Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Give Quinoa a Chance!

The first 3 challenges of cooking with quinoa is figuring out how to say it, how to spell it, then where to find it in the grocery store.  It took me a while to complete these three steps, but once I did, it was easy to prepare and well worth the trouble!

You pronounce this grain-like seed as /keenn-wa/.  It can be an excellent choice if you are getting tired of rice and pasta.  It contains a lot of essential protein, has a light, nutty flavor, and is gluten free if you are sensitive to that sort of thing.  Overall, I was impressed with its compatibility with a few different flavors I tried in this dish.

Quinoa with pesto, salad, and fresh bread

This dish hardly needs a recipe.  Basically, I cooked the quinoa according to the box, topped it with homemade pesto (see pesto recipe in previous entries), and accompanied it with a fresh salad with veggies and goat cheese.  I tend to mush all my foods together when I eat, so I tried the quinoa with pesto only, with tomatoes and mushrooms, with lettuce and goat cheese...the possibilities were endless.  And the taste was always fantastic.  I hope to try other quinoa pairings as I become more familiar with this seed-like grain.

Oh, and you can find this elusive product in the international or organic section of your grocery store! 

Combine with 30 minutes of lap swimming and 10-20 minutes of abdominal exercises.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Waste No More!

Have you ever excitedly bought fresh bread, only to find it has become hard as a rock before you had a chance to finish it?  This often happens when I buy baguettes at the store.  I try to keep them sealed in a bag and cool in the fridge, but no matter what, it turns stale in at least 2 days.  That's what you get with no preservatives, I guess!  But I don't get too discouraged because I know there are STILL dishes you can prepare with stale bread.  You can crush it up in a food processor and save it for breadcrumbs.  Or, you can whip up some fantastic French toast.  This option is my personal favorite.

The staleness of the bread gives the French toast a nice stiffness (not soggy) and makes it easier to handle on the griddle.

 I personally like to add vanilla, cinnamon, and almond extract to my egg mixture, drizzle the warm toast with vanilla yogurt and light syrup, then top off with fresh fruit.  I promise you will be so glad you did not trash that bread!

Combine with a brisk walk or run for 20 minutes followed by 10 minutes of strength exercises using your own body weight or dumbbells.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Eat Fresh While You Can

This morning we were out of both cereal AND milk...what a tragedy!  So I used yogurt, fresh fruit, and whole grain bread to get our morning started.  Cereal is easier, but this plate makes you feel like you are back in a French cafe.

PS: I treated myself to real butter with cinnamon sugar and it was SO worth it

Combine with a 45 min Spin class...if you have never tried Spinning, now is the time!

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

This was Mr. PT's chant of approval for this yummy dish of BBQ chicken alongside a fresh, green salad.  I receive daily recipes in my email through, and this one caught my eye because it had basic ingredients with very few steps.  Mr. PT and I are still in the process of owning a grill so I had to use my broiler.  But the end result was the same: delicious, moist chicken with a sweet glaze on top.  The salad was my own, straight forward creation.  Greens and veggies with an oil/vinegar dressing. 

You will need:
-3 tbs brown sugar
-2 tbs chopped onion
-2 tbs mustard (I used french mustard)
-1/4 tsp celery seed or powder
-1/8 tsp garlic powder
-8 chicken thighs
-1/2 tsp paprika
-1/4 tsp turmeric
-1/4 tsp salt
-your favorite BBQ seasoning if you have it!

Combine sugar, onion, mustard, celery seed, and garlic powder in a small pot over medium-high heat.  Boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat.  Rub spices over chicken.  Grill until chicken is cooked throughout.  Brush with sauce the last 5 minutes of grilling.  If broiling, broil 5-6 inches from the heat for 28-32 minutes, turning once.

Combine with 30-40 minutes of swimming laps, sprinting the last 2 laps.  If leisure swimming with friends, family or kids, stay moving for 40 solid minutes and race someone across the pool!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Eggplant-Zucchini Sandwich...With flavor!

Have you ever been conned into eating a vegetarian sandwich...maybe at your last conference or business meeting?  Did you choose the vegetarian option to be healthy, but ended up being completely appalled at the sloppy, soggy combination of cold, mushy vegetables slapped between two pieces of bread?

It has happened to me countless times.  So when I first read this recipe for a sandwich with zucchini and eggplant, I was a bit skeptical.  However, since it contained red peppers, mozzarella cheese, and had the fancy name of "Grilled Vegetable and Mozzarella Panini," I figured I would give it a shot.

