Chicken Pesto and Sun -dried tomato Panini

Monday, April 26, 2010

When basil is fresh, I use it in spades. And while my basil garden is not in bloom yet, the weather makes me think it should be, so I buy it at the store...every week. This week I had a pair of chicken breasts begging to be used. I combined them for this recipe.

Everyone kind of had a different panini tonight. Cassie hates pesto and sun dried tomatoes (big surprise), mom and I don't care for cheese, so I was a short order cook tonight. You can really add whatever you want on here, but here was mine: two pieces of sourdough bread, brushed with olive oil and placed on a grill. One side slathered with dijon mustard, the other with homemade pesto (see recipe below.) Place julienne cut, drained sun-dried tomatoes and some sliced perfectly bbq'd chicken on one side. Let each piece of bread grill for a couple minutes, place one slice on top of the other, and press down until the insides are hot and marry (hmmm...). If you wish, you could add some shredded cheese to this concoction, but you run the risk of being a cheese whore, so decide at your own risk. I served this with grilled asparagus and a salad.

Homemade cheeseless pesto
You may or may not know that traditional pesto is made with cheese. It's easy, healthy and tasty to omit it.

Makes about 1/2 cup

2 bunches basil
3 cloves garlic
1 lemon, squeezed
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts (toast these in a skillet until the oils are released and are slightly brown)
salt and pepper to taste

Throw all ingredients into a Vitamix or food processor. Add more oil or lemon juice if the consistency isn't to your liking. You can keep leftover pesto in the fridge and use it on pasta, pizza, pita bread, etc.

Chili and cornbread

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Just a quick post. I made this meal one rainy day...last week...I think.
The chili is pretty much the same ole same ole- few cans of beans, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, spices, onion, garlic and carrot. Usually I use soyrizo for my meat, but I didn't want that added spice, so I roasted some chicken breasts in the oven with olive oil, pepper and salt, the night before, shredded them and added them to the chili- it was a hit. I highly recommend stocking up on whole chickens, chicken breasts, chicken legs, chicken thighs, etc. when the packs go on sale. I got an organic, free range, hormone free whole chicken for $0.99 per lb last week and stuck it in the freezer. You never know when it will come in handy for chili...

Here's the cornbread. I made a double batch and cubed half of it and turned it into croutons for a recipe you'll see later this week. Oh and make sure to put honey on it- how can you not?!

You'll need:
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup natural sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1 cup non fat milk
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tablespoon canola oil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease a 9 inch cast iron skillet- or any other baking dish.
In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg, milk and applesauce and oil until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden.

Run: April 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

I did it. I ran a half marathon. And honestly, I am sad. I cannot believe it's over. After 12 weeks of training, months of wondering if I could do it days of anticipation, I have nothing to show for those 2.5 hours but some buffer leg muscles, a bib number and a silly picture with my bad ass running partner, Nicole. Everyone asks how the race went and I appreciate the question, but am usually unsure how to put it into words. First, I was so prepared for this race and I felt it most of the time. In hindsight, that tells me I could have pushed myself harder during some of the race, but the first one is always the cautious one, I suppose.
We anticipated a morning of rain and I woke up at 6 am, dressed in a long sleeve shirt. However, our 7 am start time brought nothing put dry skies and a cool temperature. Nicole's coffee kick supplied her with ample energy and smiles, which I was grateful for, but unable to reciprocate- I was too nervous. Should I drink water at every aide station? What about sports drink? What if the hills were too much? I wonder if I'll get bored. What if I hit that wall at mile 7? And oh my gosh, the hills- they were my never ending fear.
But we were off and I had no more time to think about those things. If nothing else, I know the sheer joy of running IN portland, ON the streets I've bussed down, walked on, driven in and got lost on, would keep me occupied. Nicole and I reached a natural ease pretty early on, but I began to feel my calf muscles burn around miles 3 or 4- when the first real hill appeared. I am thankful I did some hill runs on the treadmill over the past few weeks because "no hill" Lincoln is less than unhelpful in that department. Somewhere in here is when we saw a guy looping around and passing is because yes, he was finishing the race. I cannot even say that I was jealous or disheartened because 1. good for him and 2. that was not my goal, never will be and I had nothing to be upset about. We reached the top of the hill, grabbed some water and down we went. At this point, I felt strong because I knew a hill was behind us. Miles 4-8 are kind of a blur to me. Nicole and I talked so much, sharing stories, answering silly questions, reflecting on life, I am unsure where the time went. For me, this was a moment I thought, I am a runner. I am talking with a friend, trotting along, unaware that I am completing a half marathon. I remember stopping at every aide station- reminding myself to stop and drink the water so I didn't choke. I remember passing some of my favorite bits of Portland at this point- Pioneer Square, The Pearl District, etc. At mile 9, I reminded myself that was the longest good run I'd ever had in training. At this point, I didn't enjoy stopping at aide stations because I could feel my legs getting weaker and my knees feeling...raw...I guess that's the right word- the same feeling you get in your throat after running too hard for too long. Around mile 10- I think- the route took us back to the start area. "Sexy Back" was playing on the speakers and I needed a little mental push at this point because oh man, mile 11 was LONG! I know, it's the same freakin distance as all the others, except not. Along the way, miles were marked on large yellow signs and every sign I saw I thought, "that must be mile 12!" But it never was. (This is also the mile we could smell Elephant Ears from Saturday market- no these are not the real ears of endangered species, calm down.) Mile 11 eventually came to an end, but we were far from done because mile 12 was THE mile. The, "kick me in the ass, why do I think this is a good idea, kill me now" mile. The reality of being done was so close, I felt I could grab it with my bare hands until...the hill. The hill up to the Steel Bridge was by far the hardest part. I even told Nicole, don't let me forget how difficult this was. I was hunched over, could hear my breathing and felt like I was about to keel over and crawl. I didn't think it would ever end. Other racers around us were walking up the hill, looking out of breath. How were we running this?! Ironically, "I Will Survive" comes on and I don't think there could have been a more perfect song. Nicole starts singing and her energy while running is contagious, so I sang too. Two more light posts til the more light post...done. I think we had around a quarter of a mile to go, and somewhere between that recognition and the finish line, the cheers got louder and I turned to Nicole and said, "ready?" and just ran. I am sure I wasn't running that fast- no gold medal in my future, but I felt like I was sprinting. I didn't even feel my legs- they were not a part of me and I was not focused on that. I was unsure how I would emotionally feel at the finish line. In my first race on Thanksgiving, I cried at the end, but all I felt at the end of the half was accomplished. I was grateful for my body, for my friend, for the city and for a beautiful day.
I was completely sore after and my knees felt like they were melting away. But I ate some oranges, the most delicious coffee cake and took photos with Nicole. When I went home to shower, I blasted the cold water to help my crying muscles. My feet were swollen and my toes were sore. The feelings dissipated as the day want on and I woke up today feeling amazing- like I had barely run 3 miles.
Overall, I am happy with how I did and count this as a memory I will work to never forget, but I am really antsy to work on improving my times.
I think it's safe to say there are more half marathons in my future.

