Recipes, products and tasty morsels that move me.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Eat Your Greens.

Did you ever have someone send you photos of yourself only to have "Good Lord, when did I gain that weight?" become the first thought that crosses your mind? This is what happened to me yesterday. Last year I trained for my first half marathon and I was running all the time. Unfortunately, like most people that train for their first distance run, when I finished training I kept eating. This isn't to say I've gained a ton of weight. In truth, I only need to lose 5 or 10 lbs. in order to get back to the size I prefer to be at. But, those photos were a rude awakening to say the least. So, tonight I decided to make a salad for dinner. I decided that a mix of lean protein and greens would be healthy and satisfying. I went to the butcher at my local grocery store and asked which cut of beef she would recommend for a tasty but lean topping to a spinach salad, she recommended some top sirloin. I added some spinach and a pear that was so sweet it tasted as if it had been soaked in sugar and vanilla. Not too shabby. This is great meal if you're in a hurray, all in I think it only took 10 minutes to prepare.

Spinach Salad with Sirloin Steak and Pear

1 bag washed spinach leaves
1 lb sirloin steak, grilled and cut into strips
2-4 tablespoons red onion, finely diced
1 pear, chopped or sliced
3-4 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
Salad Dressing, I like a raspberry vinaigrette for this

Split ingredients between two plates and top with dressing. Voila! Dinner is served.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Embrace The Crockpot

It's so hard to get motivated in January. I know I should be attempting to accomplish all those wonderful New Year's resolutions, but the truth is I didn't make any this year. Every year since I was about 16 I've tried to give up cussing. I can tell you now, it isn't going to #*&$%!@ happen. It's been raining every day and the excitement of the holidays is gone, leaving me with nothing but some hazy memories (see posting about champagne) and five extra pounds around my mid-section. When I get home from work I just want to snuggle on the couch with my husband and my dog and watch bad television (Jersey Shore anyone?). So, it was with great pleasure that I read my friend Chris's Facebook comments about a new crock pot recipe. That's what I need! Some inspiration to get back in the kitchen! And it doesn't hurt that the recipe is easy and fairly nutritious. I modified my version because I'm trying to cut down on the sodium, but I still give full credit to Chris because this recipe does not stray too far from hers and she gave me the idea to begin with. We're not breaking new ground here, this is essentially just crock pot chili - but it hit the spot so I wanted to share it with you. Also, nothing beats getting home and having dinner ready. Theoretically, this should give me more time to work off those five extra pounds........

Chris's Chicken Chili

1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast (I used tenders)
2 cans of beans (Chris used white beans but I used one can of black and one can of kidney beans)
1/2 a jalapeno, diced
6 cloves garlic, diced or minced
1.5 cups of frozen veggie mix (Chris and I used a "Fiesta" mix that had corn, peppers and black beans)
2 cups chicken stock OR 2 tsp low sodium chicken bouillon plus 2 cups water
1 can cream of chicken soup (I used 1/2 can low sodium version)

For the seasoning:
Chris used a packet of taco seasoning, but in order to cut the sodium I used
2 tablespoon chili powder
1-2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flake
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
*if you aren't trying to cut sodium I would add 1-2 teaspoons salt

Place all ingredients in crock pot, stir, put on lid. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. 30 minutes before serving break up chicken with the back of a fork. If the chili isn't thick enough mix 3 tablespoons of the hot chili broth with 2 tablespoons of corn starch until smooth and then add to crock pot.

Garnish with any or all of the following: diced avocado, shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, fresh cilantro

Grab a bowl and the remote and hit the couch!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Delicious Reason To Visit Redmond

In the summer of 2007 I moved to Seattle. Since that time I have crossed the 520 bridge exactly 4 times. I don't see the point of going over to the 'East Side'. Everything I want and need is available to me on the West Side with the exception (so far) of the following things: 1) a table at Cost Plus in Redmond that wasn't in stock anywhere else. 2) a Counting Crows concert at Marymoor Park. 3) the King County Humane Society where Dan and I adopted our dog. And, finally 4) The Stone House.

My friend Scott lives on the East Side and he has graciously traveled over to my neck of the woods every time we've gotten together since he moved here two years ago. Last night, he finally guilted me into coming to see him on his turf. I'm not even going to pretend that I took the high road and didn't complain. He suggested we meet at The Stone House in Redmond for dinner. Scott has excellent taste so I had high hopes for his recommendation. I was not disappointed.

The restaurant is very small, I would estimate there were only about 10 tables - but the size added to the ambiance and warmth of the experience. The staff was helpful and friendly. The menu was diverse but not overwhelmingly so. And the food was outstanding. Our reservation was for 5:30 because we were heading to a movie afterward, so we were able to take advantage of a couple very reasonably priced appetizers and wine specials. We started with a large bowl of Penn Cove Mussels Simmered In Red Coconut Curry Broth and a small plate of warm brie with grilled sausage and rustic bread. The mussels were so good that we both agreed we should have just gotten two orders and a loaf of bread to soak up the sauce and called it a night.

For the main course I ordered the appetizer size plate of Truffle Tremor Mac and Cheese with Dungeness Crab and a Satsuma Salad. Scott ordered the Chili Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Red Pepper Coulis, Cheddar Mash Potatoes and a seasonal vegetable. The Mac and Cheese was rich and creamy and they didn't skimp on the large pieces of shaved truffle and crab meat. The Satsuma Salad was a good choice to pair with the Mac and Cheese because it was simple and light. Scott's beef was cooked perfectly and the chili rub was flavorful but didn't overpower the meat. He was particularly enamored of the cheddar mash potatoes. I tried them and they were excellent. Creamy and cheesy - comfort food at it's best.

