/4c extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced/pressed
3T tomato paste
1/2c red wine  (or beer)
3 medium sweet potatoes, diced
100g/3.5oz diced dried mushrooms (I used a medley from Job Lot)
1 bay leaf
3t fresh thyme, coarsely chopped (or 1t dried)
1T worcestershire sauce
8c broth (I used a mix of beef and vegetable)
1T sugar
salt and freshly ground pepper
cooked whole wheat couscous, for serving (if desired)

In a ziploc bag, add flour and season with a big pinch of salt and pepper.  Add diced beef and close the bag.   Shake until all the beef is lightly coated in flour mixture and set aside.

Heat 2T olive oil over medium heat in a large dutch oven.  Add beef in a single layer (it all might not fit) and cook until browned on each side.  Repeat with remaining beef, then remove from the pan and set aside on a plate.

Add 2T oil to the dutch oven and heat over medium-low.  Add onions and carrots and cook until onions are translucent, ~8min.  Add garlic and cook for another minute or two before adding tomato paste.  Stir well and cook another minute before deglazing the pan with wine, scraping off the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the sweet potatoes, dried mushrooms, bay leaf, thyme, worcestershire sauce and beef.  Cover with stock.  Turn the heat to low and gently simmer slightly covered for ~45min, until the veggies are cooked through.

Taste and add 1T sugar, then season with salt and pepper, adjusting as necessary.  Serve over couscous (or other grain), if desired.

Why not throw a batch of this on the stove, and while it simmers away whip up a batch of cookies?  Perfect December weekend if you ask me :)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Green Beans w/Goat Cheese Mushroom Sauce

This is not your mothers green bean casserole.

While that means you probably wouldn't want this on your Thanksgiving table, I'm almost certain you'd enjoy it any other night of the week!  Since I've never liked the traditional dish, I simply used the parts I liked- green beans, mushrooms and onions.  Onions got caramelized, green beans got roasted, and then I made this killer goat cheese mushroom sauce... that I would eat on it's own!

Goat Cheese Mushroom Sauce
adapted from Cake, Batter & Bowl

This is great over some pasta or roasted veggies (like green beans!)

1T butter
1T white whole wheat flour
1/2c almond milk
5oz goat cheese
12oz sauteed or roasted mushrooms
1/2t sea salt

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour and whisk well, then continue to cook for a minute or two.  While whisking, slowly add in milk.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat.  Crumble in goat cheese and whisk until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth.  Add in mushroooms and salt, then taste and adjust seasonings.  Keep warm until serving.

ps- My apologies to the 5 Star Makeover crew for not getting this up last month, but be sure to check out everyone's makeover of this holiday classic over at Lazaro Cooks!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Banana Oatmeal Cookies

You may have noticed that my posting schedule has become less frequent of late.  Indeed, there has been a lot going on this past year behind the scenes.  Not the least of which includes my involvement with Boston's chapter of Girls on the Run.  Girls on the Run is an amazing non-profit organization whose mission is to help young girls develop healthy habits and self-esteem, all the while training for a 5k.

image source

I'm sure you can imagine that working with 20 girls this season has been extremely rewarding, if not slightly challenging at times ;)  They cease to amaze me with their insights on difficult topics and boundless energy.  Many girls are surprised by what they can do with a little encouragement (or a lot!), and I know there will be some very proud coaches and families at the finish line of the run.

wordle from a lesson earlier this season

As the girls are wrapping up their season this Sunday at Walter's Run, I wanted to bake up a quick treat for their last practice.  I'm guessing none of the girls suspected they were healthy, and the requests for seconds makes me think they were quite a hit!

Banana Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from Live Well 360 (which may not exist anymore)
yield:  2 1/2 dozen

For a nut-free version, I bet oat flour (oats ground in a food processor) would work in place of the almond meal.

3 large bananas
2t vanilla extract
1/4c melted coconut oil
2c rolled oats (I used Extra Thick, use GF if desired)
2/3c almond meal
1/2t cinnamon
1/2t sea salt
1c mini cinnamon chips

Preheat the oven to 350deg.

