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Archive for the ‘Pasta’ Category

Dinner last night was simple and satisfying. For some reason warm weather always makes me crave grilled items and fresh produce. I marinated a chicken breast in barbecue sauce and grilled it on my cast iron skillet. I wish I had access to a real grill but my make shift grill pan over an open flame is the next best thing! My chicken was perfectly moist and delicious. On the side I had a rather big salad of mixed greens, alfalfa sprouts, button mushrooms, garbanzo beans, red bell pepper, grape tomatoes and feta cheese. I dressed this salad in a homemade mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and cracked black pepper. This dressing was so good that it caused an epiphany: If you have the time, MAKE YOUR OWN SALAD DRESSING! My dressing was the simple and the perfect consistency, really highlighting the crisp vegetables.

Once again, I had strawberries on my mind for dessert. I found a Jell-O pudding in the back of my fridge that I’m pretty sure was expired (gross, I know) but it looked okay so I decided to eat it anyways. I topped it with strawberries and whipped cream. NOTE TO SELF: BUY ICE CREAM ASAP!

I woke up this morning with an odd craving for cold cereal. I assembled a bowl of 1/2 cup Go Lean Crunch, 1/2 Cup Heart to Heart, 1 sliced banana, sliced strawberries, 1 TBS ground flax, cinnamon and 1 cup vanilla soy milk.
It was my first day at my internship so I was rather excited this morning. I debated bringing lunch because of my financial situation, however; because it was my first day I wanted to scope out the scene and try the cafeteria. I had a turkey, lettuce, red pepper and mayo sandwich on a whole wheat pita, a side salad with raspberry vinaigrette and an apple. It was pretty good and only set me back about $4 but I’ll probably pack a lunch from now on. It was another intern’s last day with the company and the department had a send-off for him after lunch. I was really excited because it was complete with CAKE! I had a small piece of dense yellow cake with white frosting (I made sure to get an edge piece for the extra frosting 🙂 )

After work I went to the gym. I knew that I wouldn’t be getting home for dinner until about 7pm, so I planned a head and packed a pre-gym snack and an easy dinner. I had a Tropical Fruit Tart Larabar around 4pm. It was such a nice treat for a hot summer afternoon and fueled my workout. I did about 40 minutes on the precor machine followed by crunches and arm weights. I always thought that I preferred morning workouts, but I really liked how it broke up my day. It was relaxing, and having dinner already prepared was KEY!

When I got home dinner was waiting for me. Last night I realized that I had a portabello mushroom cap to use so I created a stuffed portabello mushroom with couscous, spinach and feta cheese topped with grape tomatoes and more feta as the main component of my meal (I’m planning on some simple sides to accompany this dish but took this picture last night.). To prepare, I cleaned the exterior of the mushroom with a dry cloth (aka paper towel), discarded the stem and gills of the mushroom and brushed the outside with a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dried basil and cracked black pepper. I then placed the mushroom cap side down on my cast iron grill pan, added the remaining vinaigrette mixture evenly into the belly, grilled it until tender and let it rest on a plate before adding the filling.

For the couscous, I placed 1/4 cup dry whole-wheat couscous in a bowl, added 1/2 cup of boiling water and let it sit about 5 minutes before fluffing and allowing it to cool. I added a handful of freshly chopped baby spinach, about 2 heaping TBS feta cheese and cracked black pepper into the couscous and mixed to combine. I placed this mixture in the mushroom cap and finished it with grape tomatoes and more feta cheese.

My internship is absolutely amazing! I feel so lucky to have found a position in the food industry incorporating aspects of social media and marketing. I am extremely passionate about food, family, healthy living and social media (obviously!) and can’t believe that I was able to find an involved internship composed of all these elements and more. I don’t want to go into details but today I was able to learn about and work on projects that dealt with iPhone apps, Twitter and blogging. Seriously, someone pinch me!

Working Girl,

Nora

What tips do you have for balancing work, exercising and healthy eating?

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Saturday was my last day working at the bakery. This job has been one of the best experiences of my life and has influenced me to pursue a career in the food industry. Working in the customer service bakery of a large grocery store has taught me the importance of consumer relations and shown me the dynamics of a large business. I am always incredibly inspired by the creativity and excitement that goes on in the store.

My last shift was all I could have asked for. I was on the schedule from 9:30am-6pm to do “demo” aka providing samples to customers. The employee who typically provides demonstrations had another obligation and was unable to sell on this day. I give her so much credit because it is NOT an easy task to be on your feet talking to people and selling products for 8.5 hours 5 days a week! I prepared for my last shift with the world’s greatest breakfast: oatmeal. (I was thrifty and used my microwave to minimize my gas bill!)

