Sunday, April 13, 2014

Birthday Celebrations

Here is a late, but long recap of everything I did on my birthday! I have all of the recipes included at the bottom.

I turned 28 on March 5th, and basically had an entire week of birthday celebrations! It started with the Saturday before - we went out to 9 1/2 lounge with some friends. I had never been there before, and it was a lot of fun. It's modeled as a "speakeasy" and you have to give a password just to get in! Of course the password is written right on the door, but somehow that manages to prevent the people who drink too much at the restaurant below from stumbling upstairs and getting in. The drinks were really yummy (my favorite was Cary Nation).

On Wednesday, my actual birthday, Joey and I cooked a birthday feast :) The menu was gruyere popovers, creamy mushroom pasta, garlic shrimp, and a skillet cookie. Everything was just fantastic. The popovers were still a little undercooked inside, but had great flavor. They probably didn't work perfectly with the rest of the meal, but whatever, I wanted them, and they tasted great! The pasta was just so so good. It wasn't too heavy, which is surprising with a creamy pasta dish. I've made the garlic shrimp before, and it's a nice variation on the typical roasted shrimp I make. It really doesn't take any longer than roasted, it just requires paying a bit more attention, since it's a lot easier to overcook them. Finally, the skillet cookie was just ridiculous. The recipe was from Jess (How Sweet It Is), so obviously it was over the top. As you can see in the picture below, it was bigger than my head! We had the cookie every night for more than a week. Once it was gone, Joey asked for more cookies, so obviously we didn't get sick of it in that time.

Joey gave me most of my presents on or before my birthday (a cast iron skillet cookbook, a hanging planter for flowers, a set of stacking silicone bowls for cooking, new jeans, and kettlebell!). The day after my birthday, he surprised me with a homemade planter! It's vertical, so we can fit a lot more plants in one space. I'm so excited to fill it with herbs and veggies. Once the weather is reliably warm, we're going to fill it up.

That night (Thursday), we went out with another group of friends to the C&O to get birthday drinks, part 2. I really like the atmosphere there - it's in the basement below the (super pricy) restaurant, and it feels really cozy. Plus they make homemade ginger beer for their dark and stormy :)

The weekend after my birthday, Joey took me to Richmond for some shopping! He made me a pre-shopping breakfast, after I finished run #1 of the weekend. And then was a serious trooper as we spent several hours shopping. I got some new bras (so pretty), and some shirts at Express and Limited that would work well for dressier occasions, or for presentations/interviews.

Sunday, we made a true birthday breakfast after I did run #2 of the weekend. We made a vanilla bean dutch baby with caramelized vanilla pears. While that was cooking, Joey made me an egg on toast to hold me over (I was starving after running 11 miles!) The dutch baby was so so yummy, and I loved the pears. I was nervous about them, since had only bought the pears the day before, and of course it's impossible to find ripe pears when you need them. They worked out perfectly - cooking them softened them and brought out their flavor.

Gruyere Popovers:
Yield: 7 popovers
From: Completely Delicious
Notes: I halved the recipe, since I didn't need a ton of popovers. The original recipe called for 12, and I have that listed below

5 oz cheese (I used gruyere and it was amazing)
4 tsp kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (I used almond milk)
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place muffin tin in the oven while oven is preheating.
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt.
Heat the milk until steaming, but not boiling. This can be done on the stove or in the microwave. Slowly add the milk to the eggs, mixing constantly. Gently stir in the flour mixture, being careful not to overmix.
When oven is preheated, moving quickly, pull out muffin tin and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Pour the batter into the muffin pan, filling each cup all the way. Sprinkle with a handful of cheese.
Bake until puffed and golden, about 45-50 minutes. Try not to peek on them while baking - air can prevent the popovers from rising.
Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Serve immediately.

124 calories
5 g fat
13 g carbs
0.7 g fiber
6.7 g protein

Baked Mushroom Linguine:
From Baked Ezra
Yield: 8 servings

4 oz dried mushrooms (such as porcini)
4 cups boiling water
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 2 tsp finely chopped
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk (I used almond milk)
1/4 cup goat cheese
1 onion, diced
1 lb button mushrooms, chopped
1 lb cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 lb linguine
1/2 cup grated or shaved pecorino romano cheese

Place dried mushrooms in a bowl, and pour boiling water over them. Let them sit for 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, lift out the mushrooms and place them in another bowl. Press mushrooms to release any extra liquid, and pour liquid back into bowl. Set mushrooms aside. Strain mushroom liquid through a fine-mesh sieve.

