Monthly Archives: June 2011

Week in Burlington, VT

I have this week off from work, (with the exception of Memorial Day) this is the first time I’ve had time off since March… so I am savoring every minute of it. As you may have gathered, Mark has not moved into the apartment yet, he has an internship in Burlington. So, I’m up visiting him for the week.

Let me just be blunt… I love Burlington. Having never been here before, it has been a blast exploring the city while Mark has been at work. Downtown is super cute, everyone bikes everywhere… there is a whole bike path network that covers the city, and they have the biggest co-op I have ever been to, City Market. Did I mention the lake, I love lakes (hence my summer employment)… and Lake Champlain is one of the prettiest lakes I have ever seen, it’s surrounded by rolling hills and mountains that fade into the distance.

My first day here was Monday, (we spent the weekend in Deerfield at Mark’s parents, and double dated with Mark’s brother and his girlfriend. We went to see Midnight in Paris then went to Flat Street Brew Pub and Tap Room, Mark’s Dad’s restaurant venture in Brattleboro, VT. Go… its really good and right off the highway).

Anywho… Monday: I took it upon myself to figure out the city. So I set off on a walking tour from Mark’s apartment and 9 miles later, I had seen most of Downtown, the Co-op (where I met Mark for lunch), Church Street (a pedestrian only street), the lake front and UVM’s campus. I pretty much had Burlington figured out, and the sore feet to prove it. I wasn’t wearing sneakers because I never intended to walk that far, but I felt a need to take in the whole city. Then when Mark got home he took me to Shelburne Farms, a really pretty farm on the lake… we’re going back for breakfast on Saturday. We cooked in for dinner… veggie pita pizza. I didn’t take pictures, I know silly me. It’s a regular so fear not…

On Tuesday, I went for a bike ride, and then I met Mark at Red Rocks Park for lunch… I packed us pitas filled with greens, tomatoes, red peppers, cheese, (turkey for Mark) and honey mustard. I also packed 2 apples and some jalapeno chips.

When Mark got home we went for a 3 mile run along the bike path near his apartment. We had drinks and dinner at American Flatbread. They use local organic ingredients and they brew their own beer, called Zero Gravity… it was really good. I got an IPA (front) and Mark a Scotch Ale (back).

For dinner we got a brick oven pizza… you can watch them make it, so cool. Half had mushrooms, tomatoes and herb pesto. The other half had mushrooms and caramelized onions.

Then we went for a walk down by the lake and watched the sun set. We also got a Maple Creamee (soft serve maple ice cream… yum)

Wednesday, I had relaxing morning… I went to Oakledge Park, went for a short walk and finished In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. Mark met me for lunch; we had a repeat of Tuesday’s lunch. When he got home we did another 3 mile run and went to dinner at The Farm House Tap and Grill. They also use local, fresh ingredients. We got some local beers and a cheese board… a goat/sheep/cow mixture cheese and one similar to Gouda (the one on the left).

For entrées I got a corn griddle cake (picture a cornbread pancake) piled high with sautéed mushrooms and wilted kale. Mark got a burger made with local grass fed beef… he said it was the best burger he’s ever had… you could taste the difference. Then Mark talked me into rhubarb pie, it had a crumble topping and was delicious. The lights were too dim for pictures at this point… sorry

We’re actually cooking tonight… so, more to come on that later. On the docket: cous cous soup, local bread with local hummus and a blueberry peach pie… however the menu is subject to change. I picked up the ingredients after I met Mark for lunch at Stone Soup… a great vegetarian place recommended by Mark’s boss

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Pasta with Wilted Greens and Roasted Vegetables

This past Saturday, I had my first house guest, my friend Tracy. We’ve been trying to get together for dinner for a while; she only lives ½ an hour away. Finally, our schedules matched up and I offered to have her over for dinner so she could see the new apartment and we could save a bit of money. She suggested pasta. So pasta it was. I made a spinach salad and some spaghetti with balsamic roasted vegetables. Tracy eats only select veggies, I got her to eat her salad but she opted for pasta sauce instead of veggies over her pasta… at least I got some veggies in her.  I though the veggies were delicious… perhaps I’m biased by my love for vegetables and balsamic vinegar. Afterwards, we headed over to her house for a pre-Father’s Day bonfire which was a lot of fun.

