Monthly Archives: April 2010

Easy Tuesday Dinner

It’s a weekday and who has time to spend hours in the kitchen? I only wish. So last night I was in the mood for keeping it simple. I bought a pound of bay scallops at the store on Sunday, and after seeing Kasey cook hers up in a little garlic powder and paprika I thought.. mmm.. that is just what I’m craving!

In a skillet, I cooked 1 pound bay scallops, poured in a little chardonnay (or you can add a teaspoon of oil, but why would you when you have an excuse to open a bottle of wine. It’s a week night. You deserve it!!)  a sprinkling of paprika, chipotle chili powder, and a teaspoon of garlic paste, salt and pepper. You can find garlic paste at Trader Joe’s. I love it, its easier than mincing when you’re in a pinch for time. Veggies: in another skillet I sautéed 1 bunch of kale, stems and all  (I don’t want to miss out on all that fiber).. seasoned the same as the scallops, except adding 2 teaspoons olive oil (there’s a lot of water in kale so you don’t need much oil). Both skillets took about 6-8 minutes. Then I assemble my tasty quick fix, tossing in a few heeping spoonfuls of quinoa. Quinoa is a great staple food for the week. It keeps well, so cooking up a batch on Sunday makes weeknights even easier. 🙂

Viola! Dinner is served. No box, no frozen foods, just a good fresh meal packed with nutrition!! What’s so nutrition about it?? I thought you’d never ask! 😉

Kale:
Plum full of Vitamin K, promoting blood clotting, reducing risk for Alzheimer’s disease, and minimizing those dark circles around eyes. One serving also exceeds your daily value for Vitamin A. Not to mention, it’s rich in Vitamin C, magnesium, and oodles of phytonutrients.

Scallops:
Excellent source of Vitamin B-12, reducing risk for diabetes and heart disease. Also a good source of Omega-3’s and magnesium.

Quinoa:
The grain that actually isn’t a grain, but a green! This contains all the essential amino acids to make up a complete protein, great for vegetarians, or anyone else who needs a little more protein in the diet. The lysine in quinoa is great for tissue repair. It is also full of minerals like manganese, magnesium, copper, iron and phosphorus that fight migraines.

I hope you enjoy this beautiful day, and some good eats!!

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Pumpkin Ravioli in Butter Sage Sauce

Alas, my very own homemade pasta! What a fun way to spend Sunday afternoon with the girls. After blog surfing to gather ideas on a ravioli recipe, I decided to wing it. We had puréed pumpkin in the freezer that I’ve been dying to use up, and with my new chef skills I knew just what I wanted to do with it. Pumpkin ravioli in a brown butter sage sauce. Delish! I couldn’t quite make up my mind on cheese so we did a batch with skim ricotta, and a batch with parmesan-romano. The texture of the ricotta batch was more appealing while preparing the filling, but once cooked I really had no preference. They were both fabulous.

Ravioli Filling:
300g pumpkin purée
65g skim ricotta cheese or 40g parmesan-romano
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 T toasted pine nuts
fresh ground nutmeg (to taste)
salt and pepper (to taste)

Butter Sage Sauce:
150g unsalted butter
4 sprigs fresh sage
1 T squeezed fresh lemon juice
Pasta:
300g whole wheat pastry flour
4 eggs
The filling is pretty straight-forward, just mix as listed, adding pine nuts after they’ve been toasted in 1 tsp butter for 3 minutes on the stove top. For the sauce, melt butter with the setting on medium, add sage and continue to heat until brown flecks form. Remove from heat and squeeze in lemon juice.
The pasta itself was my biggest challenge. Perfect pasta can make or break the whole meal. I rolled, and rolled, and rolled.. trying to remember all that I learned in Italy with Maribel. Every time I thought I had rolled it thin enough it would stick to the board and tear. 😦 So I finally accepted that my pasta was just going to be a little on the hardy side). It could have been the whole-wheat factor, it could have been my technique. I’m not sure, but I am determined to perfect my pasta! I’ll whip up some tortellini next weekend and for sure next time I’ll try working with a lighter pastry flour.
Once the dough was all rolled out I used my little pastry wheel to cut out 2″ squares. This is when I excited.. it was starting to look like ravioli!! 😀 With a tiny little teaspoon scoop, I dropped the filling in to the center of my little squares, used a pastry brush to wet the edges with water, and sealed it up with a second square. Next, carefully drop the ravioli in a boiling pot of water (and a dash of salt). They only need about 5 minutes to cook, watch for the pasta to rise to the top of the water. Carefully strain, and serve immediately with butter sage sauce.
All that hard work was well worth the effort. Me and the girls enjoyed an afternoon of catching up over fabulous food and wine. It was a perfect Sunday. 🙂

I hope you have a happy Monday! What was cooking in your kitchen over the weekend?

