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: