Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Vegetarian Chilli | Vermont Adventure

 I want to start this post with a question  

How do you cook for 10 people when there is a deep chill in the air and some are vegetarians, garlic allergies (me), and hungry men, picky ladies (me)? 

The answer was simple VEGETARIAN CHILLI 

I can take no credit for the Veggie Chilli idea (that was our friend Matt - who was the Executive chef of the trip...side note I love hanging out with Matt because we can talk food, recipes and ingredients for hours).  The chilli was so rich and deep in flavor and really made with random ingredients until the flavor popped.  We included a toppings bar so people could dress-up their chilli however they wanted.  

The wine was good, the chilli was great and the company was the best!  If you have any weekend adventures with friends planned for the winter, I highly recommend you add this to your menu!  Its so simple, deep in flavor and an overall crowd pleaser!    

We really had no real recipe, but I will try to recreate below!     














Vegetarian Chilli Ingredients:
  • Onion (chopped)  
  • Green Pepper Chopped 
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cans of black beans 
  • 1 can of kidney beans 
  • 1 can of white beans 
  • 1 bag of lentils 
  • 2 jars of tomato puree 
  • 1 can of Amy's Lentil soup mix 
  • 1 beer 
  • 4 packets of Chilli Seasonings 
  • 1 TBSP Red Pepper Flakes 
  • Salt & Pepper to taste 
Toppings Bar:
  • Sour Cream 
  • Shredded Cheese 
  • Chives
  • Hot Sauce
  • Corn Bread 
  • Fritos 
  • Crackers
Directions:
  • Sautee the onion and green pepper in olive oil until soft 
  • Add everything together in a pot and let simmer for 1 to 2 hours 
  • Include a toppings bar and let everyone dress the chilli as desired

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Vermont Foodie Adverture | Smokin Bowls Soup Shack

This past weekend 10 friends (9+ me) went on an adventure from NYC to Vermont.  I was actually not really looking forward to the trip since I am strict orders not to ski (I hurt my back...boo) and didn't really know what I was going to do for the weekend (hello blogging prep).  I have also been traveling like crazy (I am currently writing this post from an airplane...I'm on my way to San Francisco), so I was less than thrilled for the 10+ hours of driving throughout the weekend!  

I should clarify that my bad attitude was promptly adjusted once we made it out of the city and I realized that without skiing I would simply be relaxing all weekend (and enjoying some of the most amazing friends...I'm a lucky girl).

Other than the time I got to spend with my friends (and our epic chilli dinner - post coming soon), I think my favorite part was discovering the amazing food adventures that are to be had in the middle-of-nowhere Vermont.  I forgot how much I LOVE maple syrup shopping and finding local honey.  I am now working on a whole wheat pancake in a jar recipe (coming soon).  The best new foodie find was the Smokin' Bowls Soup Shack!  It is an amazingly gorgeous shack next to a highway (in-the-middle-of-nowhere) with the most delicious soups.

After scouring the menu, I really had no idea what to order.  I LOVE good healthy food, but also LOVE looking at my food before I order.  I am a texture, taste, smell person and I don't like everything (I'm a girl who knows what she likes) so this blind ordering was a bit scary.  I tried to ask questions before ordering like what is in the African Peanut and How is the curried squash soup made and much to my questions I was not getting clear answers.

One thing that sparked my interest was when the soup guys mentioned that the African Peanut was Vegan.  My first thought was it must be healthy followed by my second thought just veggies are not a meal.  Thank goodness healthy won out because this soup was AMAZING.  The depth of flavor was incredible and it left the most wonderful spicy peanuty after taste that I really couldn't get enough (we stopped at the soup shack twice and I ordered West African Peanut twice and a quart to take home...can you say obsessed).        

It was amazing to be so in love with a vegan dish, don't get me wrong I do like vegetables...but generally ALWAYS have a protein at every meal.  I have been curious about vegetarian diets for a while and love to consume research about food, so (while I am not ready to make a veg commitment) I am going to explore more vegetarian cooking (including this African Peanut Soup).  

Enjoy the photos of this gorgeous foodie adventure!   