In a large bowl, mash the bananas.  Add in vanilla and coconut oil and whisk well to combine.  In another bowl, mix together oats, almond meal, cinnamon sea salt and cinnamon chips.  Add to the banana mixture and stir until combined.  Using a small cookie scoop (or a 1T measure), drop cookies onto a parchment-lined baking sheet ~1" apart.  Press down gently with your fingers to get a flatter cookie (they won't spread while baking).  Bake for 12-15min, until they're not too soft to the touch and the cookies don't look wet anymore.  Let cookies cool completely on the baking sheet and then store in an airtight container.

Sound like a cause you'd like to help out?  There are many ways to get involved!!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving Desserts & a winner

Anyone else still planning out their Thanksgiving meal or is it just me?  In case you're still trying to decide on whether you want apples, pumpkin or cranberries to be featured in your post-turkey course, here are some recipes for you...

(from top L, clockwise) Autumn Cheesecake, Cranberry Upside-Down Cake,
Apple Crisp w/Rosemary & Honey, Gingersnap Apple Pie w/Bacon Crisp)

Apple Pie w/Rosemary Crust & Gruyere Crumble
Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
Apple Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie
Autumn Cheesecake
Apple Pear Crisp
Gingersnap Apple Pie w/Bacon Crisp
Apple Crisp w/Rosemary & Honey
Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

I think I'm leaning towards and apple pie (with rosemary rye crust and gruyere crumble), but there's still a few days left for me to change my mind!

And before I go, I wanted to announce the winner of my giveaway-- congrats Ranjani!  Shoot me an email and I'll get you The Science of Good Cooking :)

What's on your Thanksgiving menu??

Friday, November 9, 2012

Saffron Rice & An Edible Mosaic

Today I'm mixing it up around here to celebrate the release of my friend's cookbook!  I first met Faith Gorsky of An Edible Mosaic through a 5 Star Makeover event and instantly fell in love with her photography and creativity.  I'm excited to be a part of the virtual launch party for An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern  Fare with Extraordinary Flair.

The book has over 100 Middle Eastern recipes, with a focus mainly of the Levant, but also a few recipes from other areas of the Middle East.  In her cookbook, Faith tells the tale of authentic, streamlined recipes taught to her mostly by her mother-in-law Sahar.

I had the chance to try out one of the recipes from her cookbook this week, Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts.  I made some substitutions for what I had on hand (brown basmati and pistachios instead of pine nuts) and cooked it a bit little longer to make sure the brown rice was cooked through.  Served alongside some sauteed kale and pork chops, it was clear that I need to get this book ASAP to expand my repertoire of Middle Eastern cooking :)  The rice was delicious- a little sweet from the raisins and subtly spiced with saffron, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves.  If this is dish is any indication, this is one tasty book!

Saffron Rice w/Golden Raisins and Pistachios

Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts
Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic:  Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.
Serves 4 to 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes to let the rice sit after cooking

1½ cups (325 g) basmati rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons sultanas (golden raisins)
1¾ cups (425 ml) boiling water
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon saffron threads (or ½ teaspoon turmeric)

Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a kettle of water on to boil.

Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer the pine nuts to a small bowl and set aside.

Add the onion to the saucepan you cooked the pine nuts in, and cook until softened and just starting to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sultanas, boiling water, salt, and saffron (or turmeric), turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil.

Give the rice a stir, then cover the saucepan, turn the heat down to very low, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes (do not open the lid during this time). Turn the heat off and let the rice sit (covered) 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the toasted pine nuts on top; serve.

OPTIONAL Add two pods of cardamom, two whole cloves, and one 2-inch (5 cm) piece of cinnamon stick at the same time that you add the rice. 

After you order your book from Amazon or Barnes and Noble, head on over to Faith's virtual launch party to check out the other bloggers participating and check out the giveaways on her blog!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fall Chicken Enchiladas

Y'all were right about that apple barbecue sauce, it made a terrific pizza!  Take your favorite dough, top with apple BBQ sauce, pulled chicken or pork, sliced red onion, thinly sliced apples and a nice sharp cheddar.  Done!

Another great use for the sauce?  Enchiladas.  I recently tried out a fall-themed variation of the mexican dish with stellar results.  I'd fully recommend making a double batch (what I actually did) and freezing some for a hurricane rainy day.

