Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chicken Posole

Chicken Posole

I think my body is trying to hibernate. This weather lately has been awful! Rainy, cloudy, cold and just plain blech. I'm snacking constantly after work, falling asleep early and having lots of trouble dragging myself out of bed in the mornings. I'm ready for some sun.

I love the cool crispness of fall and the leaves are starting to change. I'm really excited about that. But the clouds! Ugh.

But despite the urge to fatten up and hiberate for the long winter, I've been really pleased with the amount of exercise I've been getting. My eating may have not been the best, but I've done pretty well counteracting it with increased exercise. On Friday, I ran/walked a 5K. With the warm up and cool down, I went nearly four miles. I think that's a new distance record. My average pace for the 5K ended up being about 11 minutes per mile, but I don't think that's all that shabby considering in January I couldn't run three minutes let alone 3 miles. It's still on a treadmill.. so there's something moving under my feet, but I should be confident enough to run outside soon. The coolness is good running weather.

Know what else I love about the cold temps? It's soup and sweater weather. Not that I need an excuse to wear sweaters or eat soup. I do both year round. In fact, I have a seasonless wardrobe. The difference between my summer and fall clothing is simple — I start wearing socks with my shoes and tights under my skirts. Oh, and I start wearing turtleneck sweaters. That's about it. Blame it on always being cold.

Last night I made this Posole Soup with one change — I added chili powder to give it an extra kick. It was pretty simple -- just onion, chicken and hominy in a spicy chicken broth -- but it wasn't bad. Not as good as the barley soup, but as far as super quick soups go, it's pretty good. It's mostly canned stuff and it would be really easy to whip up on a moment's notice. Especially now that I realized I could bake the frozen chicken I buy from frozen instead of thawing them first. Seriously, this changed my life and saved me from buying a $5 rotisserie chicken.

Anyhow, what's your favorite part of fall?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gnocchi with Roasted Cauliflower

Gnocchi with Roasted Cauliflower

I like to try new vegetables and/or new ways to eat them. It might be a surprise considering the amount of vegetables and meatless meals I typically eat, but I actually have never been a big fan of vegetables.

I try as hard as I can to find ways to prepare them that I like and have been most successful in mixing it in with other foods I like (mainly pasta and cheese). So maybe that's why the Gnocchi with Roasted Cauliflower drew me in.

The jury's still out where cauliflower is concerned. Broccoli and I have a love/hate relationship. It used to make me physcially gag so anything even resembling broccoli is immediately suspect. But I'm giving cauliflower the benefit of the doubt.

Besides, if I'm pairing with something I love like gnocchi it can't be all that bad, right? Actually, I sort of liked this dish last night, but I wasn't in love. It was a little dry and didn't have tons of flavor. There's no sauce — just cauliflower and gnocchi. The sage helped tons, but it needed something else. Maybe cutting back on the oil wasn't the best idea?

I found myself only eating the roasted cauliflower when it was on the fork with a peice of gnocchi. But today the flavors kind of melded together a bit and it was a little better. So I'm not sure if it's the recipe, the fact that I cut back on the oil or that I just don't care for cauliflower. Who knows.

The roasted green beans on the side, though. Delicious as always! Roasted green beans are the best. If you haven't tried them that way, you should. You'll never steam again.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rerun: Rainbow Peanut Noodles

Rainbow Peanut Noodles

I'm feeling much, much better. I even got a couple of workouts in this week. Tonight I ended up not getting a chance to workout at work so I stopped by the Y on the way home to get some elliptical and strength training in.

At the gym I was ellipitcizing away and totally didn't notice the guy getting off his machine next to me. I beaned the guy square in the in the back with the arms of the elliptical! Is "arms" even the right word? I would have stopped if I had noticed. They put the machines way too close together.

I didn't make it through the door until nearly 8 p.m. so I pulled together a quick meal of Rainbow Peanut Butter Noodles. Love this dish. Definitely one of my favorites. I rarely remake dishes, so if I do it means it's something special. The peanut butter sauce is super easy to make and the only cooking is boiling the noodles.

Here, I used up the last of the pad thai noodles in my pantry with some shredded carrots, red pepper and green onion. Yum.

Seriously, make this for yourself. You'll see what I mean.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Barley Soup with Chorizo

Chorizo Soup

I haven't been feeling the best the past few days. And even though I wasn't feeling 100 percent I did a 45 minute workout DVD on Saturday and a steady jog on Sunday. I pooped out on the jog. I just ran out of steam.

I shouldn't have gone. I learned the lesson that when your body says to rest you should rest. It should be a no-brainer, but I'm sure I'm not the first to push a little too hard.

