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Hungry Heart: September 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fat Required

I've been struggling to eat vegetables this week.
Its probably because I ran out of pumpkin.
Or more likely because I ate way too many roasted beets on Monday.
That is a mistake I won't make twice.

Last night I was more than happy to get my serving of vegetables from another batch of Naked Tomato Sauce.

I also had some leftover ground beef from Monday's burgers hanging out in the fridge.
It seemed like the perfect reason to make meatballs.

I also baked some eggplant slices, and then topped them with sauce and provolone cheese. Super easy and I felt better that I was eating another serving of vegetables.
Although, it was probably negated by all the provolone I snacked on. What is with me and cheese lately?

The meatballs tasted great, but the texture was a little off.

Tylutki Beef if is always very lean. Even this ground chuck didn't have much fat. It is probably because their cows are grass fed. Which basically means they walk around all day in a pasture, instead of standing still and munching on corn. 

Normally this is a quality of the beef I appreciate.
Except when it comes to meatballs. 
With meatballs, you need the fat!

I usually use a pork and beef combo when I make meatballs. The pork is high in fat and the beef gives great flavor.
When you are making meatballs from a leaner meat, try adding a glug of olive oil to the meat mixture.
I know it seems counter-intuitive to add fat to lean meat. But, you are still avoiding the saturated fat and cholesterol from the meat. And the oil will add moisture and your meatballs will have a nice soft texture. 

Lauren used this trick with her turkey meatballs last weekend. They were delicious, moist, and had an amazing delicate texture.

My test for a good meatball is whether or not you can cut it with a fork. You should never need a knife to cut a meatball!

Have you ever had a really good/awful meatball?

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I'm still in relaxation mode after the half marathon.

I did manage to get to the grocery store so I could make dinner last night.

I also had a pre-dinner snack.

The name gets a 10, I thought it was very clever :)

River Horse Hipp-O-Lantern Imperial Pumpkin with a side of buffalo wing cheese. I got this local beer while in New Jersey. I have had River Horse beer on tap there before, but had never seen it in upstate NY.
The beer was very good, although not overwhelmingly spicy or pumpkin-y. I would love to try some of River Horse's other beers, but this one was not my favorite pumpkin.
 After too many pieces of really spicy cheese, it was on to dinner. (I wonder if that's why the beer tasted bland?)

I was in the mood for Caesar salad, Jerry was in the mood for Chipotle Dip. I combined the two and made a spicy Caesar dressing.

I used my basic Caesar dressing recipe, but used a cup of yogurt, a drizzle of honey, and half of a chipotle pepper.

I loved the homemade multigrain croutons

Jerry had a side of Alexia Waffle Fries. If you haven't tried Alexia brand frozen foods yet, I recommend you do. The waffle fries are all natural, lightly seasoned, and perfect for dipping.


I have about 10 more pounds of tomatoes from my in law's garden. I better get cracking on more sauce!

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Happy Burger

My body is feeling much better than yesterday. My left knee and right foot are still sore, but on their way to getting better.
I'm going to take it easy on the workout front this week.
Maybe a core workout or yoga and then maybe something low impact like the elliptical machine later in the week.
My legs could definitely use the break.

It was nice to get back into the Monday routine after being away.

I had a delicious meatless lunch yesterday.

Mama Pea's Spicy African Peanut Stew

And played with Sadie after work.

When Sadie wants you to come out and play stands on the deck and barks. 
Then when you get outside, she runs away. She loves to be chased around the yard. 
Crazy dog.

Since it was so gorgeous out Jerry and I decided to grill for dinner.
We defrosted a chuck roast (Tylutki beef) and ground it up for burgers. 

Everything on the plate was from my in-law's farm except the bun and cheese!

Served with a side of roasted carrots and beets. 

We ate these outside by the fire pit and shared a bottle of wine. 
2008 Cabernet Sauvignon The Crusher from Wilson Vineyard. It was light for a Cab, which is probably why I enjoyed it. Fruity but bold with a nice bite at the end. Not bad for $12.