Wrap the rosemary and thyme sprigs in cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine. Set aside.

Place a large saucepan over medium heat, and melt butter. When the butter starts bubbling, add the flour. Cook, stirring, until the mixture begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Still stirring, slowly pour in the mushroom stock. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture bubbles and thickens.

Stir in the milk, goat cheese, and bouquet garni. Reduce the sauce to a gentle simmer, and cook 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook until it begins to soften. Add button and cremini mushrooms and cook until they begin to release their juices. Add the rehydrated mushrooms and chopped thyme, and cook until all are tender.

Add cream sauce to mushroom mixture, stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper, set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 F and butter a 9x13 inch pan.

Boil water and cook pasta according to manufacturer's instructions, but reduce cooking time by 2-3 minutes. Transfer noodles to a colander, and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.

Stir the noodles into the sauce mixture, and transfer to prepared baking pan. Top with cheese, and bake until bubbling and golden brown on top, about 30 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

366 calories
11.4 g fat
103.3 g carbs
11.8 g fiber
22.2 g protein

Simplest and Best Shrimp Dish:
Yield: 4 servings
From: Mark Bittman

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
10-12 large cloves garlic, slivered or minced finely
1 1/2 lbs shrimp, peeled, rinsed and dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Spread the olive oil over the bottom of the pan, make sure it covers the bottom. Add garlic and cook just until it turns light golden, be really careful because it can burn in an instant.

Raise the heat to medium-high and add the shrimp and spices. Stir to blend and continue to cook, shaking the pan once or twice and turning the shrimp once or twice, until they are pink all over and the mixture is bubbly, about 5-7 minutes. Serve immediately.

315 calories
16.6 g fat
4.8 g carbs
0.4 g fiber
35.2 g protein

Dark Chocolate Chunk Skillet Cookie:
Yield: 1 GIANT cookie (I seriously don't know how many servings, I would guess at least 16)
From: Tasty Kitchen a la How Sweet It Is
Note: The following ingredients are for a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, and made a very tall cookie

2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups dark chocolate chunks (either cut up some chocolate bars, or buy it pre-chunked)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Melt butter in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in sugars and remove from heat. Let rest until warm but no longer very hot, about 5-10 minutes.

Whisk in the vanilla and eggs, working quickly so the eggs won't cook before mixed in. Stir in the dry ingredients. It will take a few minutes for it to come together (I promise it will mix in!)

Fold in the chocolate, again working quickly, so it doesn't melt too much.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, until the top is light golden, the edges are a darker golden and beginning to pull away, and the center still jiggles slightly. Serve warm (with ice cream).

Nutrition (if split into 16 servings):
392 calories
18 g fat
62.5 g carbs
2.3 g fiber
4.7 g protein

bigger than my head!


Pre-shopping breakfast:

Birthday Breakfast:
Pre-breakfast: Fried egg on toast with gouda

Vanilla Bean and Caramelized Pear Dutch Baby:
Yield: 4
From: Turntable Kitchen

3 eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup milk, at room temperature
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar or splenda
1 vanilla bean
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tbsp unsalted butter
pinch of salt
1 large pear, cored and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 425 F. Place a 12-inch castiron skillet in the oven while preheating.

Combine the eggs, milk, flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a blender. Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean and add to the blender, saving the empty pod. Blend until smooth.

Remove the skillet from the oven, and add the 2 tbsp of butter, swirling to melt and mix. Pour the batter into the pan, and bake for 18-25 minutes, until puffed and golden.

While the pancake is baking, melt the 1 tbsp butter and vanilla bean in a large pan over medium heat. Add the pear slices and cook for a few minutes, without moving. Flip the slices over, to let them caramelize on the other side. If necessary, do the pears in batches, adding butter with each batch. You want the pears to be soft, but not mushy, and golden brown on each side.

Serve the pancake warm, with the pear slices, and syrup if desired.