Monday I still wasn't feeling that great, but I knew it wasn't something I could pass along to others. So, I convinced myself I'd be OK once I got to work.

I ended up going home at noon feeling like I could toss my cookies at any moment. I didn't, but I sure felt like I was about to. Even if I could stick it out, I didn't want to, and my productivity would have been zilch. Might as well take the time to sleep.

So this week has been a lot of bland, boring food (think dry cereal and crackers). I was feeling better today, though, so I actually made soup.

And this might go down in the hall of fame of Jen's favorite soups. I used Real Simple's Farro Soup with Chorizo as the jumping off point. In the spirit of using what's in the freezer/pantry I used up my last link of chorizo. The brand I found at Whole Foods is surprisingly lean and you really only need two links for four generous servings.

I didn't have farro, but I had pearl barley. The cooking time on the barley said 30 to 40 minutes, so I started let it simmer while I started the recipe. If you had quick-cooking barley, you wouldn't need to start it in advance.

I followed it as written up pretty much the rest of the way. When it was time to add the barley I drained it and added to the pot with the water and broth. After it softened up all the way, I didn't have much liquid left, so I added a little more broth. Lastly, instead of chard I used frozen chopped spinach.

I loved the spiciness of the soup. The recipe suggest kielbasa as an alternative to chorizo, but in my mind there is no substitute. It wouldn't have the same zing without it.

There were maybe a couple of things I didn't like. The frozen spinach wasn't ideal. Next time I'll stick to the chard the recipe calls for or use fresh spinach. I'm just not a huge fan of frozen spinach in soups. Lastly, just because the crunchiness of chickpeas kind of freaks me out, I personally would prefer a small white bean like navy or cannellini or maybe even something like a pinto. Anything but chickpeas. But if you love chickpeas, then knock yourself out. :)

Overall, it's a hearty, flavorful soup I can totally see myself making over and over again.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich

Red Pepper Sandwich

Jeez I've been a slacker, with blogging AND cooking.

Thursday night my mom and I ended up at the mall looking for all things wedding related. She's not convinced the dress she found a couple of weeks ago is THE dress for my sister's wedding, even though my sister and I swear it looks like it was made for her. She's also attending a wedding next weekend, so she wanted to pull together the bits and pieces of what she'll wear. After shopping we met up with my dad at California Pizza Kitchen.

I ordered the vegetable pizza with japanese eggplant and a beer (of course!). A lot of times I do end up ordering a meatless option or vegetarian option when eating out — especially pizza. As you probably noticed, I don't eat much meat because it can be pretty costly. So, I guess when I'm out I tend to gravitate toward the same foods I'd probably make myself? I don't know.

My parents tried my pizza and liked it. Even my dad, who contantly picked at it and asked, "Eww.. what's that?" (Answers: sundried tomatoes and broccoli.) He ate it even though he seemed to suspect that I was trying to trick him into eating gross vegetables he doesn't like.

Last night's dinner is grocery store sushi because at the last minute my parents requested I spend some quality time with the pup after work while they were out of town for the day gambling away my mom's inheritence. Just kidding. They didn't gamble it ALL away. Just some of it.

So that makes Wednesday my last home-cooked meal. If you call it that. I prefer to call it "assembling." There wasn't even a recipe. It's a mash up of two sandwiches: Roasted Red Pepper Subs from Eating Well and Panera's Mediterranean Veggie.

It had jarred roasted red peppers tossed in olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. The peppers went on Great Harvest Dakota bread with hummus, olive tapenade, red onion, romaine lettuce and swiss cheese. The original inspirations had goat cheese and feta respectively, but I didn't have either on hand. Swiss seemed the best choice considering it was either that or shredded pepper jack. But a provolone might also be good.

There were a lot of different flavors going on in this sandwich. Maybe too much. Each bite had a little something different to offer, though, and I kind of enjoyed that. The hummus added some protein, the bread was loaded with whole grains and the olive oil and tapenade had lots of healthy fats and it was chock full of veggies. So, I think it hit all the necessary food groups. I even got a fruit in with a nice crunchy apple on the side.

I will resume today, promise!

Until then, enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Taco Filling


My attempts to be "on time" in the morning tiring me out. My body revolts. Or maybe it was the intervals I ran at the gym this afternoon kicking my butt.

Glad I put out a heat and eat dinner.

Because I'm trying to stick to cooking from my freezer, refrigerator and pantry as much as possible, I decided it was a great time to make tacos from the taco filling I had in the freezer.

