Monday, August 23, 2010

Why I LOVE my Grill Pan-Tex Mex Night

As an alternative to grilling outside, the grill pan is a must have item for every kitchen. I am on my third grill pan in ten years (Unfortunately, the nonstick surface wears off over time). The good news is that you can get a decent double burner grill pan for $40. My latest grill pan came from Target and it's a Calphalon.

For me, tex mex is an easy meal to throw together as long as you have the basics. After reviewing what I bought at Walmart (Much of the time, meal planning is just a few hours away from dinnertime. When I go shopping, I buy what's on sale and what looks good. Then, I decide what to make), I decided to grill two packages of chicken tenderloins on my grill pan. Because I wasn't in the mood to fuss with a marinade, I decided to rub the chicken with a mixture of cumin, chili powder, a pinch of sugar (brown sugar would have been better but I didn't have any), and olive oil. I set this out on the counter for a half an hour while preparing the rest of the meal.

The next step was to put the rice on the stove. My absolute favorite rice is Basmati. It's quick cooking and nutty in flavor. I like the brown basmati as well. Even though I limit cooking with butter, I did add just a little bit of unsalted butter to the rice once it was finished because it really helps bring out the nutty flavor. Salt and pepper to taste.

Then, I went to my produce door in the fridge and grabbed everything that would make a good tex mex salad. such as mixed greens, green onions, and a large bunch of cilantro. Also, added a chopped tomato and two cans of black beans (drained and rinsed). I LOVE cilantro and rough chopped a lot of it in this dish.

Dressing! The salad needs a dressing. I don't have exact measurements on this but the combination was one lime, one shallot, one jalepeno, red wine vinegar, oil, tsp of cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste. This dressing was whipped up in about 4 minutes. Salad dressings are so quick to make and healthier than bottled dressings. If you are not into chopping, use a mini food processor.

The last step is to grill the chicken. These tenders took about 5-6 minutes total to grill. They came out perfectly and were tasty considering that I put most of my time in the salad dressing rather than making a marinade.

Because we love our condiments with tex mex, I had a couple of different Trader Joe's salsas and a dollop of sour cream for me.

This meal has a ton of protein between the chicken and the black beans. I love meals like this because I feel satisfied, but not stuffed. Additionally, the protein helps repair muscles after hard workouts. Personally, I would never eat a meal such as this before a race due to the black beans. I don't have to explain that one, LOL. If you are concerned about the white basmati rice, use brown basmati. Keep in mind that brown basmati takes about twice as long to cook. Trader Joe's carries both white and brown and the price is quite reasonable.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pizza Salad-What's that?

I've been going to Everybody's Pizza in Atlanta (both locations) for 17 years. It's my favorite pizza joint and I crave the "Greek Pizza Sandwich" from time to time. Everybody's Pizza invented the "pizza salad" which is also delicious. I decided to create my own version of the pizza salad.

Since I am not a pork/beef eater, I always stick to an all veggie pizza. Usually what I do is buy the fresh pizza dough from Publix or Trader Joe's, make homemade pizza sauce, which is super easy and tastes better than store bought pizza sauce, and saute a bunch of veggies as toppings such as green and red pepper, portabella mushrooms, and onions. Sometimes I will add black olives, minced garlic, and sliced fresh tomatoes. The cheese will be mozzarella and the pizza won't be complete without some fresh basil. This is fairly standard and even though it's incredibly delicious, I was getting a little tired of it.

So, this is what I decided to do:

6 medium sized Vidalia onions, sliced
1 tbs sugar
2 tbs red wine vinegar
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 bags of pizza dough (sells at Publix and Trader Joe's)
1 cup of basil leaves
1 bunch of green onions
1 bag of romaine lettuce
Olive Oil Spray
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
1 bag of mozzarella cheese
1 cup of goat cheese
2 small tomatoes or one large tomato
3 tbs of fresh rosemary

Begin by sauteing Vidalia onions with a little extra virgin olive oil in a large pan on medium to high heat. Add the sugar, vinegar, half of the rosemary, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir onions regularly and allow them to cook for at least 20 minutes. They will be appear a caramel color (caramelized onions) and be extremely soft. Take them out of the pan and set them aside.

Take out the pizza dough and let sit out for 20-30 minutes. Follow instructions on the bag regarding temperature of the oven. Usually 350 is standard for pizza dough.

In the same pan that the caramelized onions were cooked in, add some more extra virgin olive oil on medium to high heat and saute red and yellow peppers, minced garlic from about 3 garlic cloves and salt and pepper to taste. Brown the peppers but be careful not to burn the garlic. They should still have a little bit of crunch to them.