Pasta with Wilted Greens and Roasted Vegetables

Serves 2

¼ box of whole wheat spaghetti

½ pint cherry/grape tomatoes cut in half

½ bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, sliced into thin strips

¼ medium onion, sliced into ¼ inch medallions, and rings separated

2-3 cups of spinach, or greens or your choice (arugula, chard, etc)

1 clove of garlic minced

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Black pepper

Parmigianino

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Chop up the veggies… halve the tomatoes, cut peppers into strips, slice onion and separate rings. Place on cookie sheet, add oil, vinegar and black pepper, toss to coat and pop in the oven for 20 mins or until the veggies are soft and start to brown.

In the mean time, boil the pasta water and cook the pasta according to the box directions. In a small frying pan place spinach and garlic and a small splash of water, place the pan over medium heat and put a lid on it to wilt the spinach. Cook for 3 mins until the spinach is wilted and the garlic is cooked through, stir it occasionally to make sure all of the spinach wilts down. Drain the pasta once it has cooked for long enough and run a bit of cold water over it to stop the cooking process. Plate the pasta, top with the spinach and the other veggies, then sprinkle with Parmigianino cheese, you can do this family style or on individual plates. If pasta is not saucy enough for you feel free to add more oil and vinegar on top or throw on some pasta sauce… Enjoy!

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Yogurt Parfaits

So I go on these breakfast kicks where I’ll have the same thing for breakfast every weekday. The things that I eat have varied over the years but I always come back to my old standby… yogurt and granola. Lately I’ve been eating about ¾ of a cup of plain Greek yogurt topped with about a quarter cup of berries, 2 tablespoon of granola and about ten almonds. This breakfast comes in at under 300 calories, but is surprisingly filling with almost 20 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber. And it’s much tastier than those yogurts that come with the fruit already in them. Those can add heaps of sugar, which no one needs that early in the morning. It’s just setting you up for a mid-morning blood sugar crash which can cause you to over eat at lunch.

This breakfast fits in with my morning routine because it’s quick and easy. I’ve been getting up at 7, going for a 30-45 min run, depending on how quickly I can get dressed and put my sneakers on and also on my motivation levels. I come back and get ready quick, throw my yogurt together and am out the door by 8:20. I’ve been trying to ride my bike to work, I usually end up riding it a few days a week, but sometimes it’s raining or I’m just running too late.

Any who, this weekend I decided to jazz up my morning usual into a festive parfait that is definitely Father’s Day brunch worthy. I should also take a moment to wish my Dad a happy father’s day… he’s been really great lately, putting up with my texts and calls pertaining to the new apartment.

I just made a few changes to my standard “recipe”… I took my berries (which I got at the Geneva Farmer’s Market on my lunch break on Thursday) and simmered them in a few tablespoons of water and 1 tablespoon of blueberry jam, so they got all syrupy and delicious. I even did that the night before and put it in the fridge so the flavors could meld. I also chopped up my almonds and toasted them in the oven. And last but not least, I mixed in some ricotta cheese into the yogurt to change up the flavor a tad, bear with me… it’s good. I saw it on Giada on the food network a while ago, (ok maybe like 2 years ago, but it stuck with me). Her recipe was the inspiration for this but I tweaked it a bit. She just used jam, no fresh fruit. I can’t find her recipe anymore, but I know Mark and I used her version 2 summers ago.

