Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Several summery salads

At the end of last week, I was feeling the pull of the farmers market. Crisp colorful vegetables, juicy sweet fruits, locally-made foods just waiting for me to take them home... After dropping The H and the little guy off in the morning, I meandered down there. Incidentally, I also needed an idea for dinner. As I wandered around, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of local food, inspiration struck: summer salads!

I was a little worried about offering a selection of salads to The H for dinner; as much as I love to graze on multiple dishes and don't mind not having meat on my plate, he is very much a "meat + veggie + starch = meal" kind of guy. He usually doesn't mind (too much) when I branch out, and he is starting to as well, but for some reason my mental lack of direction at the beginning of my trip made me wonder how this would be received.

The salads I came up with were tomato-mozzarella, quinoa with balsamic grilled vegetables (zucchini, mushrooms, onion), and cucumber-sweet onion. At the last minute I remembered an uncooked mushroom-swiss bratwurst from Ken's in the fridge, so that was added to the grill with the balsamic veggies.

When I was growing up, my mom would make a cucumber-onion salad similar to this. I could never get used to eating slices of raw onion... I *wanted* to like it, but I just never quite warmed up to it. Since then I've tried making it myself, playing with the types of onions and the dressings I put on them. This one was probably one of my favorites--half of a cucumber from my mom's garden, half of a local sweet onion, kosher salt and black pepper, a little bit of olive oil from the co-op, and a splash of white balsamic vinegar. I sweetened it up with a sprinkle of evaporated cane juice.

Here is what the table looked like when we sat down:

Know what?

There were no leftovers, aside from a single portion of plain quinoa. Summery salad success!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Samosa addendum

Yesterday I reheated two of the samosas for lunch. In a 400* oven for 10-15 minutes, they crisped up nicely and the filling was piping hot.

I did mix up a quick little dip for them using Greek yogurt, a dash of Sriracha, and some dried cumin. It was a delightful combination of cool and spicy, and it complemented the hot-sweet samosa filling just right.


Sweet potato samosas

Indian food, or even Indian-inspired food, is probably the number-one thing I cannot get The H on board with. He'll put up with my recurrent attempts to sneak curry powder into things, but that's about it. The fact that I cannot find gluten-free phyllo dough (or fillo, depending on the packaging) releases him from the obligation of even a single bite. You're welcome, honey.

This recipe also gave me an excuse to use my new garam masala, courtesy of a trip to Penzey's when we were in Connecticut. 

Sweet Potato Samosas
from Clean Eating Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 7
makes 12 samosas (serving size: 2 samosas)

1.5 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 cups cauliflower stems and pieces (one small head)
1 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3/8 tsp sea salt, divided
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
3 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
12 sheets frozen whole-wheat phyllo dough, thawed (my store did not have whole wheat)
Olive oil cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 400*. Bring a 3-qt pot of water to boil over high heat. Add sweet potatoes and cook for five minutes. Add cauliflower and cook for an additional ten minutes, until vegetables are fork-tender. Drain and set aside.

2. In a small saute pan, heat 1 teaspoon oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, 5 minutes or until soft and slightly browned. Set aside.
3. With a potato masher, mash potato-cauliflower mixture until smooth. Mix in onion, peas, cilantro, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, curry powder, garam masala, and cayenne.

4. Assemble samosas... this part took me a while to figure out, but once I got it down (two lumpy victims later) it was effortless to reproduce.

Place 1 phyllo sheet on a cutting board and mist with cooking spray. Fold in half lengthwise and mist with spray again.

Place 1/3 cup potato mixture at top left corner. Fold corner over filling to opposite side, making a triangle.

Fold triangle over to meet straight side, then up to the top again.

Continue folding over until you reach the end of the phyllo sheet.
Repeat steps with remaining filling and phyllo.