I love this filling. It's nothing fancy — in fact it's not far from the flavor of the seasoning packet. But, it has TONS less sodium and just tastes more fresh. I always make some with 93/7 ground beef and have some it on hand for soft tacos, nachos, etc. Tonight the filling went into crunchy tacos topped with low fat sour cream, red onion, tomato and lettuce and extra sharp cheddar cheese. Canned organic refried pinto beans on the side.

The entire meal came together really quickly, which is ideal after a tough day at work. And the leftovers will make a great taco salad for lunch tomorrow.

Because dinner was a snap, I even have time for a quick yoga session before the season premier of Biggest Loser. AWESOME.

What's staples do you keep around for heat and eat meals?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Baked Ricotta Gnocchi Casserole

Baked Ricotta Gnocchi Casserole

My dad and I have a recurring argument about who is responsible for making us "late" for work. I say "late" but there's really no such thing on most days. We have flex time and my boss seems OK with me arriving approximately the same time every day as long as I get in my hours.

My dad would prefer we leave at 7:30 every day. Only, when I'm there at 7:30 he's NEVER ready. Never. I'm always waiting on him. So it's so tough to actually force myself out of bed to get there "on time" — I'm not a morning person and haven't been since I was 12. It's one of the hazards of carpooling with my dad. But I can't complain too much consider its perks outweigh the drawbacks.
  • I'm getting a free ride to work (no extra gas or parking fees)
  • I'm avoiding car accidents. One was enough thankyouverymuch.
  • I have a legit excuse for ducking out a little early from after-hours work gatherings.
  • I can steal Tupperware from my parents house to cart goodies to and from work.
My little tiny apartment kitchen is stuff to the gills, and I don't have room for anything new without getting rid of something else. So, I borrow serving dishes from my mom whenever I have to bring food in to work. I arrived at my parents' house "on time" today to slice up these Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars and put them a container. They didn't get eaten as quickly as I hoped because they had to stay in the fridge. Out of sight out of mind, I guess!

They turned out well, though!

I was cooking/baking up a storm yesterday. I also made a ricotta gnocchi bake, which is my spin off the dumpling casserole I saw a week or so ago on the Food Network. It's basically the same spinach ricotta gnocchi I always make and the same marinara sauce. I just layered it and topped it with mozzarella cheese and popped it under the broiler. The cheese browned up nicely.. like the browned bits from a cheese pizza. YUM.

Tonight's dinner was another re-run of Orecchiette With Roasted Broccoli and Walnuts because I had some broccoli that needed used up. My new goal is to eat up my pantry and freezer as much as I can without adding to it so I can actually unplug the fridge and give it a good cleaning. I don't have a cooler big enough to hold all of that food. So far it's forcing me to be able to adapt. I ran out of parm last night and I ended up throwing in the last three roasted tomato halves leftover from the pizza I made Friday night.

Besides, I wanted a hands off meal. I spent most of my evening trying to dry out my work laptop. My water bottle wasn't closed all the way and opened in my bag and soaked throw the front compartment and doused my computer. Let's hope it dries out! Telling my boss I need a new laptop because I soaked mine in water may not go over well. I'm pretty sure IT has heard worse though.

So pray for me!

Thursday, September 10, 2009



It's clearly still summer-like outside, so why am I craving soup and oatmeal? I woke up this morning with a serious oatmeal craving so I hit up the cafeteria on my way up to my desk. I skipped my usual brown sugar, cinnamon and granola combo because I brought agave nectar and peaches to put on top of my oats. It wasn't as good as I imagined it would be, but it came close enough to qwelling the craving.

Last night I was all about the soup. The name makes it sound like it's a minestrone, but it's closer to gazpacho. It has zucchini and pasta like a minestrone might, but it has the pureed tomotes and cucumbers like a gazpacho. Maybe it should be named gaz-rone or maybe minez-pacho? OK, so maybe not.

I warmed mine up to make a hot soup, but you could definitely serve it chilled. I ended up halving the recipe but used the whole can of diced tomatoes anyhow. It probably made for a thicker soup, but it still worked. I also used a basil pesto I had in my fridge because I'm lazy and cheap like that. Why buy the extra ingredients when you have some already made up?

If you can't find israeli couscous (I bought mine from the bulk bins at Whole Foods, but I've also seen a big box of it at Trader Joes), you could use any tiny cut of pasta. You can channel your inner five-year-old and use alphabet pasta. If you can find acini di pepe that's the closest to israeli couscous. In fact, almost exactly the same. Ditalini would probably also work, but it's a little bit larger in size. In a pinch, broken up spaghetti or angel hair might be OK, but I would try any of the above first, personally.

It was even pretty decent as leftovers today. I heart soup.