Butternut Apple Chicken Enchiladas
Serves 4-6

4c poached chicken, shredded or cubed
1c cooked chickpeas
2c roasted squash cubes (I used cheese squash, but choose your favorite varietal)*
2c shredded kale (or more)
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 batch apple BBQ sauce
6-8oz sharp cheddar, shredded
8 whole wheat tortillas

Preheat the oven to 375deg.

In a large bowl, combine chicken, chickpeas, squash, kale, onion, 1c shredded cheese and ~3/4c barbecue sauce.  If the mixture looks a little dry, add a bit more sauce.  Set mixture aside while you prepare the baking dish.  Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick spray, or spread a little bit of sauce along the bottom.

Add a heaping 1/2c filling mixture to each tortilla and roll up.  Transfer to the baking dish.  Once all the tortillas have been filled, top evenly with the remaining sauce and top with the rest of the cheddar.  Bake for 20-25min, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly.

*To roast the squash, I cubed the mixture and roasted at 400deg until the edges had browned and started to caramelize.

Which would you make first, the pizza or enchiladas?

If you haven't done so already, don't forget there's still time to enter my giveaway!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Giveaway Time!

Well hello there, November.  Not sure how we got here, but I realized the other week that it has been over 4 years since I started this blog--crazy!  To celebrate, I'm giving away The Science of Good Cooking, the newest addition to the Cook's Illustrated family :)

The scientist in me loves learning reading about how things like salad dressings work (emulsifiers!), why russets make the best mashed potatoes (starchy and absorb more water!), what grinding your own beef does for burgers (more tender!) and how to make killer brownies (don't overmix!).

For your chance to win, enter with the low price of a comment below telling me about something you recently learned in the kitchen.  Contest ends 11/11/12 at midnight.

[Disclosure: This giveaway is not sponsored by America's Test Kitchen.  The book was purchased by me and will be shipped by me.]

Monday, October 29, 2012

Apple Bars

Waiting for a hurricane is strange.  Things get cancelled, everyone is supposed to stock up, try to take care of the important things.  Then you sit around and wait for the power to go out, afraid to start something in case you can't finish.

One good thing has come of this time though, I am starting to catch up on things like this blog!  I'm excited to share yet another version of everyone's favorite Seven Layers.  This time they're apple-themed and they were a hit with my lab, so I'm sure you'll enjoy them as well!!

Apple Bars
adapted from Beantown Baker & my Seven Layer Bars

1 stick butter
1c TJ's ginger cats crumbs (or another ginger spice cookie)
3/4c homemade applesauce (w/cinnamon)
1/2t cinnamon (increase if you have plain applesauce)
1/4t nutmeg
1/8t cloves
2 apples, peeled, cored & thinly sliced
3/4c white chocolate chips (or 3oz chopped)
1/2c cinnamon chips
1c chopped pecans
1 14oz can (fat free) sweetened condensed milk
1c unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350deg.  Add a stick of butter to a 9x13" pan and place it in the preheating oven until melted.

In a small bowl, mix applesauce with spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves) and set aside.

Once butter is melted, sprinkle cookie crumbs over and pat so there's an even layer of crumbs.  Gently spread spiced applesauce over the cookie base.  Layer the apple slices over the applesauce.  Sprinkle on the white chocolate chips, cinnamon chips and pecans.  Drizzle the sweetened condensed milk over the pan, and then top with coconut.

Place pan in oven and bake for 30-35min, until edges are browned and bubbly.  Let cool completely on a wire rack and then transfer to the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight before cutting.  These are pretty sweet, so I cut my bars into ~1" squares, feel free to cut as you see fit!

What's the best thing you've done with your apples this season??

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Spaghetti Squash Pie

I'm no stranger to squash, and often find myself roasting one (or two!) a week all throughout the winter.  For this month's challenge, though, I wanted to break from my routine and come up with something a little more non-traditional.  Are you ready for it?

Yup, I put spaghetti squash in a dessert!  It's definitely not the first squash you'd pick to go over to the sweet side, but I remembered seeing one on the Today Show last two years ago so I knew it could be done.

I'd say this is like a custard pie, with the spaghetti squash providing just a little bit of texture (I might even try added 3c next time!).  I ran with the coconut theme, making it dairy-free and even more delicious.  An unusual but tasty treat ;)

Spaghetti Squash Pie
adapted from food for a hungry soul

I used coconut sugar here, which is more subtle on the sweetness scale than regular sugar.  This makes it perfect for a snack or dessert.  If you prefer your dessert a little sweeter, I'd suggest using 3/4c evaporated cane juice (or granulated sugar).