Soup Shack (from the side)...it is truly just a shack on the side of the highway!
Delicious menu
Line (in the freezing cold)
Vegan African Peanut Stew (enjoyed in the car)

Friday, February 15, 2013

fitbit


Have you heard of fitbit? If yes, then you are way more in the know than I am.  Over thanksgiving my husband declared that we were going to get these little devices that you wear on your body and it tracks  your  activity level and sleep patterns.  I was pretty apprehensive about it, but felt since life is about changes I might as well give it a shot!

I have to tell you, we have been wearing these for 2+ months straight and have both lost weight!  We are focused on a healthy lifestyle and the fitbit is absolutely helping!  I have lost right around 10lbs (wich is a feat in itself as this was all done over the glutton filled holiday).

We track our food/calories daily (which is quite an eyeopening experience if you have never done this).  One of the funniest most eyeopening parts of tracking my food was seeing what my top foods posted were; prosecco, string cheese, chicken and whole wheat english muffins (hum...not such a balanced diet).  We also have the fitbit scale which tracks everything back to the app!  

I'll keep you posted on my progress, but its a really great little tool!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Le Creuset Christmas

I would like to start this post by saying that I have had this post sitting saved in my drafts.  Not sure why I didn't publish...I just didn't.  Before reading, please take your mind back to the holidays!

___
I have had a mild obsession with Le Creuset, I have spent countless hours researching, talking and generally swooning over these beautiful colorful pots.  I have been visiting the pans at lots of cooking stores and even made a trip to the outlet to "look". 

I was really surprised and elated when my husband stood up at Christmas and declared in front of his family that I could go and pick out whatever I wanted from the Le Creuset Store (the proposition was overwhelming).  What pieces do I need?  What food am I going to make?  Where am I going to store everything?  What color should I get.

After much thought, I decided I wanted an eclectic set of lots of complementary colors.  So far I have kept mostly in the blue family (with one yellow standout piece - my kitchen is yellow after all .

Over the New Year's, my dreams came true and I got my very first starter collection!  You will see these gems make multiple appearances on this blog, I will also be posting my best recipes on my Le Creuset pintrist board.  I should also note that I am in no way sponsored by Le Creuset, I really just love it that much!  I should note, I would be happy to be sponsored by Le Creuset (wink, wink).


Le Creuset 3 1/2 Qt. Round French Oven - Caribbean


Le Creuset 5 1/2 Qt. Round French Oven - Dijon

Le Creuset 10 1/4 Iron Skillet - Marsielle 


Le Creuset Panini Set - Caribbean


Le Creuset Two-in-One Pan - Indigo 



Le Creuset - Halo Tea Kettle - Marsielle


Le Creuset - Deluxe round trivet - Marsielle

Monday, February 11, 2013

Steak and Snow Peas | Homemade


I have a few confessions to start this post with.

  1. This is the first time I have ever made steak (yes first time...at 30 years old) 
  2. This dish was so delicious, that I was only able to get one decent photo (and I don't even think the photo is that great). 
  3. I got to use my Le Creuset Skillet 
  4. I will not go 30 years again without cooking steak 
  5. This was adapted from The Pioneer Women's Beef and Snow Peas  
  6. I use microwave brown rice.  When you are cooking for two, this is a really great option.  
  7. My husband gave this dish an 8 out of 10 (which is good on his ratings scale) 
With all that said, you should VERY much make this dish ASAP!  I will be making this again (and will try different vegetable variations and potentially mixed meats (Chicken and shrimp come to mind).  This is a great quick dinner that is packed full of protein and under 600 calories (including the rice).  Like I said you must make this ASAP!!! 

Ingredients (I made this recipe for two): 
  • 0.75 pound Flank Steak (fat trimmed and sliced thin) 
  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce 
  • 2 tbsp Sherry 
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp corn starch 
  • 1 tbsp frech ginger, grated on the microplane 
  • 1 cup fresh snow peas (washed with the ends chopped) 
  • 4 scallions, washed and chopped 
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp paprika 
  • 1 tbsp crushed red pepper 
  • Brown Rice 
Directions: 
  1. Trim the fat off the steak and slice thin (against the grain)
  2. In a bowl mix together soy sauce, sherry, brown sugar, corn starch and grated ginger.  
  3. Pour 1/3 liquid on sliced meat (reserve the other 2/3 of the liquid) 
  4. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat.  Add snow peas and scallions and cook for 1 to 2 minutes (cooked but still crunchy).  Once cooked, set aside 
  5. In the same skillet, cook meat 1 layer at a time (generally you will need to repete this step 2 to 3 times depending on the size of your skillet).  Once you put down your first layer of meat, let is sit until it starts to brown on one side and then flip over.  Once your first layer is cooked remove and set aside with the snow peas.  Repete until all meat is cooked 
  6. Add steak and snow peas back into the iron skillet and top with remaining sauce 
  7. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes (until everything is mixed and heated thoroughly
  8. Serve over brown rice and top with additional crushed red pepper  


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Artisan Bread | Sneak Peak

This is a quick sneak peak on a post I am working on for later this week, get excited...get very excited!