What foods do you crave?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fresh Tomato, Sausage and Pecorino Pasta

Fresh Tomato, Sausage and Romano Pasta

Today's run on the treadmill was actually enjoyable. And, I actually ran a little faster and didn't get winded as quickly. The interval training is definitely helping increase my speed. Unfortunately, I often have just a half hour, so if I'm ever going to actually run a full 5K I have to speed it up some.

I can do it slowly, but I just don't have that kind of time. Apparently, what I'm doing is working.

Plus, I pretty much maintained today even though I ate out all weekend long. I'm getting better at not overeating when I eat out. I've always been a member of the clean plate club to the detriment of my stomach and my waistline. I never liked the feeling of beached whale syndrome (lying belly up on the couch, over full, after a big meal) so I'm not sure why I did it to myself.

Overall a pretty good day on the diet/exercise front.

I also ordered some shoes for my sister's wedding tonight. They aren't half bad. Hopefully she'll like them, too. With shipping they came out to $49 and I was lucky to even see a pair of shoes for $50 and that's without the tax.

Then I came home and made Fresh Tomato, Sausage and Pecorino Pasta. It totally hit the spot. Mmmm.. I love my carbs. My version had turkey sausage and whole wheat pasta, otherwise I stuck to the recipe this time! Not pictured was some roasted asparagus. I bought a 2.5 pound bag at COSTCO a week or so ago and I'm slowly finishing up the last few spears.

Alright, off to start addressing the invites for my sister's bridal shower. They have to go out this week! Eek.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Barbecue Tofu Stir-Fry

Barbecue Tofu Stir-Fry

I admit, this doesn't look the most appetizing. But it's good, I promise. The Asian BBQ sauce was sweet and tangy — making for a unique stir-fry sauce.

This photo also marks the first of the season using the photo box setup I made earlier this year. Makes me sad. But then again, I started dinner really late. And it wasn't until it was done around 8 p.m. that I was actually feeling hungry. I've been this way lately. Not really hungry for much. Nothing sounded good. It was actually hard to choose a menu this week. It's not like me at all.

That doesn't mean I didn't eat.

I started off my day with frozen multi-grain waffles from Aldi. I think these were a special purchase for the store.. not an everyday item. I was out of syrup so I topped it with peaches and blueberries I found cut up in the fridge, probably meant for Friday's breakfast. Also some powdered sugar.


Lunch was leftover frittata and the green apple from snack on Friday that I didn't eat.

Leftover frittata

During errands I snacked on a Kashi peanut butter granola bar, and had a couple of these chips when I got home, you know, just to try them out. They're something I could probably eat too many of. I didn't today, though. I'm saving them for dinner later this week.


Finally, the Barbecue Tofu Stir-Fry. The recipe I used orginally called for bok choy, but broccoli was on special. So I switched it up a bit. I liked the sauce so I'll definitely be looking for other uses for it. My dish used more sauce than it called for. It called for 3/4 cup for 4 servings, but I used about a cup for two servings. You can use less if you prefer, but I wanted mine drowning in sauce tonight.

Barbecue Tofu Stir-Fry
Serves 2

1/2 container extra-firm tofu
2 tsp canola oil
4 oz. cremini mushrooms sliced
4 oz. broccoli florets
1/2 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup Asian BBQ Sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 cup raw brown rice, cooked to package directions

Wrap tofu in paper towels, place in a shallow dish and weigh it down with a heavier dish. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut tofu into cubes.

Heat oil in a medium skillet over high heat. Stir fry the tofu until browned, 2 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Add the mushrooms, broccoli and carrots and stir fry for 2 to 4 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Add tofu and BBQ sauce to the pan, stir fry 30 more seconds until warmed through. Serve over cooked rice.

Asian BBQ Sauce
Makes 2 1/2 cups

2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 cup ketchup
3/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp hot chili sauce with garlic
2 tbsp dry sherry
1 tsp ground ginger

Heat oil in a medium sauce pan and add onions. Cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, whisking to combine. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes.

The sauce will last in an airtight container in the fridge up to one month.

Nutritional info for the stir fry:

Friday, September 4, 2009

Asparagus and Mushroom Frittata


I didn't make a meal yesterday because at the last minute I ended up eating out with my family. I carpool with my dad and I was sitting around chatting with my mom after work when my ear ache started to get worse. So, of course, when my mom asked if I wanted to eat out with them I agreed. Who wants to cook when there's stabbing pain in your ear? Not I!

Unfortunately, that leaves me with no leftovers for lunch. Usually not a problem, though. I keep a few frozen dinners, veggie burgers and the like around just in case.