A Taste of Portland

I could write a book on all the reasons you (yes, you) should visit Portland. But, this is not a book, so I will give you one: THE FOOD.
I am sorry to say I did not photograph all the food I ate on my trip to P-town, but I will highlight a couple and tell you about the rest.
I went to two places I had never been to. I loved them both.
Dinner at Milo's was fun and delicious. On NE Broadway, it has that chill/chic Portland vibe and great food. I had the roasted portabello mushrooms layered with caramelized onions & roma tomatoes, served with fresh vegetables, Santa Fe chili beurre blanc and roasted red potatoes. (I thought it wise to start my weekend with veggies.)
Saturday morning I had a "so glad I'm not vegan just for this breakfast" breakfast at Cup and Saucer. The pesto sun-dried tomato omelet had the most creamy, delicious pesto I've ever eaten. But, that could not top the basket of scones and homemade jam we shared. I should have pilfered the left over.
Although I enjoyed a quick salad at the vegan deli (I loved this place before I was vegan) near my old house in SE, the memory of cajun tots at Ram's Head, and the charm of Rose's on Sunday night, nothing could top these two...

Dessert at Papa Haydn's was a staple during my college years. It was a way for us to get off campus and feel like real grown ups who didn't have more than $10 to their names, 5 papers due and a stomach ache from whatever fish look alike The Commons served that night. The Marjolaine (one of my favs) is chocolate mousse and hazelnut-praline cream piped between layers of toasted hazelnut meringue. Topped with crÃme fraiche and French vanilla-chocolate. If you ever go to Portland- this is a must stop.

After the race Sunday, we went to Stepping Stone- a funky local breakfast stop with crazy decor and sassy sayings posted on the walls and the motto: You eat here because we let you- my kinda place. Despite the overwhelmingly good menu, I stuck with an old standby- banana nut bread french toast Oh yeah.

If you ever want restaurant recommendations for Portland, I promise almost no place is disappointing, but I would be happy to lend the advice of my palette.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

This is not really brownie pie, but can you imagine? Note to self: create a brownie pie. I'm sending brownies to a dearest friend for her birthday. She is somewhat of a brownie connoisseur. And by that I mean she knows how to enjoy a good packaged box of brownies.
I made these at work today, but all the pans in this kitchen are on steroids. The cupcake pans are obscene and the cake pan was too big for my politely portioned brownie batter.
Regardless, in a pie slice shape or in a square, or an awkwardly shaped rectangle thing; the result of cutting brownie pie pieces, the recipe is great- rich, moist and chocolately. Happy birthday, Maddie.

Maddie is on the right, fyi.