Roll out pizza dough into two pizzas and place on the pizza pans. Spray the dough with olive oil spray. Spread the caramelized onions on each pizza, then the peppers, a few cloves of minced garlic and the remainder of the rosemary, then the goat cheese and mozzarella cheese. Top with thinly sliced tomatoes and pepper to taste. Place in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Ovens and pizza dough instructions vary so watch pizzas carefully to make sure the cheese is melted and the edges are a light brown.

While pizzas are baking, toss romaine lettuce, basil leaves, green onions with 1 tbs of extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste. The salad will be topped on the pizza once the pizza is finished baking.

What did I think?
I liked the pizza salad a lot. But I think I would have been happier with just sprinkling some fresh basil on top of the pizza. All of the salad on top hid the pretty pizza. But, it was fun to try something new. Let me know what you think!

Friday, August 20, 2010

To Grow or Not to Grow...

Early Spring, I start craving the taste of fresh basil, especially after months of nasty grocery store fresh basil that costs too much. Basil has to be planted year after year so it can be a bit of a pain. However, perennial herbs, such as tarragon, rosemary, thyme, oregano, chives, and marjoram, come back year after year. In fact, most of them come back heartier than ever.

I haven't had very good luck with flat leaf parsley, dill weed, or cilantro. I guess the good news is that I can buy fairly large bunches of at least the parsley and cilantro at the grocery store for a decent price.

Whether planted in the ground or in pots, herbs are extremely easy to take care of and worth having. Sometimes my entire menu will be based on which herbs that I need to use up. Fresh herbs have significant health benefits across the board and worth incorporating into your meals.

This year, I planted tomato, cucumber, and bell pepper plants. The problem with having a vegetable garden is that veggies need to be watered frequently. The heat this year has really taken it's toll on the tomatoes and they are not doing well at all. I seem to be getting a few bell peppers and cucumbers but because I planted so few to begin with, it doesn't seem to be worth spending the money watering them. Translation: I could buy cucumbers and green peppers CHEAPER at the grocery store. Oh and learn.

Farfelle with Sham Clam Sauce

During the weeks surrounding the birth of my son over 9 year ago, my mother stayed with us and cooked delicious and extremely healthy meals. Farfelle with Sham Clam Sauce was one of them that she made when Grant was about two days old. She invented this recipe years ago when she was working. At that time, she was a strict vegetarian (now she eats chicken, fish, and sometimes pork) and this dish reminded her of traditional linguini with white clam sauce; hence the name "SHAM CLAM Sauce". I have such a vivid recollection of eating this dish back then and have been cooking it regularly ever since. It's so simple to make and if you have mushrooms in the fridge, it's an easy thing to whip up.

Farfelle with Sham Clam Sauce


1 pound farfelle

About 8 ounces mushrooms-baby portabella mushrooms,chopped fine

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

About ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped fine

4 or 5 chopped shallots

Freshly grated Romano cheese to taste (I use a lot)

3-5 cloves garlic

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1)In a small skillet, sauté the shallots, most of the garlic, mushrooms, and about half of the parsley in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Saute on heat high enough that mushrooms don’t lose their juice but not so high that the garlic browns. Salt and pepper to taste (not too much salt because cheese is salty). 2)Meanwhile, cook farfelle in boiling salted water until al dente. Toss mushroom mixture with farfelle, then add the rest of the uncooked garlic and parsley and about 1/3 cup cheese and toss again. Serve with additional cheese on the side.

If you are looking for extra protein, even though portabella mushrooms are a significant source of protein, feel free to add some toasted pine nuts. Or, serve with a side salad incorporating either beans or nuts. Also, whole wheat pasta is an option, too. Side note: I use more mushrooms than the recipe calls for, however, I LOVE mushrooms and boy, are they good for you!

Portabella mushrooms are low in Sodium, and very low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Protein, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Magnesium, Zinc and Manganese, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Selenium. Excellent for runners!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Salmon Cakes-On a not so pleasant day.

The last thing that I want to do is talk about my home being burglarized last Thursday. While I was shopping for ingredients for these canned salmon cakes, among a few other things such as milk, an intruder came into my home and stole all of my jewelry. No one was hurt, and I am very grateful for that, but the last 7 days has been one of the most difficult weeks of my life.

The first reaction to something traumatic such as this is "shock" and some denial, too. In the midst of realizing that 30 years worth of fine jewelry was gone, talking to cops, calling Marty and Whitney, and throwing my wallet across the driveway after the police officer asked my for my license, I still kept thinking about the groceries that were in my trunk that needed to be refrigerated. What a strange thing to think about in the midst of such chaos.