This burger made me very happy.
I haven't been eating a lot of meat lately, so maybe that is why this tasted so good. Burgers always taste so juicy and beefy when we grind the meat ourselves. The giant slice of homegrown tomato didn't hurt the juiciness, either. 

The key to a good burger is to form the patties and then put them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes so they are nice and cold. That way they won't fall apart on the grill.  It has something to do with the fat not melting too quickly. (Thank you, Bobby Flay).

I guess I'll have to make up our Meatless Monday meal another day this week!

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Twin Victory

It took a little longer, and was a little more painful than we anticipated.

But on Sunday, victory was ours.

Lauren and I crossed the finish line at the Newport Liberty Half Marathon!

We carbo-laded the night before with homemade gnocchi.

We donned our favorite running clothes and our 13.1 headbands.

The weather was humid and overcast, which later turned into hot and sunny.

Me, Jerry, Brett, and Lauren; ready to run

My parents were waiting for us at the finish line.
And so was Seamus.

It was worth every training run and painful  mile.
And it was so nice to be next to my sister as we crossed the finish line.

Afterward, we rewarded ourselves with bagels and half-moons.

And beer.

Look closely!

Today's rewards will be ice packs and ibuprofen.
And planning my next race :)

Congrats to Jerry, Brett, Lauren, and Dennis!

(And thanks to Mom for being cheerleader and photographer this weekend!)

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pumpkin Latte

My obsession with pumpkin is growing.
I have been drinking pumpkin lattes like it is my job.

I know many people who wait anxiously for their favorite coffee shops to bring out the pumpkin flavored coffees and lattes in the fall. I was never a huge fan, since cinnamon is not my favorite flavor. I wait for the Peppermint Mocha during the holidays.

My brother in law mentioned a few weeks ago that he tried a pumpkin coffee at a very popular coffee chain. He said it was gross.
So I did some sleuthing and found out why.

America runs on coffee +  Pumpkin Spice Syrup.

A syrup that has artificial flavors, preservatives and 34 grams of sugar! (in a medium coffee).
(I apologize if I just ruined your favorite morning beverage)

I like to think my pumpkin latte is just as delicious, and a whole lot healthier. 

Pumpkin Latte
  • prepare one shot of espresso or 2 oz of very strong coffee
  • mix 1/3 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of pumpkin puree
  • heat milk/pumpkin and add to coffee
  • stir in 1-2 teaspoons of maple syrup
  • garnish with cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
Since the cinnamon is not my favorite I add 1/2-1 teaspoon to my espresso (or coffee) grounds, so I just get a hint of spice.
I also use the frothing attachment on my espresso maker to steam my milk.

Its not a big deal if you don't have one, but they make a nice, inexpensive milk frother at IKEA.

The maple syrup in this is wonderful!
You may want to make a double.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kitchen Nightmare

Sometimes I feel very fortunate that I enjoy cooking. It must be a struggle to feed yourself and family healthy, yummy food if you don't enjoy the process.
Part of the cooking process involves clean up and dishes. Yuck.
I am also very fortunate that when I moved in with Jerry, he enacted the "You cook, I'll clean" rule.
Yup, you read that correctly.

I don't do dishes.

Last night for dinner I  made chicken piccata, garlic mashed potatoes, roasted acorn squash, and steamed broccoli.

Poor Jerry.

Poor, poor Jerry.

I like to think that I don't usually make a mess of this proportion every night. I usually at least use a garbage bowl and put the dirty dishes in the sink. But last night I had a lot of things happening at once. My mess got a little out of control....
Good thing chicken piccata is one of Jerry's favorite meals.

Chicken Piccata
Serves 4
  • 2 chicken breasts, butterflied lengthwise (so you have 4 pieces of chicken)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 Tbls butter
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour and shake off excess. Brown chicken in the olive oil and butter on Med/High. You want to cook for about 2 minutes per side. The chicken won't be done, you just want it nice and brown on the outside.
Transfer the chicken to a plate. Add your wine to the pan and reduce for a few minutes. Turn to Med/Low and add chicken stock, capers, lemon juice, and parsley.
When it comes to a simmer, add your chicken (and any juices that are on the plate) back into the pan.
Let the chicken cook all nestled in the pan sauce with the lid on, until it is cooked all the way through.