5. Mist a baking sheet with cooking spray--or use a sheet of parchment paper--and place samosas on sheet. Brush tops with remaining 2 teaspoons oil and bake 15 minutes or until golden brown.
My two folding failures made their way to my plate for lunch, along with some cilantro-lime quinoa and kale chips. While I was convinced that two wouldn't be enough, they were plenty filling.
When I have these for leftovers, I will look for a dipping sauce recipe. The flavors are great together, but I felt they were missing *something* like a tangy yogurt dressing that would really push them to the "fantastic!" category. This recipe is pretty labor-intensive, not one I would consider for a quick weeknight meal unless I was planning to use leftovers.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Weekly meal plan

In no particular order, here's what will be made (or eaten) in my kitchen this week:

Pesto pasta
Gluten-free pizza
Sweet potato samosas
Taco bowl with leftover cilantro-lime quinoa
Chicken-salsa-rice with black beans (slow cooker)
Teriyaki salmon from Clean Eating Magazine, with brown rice
Salt and pepper shrimp from the latest Clean Eating Magazine
Homemade chicken nuggets to freeze for an easy little guy meal

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cilantro-lime quinoa

Are you one of those unfortunate souls who can't stand the taste of cilantro?

I'm sorry.

Not that it's my fault, but I'm sorry that you will not be enjoying this deliciously tart, nutty side dish anytime soon.
I've become a big fan of buying ingredients that can multitask, like a bunch of cilantro, without dictating that you make exactly the same meal--or even genre of meal--twice in the same week. For that reason, among others, I was giddy to see a recipe for sweet potato samosas with cilantro in the most recent issue of Clean Eating Magazine...but that's a future post!

Anyway, back to this "recipe." I put a few things into my rice cooker (two rice-cooker-measuring-cups of quinoa, three of water, the juice from one lime, some dried coriander, a sprinkle of kosher salt, a generous handful of chopped cilantro, and a packet of Trader Joe's chicken stock concentrate) and switched it to "cook." Thirty minutes later, we had steamy, flavorful quinoa that was the perfect complement to our grilled chicken and homemade pico de gallo (another use for cilantro). Yum.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


This summer I decided to branch out a bit and try growing more than just green beans, since that turned out well last year. Part of this expanded gardening attempt means I now have several basil plants growing in my yard. And yes, they are growing! So much, in fact, that a friend was kind enough to harvest some for me while we were in CT (to keep it happy), and I still had enough to make a batch of pesto with the stuff that remained.

Well, I thought I did. But it would've been a small batch. Not quite enough for the company we were having for dinner. And when I went to my beloved Ken's Fruit Market (they have a website now! isn't it pretty?) to grab another bunch or two, they were out. ACK! My company was on its way, if not at my house already, and I had to decide what to do, quickly.

And thus, spinach-basil pesto was born. Thanks to most of a bag of spinach in my crisper and the end of a jar of Trader Joe's pesto genovese, my meager harvest turned into a giant delicious heap of green goodness. Even the little guy, once we convinced him to just try it already, enjoyed his.
We served this with a salad (I know, leafy green overkill much?) and yellow watermelon from the farmers' market. That was the juiciest melon I've ever had! I think it's called a "yellow doll" or something. The little guy needed a bit of convincing to try that, too (are all newly-turned-3-year-olds this picky?!) but then he couldn't get enough.
These photos are remarkably less staged than even my usuals, since I almost forgot to snap any before we sat down to eat.

I used Bridget's blog for inspiration, mostly regarding the toasting of the nuts/garlic and bruising of the basil, but the quantities I used were based on what I had available. The spinach helped mellow the bite of the garlic and peppiness of the basil, but it still had plenty of flavor. My nuts were walnuts; my oil was grapeseed. I added 8 ounces of cooked chicken to the pasta before stirring in the sauce to make it more filling. And, of course, the pasta I used was gluten-free.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I was right...

I had no idea what day it was when we got home! We left for Connecticut on a Sunday, and returned on the second Thursday. For most of our extended  trips, we are gone Sunday through Saturday. When The H travels alone, he gets back on a Friday. So Friday felt like a Sunday to me and Saturday to him. Now that it's Sunday, it feels like...well, something else. I'm all messed up. What a jumble!

The little guy and I made the best of it, however, and made a stop at the farmer's market on Friday for some deliciously seasonal produce. Here's a couple-days meal plan I was able to concoct:

Friday - chicken tacos with cilantro-lime rice, corn on the cob, and homemade pico de gallo
Saturday - my former running partner's wedding! Leftovers for lunch
Sunday - breakfast-dinner for lunch, then homemade pesto pasta with chicken, watermelon, salad in the evening

My lunches on Friday and Saturday were largely composed of this beauty:
A rainbow of tiny tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, both from the farmers market, with basil from my yard and olive oil/vinegar from the co-op. I enjoyed a side of Greek yogurt with local blueberries and raw honey on the side. It was *almost* as good as ice cream. Don't let The H know I said so.