I can honestly tell you that this will be the most delicious veggie sandwich you will ever munch!  Mr. PT and I had them for dinner two nights in a row, they were so yummy!  Roasting the veggies with a coating of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and your favorite spices brings out the hearty goodness these vegetables usually keep hidden.  Securing them between two pieces of crunchy ciabatta and melty cheese makes them irresistable.  If you are a veggie person (even if you are not!) this is a sandwich you MUST try. 

 The picture does not do the "Grilled Vegetable and Mozzarella Panini" justice!

You will need:
-2 tbs balsamic vinegar
-1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/8 tsp black pepper
-vegetable oil cooking spray
-1 medium eggplant, cut lengthwise into 8 slices
-1 medium zucchini, cut into 8 slices
-1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and quartered
-8 slices ciabatta
-1 cup shredded mozzarella
-8 large fresh basil leaves

Whisk vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray, place vegetables in one layer on a sheet.  Brush both sides of veggies with oil mixture, spray all veggies with cooking spray.  Place under broiler for 7-8 minutes, turning once and coating with more spray.  Lightly brush ciabatta with remaining vinegar mixture, pile veggies, cheese and basil on each slice.  Close sandwiches.  Spray with cooking spray and cook on a nonstick skillet (press down on sandwiches with another skillet to flatten).  Cook 4 minutes, flipping once. Serves 4.

The second night of eating these, I added goat cheese and mushrooms.  They made it even better!  Go ahead and use your favorite cheese and more veggies if you are feeling adventurous!

*Combine with 1 hour of exploring your neighborhood or community pathways on bike, challenging yourself to some hills and/or 1 minute sprint throughout!

*I am going to start "combining" my recipes with the exercise Mr. PT and I did that day.  That way readers can get some new ideas for eating and staying active!

Monday, July 18, 2011

From Farm to Table

Or in my case, from pot to table!

Why pay for fresh herbs when you and mother nature can grow them for FREE on your own?  This spring, I planted some basil seeds in a big pot, watered them meticulously, gave them as much sun as I could, and crossed my fingers.  With a little help from the rain and my green-thumbed sister who babysat the plants while I was away, I came home from Europe with a big pot of...


Being able to walk outside, pluck a few leaves and add them to my daily recipes has been so enjoyable.  I love the way my hands smell after harvesting.  And to my surprise, the more you take from this plant, the more it gives in return!  It's almost as if it appreciates the daily grooming.  Anyway, here are some dishes I jazzed up with my fresh basil plant. 

 Fried eggs on toast (teggs) with basil

 Veggie stir-fry with basil leaves

 Grilled cheese with fresh basil

Fresh basil pesto with mozzarella cheese and salsa

I somewhat made up this pesto recipe on the fly, but you could follow most basic pesto recipes.  Pine nuts are pricey, so I use walnuts instead!

You will need...
-2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
-2 cloves garlic
-1/4 cup pine nuts
-2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
-Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
-1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino (or Parmesan) cheese

Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese (or add the cheese with the other ingredients in the food processor).

If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw and stir in cheese.

Tomato-basil bruschetta on baguette

For this simple dish, just chop tomatoes and basil and mix with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a touch of salt and pepper.  Top on a toasted baguette with melted or fresh mozzarella.  

I now have fresh dill and parsley growing and I cannot wait to add those to some more dishes.  It's not too late to get your pot started!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Welcome Home!

And we're back!  Mr. PT and I successfully made it through western Europe, admiring ancient monuments, enjoying Mediterranean beaches, and, of course, eating some fantastic food.  I apologize for not being able to post as we were traveling.  Computers were hard to come by and buying time on the internet can get expensive!  But I can sum up the European way of eating in a few words: fresh and slow.  I truly believe these simple concepts are the secret to making their food so gosh darn irresistible.  The fruits and vegetables taste like they came from the garden next door, the bread is made the morning you buy it, and organic meat is the only option!

It appeared that Europeans did not rush with their food.  Sitting down at a cafe with a good cup of coffee and a pastry can take an hour.  A full meal could keep you occupied all night!  It seemed to me that the people really enjoyed and savored their food and used their flavorful dishes as a reason to spend time with family and close friends.  Sometimes, I feel that we Americans rush around so much and eat so quickly that we lose touch with the wonderful flavors, colors, and textures of freshly made dishes.  I am hoping to incorporate these two aspects of European food culture into my kitchen.