I normally serve this with angel hair pasta, but Jerry requested mashed potatoes yesterday. He has been known to put the sauce from the chicken piccata on pretty much everything on his plate.
Not that I can blame him.

I have made this dish about a dozen times. I love the bright lemon juice and the briny capers. I love that the flour from the chicken thickens the sauce slightly, but not so much that it is a gravy.

Jerry must have loved it too.

I am one lucky cook.

Would you cook more frequently if you didn't have to do dishes?

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pumpkin Protein Pancakes

Including drinking far too many pumpkin beers, I have been a little obsessed with pumpkin lately. I've been eating pumpkin oatmeal and drinking homemade pumpkin lattes like it is my job for the past few weeks. 

Last night I thought pumpkin pancakes might be nice for dinner.
I looked at quite a few recipes. One included a scoop of protein powder in the pancakes. I decided to give it a try, since I like to make sure Jer gets enough protein on Meatless Monday.
I borrowed a few ideas from a few recipes, and this is what I came up with:

Pumpkin Protein Pancakes
Makes 8 small cakes or 6 large
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder  (I used whey)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup skim milk (add 1/3 cup and then rest, if needed)
Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls. Add wet to dry and mix until just incorporated. Let sit for a few minutes to thicken while you make the topping.

Cinnamon Peaches
  • 2-3 peaches, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
Simmer in a saucepan on low until peaches are warm.

I garnished the 'cakes with some rosemary pecans. They added a much needed crunch and savory bite to the dish.

These were very dense pancakes. Certainly not the light and fluffy ones I'm used to. I was a little skeptical after tasting them, but Jerry's first response was "It tastes like a cookie!".
I took that as a good thing.
Sweet peach, doughy pancake, and crunchy pecans. He was right, I could have eaten this for dessert and been happy.
I'd like to try these without the protein powder, and see if it changes the texture.
I would also recommend that 2 large or 3 small pancakes in a serving. I was completely stuffed after eating 3 large pancakes.

I jogged an easy 3 miles with Jer and Sadie last night. I'm only going to go on one or two more easy runs before Sunday. I am already starting to get nervous. Including stalking the 7 day weather forecast!

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Pumking Finish

Do woodchucks have tails?
If not, then I definitely saw a beaver while running on Saturday.
I have no photographic evidence to prove this, but that seems to be the story of my weekend.

On Saturday morning I ran just over 8 miles in 1:24. It took me 30 minutes longer to run 10 miles last week, but I am still not feeling super confident about the half marathon.
It is now 6 days away!

After my run I caught up with my friend Emily, who was in town visiting with her 6 week old bundle of joy, Lillian. What an adorable, happy baby! Congratulations Em and Mike!

Afterward Jerry and I had a church dinner to go to, then my friend Denny was performing as part of the Utica Music and Arts Fest. I'm always blown away by his talent. I could listen to him sing all day. And you should, too.

On Sunday Jerry ran the 2011 Delta Lake Half Marathon. It was a beautiful chilly, sunny morning. I really wish my camera hadn't died.
He ran a personal best time of 1:19.
I swear he gets faster every time he runs. I was so proud.

iPhone pic from the finish

My mom, aunt, and I spent Sunday afternoon at the Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute. They had an exhibit called Wedded Perfection: Two Centuries of Wedding Gowns that we had been dying to see. Sunday was the last day, and it was very crowded, but definitely worth it. There were more than 50 gowns on display, on it was so interesting to see all of the different styles and fabrics. My aunt even saw a dress almost exactly like her own wedding dress!