Friday, August 5, 2011


This morning the little guy and I took The H to work, which meant we had the car all day! Oh how I love that glorious, sweet, wonderful (too small) car! It shuttled us ever so kindly to Target/Starbucks for my morning coffee--the hotel ran out of non-flavored creamer, do you believe it?--and some good ol' time wasting for me and my little buddy.

I don't care that we got there well before 9am, or that we left close to 11am. We had a darn good time cruising the aisles, playing with toys that make noise (yes, we put everything away), and even letting me try on some clothes. He came out of there with a Matchbox car and some bubbles, and I am three very simple, very-on-clearance wardrobe basics richer. Oh, plus we got some applesauce for lunch, and a carton of half-and-half... just in time to get back to our hotel and see the Sysco food delivery truck hauling in a fresh shipment. ::womp womp::

We spent the rest of the morning running barefoot in the grass, giggling like, well, a three-year-old, and chasing bubbles until the little guy sat down on the grass and said, "Is it not close to bedtime yet?" And away we went, into our room for a quick lunch, stories, and nap. Whew! Based solely on 7am to 1pm, so far I'd call this one of our most successful on-the-road "Mommy and Caleb Days."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Good news/bad news, CT style

Good news: I got to run outside again--5 miles this time!
Bad news: It was more humid than I was expecting.
More bad news: Because I didn't think I'd have time to run a full 5, I didn't pace myself very well (should've left just five minutes sooner!) and the last half mile was done at a pretty smokin' pace.
More good news: ...the last half mile was done at a pretty smokin' pace. :)

Good news: After my run, I made a bagel scramble (two eggs, spinach, red pepper, green onion, salsa, cheddar) to help up my veggie intake.
 Bad news: Most of my $1.60 red pepper was rotten/moldy inside (and I chose it SO carefully last night!!) so everything usable got tossed into this one meal.
 More good news: It was yummy.

Good news: The little guy and I did some laundry this morning; my running shorts/bras are all clean and stank-free again!
Bad news: In the two hours since I let them know we'd be out, housekeeping didn't make it to our room.

Good news: There is a pizza joint within walking distance, so the little guy and I went there for lunch.
Bad news: We were out past his naptime...

Good news: He went to sleep anyway! And I got to eat my Greek salad (lettuce, tomato, green pepper, feta, balsamic vinaigrette, added my own baby carrots) in peace.
Bad news: Garmin Connect isn't working right now so I cannot upload my run. Some dumb glitchy updates going on. I want to see those splits! Whine whine whine. I'm done now.
More bad news: After typing it eighty seven thousand times, the word "news" looks pretty stupid.

Wednesday number one

I got to run outside! There is a paved multi-use trail just over a mile from here. Granted, it's pretty much all uphill for that first mile, but whatever. Next time I'll drive there and just enjoy a normal, non-prehistoric machine, non-knee-busting workout. I got just over 4 miles in at a 9:something average pace, which felt like at least 5mi and a minute faster. Ooof. It's rather flat where I'm used to running!

Here's the rest of the day:

Pre-run: half a piece of toast with honey and organic peanut butter
Exercise: 4.25 mile run and core work, followed by an hour and a half in the pool with the little guy
Breakfast: green monster with lowfat milk, banana, spinach, chocolate protein powder
Snack: farmers' market popcorn and two chocolate Joe Joe's cookies
Lunch 1: quinoa-rice cakes with hummus and turkey, half a pear, half an orange, sesame almonds
Lunch 2: leftover chicken enchilada with rice and salsa
Dinner: Sooooo not clean. And too salty. But along with that-which-shall-not-be-named, I had a small side salad (iceberg, blah...with tomato and olive oil vinaigrette) and a bowl of fruit salad (grapes, banana, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple)
Snack: The H and I had some peanut butter fudge ice cream when the little guy went to bed

I've noticed a lack of fresh vegetables in my diet this week, so while The H put the little guy to bed, I went to Target for some kid-free time and came back with these goodies:
The baby carrots are super-thin and sweet (I'm not a fan of the fat ones that taste like dirt) and will be great in hummus. I'm going to add them both to my meals tomorrow. I will also make sure my dinner is more veg-heavy than they have been. The Crystal Light--not usually my thing!--is sweetened with real sugar and claims to have electrolytes in it; I will add some to my bottle of water on my next run. The Larabars had a $1 off coupon on them, and I like 'em. :D

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

First of two Tuesdays

Our trip to CT is longer than a week, but shorter than two. We left on a Sunday and get back on a Thursday. So today is the first of two Tuesdays here. I'm going to be so confused when we get home.