In the mix: 1/4 cup oat bran, 1/8 cup rolled oats, half of a banana (sliced and microwaved separately for 30 seconds, then added to my oats 1/2 way through cooking.), 1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 1/2 cup water, cinnamon, vanilla extract and 1 TBS ground flax.

Topped with: 2 large strawberries, Crofter’s South America Superfruit Spread, 2 chopped Brazil nuts and coconut butter.

I was sampling our Pecan Raisin Sourdough and Kerrygold Butter. This is such a special bread that our bakers make from scratch on the weekends. I remember last summer when they were perfecting the recipe and I got to bring some home to sample. It is sweet satisfaction to see this bread come full circle. I’m not a huge butter on my bread person (something about disliking it as a child) but I absolutely love Kerrygold. It is so rich and brings out the best flavors in the bread; a perfect combination.

When I got home I had a pre-planned Cold Peanut Noodle Salad for dinner (practicing already!). I knew I was going to be tired after work and want to shower, so the night before I cooked soba noodles, chopped veggies and created a peanut sauce. All I had to do when I got home was assemble, pour a glass of Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay and enjoy! Easy as pie.In my bowl: 1/2 chopped romaine heart, 1/2 bundle of soba noodles, 1 medium carrot, 1/4 red bell pepper, 1 inch of cucumber, 1/2 stalk of celery, 1 small bunch of broccoli. Topped with a peanut sauce: ~1-2 TBS crunchy natural peanut butter, juice of 1/2 a lime, pinch of red pepper flakes and 1 TBS low sodium soy sauce.

This was an amazing meal! I love how well the noodles took to the sauce, and the raw vegetables were so refreshing. It was a large bowl of food that required just a splash more chardonnay to complete it ;).

For dessert I had the last of my Mint Cookies and Cream frozen yogurt ~3/4 cup with fresh strawberries. Shortly after dessert I fell asleep on my new futon at the early hour of 9:30pm while watching the movie Maid of Honor. It was a long day.

I woke up at 7am this morning and knew it was another great day for a run. I stumbled into the kitchen for a quick pre-run meal of a Lemon Zest Luna Bar and Jonagold Apple, and returned to bed to read my book for a few hours. I MISS READING FOR FUN!!!

After my run I had a late “brunch” (11am?) of another thick green monster smoothie ( 1 large frozen banana, 5 ice cubes, 1 scoop chocolate whey protein powder, cinnamon, 1 TBS crunchy peanut butter, a bunch of baby spinach and 1 cup vanilla soy milk. I forgot the Amazing Grass GREEN Superfood today and my smoothie ended up taking on a mint-ting-a-ling color) and a slice of Ezekiel Cinnamon Raisin Bread with Coconut Butter and Cinnamon.

I did not have any obligations today, therefore; I was on a mission to find a decent Wi-Fi signal so that I could FINALLY upload my pictures and blog! I can’t believe I have been internet-less for an entire week! It is sad how dependent I am on technology, but hey, it’s my life. I spent a few hours at a local bookstore while my pictures slowly uploaded. I was successful but it was an extremely time consuming process. While I was there I snacked on a Peanut Butter Cookie Larabar and Iced Coffee that I brought from home. No more $4 lattes for this girl! (I had a gift card to Starbucks thus why I had a few purchases earlier in the week.)

Now that we are all caught up I’m off to make an early dinner and get to bed before my first day at my internship! I’m beyond excited to start and have been waiting for this day to come for so long! I feel like a little kid on Christmas Eve, I hope that I am able to sleep tonight.  I’m going to try my hardest to post tomorrow. I can’t wait to officially have internet in my apartment on Wednesday.

The Future Awaits,

Nora

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I have been slightly “missing in action” from my blog, however; I have been enjoying my last few days of college. This evening my friends and I made a simple and delicious meal to share together and have a relaxing evening. We started with a chilled glass of Arctic Fox wine, a salad of mixed greens, toasted walnuts, dried cranberries and blue cheese dressed in raspberry-cherry vinaigrette and pesto pasta with pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and Italian sausage. I think that pasta dishes are the perfect option for a dinner party. They are affordable, crowd pleasing and easy to prepare. Stuck in the kitchen is the last place you want to be when company arrives!

For dessert we used my favorite boxed brownie mix from Ghiradelli. I had a Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie with vanilla ice cream and a homemade raspberry sauce. I love this mix because it is so decadent and rich! The best part: I only have to mix a few ingredients together and put it in the oven for 45 minutes. It is so easy and feels extravagant!

It wasn’t a fancy or complicated meal, but it was extremely thoughtful and nice to share among friends. I love cooking great meals for one, but there is nothing like enjoying good food in good company. It soothes both the body and the soul.