1 can light coconut milk
6T white whole wheat flour  (oat flour would work well here to keep it grain-free)
1/2c coconut sugar *see head note
2t baking powder
1/4t salt
4 eggs
1t vanilla extract
1/2t coconut extract (optional)
2c cooked spaghetti squash
roasted coconut, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350deg.

Add all ingredients except for squash and roasted coconut to a blender and blend until well combined and smooth, 1-3min.  Pour into a bowl and stir in squash, making sure that it's evenly distributed.  Pour into a 9 or 10" pie plate.  Bake for 50-60min, or until the top is browned and a knife comes out clean (insert it in the middle of the pie).  It may still be jiggly in the middle (my usual test), and that's ok.  Cool on a wire rack.

Garnish with roasted coconut if desired, or serve with whipped coconut cream.

Thanks again to Natasha & Laz for hosting!  How do you like your spaghetti squash??

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Amica 19.7 Boston

Location: Carver, MA
Distance: Sprint (.5mi s, 16.1mi b, 3.1mi r)
Time: 7:30am
Weather: 55deg, sunny
Total Participants: 104

Alternate Title: The race that almost didn't happen. I don't think I could've scripted it any better- a turnaround due to forgotten sunglasses, almost running out of gas, driving around the park looking for the start/parking... there were definitely a few moments that I didn't think we'd make it to the race!

Things were a blur as we picked up our packets, navigated the parking lot, got our bikes and set up in transition.  I was on auto-pilot, grabbing only the important stuff out of my bag.  I don't really know how it all happened in time, but we made it down to the water just as they were about to sing the national anthem.

I was glad to put on my wetsuit with the morning chill still in the air.  With such a small race, there were just two waves- the men went off first, and then the women.  After the men were in the water, I was glad to put my feet in the warm water and thought that this would be the warmest I'd be all day!  The swim was marked with one buoy on the way out and one for the turnaround, so a slight triangle.  I was a little bit off course on the way out, but think I held a good line on the way back despite the blinding sun.  Out of the water in 13:20, I got an extra boost seeing my parents who had made the trip to watch!

I debated adding another layer before heading out on the bike, but decided against it and was glad for the sun.  My feet got a little chilly towards the second half of the ride, but luckily they didn't go numb.  I spent some time leapfrogging with a few other ladies, and had some trouble with my rear derailer (derailleur?), but I felt pretty good for the ride.

The bike course stayed entirely within Myles Standish State Forest, including its rolling hills and imperfectly paved roads.  It's a good thing we weren't dealing with traffic; the sides of the roads were sandy and a little beat up.  There weren't any huge climbs, but there wasn't much flat road either.  At least it kept it interesting ;)  A solid ride at 54:28 (~18mph), I was ready to run!

Up we go!

As with the bike course, the run through the park took us up and over some rolling hills.  It starts right out of transition- you head right up a nice hill.  My lungs hadn't adjusted to the cooler temperatures yet, so I struggling a bit with my breathing but tried to focus on keeping my legs moving.  I ended up passing the few women who I had juggled position with on the bike, and before I knew it I was flying down that same hill we started out on.  Yes, it felt that fast, I was a little worried at one point I wasn't going to keep up with my legs :-P

Finishing strong!

I crossed the finish line feeling strong and very pleased with my performance.  A little cheering and some food later, I checked out the official times and after double and triple checking, realized that I was first in my AG!  (Ok, second.  But the woman who finished ahead of me was a pro who won the whole race...  so she doesn't count, right?  sort of!).

Clock Time: 1:37:59
AG 2/10
Overall 40/101

Thanks Mom (and Dad)!

As with the other Amica 19.7 race I've done, it's very well organized and marked (minus the whole finding the start once you get into the park) and the volunteers were great.

Couldn't have asked for a better end to the season :)  Having the people who mean so much to me there was the icing on the cake.  Until next year...

ps- thanks to kelly (a local triathlete who was spectating for some of the pictures above)!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Apple BBQ Sauce

When the nights start getting a bit cooler and I start reaching for a jacket in the morning as I leave for work, I usually get really excited.  Fall is one of my favorites, with the milder temperatures, changing colors on the trees...  and apples!  This year I've been a bit hesitant to embrace fall, holding the last of the peaches, tomatoes and corn tight.  Until now.