After a different breakfast than yesterday--Kashi GoLean Crisp, with fresh blueberries and low-fat milk--the little guy and I slapped on some newly-purchased sunscreen and headed out into the sunshine to explore our surroundings on foot. Yeah, that didn't take long. From our hotel, and not even all on sidewalk, we can get to a gas station, Dunkin' Donuts, two nail salons, a convenience store, Subway, a pizza joint, and Bank of America. He was less than thrilled. I was wondering where in the world I (and The H) will get to run. The side street(s?) that are nearby look to be straight uphill. The memory of the prehistoric treadmill I pounded on Monday makes me determined to at least TRY running outside.

After wandering, we came back to our room for a little guy quiet time (he has been up before 6:30 every day since he turned three, and I'm NOT a fan!) while I made lunch. His plate was loaded with strawberries, hummus, and GF pretzels, with a cup of macaroni on the side. I'm a sucker.
Remembering that I needed more vegetation and variety in my meals, I made a sandwich on seedy-wheaty bread with hummus, spinach, and low-sodium turkey lunchmeat. On the side I had green grapes the size of golf balls, and a dish of strawberries with yogurt. It was quite a bit more filling than yesterday's soup; go figure. :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hello from Hartford!

OK, we're not actually *in* Hartford, just a bit south, but "Hello from a tiny town in Connecticut you've probably never heard of!" didn't sound as snappy.

We got in yesterday afternoon so The H could start his assignment with the client this morning. After breakfast the little guy and I chilled in our room, watching junk TV and waiting for the pool to open. I also gave him a new puzzle to work on while I ate. That lasted about 30 seconds; this kid is a puzzle whiz. He LOVES them.
While our suitcases were mysteriously (much) lighter than they've been for past trips--even the one we took about a month ago--I've packed quite a number of breakfast/lunch/snack options for me and the LG so we don't have to eat out all the time.

This morning I started with whatever wheat-looking toast they had at the breakfast buffet, with a chocolate protein shake (using milk from breakfast) and coffee, which we brought from home. My toast was topped with an organic crunchy peanut butter The H got on his last trip and some honey my parents brought us from their trip to France.
Yes, it was a very brown breakfast. Tasty, though. Tomorrow I'll try to remember to include some fruit.

Once the pool opened, my highly excitable companion and I ventured down there. He did SO great this time, right away wanting to "go to the last step" and have me swim with him to the ladder in the deep(er) end (the pool goes from 3ft to 5ft) so he could get out, walk around, and do it again. Whew! Swimming works up a big appetite; we snacked on some farmers' market popcorn on the patio next to the pool while our suits dried and housekeeping straightened our room.
Lunch for me was creamy broccoli soup and crackers, courtesy of the soon-to-be-closing Subway we landed at for dinner last night. They'd made a fresh batch (or so they say... some things I'd almost rather not know) but funnily enough, soup was not a hot seller on a 90* day, so they were giving cups of it away. The little guy asked for peanut butter and jelly, which he polished off with uncharacteristic enthusiasm, along with an Activia yogurt, some gluten-free pretzels, and a glass of milk. Then we shared an orange from breakfast.

Once The H got back from work, we piled into the [very small] car and made the quarter-mile trek to the Target (which, incidentally, you cannot do on foot... such a tease) behind our hotel. We stocked up on some fresh items like spinach, grapes, and eggs, and grabbed a few things that forgot to come with us. Like, um, sunscreen. We ended up at Red Robin for dinner, where I once again thoroughly enjoyed a grilled chicken sandwich with melon.

I took advantage of The H being able to put the little guy to bed, and dashed out to the hotel "gym" for a treadmill run on one of the most ancient dinosaurs of machinery I've ever set foot upon. Broke a good sweat doing the "5K lake route" program, so I guess it worked just fine. I lifted a few weights for good measure. Then after some crunch twists and planks, I proceeded to eat my weight in chips and salsa. It was SO GOOD and exactly the snack I wanted after my workout. The end. :)