In recent news, I found an apartment aka a hole to call  my own and I will be moving on Friday! I have never had a place all to myself and I have to admit that it is a bit strange. My new apartment is in an older building and not by any means what I would consider “nice”, however; it does have a small bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living area with an affordable 3 month lease. I’m not sure what I will be doing after August, so I was unable to commit to a nicer place with a typical 6-12 month lease. Even though it’s not the best, at least it is something. I’ll be sure to post some pictures once I have brightened the space up a bit.

Next Steps,

Nora

What are your favorite “ready-made” meals?

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My roommate and I have two friends who LOVE to cook. We have made dinner for each other twice before, and although we  discussed a third extravaganza months ago, we were not schedule a get together until last night. When I asked them what they were cooking, they told me it was, “Swiss and Italian”, but would not reveal the details of the meal beyond that. One of our friends is from Switzerland and grew up watching his mom cook authentic dishes. The first time he and his friend made dinner for us he made Spaetzle and Chocolate Mousse (using Lindt Chocolate of course!). It was absolutely to die for. I love experiencing other cultures through food.

Our friends arrived around 7pm, and established themselves in our kitchen. Yes, we had two boys cooking us a fantastic meal. Aren’t we lucky? We started off with one of my contributions, a Middle Ages ImPaled Ale (IPA), while they cooked and we watched. I loved watching them cook. They are so diligent and precise. This beer is also amazing. It is so flavorful and mildly bitter. I really like Middle Ages Wailing Wench, however; my roommate isn’t particularly fond of extremely hoppy beers. I wanted her to give this one a try, and guess what, SHE LIKED IT!

So what do you get when Switzerland meets Italy? Pasta Carbonara and Orange Cream. The pasta was cooked according to directions, and drained reserving about a cup of pasta water. The sauce was a combination of Asaigo Cheese, Nutmeg, Cracked Black Pepper and Pasta Water. After the cheese mix was added, he added 3 raw eggs and bacon with sautéed onions. Cheese and bacon…what could be bad? Dinner was served with a slice of  Twisted Root (Dark German Bread) and a simple side salad. Our Swiss friend even made the dressing from scratch using olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard. He states, “This is the only way to make it.” I also contributed a wine that I have been “saving for a rainy day”, a 2007 Hermann J. Wiemer Merlot. I fell in love with this wine last summer when I visited the Wiemer Vineyard. The Finger Lakes Region Rieslings are near and dear to my heart, but have never found a red wine as luscious as this Merlot from the area. It is a wine that makes you feel good with each sip; perfect for sharing with good company.

Dinner and conversation lasted for nearly two hours. I couldn’t believe how quickly time went, we were having so much fun. I nominated myself to do a quick kitchen clean up while the boys served dessert: Orange Cream. This was essentially whipped heavy cream with an orange sauce (orange juice, lemon, corn starch on the stove) folded in. It was so light and delicious. Our friend told us that he thought it would be a perfect dessert after our pasta/bacon/cheese dinner. It was something that his mother would make when he was a child in Switzerland. This is what I like to call food from the heart! Every dish has a story behind it, and I was happy we were able to share this with him.

We continued catching up late into the night and I didn’t get to bed until 1:30am. Good Food+Good Company= Lasting Memories. I’m probably going to be exhausted tomorrow, but I live for these moments!

Stuffed,

Nora

What is your favorite meal to prepare for company? (My roommate and I have to make them dinner next time so I need advice!! I’m thinking Mediterranean style, since this is one of my favorites!)

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Mediterranean style dishes are among my favorites to eat during the summer months. I love the fresh flavors and the lightness of olive oil and fresh herbs in dishes. On of my favorite cold salads that my mom makes all summer long is Ina Garten’s  Shrimp and Orzo Salad, full of fresh flavors like dill, parsley and feta cheese. Since I started my day as “throwback Thursday”, I might as well end it similarly.

For dinner tonight I made a simple cold orzo salad filled with spinach, asparagus, red bell pepper, tomato, sliced kalamata olives and cucumber and topped with seared lemon-thyme shrimp and roasted broccoli. I also had a glass of Spanish Quarter Cabernet-Sauvignon on the side.

Orzo:

Bring 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt to a boil. Add 1/2 cup orzo pasta and cook for 8-10 minutes.

-Strain the pasta and run under cold water. Place in a medium-sized bowl and add 1/2 TBS olive oil and 1/2 TBS white wine vinegar and toss to coat. Add chopped asparagus (about 2 large stalks) red bell pepper (about 1/4), Roma tomato (about 1/2), kalamata olives (about 5 sliced), cucumber  and torn spinach.