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I Heart Oats & Saturday Mornings

 

Good morning bloggers!! I woke up today just exstatic about the fact that it’s Saturday. This last week I wrote a very long and dull research paper on pesticides, had a nutrition exam, and an accounting exam. Can somebody please pour me a drink?! Coffee of course. So this morning I am gleefully surfing the net. The biggest thing on my agenda is researching gluten-free diets and guar gum. Call me a food and nutrition nerd, but I kinda think that sounds like fun! Definitely something I would Google just in my free time. Wait, free time, what’s that?

Have you ever worked with guar gum? Or any kind of gum? In my exerimental foods class I’m working on developing a low-fat, no sugar-added ice cream, and to simulate the creamy, rich texture of full-fat ice cream I’m testing different gums. It should be a very tasty project. Last week I made the control using full on heavy cream and sugar, and Lord have mercy… I doooo love ice cream!!

Breafast oats:
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup almond milk
1 small ripe banana
1 T chopped walnuts

So a little surfing, a little breakfast, and a tall mug of french pressed Starbucks coffee.. aah. Perfetto. Then out for a run before I spend the evening with the grandparents!! Have a happy Saturday.

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Eat Carbs. Get Skinny.

Ha. Now that I have your attention!! 😉 I just wanted to share my enthusiasm about getting back to my 125lb self after a ridiculously fabulous food coma that lasted nearly 3 weeks. I ate carbs like they were going out of style. Ooooh how I miss Italy. On the flip side though, today I got my Italian pastry board in the mail!!!! YAYYYY!!!! It’s going to be a pasta weekend in casa mia. I have my heart set on making a pumkin raviolli in a sage butter sauce. Somebody please say mmmmm…

In all honesty though, as for the ‘Eat carbs. Get skinny’ statement, I really do believe it works, but only if you partake in the entire lifestyle. I indulged in all things delicious the entire time I was on vacation. I mean, that’s what vacations are for, right?! So when I came home and faced the scale: 7 pounds (that right there should tell you that I didn’t hold back for one second!!!). It didn’t budge for a week, but then again I did come home sick and did nothing but loaf and eat high sodium soups for a week. Once I got back into my fitness routine of daily runs, twice weekly weight lifting, the pounds started melting off. I can’t tell you my ‘diet’ because I quit diets 3 years ago, but here’s what I did, and what I firmly believe is the key to maintaining a fit figure..

  • Weigh myself daily. Once I’m ready to be accountable I needed to see my progress (some days I gain a pound or so, and that’s just life. It happens.) Normally, when I’m just maintaining weight, I ‘weigh in’ about once a week.
  • Keep a food journal. You don’t have to count every calorie. (Sometimes I hate that I know what’s in every food I eat.. but that’s what happens when you’re a dietitian in training). Just write down what you eat and when you eat. Being aware is what’s most important, but if you really want to know how many calories you should be comsuming, use USDA as your guide.
  • Eat carbs! I’m not talking about empty calories where you binge on donuts, high sugar cereals, and pizza. Eat
    nutrient dense carbs like whole wheat grains (brown rice, whole wheat bread, pasta, oatmeal). These are the foods that will really fuel your workouts.
  • Fruits and veggies are carbs too. I eat gobs of them! Apples are a staple for me, 2 daily, but right now I’m also loving strawberries, bananas. Pile them into your morning oats. As for veggies, it’s easy to chop some greens and toss them under the broiler in your oven for 15 minutes. This week I’ve been eating broccoli, brussel’s sprouts, and asparagus. A little garlic paste (thank you Trader Joe’s), red pepper flakes, tossed in olive oil…. voila!!
  • Be active. For me, running is a daily pleasure, but you don’t have to run miles. Spend 45 minutes a day being active, and find something you love. I love running, and it keeps me in shape, but there is so much more.

