Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Carrot Soup with a Kick

I recently decided to re-vamp my carrot soup recipe to use up some schtuff that's been hanging around my fridge and freezer.  I was really pleased with how it turned out, especially considering the limited pantry that was available (I hadn't been grocery shopping in a while).

I used baby carrots that I'd frozen for this, but I think the flavor would be brighter if they'd been fresh.  Vegetarians can swap out the chicken stock for vegetable. This recipe made enough soup for about 4 servings which was perfect because eating the same soup for an entire week, every single meal, can get a tad boring.

What You Need:

2 large onions, chopped
1 Tb butter + 1 Tbs olive oil
1/2 bag baby carrots
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 cups white wine
3 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp oregano

What to Do:

Fry the onions in olive oil and butter until they are translucent (don't fry them till they're brown because they won't puree well). Add the carrots (frozen or fresh) and the rest of the ingredients and cook down over medium high heat for 40 minutes - or until the carrots are soft.  Let this cool for about 20 minutes and then puree in a blender.  I like my soup really smooth so I puree it for a while - you can add more stock if you want to thin it out, too.  You might need to adjust the spices, but the wine gives this soup a great depth of flavor and the butter adds enough richness for you to make it seem like you spent hours making it ;)

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Perfect Pesto Pizza

Making pizza is one of those things that never gets tiring.  There are so many combinations I couldn't possible write down every one I experiment with.  But when I find one that really works - it's worth (yet another) pizza post.

I got it in my mind to make pesto pizza when I was doing a little cleaning of the freezer and noticed a container I had frozen from the last time I went to Costco.  Side note: freeze pesto with a layer of olive oil over the top and it'll be fine for months.

To really take this over-the-top I decided to make my own pseudo-sundried tomatoes.  They actually turned out phenomenal! Just halve some sweet cherry or grape tomatoes and place them, seed side up, on a baking sheet.  Bake at 300 degrees for about 40 minutes.  The juices will evaporate and the sugars concentrate leaving behind a wonderful snack - or pizza topping.

After pre-baking your crust, cut some thick slices of mozzarella.  


Slather the bread with pesto and arrange the cheese over it - then the tomatoes.  

Since the dough is already cooked, I just turned on the broiler and broiled the pizza until the cheese was just melted.  That only took about 10 minutes - super simple but the flavors melded together for the perfect treat to end a rough week.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

German Apple Cake

When I visited Atlanta I knew I couldn't arrive empty-handed - especially after I found out it was Weston's grandmother's birthday.  I decided to re-vamp my pound cake recipe to include apples, which I know she really likes.  The result was a denser cake (I didn't use as many eggs or as much fat) with a tasty filling.  I call it German Apple Cake because Weston's grandfather said it reminded him of the cake he had while their family lived in Germany years ago.

What You Need:

1 1/2 stick butter
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 vanilla
1/4 baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup yogurt
4 eggs

4 apples, peeled and sliced thin
3 Tbs brown sugar
spritz of lemon juice
pinch of salt

What You Do:

In a saucepan mix the second set of ingredients and cook down until the apples are soft. 

In a mixing bowl cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla.

Add the eggs, one at a time. Then the yogurt.

Add the dry ingredients and stir just to combine.

Layer 1/3 of the mixture into a greased bundt pan, then arrange the apples over that.  Save 10 or 12 slices to make the top pretty.

Smooth the rest of the batter over the apples and arrange the top with the reserved apples.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Food Finds

As promised - here are a couple foodie items y'all might enjoy:

Whole Foods:

SMOKED Seaside Cheddar.  Yes.  I said it.  They found a way to make Seaside Cheddar even better (haha, that rhymes).  I think this might be available at many Whole Foods locations since I know the regular Seaside is also in Ann Arbor.  This cheese is sharp, creamy, and not overly pungent.  Lucky for me, the cheese monger at WF is super nice and always cuts the cheese pieces to the exact size I want.


I've been wanting to try this for a while - but held off because I wanted to get the nutrition facts first.  Stevia is a plant-based, no-calories sweetener.  It IS quite sweet and even though I bought the little packets, I think 1/2 of one will be enough for my coffee.  BTW: I highly suggest trying a little vanilla almond milk in your coffee instead of store-bought creamers.  The milk plus the Stevia gives the perfect combo of creaminess and sweetness - without any guilt :)

Trader Joe's

Cookie Butter

Have you heard of this thing? I tasted it and was shocked that it wasn't a flavored peanut butter: it has the same consistency and is kind of like spreadable gingerbread cookie dough (but not as strong).  I had to get some even though it is not the most healthy thing in my pantry.  Sometimes you need a little junk food in your life.

TJ's Salsa
This salsa is delicious and a wonderful substitute for the big-name brand salsas you pick up in the chip aisle of the grocery store.  It's also cheaper which is kind of shocking...

Cuban Style Black Beans
Weston says these are great to have on hand, although I have yet to use mine.  They, too, are a lot cheaper than black beans in the grocery story.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Trip to the ATL

Last week we were lucky enough to have a little break before starting classes again.  Yeah, I know: one week.  Hey, I'll take what I can get.