-Top with feta cheese, shrimp and roasted broccoli to serve.

Lemon-Thyme Shrimp

-Defrost 8-10 medium sized shrimp (or use fresh whatever you have access to). Coat with the juice of 1/2 a lemon, cracked back pepper and finely chopped thyme.

-In a small saute pan heat olive oil and garlic. When garlic slightly browns add shrimp and cook 2-3 minutes per side.

-Remove shrimp and place on top of pasta.


This was a fantastic and simple dinner. I had ended up having about 3/4 of the pasta mixture (I forgot how much 1/2 a cup of dried pasta ends up being!) and saved the other part for a nice salad topper or side dish for tomorrows lunch! After dinner I had multiple desserts. I started with one of my new samples from Chobani: Chocolate Greek Yogurt. I received a sample of their Champions line in the mail today and have been dying to try the chocolate flavor. It was delicious! It still has the sour taste of Greek yogurt with a slight cacao flavor. It was a bit too sweet for me but delicious nonetheless. When I finished I needed a real chocolate fix. The yogurt was good but I wanted more of a true chocolate flavor. Another Mr. Chocolate Bunny Attack ensued, along with a mini chocolate egg that was in the basket. What can I say, I really love chocolate!

Last we saw.

Became this at one point.

What remains. officially one bite left!

I am beyond stuffed at this point. Good food for a dreary night.

Happy Almost Weekend,

Nora

SIDE NOTE: I took a picture of my dinner with my iphone, thus the poor quality. I was in the comfort of my own apartment with access to a camera but decided against snapping a photo. My room-mate was also making dinner and doesn’t know about my blog. I am a very open person, my family follows my blog and I have told some of my co-workers, however; my friends have a negative connotation associated with the blog world, so I refrain from telling them. When I mentioned my juicer purchase to my room-mate she ridiculed me for it. Every time I “plate” a dish in her presence I get funny looks, and when I speak of my breakfast I get a “I don’t eat breakfast, and if I do then I just grab fruit or something easy…why do you bother?” reaction. In the past when I have documented food at restaurants I receive similar ridicule, so typically it is just easier not to explain my blog to my friends.

Do you openly discuss your blog? Thoughts? I blog because it is what I believe in, and no one would change that for me. In fact if anyone read the New York Times Dining section yesterday, there are LOTS of people who document their food. One of my favorite sentiments in the article was “In the unconscious mind, food equals love because food is our deepest and earliest connection with our caretaker.” People also mentioned that they liked to show off what they are eating and share it with others.  Ultimately the two most important things in my life family and food. I like to share my discoveries, comfort and love of food with those I am closest to because it represents an element of care.  Okay, sorry for the rant.  CHECK OUT THE NY TIMES LINK!!

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A good meal isn't complete with out a good wine.

I have to admit, this new venture post was going to be for NEXT Sunday but I was so proud of the result that I swapped it with the one for today. My noteworthy creation: Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Rappi in a Mushroom Balsamic Reduction. Fancy, Fancy…I know. This was a new food venture times three (I think that alone qualifies a blog entry upgrade), I’ve never attempted Gnocchi, never tried Rappi and never reduced balsamic vinegar. WATCH OUT! A FEARLESS COOK IS IN THE KITCHEN!

I was extremely nervous to make the gnocchi and looked up about a thousand methods and recipes. To be healthy, and keep it real, I did half whole wheat and half all-purpose flour. I think it was a good balance, I find when you do all whole wheat flour to replace white flour the result is often disappointing. I was extremely cautious to slowly incorporate the flour so the batter wasn’t rock hard. I added cinnamon and nutmeg to the batter which gave warmth to the sweet potato flavor. After rolling and cutting the gnocchi, I broke into a sweat, dreading the thought that they wouldn’t surface, or that they would break in the boiling water. After a few minutes all my deepest fears were relieved as each little dumpling sprung up in all their glory. Not bad for a first try.

How have I never tried Rappi before? This stuff is like the gold of greens (wait that doesn’t really make sense…but you know what I mean?). It was like a mixture of broccoli, arugula and spinach. Could that sound more heavenly? It had little crunchy stems with sprouts on top, and tender leaves. The flavor was slightly piquant and peppery like arugula. It was a nice contrast to the starch laden sweet gnocchi.

To top it all off…a balsamic reduction. I sauteed mushrooms in garlic and olive oil to give this dish an earthy element, and added sweet balsamic until it reduced into a syrup. I think everything doused in balsamic is fantastic, but the richness of the syrup made this dish reminiscent of dessert– Topped off with raisins and toasted walnuts, it very well could have been a dinner sundae.

Onward Speed,

Nora

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