284 calories
12.8 g fat
36.1 g carbs
2.3 g fiber
7.4 g protein

Joey's plate with steak and eggs:

My breakfast, part 2:

Monday, April 7, 2014

My Guide to Surviving Passover - Great Passover Recipes

Passover starts a week from tonight, and this year I actually want to be prepared in advance! Charlottesville doesn't exactly have a large Jewish population, so most grocery stores have a pretty pitiful Passover section. Giant is considered the "Passover supercenter" but if you don't go early, you'll be left with empty shelves and really expensive single boxes of matzah. We went a week ago and picked up a lot of stuff - we got a 5lb box of matzah for only $2.99 with our purchase, as well as roasted chestnuts, matzah ball mix, macaroons, horseradish, and of course Dr. Brown's soda.

Most of my meals revolve around non-kosher for Passover foods. For breakfast I have a breakfast sandwich (english muffin = not kosher), followed by oatmeal (cooked grains = not kosher). For lunch I have a sandwich (bread = not kosher). Dinner is easier, since the majority of the meal is the protein and lots of veggies, and it's easy to substitute quinoa for that.

I want to come up with some meals that don't simply replace the bread with a piece of matzah. I remember back in high school, when I would bring in matzah to make a sandwich at lunch, and everyone who wasn't Jewish wanted to try a piece of matzah for the novelty of it. This year, when we were buying the matzah, the (obviously non Jewish) cashier informed us that she had tried matzah, and it was just really plain and she couldn't figure out why people were buying so much of it now. Yes, I agree it's bland!

So here are some ideas for Passover-friendly meals. Everyone has their own way of keeping kosher for Passover, so you may have to slightly adjust some of these recipes.

Note - here is a post from my old blog, back from 2010! I made matzah lasagna with pesto, and flourless chocolate cake, and include the recipes. Both are great choices!


Matzah Brei with Lox, Eggs, and Onions

Broccoli, Mushroom Egg and Cheese Casserole

Baked Eggs with Herbs and Goat Cheese

Caramelized Onion and Zucchini Frittata

Breakfast Egg White Spinach Enchilada Omelets

Caprese Shakshuka Breakfast Casserole

Roasted Vegetable Frittata

Extra Pink Berry Smoothie


Vegetarian Matzah Ball Soup

Matzah Ball Soup

Matzah Pizza


Recipes with an asterisk (*) include an ingredient that is considered kitniot - and is not kosher for Ashkenazi Jews.

Classic Cheese Fondue Use veggies as your vehicle for delicious oozy cheese


+Quinoa, although debated, is considered by most to be kosher for Passover. 
*Rice, on the other hand, is kitniot and only kosher for Sephardic Jews.


*Shrimp are technically not kosher for Passover simply because they are never kosher for Jews. However, I still choose to eat them.

Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna Salad (sesame seeds are kitniot)

Meat (and Potatoes):

Some of these recipes mix milk and meat - if this is a rule that you follow, then be careful to avoid or modify those recipes

Beer, Ginger and Garlic Braised Brisket (you would need a gluten-free beer for this recipe)

Balsamic-Brown Sugar Short Ribs with Garlic Mashed Potatoes (potatoes use butter, milk and sour cream)

Caprese Chicken (lots of cheese)


Chocolate Covered Matzah Otherwise known as matzah crack, for its addictiveness


Warning - gelatin is a technical no-no for Jews, so I've noted which recipes use it. 

Chocolate Pots de Creme

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Roasted Berries *uses gelatin

Lavender Panna Cotta with Honey Poached Pears *uses gelatin

Lemon Lime Mousse with Fresh Strawberries

Almond Vanilla Rice Pudding (uses rice - kitniot)

Baked Apples with Creme Anglaise

Meringues and Pavlovas:

These desserts get their rise from egg whites

Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies

Mixed Berry Pavlova

(Mini) Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies

Mixed Berry Mini Pavlovas

Flourless Chocolate Cake:

This is an easy way to make a passover-friendly dessert! These chocolate cakes are actually flourless by design. You might have to check the chocolate you're using, to make sure that's kosher as well. The best way to make sure of that is to use really good dark chocolate - less likely to have non kosher additives.

Rich Flourless Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Coulis

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Warm Molten Chocolate Cake - Two Ways

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Spiced Poached Pears

Flourless Chocolate Tart with Sugared Cranberries

Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte

Ultra-Rich Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Flourless Cake

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Flourless Chocolate Cookies:

This is another easy way to make a yummy dessert for Passover with zero matzah in it! These cookies are sometimes called "puddle cookies" or "brownie cookies," but they're basically pure chocolate and fudgy and delicious!