And that’s kind of it. No secrets. I don’t believe that deprivation leads to weight loss (or maintanance of weight loss). Being fit is about maintaining a desireable, doable, healthy lifestyle. It’s fun!  In fact, these last three weeks I’ve been back to my routine, but in all honesty I participated in some (more-than-usual) social drinking too. After a long seperation, nothing helps bond with good friends like a few cocktail nights. 🙂 All the same, I got back to reality and in no time I was in my skinny jeans. Forget dieting; eat well, sweat often, and enjoy life! How do you get back on track after vaca? What’s your secret to staying fit?

Thanks for reading. Next post I hope to be updating you on the results of my homemade raviolli!!!! Buona notte..

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Cooking in Bologna

I had the pleasure of spending my last days in Italy in the heart of Emiglia-Romagna, in the city of Bologa. It was not on a whim that I chose Bologna. It was actually with much consideration. We all know Italy for their excellence in the culinary arts, but I wanted to know, where do Italians say the best food is? The answer: Emiglia-Romagna. So that’s where I went. I wanted to experience the most delectable cuisine in all of Italy, and then I wanted to learn how to make it!


Well there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that I found the food in Bologna to be absolutely heavenly. The bad news is that I’m certain I would never find these ingredients in Seattle. This region has a number of culinary jewels for which they are famous. Modena for their balsamic vinegar, Parma is the land of ham and cheese (better known as Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano), Bologna is where egg noodles originated, and they are known for their mortadella stuffed tortellini in broth, as well as their ragù sauce. Mmmmmm!!!!!

I spent a couple days just walking the open air markets, sampling everything from mortadella and prosciutto, to mozarella, parmigiano, fresh strawberries, grapes.. The market appealed to my tastebuds first, but it also appealed to the blogger in me. I’ve been taking pictures of food for so long now that if feels normal, but judging by some of the smirks I got.. maybe it’s not. Oh well, I’m a tourist! Besides, who can resist photographing a basket of beautiful artichokes, or fresh handmade pasta that is out of this world gorgeous?! Certainly not I! 🙂


Hungry yet? Well I sure worked up an appetite. My favorite kind of shopping is afterall grocery shopping. 😉 So it was day three in Bologna when I finally got to put on an apron and try my hand at some Italian cooking. Good old fashioned hand-rolled pasta.. and starting with the basics– traditional Bolognese tortellini. I searched online for a course that would fit me, and I stumbled across Taste of Italy (which came highly recommended by other travelers on Trip Advisor). I can’t tell you how much I loved cooking with Maribel. She is so sweet and very personable. I really enjoyed learning about Italian traditions, history of regional foods, and talking all kinds of nutrition. It was like spending the day with an old friend. One phrase she taught me that I just loved was “appena basta”. Apparently cookbooks were uncommon in Italy, most recipes have been passed down from generation to generation, varying with every cook. The reason recipes vary? Because many ingredients are called for in “appena basta” , meaning “just enough”. Well I can see how my ragù might be totally different than the next cook’s!! Appena basta, hhmm, I like it!  We spent the morning rolling out fresh pasta (just eggs and flour), preparing our stuffing of mortadella, proscutto, and well aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, and making our broth from stock. The process was very relaxing, but also labor intensive. I  see now why Italian women make a social out of it.. well besides the fact that cooking is just way more fun with friends.  On my next trip to Bologna I will definitely be revisiting Maribel. 🙂



And that kind of wraps up my trip! I hope you have enjoyed reading my travel stories. I enjoyed writing about them.. It gave me the opportunity to reminisce while the experiences are still fresh in my memory. Have you taken a cooking class on vacation? What is your most memorable travel experience? Next post, back to real life– Seattle. The joys of losing vacation “fluff” and ooooh how my body hates weight training right now. Time to kick it into gear for summer. Goodnight bloggers!!

 

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Fruit & Veggie Binge

You know you’ve been on vacation tooo long when you start craving fruit and veggies something fierce! I am pretty set in my ways when it comes to the way I eat. Not in a boring way, but I don’t even think about it anymore. Some things you just don’t tamper with. For example, I love my morning oats and coffee. I don’t know how Europeans get by with a pastry and espresso shot. If nothing else I need that time to sit and savor. It helps me start my day right.

Traveling throws a wrench into meal planning. I am certainly not complaining. I think we all know how much I love pasta. Oh yes, but at some point I started craving those whole foods. I wanted a juicy Honeycrisp apple, a pear, a salad, cucumbers.. isn’t it funny how our body knows what we’re lacking? Mine was like, “Ugh, Carissa, this whole carb laoding thing. It’s getting old”.