But then I overslept by an hour and I was rushing out the door like a complete maniac. No coffee, no breakfast, no lunch, no snack. No time. I was off to an awesome start.

So today, I'm sharing what I eat when I don't bring any food to work and have to fend for myself. Lucky for me, we have a decent enough cafeteria that serves breakfast and lunch. It's one of the few perks (if you can even call on-site cafeteria a perk) when you work for "the man" in corporate America.

Oatmeal. They offer brown sugar, dried cranberries, granola, banana chips, toasted coconut, cinnamon, sugar and milk for toppings. My bowl has brown sugar, granola and cinnamon.


Plus, a cup of Starbucks, which they brew and sell. The cafeteria sludge is cheaper, but I decided to treat myself today.


They have a healthy station, but Fridays are hit or miss and usually don't offer many options. The regular line is always fried or baked fish, mac and cheese, french fries and sometimes you get leftovers from earlier in the week (YUM, right?). So, I stuck to the salad bar today. It's actually pretty decent for a cafeteria. My salad had mixed baby greens, red bell pepper, broccoli, carrots, red onion, grape tomatoes, grilled chicken, blue cheese and a few black olives and a couple of croutons for crunch. I dressed it with a light olive oil vinaigrette.

Salad Bar

I actually called the doctor and made an appointment to have my ear checked out.. so I grabbed a chocolate soy milk and a piece of fruit to take with me. My other favorite cafeteria snack is an Odwalla Bar. I had the Mocha-walla earlier this week, actually when I forgot my snack. I decided I prefer the Choco-walla though. It tastes almost like a no-bake cookie. I thought the soy milk and fruit would be better today, though, considering my breakfast lacked its usual fruit and calcium boost. I only drank the soy milk, actually, because I wasn't all that hungry. And good news from the doctor — not an infection. My allergies are probably to blame (surprise).

Snack - Chocolate soy milk and an apple

I'm headed out of town for the weekend to go to the bridal shower her future mother-in-law and sister-in-law are throwing for her.. so I didn't buy much in groceries this week. So here's my best shot at using of the vegetables in the fridge — an asparagus mushroom frittata. I just found the easiest method EVER for making a frittata with whatever you have on hand.

This works with whatever vegetables and cheese you have on hand. Frittatas make a great last-minute meal any time of day and are hard to mess up. This great method to have in your repertoire — especially if you're omelet-impaired like I am.

Basic Frittata
Serves 6 (or serves 3, generously)

Egg mixture:
5 eggs
4 egg whites
salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp olive oil

Filling (3 cups total of whatever you want):
1 cup cooked asparagus, chopped
1 cup sauteed mushrooms
1/2 cup cooked red onion
1/2 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar

In a broiler-safe skillet (I used my cast iron) warm the oil over medium heat.

Meanwhile beat the eggs together with salt, pepper and parmesan. Stir in the vegetable filling (in my case the asparagus, mushrooms and onion). Add to the pan, quickly top with the all the filling except the cheddar (if using). Reduce the heat to low and let cook, without stirring, about 15 minutes, or until the edges are set and the center is still slightly wet looking.

Top with cheddar cheese and put under the broiler until the cheese melts and the center begins to brown and looks set, about a minute or so.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Creamy Pesto Gnocchi with Green Beans

Creamy Pesto Gnocchi with Green Beans

I have been so tired lately. Must be because I was spoiled and slept in for five days straight. I was actually in bed before 10 last night, which is really rare.

I've also skipped two workouts so far this week because I've been so busy catching up at work. My calendar was actually completely clear this afternoon so I took advantage of that and got a mid-afternoon workout in. I'm sure I've mentioned how much I love afternoon workouts at work, but I'll say it again. I heart them. Lots. They break up my afternoon and wake me up better than a cup of coffee.

It always helps me beat the 3 p.m. slump. Plus, it was a quiet day for a change and I was starting to get bored and antsy. I always have to be doing something.

I'll tell you, though, the workout kind of kicked my butt. So I ended up just making the Creamy Pesto Gnocchi with Green Beans. Super simple. You were supposed to cook the beans separately and then TOP the gnocchi them, but both had the same cooking time so I just threw them in one pot and covered it all in the creamy pesto.

Less dishes = happy Jen.

I have only a couple of complaints. First, either use more ricotta on the side or leave it off altogether. It did absolutely nothing for me. Second, it's awfully full of calories for just a tiny serving. But it still filled me up.. so it's good enough for me. Just warning you, though! If you have a light pesto recipe that would make it a hundred times lighter in calories/fat, but I went the lazy route and used jarred pesto — hence the brownish muddy color.

All right — off to relax. Have a good night!