Yogurt Parfaits

Serves 2          

½ pint of strawberries, hulled and quartered

1 cup of blueberries

2-3 tablespoons of water

1 tablespoon of jam, I used wild blueberry

¼ cup of almonds, chopped, or you can buy pre-sliced

1 cup of yogurt

½ cup of ricotta cheese

½- ¾ cup of granola, I used Kashi Go Lean Crunch that I got on sale

Add the cut up strawberries and blueberries to a small sauce pot, add the water and jam. Put the pot over medium heat. Once it starts to bubble, turn it to low, and stir it occasionally. Also keep an eye on it, I was on the phone with Mark while I was making it and I turned my back and it boiled over a little bit. Let it simmer for 15 mins or so until the fruit starts to break down, and get all mushy and syrupy. Remove from the heat and put into a container to store. I put mine in a gravy boat. Let it cool, cover it and place in the fridge overnight (optional but recommended).

Preheat the oven to 400, chop the almonds and place them in an even layer on a cookie sheet and place it in the oven. Bake until golden brown. This will take max 10 mins. Keep an eye on these as well; they can go from golden to burnt in a matter of seconds.

Mix the yogurt and ricotta in a bowl with a whisk; it helps get the lumps out. To assemble, get 2 nice glasses. At the moment I only have 4 tall round ones total, but feel free to use pretty ones. This would look cool in a martini glass. Place a few tablespoons of the yogurt into the bottom of the glass; pour a tablespoon or two of the fruit over the yogurt. Use enough that it spreads to the edge of the glass and so that it can be seen as a distinct layer. Top with a tablespoon of granola, and 2 teaspoons of toasted almonds. Repeat until the glass is filled.

 

** you might have some fruit syrup left over… this would go great over ice cream or shortcakes (or both).

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Grilled Mango and Bell Peppers

My new apartment has a little porch just big enough for a small grill and a small chair or two (with some clever arrangement). My family has a cute little grill, the Webber Q, (yes I just called my grill cute… not two words that go together often, but hey I’m a girly griller). This grill was bought on super sale maybe 7 years ago for our ski house in NH. Sad to say, we no longer have the house, but the grill was just sitting in the basement. So, after hinting that I had a porch the perfect size for this compact grill, my parents brought it up when they helped me move in. Its perfect size for Mark and me and it heats up in a flash because it’s so small. Did I mention it’s portable… the stand collapses down into a pull cart with a handle, much like that of a rolling suitcase. Grilling at Seneca Lake State Park (about 4 blocks away) on the weekends… I think so.

So now that I’ve bored you with my cute grill talk, let’s talk about what I grilled. My mom picked up a grill pan for me as a house warming present. These things are great; you still get the char from the grill, but none of the veggies fall through the grate. If you grill often… seriously, get one of these. They come in all shapes and sizes and are around $10. I decided to grill up some mango and red bell peppers, a great combination of flavors. I usually go with an Asian influenced marinade to top them. The salty bite from the glaze combined with the sweetness from the mango and peppers is divine. If you are a fish eater, throw some of the marinade on some tuna steaks and grill them up as well… my parents love it. It’s great for a light summer meal.

Grilled Mango and Bell Peppers

Serves 3-4 as a side

1 mango, peeled, pit removed and sliced into long strips or spears, it is best if this is only semi-ripe, the riper it is, the mushier it gets and the more it tends to fall apart on the grill. Fret not, the grill will concentrate its sweetness, making it taste like a ripe mango.

1 red bell pepper, cored, ribs and seeds removed, cut into strips

3 tablespoons (low sodium) soy sauce

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon water

1 clove of garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press

black pepper to taste

½ inch cube of fresh ginger, minced fine or grated on a micro plane or few dashes of dried/powdered ginger

Preheat the grill to medium-low heat. Spray grill pan with non-stick spray. Place soy, vinegar, water, garlic and ginger in a zip top bag. Slice the mango by removing the cheeks from the giant seed in the middle, by slicing down the length of the mango as close to either side of the seed as you can get. Then slice the two remaining sections of mango off of the seed. Cut each hunk of mango into long strips, remove the skin from each slice… this is the method I like for this but if you have a better method, then by all means use that. Slice the pepper into strips of similar size to the mango. I like to run my knife around the stem and pull that out, taking most of the ribs and seeds along with it. Then slice the pepper into strips, removing white ribs as necessary as you slice. Add prepared mango and peppers to the marinade. Zip the top of the bag and shake to coat. Place them in an even layer on the grill pan and put the pan onto the grill. Cook a few minutes on each side until the peppers start to blister and the mangos start to caramelize and brown. Remove from heat and enjoy!

