Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ratatouille Grilled Panini (Rachael Ray)

I made this yummy sandwich Sunday evening for dinner for R and myself. It's one of Rachael's 30 minute meals, but for the life of me, they always take me at least an hour. Probably because I am not a very proficient chopper. This isn't a problem on a Sunday evening, but is challenging if I wait until later on a weeknight to start cooking. Any-hoo the leftovers were still good heated up for lunch on Monday and I felt virtuous packing in so many veggies in one meal! Plus its pretty tough to screw up... just make sure your veggies are completely cooked.

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 eggplant, peeled lengthwise in 2 places to make stripes and sliced lengthwise 1/2 inch thick
1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise 1/2 inch thick
(I also used 1/2-3/4# portobella mushrooms because I love mushrooms!)
Salt and pepper
Herbes de Provence (I substituted my own mixture of savory, basil, thyme, & rosemary)
2 bell peppers, quartered lengthwise
1 loaf ciabatta bread, split horizontally
8 slices Swiss or fontina cheese (I only used 4 slices b/c they were thick cut - 1/4#)
2 cups arugula leaves (I used spinach)
1/3 cup store-bought olive tapenade (In the hummus section usually)

Heat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. In a small saucepan, combine the EVOO and garlic and heat on the grill (or on the stovetop over medium heat).
Brush the eggplant and zucchini on both sides with the garlic oil; season with salt, pepper and herbes de Provence. Place on the grill along with the bell peppers and cook, turning once, until crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. (Since I only have a small indoor grill, I roasted the veggies in the oven instead and then toasted them on the grill for a minute before putting the sandwich together)
Arrange the vegetables on the bread loaf bottom and top with the cheese and arugula. Spread the bread top with the tapenade and set in place. Place the sandwich on the grill and cover with 2 bricks covered in foil or place in a skillet piled with heavy cans. Press the sandwich until crisp on top, about 2 minutes. Flip and repeat. Cut into 4 portions.

Love, B

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Domestic Divas

There is a long-standing tradition among my 2 college roommates and myself - we celebrate each of our birthdays, just the 3 of us. These girls are very special friends to me - God bless them, Amanda endured me for 4 years and Janet for 3! I have known Janet since 6th grade, when we had every single class together, but wasn't lucky enough to know her well until college. Amanda goes back to at least 4th grade (probably longer) when we were potty partners in Girl Scouts together. Lucky for me, both of these chicas ended up going to the best university in the world, Texas A&M - WHOOP! Those 2 went on to roommate together in San Antonio until Amanda married - I was never willing to risk having another roommate!
Both Amanda and Janet are now married, and Amanda even has a 15 month old little boy. Janet lives in San Antonio and Amanda and I both live in the Houston area so it is an extra challenge these days to get together. We rarely actually celebrate in the month of our birthdays, but we always do it eventually! We have had lots of yummy dinners, lunches, brunches, fun winery tours, we saw a musical at the Wortham center, lots of pedicures, stayed at a B&B in Galveston... For Janet's birthday this year, she wanted to cook all day (and drink wine)! She got a Julia Child cook book for her birthday in early February so she had a little bit of practice. Julia Child-cooking is a lot different than the "cooking" we usually did in college - tacos, spaghetti, easy mac, cereal, sandwiches...

So, the names of the dishes were all in French, but the American description of these yummy (well some were better than others!) from top to bottom above are: fish with vegetables on top, breaded chicken, buttered spinach, and artichokes with lemon/butter/wine sauce. There was a lot of butter and wine in Julia's dishes! Mason's (Amanda's husband and Janet's BIL) birthday was the weekend before so we allowed him and the wonderful E family to partake of our fabulous cooking. It was a fun night!
P.S. Blogger is a pain to post pictures in. I haven't been able to move them around. Tips?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My step aerobics comeback

I FINALLY made it to step aerobics this Monday night after being out since July because of marathon training and then a little laziness/recovery post-marathon. I have been doing step aerobics fairly frequently for the last 10 years... it all started out as a kinesiology class at TAMU - I totally fell in love with the "sport" ;)

If you've never done it, you probably picture people in multi-colored leotards and leg warmers, grapevining across a hardwood floor according to the instruction of a bubbly, blonde teacher. Well, there are some bubbly big-boobed teachers, but my favorite instructor is a guy in his late twenties that teaches at a club in Sugarland who generally completely lacks energy but makes the class so much fun because of the challenging choreography. And generally, people are just wearing regular work out clothes. There is an interesting assortment of people in this class, a large percentage asian, and average age maybe 35-40, which seems less and less old all the time. All shapes and sizes, men and women, some who have been regulars in this class for years. There are certain spots in the class you just don't take for fear of those regulars who are creatures of habit and can't stand to be uprooted from their usual territory. There is a certain clique of women with fake boobs. Its interesting to say the least. I have made several friendly acquaintances and one sweet friend, Arpita, who gives me extra motivation to show up when I don't feel like it! It is quite the community - people notice when you've been gone, if you cut your hair, when you lose those pounds. I generally keep to myself, in a friendly sort of way I hope, but love the people watching :)

The video is actually of my class, and if it looks easy or slow-paced, it is deceiving. I love step not only for the cardiovascular benefits, but also for the mental challenge - it is impossible to dwell on anything that's bothering me during class because I am too focused trying to learn the combos that day.