Being on a budget, Mr. PT and I did not formally dine every day, and I'll admit, I failed to take pictures of some of our more amazing meals.  But hopefully I can give you a good idea of the important role food had in our trip across the big pond. 

We spent a lot of our euros in bakeries, cafes, and fromageries (cheese shops).  We also utilized the local supermarkets for picnics and snacks.  I warn you, you will see a lot of foods that normally would not fall in the category of "exceptionally healthy."  However, life is to be enjoyed, and if you eat these wonderful flavors in moderation, I say go for it!    

A breakfast of cappuccino, espresso, and croissant with butter and jam

 Breakfast of fresh rolls with butter and raspberries, streusel, and coffee
*this streusel looks rich, but in fact, it was not overly sweet...a little sugar and fat goes a long way! 

Breakfast of fresh croissants, pain au chocolate (croissant with chocolate filling) and yogurt

 Mr. PT loved these!  Fresh milk bread filled with a custard (again, not overly sweet) and chocolate

This breakfast was actually rather disappointing...why?  Because none of these food items were fresh, they were all pre-packaged and processed.  Even the coffee came from a machine.  We felt kind of gross after this breakfast, which reminded us that fresh is always the better option.

 A lunch of baguette, cheese, and apples
*I wish I could figure out the mystery of the French baguette...perfectly crispy on the outside but light and fluffy on the inside, how do they do it??

 Lunch in the train station of baguette sandwiches (ham, cheese, butter) and espresso

 Picnic lunch in Strasbourg, France with baguettes and 4 types of cheeses (munster, goat, manchego, brie) accompanied with red wine

 We were welcomed to Germany with a lunch of sausage salad! Basically, pickled and sliced bologna with relish...I'm glad I tried it but I didn't feel the need to order this dish again!

 Mr. PT had a classic lunch of red sausage with mustard...yum!

 Lunch in Italy! An Italian pizza with a creamy mozzarella cheese topping...simple but delicious

 While hiking in Cinque Terre, Italy, we were bombarded by lemon trees!

 My favorite lunch of the entire trip...focacia pizza with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and pesto. Heaven.

 A lunch/mid-afternoon snack in Florence, Italy of veggie focacia and cafe au for Mr. PT

 We were welcomed back to Paris with a croque madam for lunch (toast filled with cheese and ham, topped with an egg)...this is a fantastic French dish I will be replicating!

Glenn got an omelet fromage (cheese omelet) with a salad topped with french mustard dressing...this was a little rich but still so yummy, especially after a long night spent on a train!

 A German snack of streusel and pretzels

 Enjoying a beer garden, looking down at the city of Freiburg, Germany with its beautiful vineyards

 One of many nutella and banana crepes!

Even the pigeons eat well!

 A German bread bowl with potato butter...I need to find a recipe for that one!

 Mr. PT's German dinner of white sausage and potato dumpling...he was not running a marathon after this meal!

 My German dinner of potato cakes topped with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and mushrooms...these were heavy meals that we did not eat often, but when we did, we enjoyed them!

 The German's version of a salad with fries, accompanied with 3 types of dipping sauces! Perfect dish for splitting!

 Dinner in our hotel in Colmar, France of cheese, bread, cherries and sausage...and red wine of course!  This was a great way to save our euros but still enjoy the local food!

 The Italian version of beer munchies...fresh olives, peanuts, and a plate of focacia topped with tomatoes, mozzarella, pesto, and thinly sliced sausage...this turned into dinner!

 Again, we think we're just ordering beers but are surprised with a sampling of local foods in Levanto, Italy!

 This might have been our favorite dinner.  We found a family owned restaurant in Florence, Italy that served simple, yet incredibly flavorful dishes accompanied with a carafe of no-named red wine.  Pesto pasta and fresh bruschetta...yum.

 An Italian dessert of lemon sorbet...served inside a lemon!

Those Italians have dinners down pat...pasta with red sauce and salad greens with avocado, pesto, cheese and pine nuts. Just perfect.

Hope you enjoyed this sampling of our culinary escapades in Europe.  Like I said, I was inspired by the European's perspective of eating, and will try to incorporate the French, German, and Italian ways of eating into my kitchen!  I'm sure Mr. PT won't complain. ;)