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Stuffed French Toast

This past weekend I went to lovely Deerfield, Massachusetts to visit Mark and his family. Deerfield is “half-way” between Geneva (where I am) and Burlington (where Mark is). It’s not exactly halfway, but going to what now seems like my second home is always a plus. Little plug—the Old Deerfield Craft Fair is this coming weekend (the 18th-19th). It is a super cute little fair selling jams, jewelry and carved wooden figurines etc. If you’re in the area… you should go.

Plug complete… So, on Friday night we threw all of the veggies in the fridge into some fajitas/burritos… which consisted of red peppers, mushrooms, tempeh and refried beans all mixed together with all the Mexican-esque spices in the house. Then we topped them with some spinach, Gouda, and tomatoes… hardly attractive looking, but pretty darn tasty after a 4 hour drive.

The weather wasn’t spectacular but we did fit in some exercise at the newly renovated Deerfield Academy gym, courtesy of Mark’s fancy-pantsy Alum card. Let’s just say this gym was a little too high-tech for me… touch screens don’t register my cold fingers. And looking at the HDTV mounted right in front of my face made me feel nauseous after about 2 miles. I’ll stick to the roads and old school gyms from now on.

We double dated with Mark’s “best friend from home” and his girlfriend at a local Thai place… I got mango curry over brown rice… very tasty.

The highlight of our culinary adventures for the weekend however was stuffed French toast. My dad had it at a restaurant once and came up with his own version at home. It’s super easy, it looks very elegant, and you can fill it with whatever you’d like. I usually go for strawberries and blueberries or peaches with cream cheese or yogurt. Or for those who love peanut butter… PB and banana.

We used this great oatmeal bread from a farm in South Deerfield and filled them with strawberries from a farm stand literally a stone’s throw away and some vanilla yogurt.

Also this breakfast was a chance for us to use the can of Canadian maple syrup that happened to be sitting on the counter… this can intrigued both Mark and me; hence our desire to find a recipe that would require opening it.

Stuffed French Toast

Makes 3 stuffed slices, I ate 1, and Mark ate 2 for reference

6 slices of good bread, we used oatmeal bread, (3 slices if using the pocket method… see below)

Oil or cooking spray for frying pan

2 eggs

¼  cup of milk

Teaspoon or so of cinnamon

Dash of nutmeg

½ pint of strawberries, hulled and sliced

¼ cup of yogurt or cream cheese, we used Stonyfield vanilla yogurt

If you are using fresh bread, cut three slices, then cut a pocket into each one. Do this by inserting a knife into the crust side of the bread, about halfway between the top and bottom. Wiggling the knife around to make the pocket bigger, but be careful not to cut through to the three other sides or through the top or bottom. This method keeps it a bit neater, but if you are using pre-sliced bread as Mark and I did, just go for the sandwich method.

Heat a skillet over medium heat, make sure to coat with cooking spray or place a tablespoon of oil in the bottom and rub it around with a paper towel.

Combine eggs, milk, cinnamon and nutmeg in a shallow dish. Make sure the dish is big enough to fit a slice of bread. If using the pre-sliced method, spread a thin layer of yogurt or cream cheese on both slices of bread, arrange slices of berries on one side and then top it with the other slice of bread, so that the yogurt is on the inside of both slices. If using the pocket method, put some yogurt or cream cheese on a knife and wiggle it around in the pocket, trying to get an even layer all throughout the pocket. Then carefully place strawberry slices inside as well.