Weston and I wanted to spend a little quality time with his grandparents, aunt, and uncle before heading off to Michigan (where I surprised my mom for Mother's Day).  I had to include a little picture of my daily breakfast - how cute is that?  Weston's grandmom is the sweetest lady ever  - she's the perfect Southern hostess :)

One of the days we travelled into the city and got to experience some of the more touristy attractions.  Well, one attraction: the Coca Cola Factory.  It was a little over-the-top in terms of advertising goes - I was expecting more history and less "GO GET A COKE NOW." For $16 a person, I would hope for more quality exhibits.  But it was fun anyway - I liked the tasting part and the gift shop had a lot of cool retro posters and things.

We also went to Weston's would-be alma mater: Emory (he transferred to Michigan where he met MOI after his freshman year).  A quaint place, I must say.  Much smaller than UM.  I tried to not make comparisons and just enjoy the campus and it's charm.  A lot of things had changed since Weston went there, he said, but it was nice learning about a part of him from the pre-Sheston era.

Lunch was at Doc Chey's - a noodle joint a little bit outside of the heart of campus.  It was nummy nummy!!! We started with fried spring rolls - not greasy and the dipping sauce was nice and spicy.

I got the Pad Thai which Weston felt was different than what we're used to.  I personally think Pad Thai is one of those dishes that each restaurant puts it's own spin on.  I liked this one: served with lime and full of chunks of chicken, scallions, and eggs.  I almost never see the egg so that was a nice touch - as were the bean sprouts.  My only concern was that the noodles didn't seem super fresh.  I have a feeling they use the same noodles for all their dishes so they make them ahead of time.

Weston got the same dish he used to get 4 years ago: the black bean noodles.  They were really good - quite spicy actually.  But the sauce was flavorful and the veggies were fresh.  In terms of portions - both were generous.  I can see why he loved this place so much - and I want to re-visit!

Since classes have started again I've been cooking up a storm - look for new recipes later this week.  I also want to share a couple awesome finds from a recent grocery shopping trip ;)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Finding Home

Today I don't have a foodie post for you - partially because I haven't been doing much "intense" cooking and partially because I've been in Ann Arbor eating at my favorite restaurants.

Some of the highlights for the Ann Arborites:
    Sadako for sushi (including the best eel rolls I've ever had)
    Shalimar for Murgh Makhini with garlic naan (also some of the best I've ever had)
    Bubble Island (I recommend a good fusion tea with mango juice and lycee jellies)
    Dom Bakeries (a little ways out but open 24 hours and they made the best doughnuts in town)
    Pizza House (FETA STICKS!!!)

This impromptu trip to Michigan was part of a plan to surprise my mama for Mother's Day which went over quite well considering my family has a hard time keeping secrets.

I spent a few days in Atlanta, Georgia before driving up and I had fried green tomatoes for the first time in my life.  I surprised myself by actually enjoying them - even though they were deep fried and I can't handle a lot of that.  Not sure they'll be a must-have but it was something different.

I've been trying really hard NOT to eat like there's no tomorrow.  Just enough to be almost full and to wait before going back for seconds.  I think it's going pretty well, although I am excited to get back to the gym every day.  Bittersweet excitement though because that means leaving everyone I love in Michigan.  As much as I love Richmond, I truly feel like I've left a piece of myself in A2.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Fast Is Over!

The post fast, that is.

I am happy to announce, dear readers that Hell Week - or shall I say WEEKS - is/are over.  I can now get back to some regular blogging...

Imagine my surprise when I got on Blogger to write this and low and behold the whole dang thing has changed!  The formatting is all wackadoo. It's cleaner - which I like.  But the picture uploading options are different and I'm not used to the new button locations.  It took me a good 30 seconds to figure out how to add a new post.  True story.

I thought it might be nice to start off with a little idea of what I've been subsisting on these last few days.  I know full well exams usually mean eating habits go out the window.  Students stay up late meaning they get hungry late.  And they're usually hungry for comfort food: chocolate, pizza, soda.  Not a good thing, people.  I knew that I wouldn't have enough time to hit the gym every day so I made sure I ate healthy.

I whipped up a huge batch of fajita toppings and fillings the weeks before everything hit so I could eat it throughout the week.  A friend from class also brought me a ton of fresh mint which I used to make turkey burgers.  More on that later.

Here's the recipe for the fajitas: very easy and very quick.  I will say that they were elevated to another level of awesome with this ingredient. I first heard about harissa over on Stephanie's blog and knew I had to try it.  On my last trip to Whole Foods, one of the Cava Mezze reps was actually there and I got to try it.  Man is it good.  The flavor is crazy good - it's spicy and got a great tomato texture.  I wanted to try some of their other dips but there were a lot of people around and I didn't want to monopolize the rep's time. One of the main ones I want to be sure to check out is the feta spread because you know I love me some good salty, creamy feta.

What You Need:

1 pound of any meat - I used flank steak
1 red onion, chopped into large pieces
1 bell pepper

1 bunch cilantro, chopped
baby tomatoes sliced in half
pepper jack cheese

sour cream

What You Do:

Cook the meat off with your choice of spices: I used paprika, chili powder, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Set aside.

Fry the bell pepper and the red onion in a little oil then set that aside as well.

Fry your tortilla, pile on the toppings and dinner is served!

Simple, right?  Toldya :)