Flourless Chocolate Cookies

Flourless Fudge Chocolate Chip Cookies

Flourless Chocolate Mint Cookies

Chocolate Puddle Cookies


You can find these in grocery stores, in round tins. However, when made at home, they taste so much better!

Chocolate-Dipped Macaroons

Raspberry Coconut Macaroons 

Weekly Finds - 4/6/14


Dill Yorkshire Puddings with Smoked Salmon and Horseradish Cream Really interesting take on your typical cream cheese and lox for brunch - I love the pairing with dill. Not sure if I would do the horseradish cream - maybe a whipped cream cheese with more dill instead.

Sandwiches and Soups:


Leftover Chai Latte Scones Probably the best use of leftover chai I've ever seen

Rhubarb Scones Perfect combination of sweet and tart

Vanilla Bean Rhubarb-Ginger Scones It's that time of year for rhubarb! Ginger and vanilla really add to the flavor

Chocolate Swirl Banana Bread This is a really interesting way to spice up your banana bread, plus it looks beautiful!


Twisted Cheese and Scallion Bread This is a similar technique to making babka - with rolling, cutting and twisting. It's a great way to get your filling completely spread out

Lion House Rolls These soft buttery rolls have an interesting shape since they're individually rolled


Caramelized Onion and Thyme Risotto I love risotto, and this flavor combination is dynamite

French Onion Pizza Another great way to use caramelized onions - this is basically french onion soup, but in pizza form

One Pot Thai Shrimp Pasta This is a really cool Thai version of the infamous one-pot pasta that's been making the rounds lately.

Easy Ginger Lime Roasted Shrimp I make roasted shrimp all the time, and usually keep it pretty simple with salt, pepper and garlic. This is a great (and simple) way to add some great new flavor.

Goat Cheese and Brussels Sprout Skillet Pizza I think this recipe is summed up by one sentence in the blog post "Because everything is better with goat cheese."


Baked Portabello Fries with Sriracha Mayo This is a new version of a baked veggie that's almost like a fry!


Chocolate Eclairs This makes 6 mini eclairs, which means you can eat all of them!

Snickerdoodle Cheesecake Deliciously creamy cheesecake that is topped with cinnamon sugar, just like the cookie!

Spiked Raspberry-Lemonade Cupcakes These actually use freeze-dried raspberries to make the beautifully pink frosting. Plus, who doesn't love boozy cupcakes?

Dark Chocolate Coffee Macarons Coffee really brings out the flavor of chocolate, and these macarons are gorgeous

Big Soft and Chewy Peanut Butter Crinkle Cookies This is basically a peanut butter version of the typical chewy molasses cookie, sounds awesome

Carrot Cake Cheesecake Absolutely beautiful, and I'm sure it tastes amazing. I love cream cheese frosting with carrot cake, this is an even better way of doing it.

Loaded Soft and Chewy M&M Cookie Pie This is like a cookie cake that's made in a pie dish - you can  include your toppings of choice.

Mixed Berry Buttermilk Cake This is a great way to make a berry cake even when fresh berries aren't available.

Homemade Monkey Bread with Caramel Sauce This can be made in advance and refrigerated, which makes it so convenient.

Chocolate Flourless Cake Just a few ingredients makes these cakes luscious, and surprisingly, almond butter is one of the ingredients


25 Best Body-Weight Exercises These are all really great exercises that work your entire body, and don't require any equipment

Lunge Variations Here are 14 different lunge variations, just in case you were getting bored with the basic lunge

Yoga Twist Poses for the Back and Spine These twisting poses relieve tightness that cause pain, but also help elongate the spine

New Playlist for Cardio This pop-filled playlist will be great for your next workout

Best Pinterest Workout Posters Thank you FitSugar for compiling some of the best workout posters out there on Pinterest!

Yoga for Strong Legs and Butt Sign up for soreness - this is a balancing yoga sequence for your butt and thighs

How to do a Reverse Burpee The move you love to hate - reversed

Crunch Variations 8 different ways to target your core

Yoga Poses to Tone Arms Yoga isn't just for stretching and relaxation - these yoga poses are just as effective as dumbbells at toning your arms


Why All Runners Should Strength Train

Treadmill Workouts 5 awesome workouts to end treadmill boredom - whether you're stuck on the treadmill because it's cold, or you have a crazy schedule, this will help defeat the boredom