We also happened to luck out, because another exhibit had just opened; Ansel Adams: Masterworks. I have always loved Ansel Adams, and have a print of his (Yosemite Falls) hanging in my office at work. This exhibit was a collection of 48 photographs that Adams himself deemed as his best work.
For anyone on the Utica area, I would highly recommend a trip to see this exhibit.

Jerry and I finished the weekend on the couch watching football, eating chicken riggies, and drinking pumpkin beer.
Southern Tier Pumking Imperial Pumpkin Ale, to be exact.

Overall, I really liked this beer. It had a rich, malty flavor, with plenty of cinnamon/nutmeg spice. Pumking has 8.6% alcohol, but doesn't taste overly heavy. This was one of the more complex pumpkin beers we have tried. The pumpkin flavor was pronounced and the beer was slightly sweet. It made for an excellent dessert.
Overall, I would give this beer a 9/10.

This week I will have to trade the pumpkin brews for lots of water, but I have a few more reviews lined up.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

No Can Opener Required

On Monday my father in law gave me a bucket of tomatoes from his garden.

I knew right away that I wanted to make sauce with them. I had never made sauce without the aid of a certain kitchen tool....

Until now.
I had come across the perfect recipe a few days earlier on Smitten Kitchen. I followed the recipe for Naked Tomato Sauce almost exactly.
And I am so glad I did.

I started by making an X through the skin on the bottom of the tomatoes.

I gently placed the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds, 1 or 2 at a time.
Then removed and put them into an ice bath. Once they were cool enough to handle, the skins peeled right off.

I seeded and roughly chopped the tomatoes. The recipe calls for 3 lbs of tomatoes, but I would estimate that I had at least 6 lbs.
The tomatoes went into a large pot with the salt and pepper. Cooked on med-high until it bubbled, then turned to med-low.

I didn't need to puree my sauce, it cooked down to a nice thick consistency.

The sauce is flavored very simply.

In a small saucepan, I heated the olive oil over a very low heat. I added two cloves of garlic, slightly smashed, a pinch of crushed red pepper, and two basil leaves. I let these cook very low until the oil was fragrant.
I let my sauce simmer for just over an hour. Then strained the oil and added it to the sauce.

Honestly, this was the best batch of tomato sauce I have ever made.
The tomato flavor was pure and sweet. The infused oil gave it a little bit of depth, but didn't overwhelm the tomatoes. I could have eaten it like soup. Good thing this batch was just for Jerry and I, since I "tasted" it a dozen times with the wooden spoon.

Normally I buy canned whole tomatoes and seed and hand crush them for my sauce. This recipe was an additional step and made less sauce.
But it was definitely worth it. Especially when you can get your hands on locally grown tomatoes.
And you can leave the can opener in the drawer. 

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Camping - Part II

Jerry and I tried to pack light for our camping trip. Jerry was getting ready preparing for a road race he was timing Saturday morning, and even told me I could do the packing.
We decided to only bring paper plates and cook sandwiches over the fire, using our Coleman Camp Cooker.
(I would also like to note that when we got there, I realized Jerry had re-packed everything. Not surprised.)

We had a great waterfront campsite.

With a little path that led down to the lake, as well as a little private beach.

Nick's Lake

For dinner we roasted hot dogs over the fire and made chili dogs with Amy's Organic Spicy Chili.
Chili dogs may be the best camp food ever.

The weekend was spent hiking, kayaking, reading, eating, and drinking many beers.

Matt and Kevin, at dusk
Fog on the lake after a very chilly night
Breakfast; peanut butter and jelly toasted over the fire
Lunch: grilled cheese and tomato with pasta salad

Reading by the fire
Signs of fall everywhere
This was a great way to end the summer.
The best thing I ate all weekend (besides that chili dog) was dessert. After my hot dog was long gone, I put some Nutella, marshmallow, and chocolate into the hobo pie maker. It was too dark to take a picture, but trust me. Best. Sandwich. Ever.

Now its on to Fall, my most favorite season.
The season of pumpkin and hearty soups. Of sweaters and cute boots.
Bring it on!

Are you happy or sad to see summer go?