We finished the meal with a grilled banana split. It was served in a sundae glass with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, brownie bits and toasted coconut sprinkles. Generally, if I order dessert I want to try something that I don't have the time to make (think creme brulee or a souffle) but this gooey confection was pretty tasty. We finished every bite.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the entire meal was the bill. All the food I have mentioned plus two glasses of wine for me came to less than $90. To top it off Scott took home about 1/2 of my Mac and Cheese because I couldn't finish it all. We left fat and happy and I might have warmed up to the East Side just a little bit more.

The Stone House is located at 16244 Cleveland St. in Redmond, Washington, 425-558-5625. Reservations are recommended.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Birthday Treat

I love birthdays. It's my personal belief that everyone should get the day off work for their birthday - paid, of course. And it's not just my birthday that I get excited for. I get excited for everyone's birthday. Yours, mine, my dog's, the guy that works behind the seafood counter at the grocery store. Thus, you can imagine my surprise and disappointment when I found out that my husband is not so into celebrations marking the day he was born. His belief is that he didn't do anything special that day - his Mom did all the work - so why should people make a fuss and give him presents. This is a problem because I am physically incapable of not making a big deal out his birthday.

This week marks a milestone birthday for him. For over eighteen months I've been thinking of ways we could celebrate. A big party at our house with tons of people? A small dinner for our closest friends at Canlis? A trip to Vegas? No. He wanted none of that. Finally, I hatched a plan that I felt confident would satisfy us both. If he didn't want to go out to a restaurant then I would bring the restaurant to us. A quick search on Google brought up many private chefs in the Seattle area that are willing to come to your home and cook a fine meal. After speaking to several of them and checking out their websites I decided on Chef Jay DeLong from Canape Specialty Chef Services.

Jay and I spoke over the phone and I gave him an idea of what I was trying to achieve. After the initial conversation we emailed back and forth with regards to a menu plan and the details for the evening. We decided on a four-course menu that I thought my husband would love and Jay even helped me with wine pairings. It should be noted that he does not provide alcohol of any sort but he was happy to assist with pairings.

The night of the dinner Jay showed up about an hour before the meal began and brought in several coolers and containers full of everything he would need to craft our meal. He even brought plates and silverware so that I didn't have to do any clean up afterward. However, I opted to use my own china because I rarely have an occasion to take it out of the boxes it came in. The food was outstanding. Dan and our four guests were all impressed with the service and the meal. Some of the highlights of the meal were hand smoked mozzarella cheese, ahi tuna sushimi on a nori seaweed salad (pictured), and grilled swordfish steaks with a remoulade that we were all talking about for hours afterward.

Rather than have Chef Jay make dessert for us, I decided I would make one of Dan's favorite confections. Dan and our good friend Jay (not the Chef, a different Jay) have birthdays that are only a week apart so we often celebrate them together. Last year I made them an ice cream pie that they enjoyed so much I have dubbed it "Jay-Dan Pie". The recipe is below. The ice cream flavors and fillings can certainly be changed to create many flavor combinations, this is just the original recipe.

Jay-Dan Pie

Ingredients for crust:

1.5 cups chocolate graham crackers

6 tablespoons melted butter

1/3 cup granulated sugar

Ingredients for filling:

2/3 to 3/4 pint chocolate ice cream, softened

2/3 to 3/4 pint coffee ice cream, softened

1 11.5 oz jar of hot fudge

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter (rough estimate)

1-2 cups whipping cream

2-3 tablespoons granulated or powdered sugar

For the crust: pulse the sugar and about 7-10 graham crackers (broken into pieces) in a food processor until a fairly fine texture has been achieved. Add in the melted butter and pulse until it has been incorporated into the crumbs. Press the crust mixture into the bottom of a pie pan making sure the entire inside of the pan is covered with crust. You don't want any holes. Bake at 375 degrees for 7-10 minutes. Cool for at least 30 minutes before filling.

For the filling: place half of the hot fudge sauce in a microwavable bowl. Microwave for 20-45 seconds, enough to make the fudge fairly liquid without burning it. You may need to take it out after 20 seconds and stir it and then heat for 20 more seconds. Spread warmed fudge across bottom of pie crust. Freeze for 20-30 minutes or until fudge has hardened. Repeat this process with a layer of peanut butter. Once the peanut butter layer has hardened in the freezer spread on the chocolate ice cream. You want the ice cream layers to each be about 1" thick. If the ice cream is not soft enough to spread, microwave it with the lid off for 15-30 seconds. Freeze the pie for 30 - 60 minutes or until the ice cream has hardened. Repeat the fudge layer and then repeat the ice cream layer with the coffee ice cream. Freeze the entire pie for at least six hours or overnight.

Before serving the pie, make the whip cream. Place the cream in a bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed. Once the cream starts to thicken add the 2-3 tablespoons sugar and the extra 2 tablespoons of peanut butter. Continue to whisk until the desired consistency is reached.

Top each piece of pie with the whip cream before you serve it.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Haagen Dazs Has Got It Right

I'm not going to go on and on about this one. Simply put - this is the best ice cream I have ever purchased from the grocery store. Haagen Dazs has come out with all natural ice creams, each flavor only has five ingredients - thus the name of this line of ice cream is 'Five'. I tried the brown sugar flavor this weekend and can not get enough. In my opinion it is everything an ice cream should be - creamy, decadent and simple. The flavor is similar to dulche de leche, but not as strong. They also sell mint, ginger, coffee, vanilla bean, milk chocolate and passion fruit flavor. I've tried the vanilla bean and didn't notice an improvement over their standard vanilla ice cream - but the brown sugar is out of this world. Go buy some. Now.