Thanks to Natasha & Laz, apples are the star of this month's makeover!  As I slowly came around to fall produce and started consuming honeycrisps daily, I started thinking about the challenge.  And thinking.  And drawing blanks.  While I do like to mix things up when it comes to apples, they're usually baked.  Exhibit A: an apple pie with a rosemary crust & gruyere crumble and Exhibit B: an apple pie with a gingersnap crust and bacon crumble.  Even this chilled apple soup is not to be missed.  This time I went savory.

apple bbq sauce, herbed turkey meatballs, cheddar

This time, I made an apple BBQ sauce to accompany some herbed turkey meatballs.  The results were pretty fantastic, and I can't wait to use my leftover sauce!

Apple BBQ Sauce
adapted from the Leftover Queen & Food In My Beard
Yield:  ~2c

1T extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced/pressed
3 apples, peeled, cored & roughly chopped (I used 2 cortland and 1 granny smith)
4 roma tomatoes, cored & diced
1/4c maple syrup
1/4c molasses
1/4c + 1T cider vinegar
2T lemon juice
2T ketchup
1T tomato paste
1T worcestershire sauce
1 chipotle in adobo
1/2t salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1t coriander
2t cumin
1t smoked paprika
1t mustard powder

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add onions and saute a few minutes, until they become translucent.  Add the garlic and apples, and stir well.  Continue to cook over medium heat ~5min.  Add the remaining ingredients, stir well and cover.  Simmer for 20-30min, until apples have softened and flavors have had time to marry.  Carefully transfer to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth (could also use a hand blender).  Taste and adjust seasonings, perhaps it might need a little more salt, a kick of some hot sauce, or a little more acid/sugar.

I served this with herbed turkey meatballs and a slice of cheddar, but it would also be fantastic on some pork.

How would you use this apple BBQ sauce?  I have 1c left and need some more ideas!!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Peach Shortcake

Would you guys like to join a party today?  What are we celebrating?  Well, Megan of Delicious Dishings is getting married!  That sounds like quite a good reason to celebrate, don't you think?  Jen had the foresight to organize a virtual bridal shower for her, so we have quite the lineup of desserts for the occasion!

I went seasonal with my contribution, a brown sugar shortcake with bourbon peaches and coconut whipped cream.  Or peach shortcake.  No matter how long (or short) the name, this is a great way to enjoy fresh peaches :)  Bourbon and peaches are a natural pairing... kinda like Megan and Jeff!

Brown Sugar Shortcake w/Bourbon Peaches and Coconut Whipped Cream
adapted from the NYTimes
Serves 6-8

A few things to make this go smoothly:  refrigerate the coconut milk at least overnight to help separate the coconut cream.  The peaches can either be prepared ahead (just warm before serving), or while the shortcake is baking.

For the shortcake:
230g flour (I've used white whole wheat or a mix of white whole wheat, cake and oat)
55g dark brown sugar
15g arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
15g baking powder
5g fine sea salt
3.5oz (100g) cold coconut spread (or 7T butter)
1/2c coconut milk (or buttermilk or heavy cream)
1 egg, well beaten

For the peaches:
1T water
3T bourbon (I used some infused with vanilla beans)
25g dark brown sugar
4c sliced peaches (~1 1/2lbs)

For the whipped cream:
2 cans full fat coconut milk
3t evaporated cane juice (or granulated sugar)
1t vanilla extract
pinch of fine sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375deg.  Place a mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer.

In a medium bowl, weigh out flour, sugar, arrowroot, baking powder, sea salt and ground flaxseed* if using.  Mix well, then cut in cold fat (coconut spread or butter) using your fingers, 2 knives, or a pastry cutter.  When the mixture resembles pebbles, add in 2T milk and egg and mix until a soft batter forms.  If the mixture is still pretty dry, add a little more milk until you get a soft batter.

On a lightly floured surface, knead dough a few times until it holds together (I may or may not have done this right in the bowl...).  Divide into two pieces- one a little larger than the other.  Starting with the larger piece, flatten the dough to a 1/2" thick round and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet (I use a baking stone).  Flatten the smaller piece of dough into a smaller 1/2" thick round and place on top of the larger one.  Bake in a preheated oven for 15-20min, or until the shortcake is starting to brown.

While the shortcake is baking, prepare the peaches and whipped cream.  Place a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add water, bourbon and sugar and cook until sugar dissolves.  Stir the mixture and add the peaches.  Gently stir the mixture and cook a few minutes until the peaches have warmed through and released some juice.  Turn off the heat.

Remove the bowl/beaters from the freezer and coconut milk from the fridge.  Carefully open the coconut milk and remove the solidified cream at the top of both cans into the cold bowl, being careful not to get any of the liquid below.  Add the sugar, vanilla and salt and beat on low speed until bubbles start to form, ~30sec.  Increase the speed and beat until the cream thickens and soft peaks form, ~2min.  Refrigerate until the shortcake is cooked.

To assemble, cut off the top of the shortcake (made from the smaller portion of dough) using a serrated knife.  Top with peaches and their juices, followed by the coconut cream and then the smaller circle of shortcake.  Serve with bourbon, if desired, or perhaps a cold glass of milk.

Check out the rest of the goodies at the shower here!!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Stuffed Poblanos

I love grocery shopping in with a car.  Hopefully I'll never carry another watermelon [and got knows what else] 10 blocks back to my apartment.  (Happened more than once in Philly)

This meal was inspired by a recent trip to my new farmers market, where we picked up some delicious corn, poblanos and grass fed beef, to go along with 20lbs of field tomatoes.  After cooking up a double batch of tomato jam (which is now award-winning!), I got to work on these peppers.  The filling is deliciously spiced with a little heat from the poblanos...  a phenomenal dinner, especially when paired with some tomato crisp.

Stuffed Poblanos
adapted from Choosy Beggars
Serves 6

1T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 sweet or red onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1lb grass-fed ground beef
1 1/2T tomato paste
1t chili powder
3/4t cumin powder
1T dried mexican oregano
dash of dried cinnamon (mine was no more than 1/8t)
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 ears of corn, kernels removed
~4oz farmers cheese (Cotija, queso fresco, or even goat cheese would work)
6 poblano peppers
1/2c shredded Cheddar or Jack cheese for topping, if desired (I was out)

Preheat the oven to 425deg.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until translucent, but not browning.  Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute or two, until fragrant.  Crumble in the ground beef and use a spatula to break up the meat as it cooks.  Once everything is nicely browned, you might need to drain off some fat.  Add in tomato paste and spices, stir until well coated.  If the cheese you are using is salty, be sure to use a light hand when seasoning the beef here- you can add more later if you need!  Mix well and let the beef mingle with the spices for a few minutes.  Add the corn and cook 3-4 min.  Remove from the heat and transfer mixture to a large bowl.  Crumble in the cheese and stir to combine.

Prepare your peppers for stuffing by cutting them to a 'T'.  Cut along the top stem-end of the pepper about halfway around.  From the center of that, cut down the length of a pepper.  Carve out the seeds with a knife or spoon.  Stuff the meat mixture into the peppers and transfer them to baking pan or casserole dish.  Bake for ~20min, until they're blistered and soft.  If you'd like, you can top them off with a bit more cheese- just sprinkle them with cheddar/jack and return to the oven for another few minutes, until cheese has melted.

What would you have made with poblanos, corn and ground beef?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tomato Crisp

Earlier this summer I happened upon a grow box full of basil, thyme, parsley, arugula and a solitary tomato plant.  Its previous home in lab left a bit to be desired and I didn't expect too much when I brought it to my apartment.

Little did I know...

that all it needed was to be outside!  It has been going gangbusters since, the arugula flourished, and the basil and thyme have continued to be strong producers.  The tomato plant has now survived two moves and I have my mom was nice enough to jerry-rig some supports for the towering plant.

This dish has been on my mind since last summer, and I knew that once I had enough of my tomatoes I was going to make it!!  A week's worth of collecting tomatoes from the plant, plus some golden cherry tomatoes from the farmers market for a little variety, and you've got yourself a winning side dish folks.

Tomato Crisp
adapted from Joanne & Martha
serves 6

While the tomatoes are definitely a little sweet, the acidity of the grape tomatoes here helps keep in on the savory side.  The parmesan and olive oil in the crisp topping help add a savory note as well.