Dip each fruit filled toast in the egg mixture then turn to coat the other side, make sure both sides absorb the mixture well before flipping over. Remove from egg mixture and let excess drain off, back into the bowl. Place toast in the skillet and cook on both sides until golden brown, a few minutes each side… but remember the second side always takes less time.

Remove from heat once golden, slather with syrup (or drown in Mark’s case), sprinkle with a few hulled, sliced berries and enjoy!

We ended our prefect weekend with a hike up to the top of Mount Eaglebrook, which looked like a winter wonderland with all of the Laurel in bloom… a special thanks to Mama Mac for the tip off.  The top of the mountain has the most breath-taking views of all of the Deerfield Basin (geo-nerd moment). Not to metion this hike holds many memories for Mark and me, having hiked it a handful of time each summer since we began dating

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Lasagna Roll-Ups

Sorry for the lack of posts, but this past weekend was moving weekend. My parents came up to help me haul everything up to my new third floor apartment, and helped me clean it top to bottom. And they even drove all over creation in search of the “perfect” furniture courtesy of craig’s list. What better parents could I ask for? So, now that I am settled into my new apartment, I have been cooking (and grilling) up a storm, testing out my new kitchen.

I have an adorable 1950’s oven, which needed some serious tlc to get it into cooking shape. Seriously, I had my brother Google “1950’s oven” when I was explaining it and the first image looked exactly like my “new” oven.  After a thorough scrub down by my Dad, it was basically begging to be used. So, use it I did.

I made lasagna roll ups… they are basically individual lasagnas. You boil up some lasagna noodles, fill with ricotta cheese and veggies and bake in the oven until the cheese is melty and bubbly and the roll-up is warmed through.

Lasagna Roll Ups

serves 2

6 dried, packaged lasagna noodles, I used whole wheat. The fresh variety can’t hold up to the rolling

1 cup of ricotta cheese

1/2-3/4 cup of frozen cut spinach (if so ambitious, you and wilt up your own fresh spinach, but frozen is so cheap)

2 teaspoons of whisked egg (I used egg beaters)

1/2 a zucchini cut into quarter inch slice, then each slice cut into quarters (triangles)

6-8 asparagus stalks cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1/2-1 cup of sauce (more or less depending on how much sauce you like on pasta)

cheese (I only had parmigiana,  but mozzarella, gouda, feta, or any good melty cheese would work)

Preheat the oven to 350. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta as per the package directions, but cook for about 1-2 mins less than the directions say, so they don’t get soggy in the oven. Mine were supposed to cook for 10 mins, and I took them out after 8. With one minute left for the pasta to cook, throw in the asparagus and zucchini to blanch them and cut down on the cooking time in the oven.

While the pasta cooks, mix together the ricotta cheese, egg and spinach in a mixing bowl. Also line your pan ( I used a 9×9 pan) with aluminum foil to make for easy clean up. Then spoon a few tablespoons of sauce into the bottom of the lined pan and spread it around evenly. This helps prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Once the pasta is done drain it in a colandar, rinse cool water over it for a few seconds to stop the cooking process. Then I set up a little assembly line.

Lay a noodle out on a flat surface ( I used a cutting board), spoon  about a quarter cup of the ricotta mixture onto the noodle and spread it out into an even layer, leaving about one inch of noodle uncovered at the end. Place a handful of the zucchini and asparagus on top of the cheese, and press them into the cheese gently.

Then carefully roll up the noodle, starting with the end that is covered in cheese, not the end you left free of cheese. Place it seam side down in the prepared pan. Spoon a few tablespoons of sauce over the top and sprinkle on the cheese. Bake for 20-30 mins or until the cheese is melted, and the inside is warmed through.

Let cool a bit and enjoy

** for you meat eaters or families with meat eaters, you can brown up some sausage, ground beef, ground turkey etc and add onto the noodle with veggies before you roll it up. Because these are individual lasagnas, it is easy to make some with meat and some without, but for the sake of the veg heads… put them in separate pans to prevent the meat juices from seeping into the veg-only roll-ups

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