So this week I have been a total fruit and veggie gluton; grilled asparagus lathered in garlic paste and red pepper flakes, steamed broccoli with mushrooms and lemon pepper, breakfast apples, lunch apple, fresh strawberries (which are quite gigantuous right now), banana oats, and ooooooh salads galore! And I must say, I’m quite the happy camper now. 🙂

Another thing I really missed was my exercise routine. Okay I didn’t miss it at first. I have to admit, waking up and knowing you’re going to walk all day, it doesn’t really make me want to go pound the pavement for an hour. BUT.. when I started noticing my Seven jeans weren’t exactly caressing my curves (more like just barely containing them) I knew I was ready for a run. I had to laugh out loud. I mean, it’s vacation!!! I would be disappointed with myself if I hadn’t gained a few pounds. 😉

 

My half marathon in Prague was a good time and a great experience. If you’re a runner I highly recommend trying an international race. It was really different from anything I’d run in the U.S. or Canada. I’ll start by explaining why I flew to Prague to run a half marathon. I love to run. I love to travel. I imagined myself flying into this beautiful city and seeing it for the first time while racing with thousands of passionate athletes. Doesn’t that sound just… romantic? I thought so. I thought if I were going to fall in love with Prague this would be the moment. So getting in didn’t happen quite as planned. I missed a plane from Bologna to Prague which ultimately cost me a whole day. In one day I traveled between 3 airports, took 4 trains, 3 taxis and 2 buses, all this before arriving in Czech. Instead of flying to Prague at 10am from Bologna I ended up flying at 10pm from Rome. Yeah, how about that. So I arrived in Prague at 2am. The next morning I took myself down to where the race started, and to my surprise, Europeans were strolling in in heels and coattails. Okay, maybe not coattails, but they were waaaaay over dressed to be running. Not only were they overdressed, but there was a tent set up serving pre-race alcoholic beverages. Really? How bizzarre, but you know what they say, “When in Rome”. So I had myself a spiced wine, it warmed me up quite nicely. 🙂 The next thing I noticed were Europeans having pre-race massages. This was out in the open and most were in their underwear. Again, are you serious? Never in America. So I passed on the massage. Tempting, but one bad spa experince has already scarred me for life. The race itself was great. My only concern was that we were running on cobblestone streets… for 13.1 miles! There was a lot of great energy during the race. I’ll never forget all the people hanging out of the building windows cheering us on. It was so, dare I say, European. It was very endearing. I did however hurt my ankle right there in the last kilometer. Damn those cobblestones. Since walking all day didn’t seem like the brightest idea I spent the afternoon in an Irish pub watching a futbol with some Irishmen, naturally. It was a great run, a beautiful day, and such an enchanting city.

A few highlights..

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Italy’s Best Kept Secret


Talk about a fairytale Italy. I really loved it here. I had never even heard of Puglia before this trip, much less a trulli. These charming little limestone huts grace the rolling hills of Puglia and add old world character to the little town of Alberobello. We stayed in a trulli just under the basilica and woke up to church bells chiming. Normally I would have been annoyed by any kind of bells going off in the morning, but something about church bells reminds me that I’m in Europe, and then suddenly it’s okay.

The towns were so quite that it felt like we had it all to ourself. In Ostuni we arrived around 1:00pm and in fact did have the town all to ourself. In rural parts of Italy businesses close from roughly 1-4:30pm. It’s traditional for families to go home for long, leisurely lunches and afternoon naps. Yep, I said naps. For adults. So while the whole town was napping we were snapping pics like the paparazzi.

We spent the nights at the one bar in town. The name: American Bar. 😀 I guess Americans like to drink a little more than Italians, but so do the Irish. Why couldn’t they just call it an Irish Pub? Eh, whatever. They had an Italian band that played great American classics. We ended up making friends with them, but discovered that despite the fact that they sing American songs perfectly, they speak very little english!! It was an entertaining couple of nights as we stumbled over language barriers, translating for our less than bi-lingual friends. There were a lot of laughs. All I can say is that some things that are funny to Americans have no significance to Italians, which just makes it even funnier! 😉

 

Another town we visited in Puglia was Matera. The history is so fascinating. People there lived in these prehistoric cave dwellings until the 1950s.  The 1950s!! I think of how the Romans lived 2,000 years ago (lifestyles of the rich and famous).  Meanwhile these peasant families, until recently, were living under the same roof with their livestock, using ceramic vases to pop a squat, and lighting their homes with candles. Can you imagine? Our tour guide told us that the government actually had to force the villagers out of the city because the living conditions were so terrible. It’s really an interesting place if you are ever in the area.