For the filling:
1T extra virgin olive oil
1T unsalted butter
2 small yellow onions (I used 1 yellow & 1 sweet), thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1t chopped fresh thyme
2 1/4lb cherry tomatoes
2 1/4T white whole wheat flour (or AP)
1/4t red pepper flakes
1t kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

For the crisp topping:
3/4c whole wheat panko breadcrumbs (could use fresh)
3/4c rolled oats
1/4c chopped walnuts (or any other nut)
1/4-1/2c finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
1T melted butter
2T extra virgin olive oil

In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and butter.  Once melted, add the onions and stir to coat.  After cooking 2-3min, lower the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are nicely caramelized.  Add in the garlic and thyme and cook until another minute or two, until fragrant.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 and spray a 9" square baking pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes with the flour, spices and cooled caramelized onions.  Pour into the prepared baking dish.

In a smaller bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, oats, walnuts and cheese.  Add a dash of salt (kept it light-handed due to the cheese) and a few grinds of black pepper and mix well.  Pour in melted butter and olive oil and mix until well combined.  If the mixture looks too dry, add a little more olive oil.  Sprinkle the topping mixture on top of the tomatoes and bake in a preheated oven for 45-50min, until it is nice and bubbly and the topping has started to brown.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Seriously, don't you want to dig right in?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Cranberry Olympic 2012

Location:  Lakeville, MA
Distance:  Olympic (.9mi s, 26.2mi b, 6.2mi r)
Time:  Scheduled at 8, delayed due to fog
Weather:  cool in the early morning, mid-hi 70s during the race
Total participants:  643

I hope you forgive me for back-to-back race reports for races that were almost two months apart ;)  The summer's been a bit crazy, and I'm not even sure how it's September!  Fewer pictures here, as I went down to the race myself.  I did have a few friends racing/cheering that day, so it was fun to spot them a couple of times along the course!

Going off in the third wave meant I didn't have too much time to wait once the fog had lifted. The wave was quite sizable, so I stayed towards the front as we entered the water so as not to get stuck like last time.  Lots of hands and feet for pretty much the whole swim, I even swam over someone for the first time!  (Just her legs- I'm guessing one of us was going in the wrong direction...)  I managed to keep a tight line to each buoy, so tight that I actually swam into a buoy on the way back!  In addition to the blinding sun once you were heading back to shore, the lake got quite shallow.  Luckily I didn't hit the ground and exited the water feeling strong at 26:46.  Super pleased with the swim!!  While the water was definitely warm, I never felt hot in my  full-sleeve wetsuit so I was definitely glad I wore it.

T1: 3:10  I tried to be efficient, but there is some room for improvement!

When I did the sprint course two years ago, I remember nothing about the bike course.  People said it was nice, through cranberry bogs and all, so this year I was determined to take a look around!  Add in some gorgeous weather, and the bike course was indeed quite enjoyable.  That is, until around mile 20, when my hip flexors and adductors started getting tight.  After this it felt like I was pushing as hard as I could and yet slowing down.  There were some rolling hills, but nothing to write home about.  Off the bike in 1:27:35 (18mph), it wasn't quite the time I was hoping for, but solid nonetheless.

T2: 1:39

heading out on the run
Definitely glad to be off the bike, I wasn't quite sure about the run due to my tight hips.  There was a good amount of shade on the course which definitely helped with the rising temperatures and bright sun.  I felt alright out of T2 and even started to feel good by mile 4.  However things the tightness in my hips/legs didn't go away and although I needed some more nutrition, my stomach was having none of it.  The was one hill on the course, about mile 5 if I remember correctly.  Try as I might to just keep running (one mile at a time was my mantra that day), I ended up walking twice for short stints around mile 5.  After the hill I managed to keep going and finish strong once we got back in the park for a 55:27 run (8:57min/mile).

finish line in sight!

Clock Time:  2:54:36
AG  17/47
Overall  312/643

I finished with mixed feelings on this race- a great swim and an 11min PR for an olympic-distance tri is definitely something I'm proud of (different course, but still).  I gave it all I had that day, I just know I've got a better race in me.  I'll see you next year, Cranberry Oly!
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