1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup raw sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup dark chocolate, in pieces (I do this for a variety of texture)
You can add nuts, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8 inch square pan... or a round cake pan.
Put melted butter in a bowl and stir in sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Beat in cocoa, flour, salt, and baking powder. Mix in chocolates. Spread batter into prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. The brownies should be soft- they will cook more while cooling and you do not want crunchy brownies...or maybe you do

Quiche 1 Quiche 2

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Quiche 1 Quiche 2 makes me think of Thing 1 and Thing 2 in Cat in the Head Ya with me on that?

Ah, quiche. What a lovely meal! I've made vegan quiche, but I wanted to make a low fat non vegan quiche and it was a success. Every crust recipe called for butter and I refused to go there. I finally thought to look on Cooking Light's website and found this excellent crust. It's crispy and "buttery" without butter. You can really fill these quiches with whatever veggies are in your veggie drawer, crying to be used. In any case, make sure to cook you veggies first: it will keep the quiche's water content low and make it cook faster. I made one red pepper quiche and once I used half of the veggies, I added some spinach and made a spinach and red pepper quiche.

The crust recipe makes two crusts, so if you want to cut the recipe in half, you'll need to do it for both items. Serve this with a salad of greens, cucumber, grapes and pecans for dinner, eat it with ketchup for breakfast, or throw a little salsa on it for a sweet little lunch.

4 eggs
1 cup egg beaters
1/2 cup fat free half and half
1/2 cup fat free milk
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. dill
1 large red pepper
1/2 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
2 cups spinach
olive oil, for cooking

Prepare crust and set in pie plate. Set oven to 350.

Heat a skillet with some olive oil. Chop red peppers and onion and add to pan. Cook until translucent, getting soft. Chop garlic and add. In the meantime, whisk eggs in a large bowl. Add egg beaters and whisk. Then, add dairy products and whisk. Add the seasonings and whisk...again. Add half of the egg mixture to one quiche pie plate. Take half of the red pepper mix (mushrooms would be good in this too.) and stir into the pie plate filled with egg.
Next, saute the spinach in the reserved red pepper and onion mix. While the spinach cooks down, add the rest of the egg mix to the other pie plate. When the spinach wilts, add the mix to the second pie plate and stir.
Place the quiches in the even and cook for 30-35 minutes. Make sure the center is fully cooked.

Run: March 2010

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I should be in bed, but this Lemon Meringue Tart is taking forever- I so did not prepare for it. Nevertheless, A dessert for Easter calls and Lemon tarts must be made.
I've exhausted facebook and run out of people to cyberstalk, so I decide that despite the hour, I need to get down to what I said I would do three days again- blog about my March race.

Reminder- I am running a race a month this year. (The idea inspired by a bad ass friend who is running a half marathon a month! I know, tell me about it.) Anyway, March's race was a 10k in Seattle's Seward Park, which I mispronounce constantly, but I'm back in Cali now, so who's to correct me?
The week before my runs were sloppy, decent, at best, so I was more than nervous about how I would do in this race. Nevertheless, I knew having a friend there to support me and being in a new city would boost my adrenaline- I had no idea how much.
Seward Park is gorgeous- cold, but gorgeous. Surrounding a lake, the park holds breathtaking views of trees, boats and the Seattle skyline. I began the race freezing, with Nicole M. supporting me and a great song on my ipod. I was off. I felt strong right away, but eased into the run. The course would take me around the lake twice and back a third time, about a 1/4 of mile, before I would turn around and cross the start/finish line. There were only about 300 people in the race and I loved the intimate feel.
As I jogged, I reminded myself to take in the view; I was lucky to be in Seattle and lucky to have a body that would let me run (our bodies aren't designed for this, I am reminded.)
Towards the end of "lap 1" I passed a woman who stayed close to me the whole way. As I approached "lap 2", I felt light and fast, so I picked up the speed. I stayed steady, careful that I wasn't running out of breath. I didn't feel a need for water, as I sometimes do, but the intermittent rain must have helped. My only concern was a tightening in my calf muscle, but I tried to ignore it. I know I am having a good run when my thoughts wonder from this to that without any worry for the time and space I am in- that's exactly what happened. My mind was carrying on, unaware that "lap 2" was almost over- I knew I only had a mile or so to go. At this point, runners who were small dots on the course for the first few miles started coming closer into view and I felt myself upon them. I pushed it and passed two runners. Then, I was on a third who could feel me near her. SHE started running faster, but my type A, virgo personality kicked in and I ran faster. Soon, I passed her. At this point I knew I only had about 1/2 mile to go. Some runners had reached the turn about and ran toward the finish line- I said, "good morning", "good job", and "you're almost there" as they passed. I felt more encouraged by doing this and ran faster still. Soon, I was at the turn about and I pushed- as hard as I could. I knew I would hurt and knew I would be gasping for breath- I didn't care. A couple minutes later, I crossed the finish line: 1 hr and 1 minute. That's 9 minutes faster than my 10k in November. I could not have been happier with the result.

Nicole took pics and congratulated me as I finished. I celebrated the race with the most delicious french toast I've ever had. Only complaint about the race- they didn't have t-shirts. what the heck?!

Half marathon, here I come...