Something I find romantic about cuisine is that it has history just as much as the land. Each dish has a story, many dishes have no recipe. Some have changed over the centuries, but all have been passed on from generation to generation. Puglia is known for maintaining their ancient roots in cooking. They embrace the age-old Italian way of cooking, simple and sustainable. I really want to recreate some of the dishes I had. You will most certainly get the down low on how that goes. 😉 Their trademark pasta is orecchiette, “little ears”. With so much coastline, seafood in Puglia is in abundance and very prevalent in local cuisine; fresh octopus, stuffed cuttlefish, shrimp, oysters.  Olive trees sweep the countryside, and it’s no wonder they are  known for producing the best olive oil in all of Italy. If size means anything…  the size of the tree trunks were crazy. I really want to know how old they were. Do old trees ripen olives the way old vines enhance wine? I doooo love my Italian wine. 🙂

Well there you have it, Puglia. Phenomenal food, breath-taking scenery, and the most lovable people you will ever know.

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From Italy to Prague & Back

 

The cost of indulging in all things delicious for 3 weeks straight: 7 pounds. The damage done by arriving in the wrong Bologna airport and missing a flight to Prague: $400. Traveling Europe while cooking, eating, drinking, meeting new friends, and seeing new places: priceless. 🙂

Hello!!! I am finally back from vacation and before diving back into passionate chatter of food and fitness I am dedicating these next couple posts to travel highlights. First, for those who don’t know, I was in Europe for 17 fabulous days. The majority of my trip was spent in Italy, with a few days in Prague as well. Now, without a doubt Italy is where my heart resides. I will forever love vacationing there, but now I know I am way too American to ever live there.  Still, there is just something about it’s beauty and culture that I find absolutely intoxicating. I have never met so many warm-hearted, and yet boisterous people! I love to laugh, and this trip definitely provided many opportunities for that. From people watching in Italian piazzas to pub crawling in Prague’s finest, there were many nights when I laughed until I cried. Here are a few photos from Naples, Amalfi and Herculaneum. (I wanted to include more, but you would laugh if you knew how long it took me to figure out how to add this slideshow)

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My first days were on the Amalfi Coast. Hiking the Path of the Gods from Bomerano to Positano was beautiful. I recommend eating more than bread and gelato before this 4 hour hike though. 😉 The food was phenominal all over Italy, of course. In Positano the first day I had grilled octopus, OMG, if I could have that every day I just might. For the antipasti, if you want to send your tastebuds into a state euphoria, go to Italy and just eat proscutto and caprese. Again, if I could have that every day I would.. (hence the 7 pounds!!) 

Next I spent several days in Naples, with a day trip to Herculaneum. What is Naples famous for? Pizza! And oooh yes I did. Pizza for lunch everyday, with a half carafe of vino rosso I might add. I wasn’t interested in any meat lover’s, it was all about the margherita. Simply put, I came for the mozarella. As for the city brace yourself, Naples is charming in its own way. You have to appreciate that Neopolitans dance to their own beat, and if you don’t know the steps get off the dance floor. Seriously, traffic is crazy. There are no rules, cars swerve in and out, motorcycles zip between cars, you can make left turns from the far right lane, and if there isn’t enough room on the road hop up on the sidewalk and honk at pedestrians and the mom pushing a stroller! If a car flies by brushing your arm hair, no worries. If you want to cross the street… don’t! Cars don’t stop, there are no crosswalks, and after observing how the locals do it I realized that you just have to step into oncoming traffic. Cars will swerve as you keep walking, but don’t think they’re going to stop. They don’t. For good entertainment grab a gelato and watch traffic for an afternoon.

Naples does have some great attractions as well. I visited the Archeological Museum that houses a lot of artifacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum, toured the aquaducts, Castel Nuovo, Castel dell’Ovo, and nearby Herculaneum. I had heard that Herculaneum was better preserved than Pompeii. I can’t say because I decided not to do both, but I can say that Herculaneum was really incredible. Walking through this old Roman city I really got a feel for what life was like 2,000 years ago, and it was not too shabby! They had underground water systems, were big into spa treatment, and the interior of these old homes was just gorgeous. From the floors, to the walls, to the ceilings, everything was extravagantly decorated. Beautiful.

I’ll save Puglia and Emiglia-Romagna for tomorrow..

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