Chicken and Broccoli Mac & Cheese | Homemade in my Le Creuset


I have not posted on here about my epic christmas (one of the many blog posts that I have not hit publish on), but lets just say my Le Creuset obsession was realized.  Ever since then I have been really trying to use my new loves as much as possible.  


This is a healthy take on the most decedant Mac and Cheese.  I was inspired to make this based on the Fancy Mac and Cheese from Ree Drumond.  I thought it looked so good, but knew I would need to figure out a way to make this healthy (as always, healthy and delicious is my cooking mission).  Low and behold it can be done, and you won't feel guilty for eating mac and cheese!

This recipe is surprisingly simple, and you can really use any cheese you have on hand.  I have tried this recipe multiple times and its really best to use strong pungent cheeses as you can get lots of flavor from small amounts of cheese.  I choose the cheeses below because I had them on hand!


Ingredients:

  • 4 Servings of Whole Wheat Pasta 
  • 1 Cup Cooked Chicken, chopped (I had leftover chicken from a previous meal..if you don't have cooked chicken on hand, I would recommend using a medium to large chicken breast...season and put in a foil packet and cook at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes) 
  • 1 cup Broccoli, chopped (you can use as much or little as you want)
  • 2 to 3 green onions, chopped 
  • 2.5 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1.5 cups of skim milk 
  • 1 cup low fat mozzarella 
  • 1/2 cup swiss cheese
  • 2 oz goat cheese 
  • 0.5 cup fresh parmesan, grated 
  • Chives (for garnish) 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 425
  • Boil pasta (per package directions) 
  • In a skillet, cook your chopped broccoli and chives (medium heat for 5ish minutes...you will know its cooked when it starts to take on a bright green color) 
  • In your Cast Iron French Oven (I use this one) melt butter.  Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour (until the mixture is fully cooked and thickened.  Whisk in skim milk (aprox 2 minutes) until mixture starts to thicken.  Add cheese and continue to stir.  Add in salt and pepper to taste.  
  • Add pasta, broccoli, green onions and chicken to the sauce in the cast iron french oven (if you don't have one, you can always use any baking dish).
  • Place combined food into oven for 10 minutes (just until everything is hot and bubbly)   
  • Top with chives
  • Serve and enjoy!





Saturday, February 9, 2013

Vanilla Extract | Homemade Experiment


I am not a good blogger, I am just stating this and moving on.  I have no shortage of things to blog about...I just can't seem to hit publish.  With that said, hopefully I'll be more diligent about hitting publish these next few months (get ready for lots of good food posts to come...I have been cooking up a storm)!

With my love of pintrist, I have found a lot of new experiments in the kitchen.  I LOVE baking and once I saw a post about Homemade Vanilla Extract I knew I had to try it.  Its so simple; vodka, vanilla bean a gorgeous glass bottle and patience.  Today I finally made it to the store to pick up all the ingredients.

The good news is that I have 2+ months to design and create a gorgeous label, the bad news is I have to wait 2+ months for this experiment to take shape.  How am I ever going to wait 2+ months for this to take shape?   



Ingredients:

  • Glass jar with an airtight lid (I personally love these jars)  
  • Vanilla Beans (I purchased madasgar vanilla from my local bulk store) 
  • Vodka (from the photo you can see I choose Tito's) 
  • Patience (this takes 2+ months) 
Directions: 
  • Wash glass jar 
  • Slice vanilla beans in half and then down the side (you want to make sure the vanilla is exposed to the vodka and not trappe din the bean)
  • Place vanilla beans in jar (I used two beans per 8oz jar) 
  • Add vodka (make sure the beans are fully covered)
  • And wait 
I will post updates about the progress, and keep you posted on any tips/tricks I find!  I can't wait to start using this instead of store bought vanilla!