Any-hoo, since I hadn't been to step in so many months, I expected to be a little sore - so I wasn't surprised Tuesday morning when my calves were tight. It felt good, like I'd done something! I'm tough, though, so I didn't back down from wearing my high heels and traipsing about town for work all day. After work I took advantage of the beautiful day and my motivation still elevated from going to class the night before and went for a run at Memorial Park. When I woke up Wednesday morning, however, it was a totally different story! I could barely get out of bed. I contemplated crawling to the bathroom but it sounded too hard to get up and down. I seriously considered calling in, but I knew I had things that needed to get done so I decided to suck it up but wear some flat-ish (ugly) shoes to give my calves a little bit of relief. All day long, every time I stood up my legs almost gave out on me. After a few bow-legged steps I looked a little more normal, but still felt every time my muscles worked. My calves were tender even to the lightest touch. I was honestly more sore yesterday than after the marathon. Richard got a good laugh, because I enjoyed his misery/limping post-marathon a bit too much. My legs are slightly better today, but I promise I can feel my muscles TWITCHING at rest! It's crazy. I haven't been as active as usual, but certainly not a couch potato! It's amazing what muscles different activities really rely on.

Step aerobics, you will not get the best of me! I only let a sprained ankle keep me out for one week, so look out, I'll be back!

Love, B

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo (Ellie Krieger)

My first date with Richard was at Yia Yia Mary's, a Greek restaurant owned by the well known Pappas brothers, who are better known for Pappasito's and Pappadeaux. I love the food there, but didn't eat much that night because I was so involved in learning the story of the guy I'd been so curious about for the previous 6 weeks. (I should give credit where credit is due, Andy was the first person to take me there - holla!) Being the classy guy that he is, he took home the leftovers (after offering them to me). Being the smart guy that he is, he left them in his truck on that June night. Goodness knows I hate the idea of wasted food!

We have been back a couple times since then, and luckily now I can enjoy my food (and to-go boxes are rarely needed). On our last visit, he was really hungry and ordered a bowl of the Chicken Orzo Soup before his meal, which turned out to be monstrous in size. Richard had a healthy respect for orzo going into this choice, because I like to cook with it, and he was not let down because it was YUMMY! Being the smart man that he is, he suggested that I could probably make it, and it would be even better. And I do love a cooking challenge!

I googled "lemon chicken orzo soup" and came up with several hits - one of the first by one of my favorite Food Network hosts, Ellie Krieger - a DIETITIAN! Holla! Ellie is a little dry at times, but I like her show because she emphasizes the nutritional value of a meal more than how low the calorie, carb or fat content is. Her show is called "Healthy Appetites" and her cookbook is titled The Food You Crave. I checked my cookbook and there was the recipe that I had skipped over because it didn't sound that great, but I decided to give it a shot.

Here is the recipe, directly lifted from her book:
Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo

4 teaspoons olive oil
8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into small chunks
Pinch of salt, plus more to taste
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 stalks celery, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium carrot, diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup orzo, preferably whole wheat
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with the salt, add it to the pot, and cook, stirring, a few times, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a dish and set aside.
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the pot. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and thyme and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add 5 cups of the broth and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and let simmer until tender, about 8 minutes. Turn the heat down to low to keep the soup hot but not boiling.
Warm the remaining 1 cup broth in a small saucepan until it is hot but not boiling. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Gradually whisk the lemon juice into the eggs. Then gradually add the hot broth to the egg-lemon mixture, whisking all the while. Add the mixture to the soup, stirring well until the soup is thickened. Do not let the soup come to a boil. Add the cooked chicken to the soup. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Makes 4 servings Serving size: 1 1/2 cups
Per serving: Calories 280; Total fat 10g (Sat fat 2g, Mono fat 6g, Poly fat 1g); Protein 26g; Carb 22g; Fiber 2g; Cholesterol 139mg; Sodium 291mg
Excellent source of: niacin, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C
Good source of: copper, folate, iodine, iron, magnesium, molybdenum, pantothenic acid, thiamin, vitamin B12, vitamin K, zinc

It was delicious! Creamy, but as you can see, no cream or butter was added! I used a whole pound of chicken thighs because that was what I had in the freezer, and just trimmed the excess fat - made it heartier. I used dried thyme and regular orzo (the whole wheat kind has been hard for me to find). Great for a cold night (like Sunday was) or a sick day! Not sure how healthy the fresh french bread was that we ate along side it, but it was good! I've also eaten it for lunch the last two days :)

What's your favorite soup recipe?

Love, B

Jumping on the bandwagon

After toying with the idea of a blog for a while, but not really having much inspiration for blogging or more importantly, a title... I have decided to start a little bloggy blog to share my adventures in cooking, running, and now (hopefully) the events leading up to my first house... plus anything exciting that happens in the mean time. Many thanks to my Bible study friends for their ideas on blog titles, most of all to BONNIE who inspired "Diary of a Dietitian".