Like running, cooking makes me feel normal. If I'm cooking, I'm okay. So, that night after everything calmed down, I proceeded to make the salmon cakes and creamy dill dressing for the salad. When I plan my recipes, I always take into consideration Marty's schedule. If he has a tennis match in the later evening like he did that night, he prefers a light dinner.

I created this recipe after perusing recipes earlier that day. It's a fairly basic recipe in general, and there are so many variations of crab and salmon cakes. This was what I came up with based on the ingredients that I like.

2 cans of Trader Joe's salmon
2 cups of panko crumbs
1 small onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
the zest of one lemon
the juice of one lemon
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil for frying the cakes
1/2 cup of light mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 375. Saute onion and celery for about five minutes with the olive oil on medium heat. remove from the pan to cool for a few moments. In a medium size bowl. combine canned salmon, onion, celery, zest and juice of lemon, egg, panko crumbs, flat leaf parsley mayo, and salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt because the salmon can be salty. Make 4-6 patties with the mixture, depending on how large you would like them

Using the same pan that was used for the onion and celery, coat the pan with extra virgin olive oil and preheat on high. When the oil is hot, fry the cakes for 3-4 minutes on each side. Once finished, place on a pan in the oven to continue cooking for about 10-15 minutes.

Serve with lemon wedges, cocktail sauce or tartar sauce.

*Note-Feel free to use whole wheat panko crumbs and the whites of two eggs instead of one whole egg. Chopped red pepper added would be a good addition for color and additional nutrients.

Creamy Dill Dressing: I did not like this dressing so I will not be posting the recipe.

Please feel free to send me your variations of crab and salmon cakes. I like the canned salmon cakes because they are so economical. And I must admit, Trader Joe's salmon ROCKS!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Shrimp Jambalaya


1 tablespoon olive oil

6 ounce andouille sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced into ¼-inch pieces*

1 medium onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

4 celery stalks, diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and pepper

2 teaspoons paprika

8 plum tomatoes (or 4 medium regular), seeded and chopped

1-1/2 cups basmati rice

3 cups vegetable broth

1 pound medium shrimp (about 30), peeled

2 tablespoons capers**

½ cup thinly sliced scallions, for garnish***

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage; cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, 4 to 6 minutes. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in paprika; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

2. Add tomatoes, rice, and broth to skillet; cover, and simmer over medium-low heat until rice is cooked and has absorbed all water, about 15 minutes.

3. Add shrimp and capers to skillet, and cook, covered, until shrimp are opaque throughout, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat; season with salt and pepper, as desired. Serve hot, garnished with scallions.

*Chorizo or kielbasa can be substituted for andouille. The sausage adds little meat, but lots of spicy flavor.

**Capers are my nontraditional addition.

***If there are no scallions in the fridge, use chopped Italian parsley.

The recipe is from I’ve changed the original as noted and also increased ingredients to make half again the quantity.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Food Failure

It's never fun to write a race report on a race that either was a DNF (did not finish) or a bad experience for one reason or another. But what I have learned when it comes to running races is that I ALWAYS learn something valuable from a "bad race experience".

Experimenting with food can result in good food, mediocre food, or bad food. Sometimes the creative juices are really flowing and the result is fantastic. Other times, like last night, I ask myself, why did I do this? What was I thinking? I might even beat myself up about it even though my husband thought it was tasty. I do want to mention, however, that my husband Marty will eat anything that I give him. He may not love it but he is very happy to be fed and loves that I provide healthy dinners for he and Grant. Prior to our marriage, Marty had a freezer full of Hungry Man frozen dinners. Opening up a jar of PREGO sauce and boiling water for pasta was considered "fancy". Poor guy...

Like running a bad race and learning from it, I need to remember the same thing about cooking. The more mistakes that I make, the better I will get.

I will not be writing the recipe with exact measurements to this dish but only list the ingredients. If it was any good, I would be thrilled to provide specifics. But, I do not recommend that anyone try this. I will also note that even though this dish was quite bland, it was extremely healthy:

red lentil beans (this was the big mistake ingredient. didn't taste right with the larger vegetable pieces and pasta)
sliced orange and yellow bell peppers
sliced onions
6 garlic cloves
red pepper flakes
extra virgin olive oil
green onions
spinach leaves
three small tomatoes
large fancy gourmet pasta (very unique shape, can't recall the name)
parm cheese
chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

I saute'd the garlic, onion, and peppers in EVOO with red pepper flakes. After 5-10 minutes, I added chicken stock, red lentil beans...then added spinach leaves, parsley, and green onions. While simmering, I boiled water for both pasta and broccoli. Why I added the broccoli to the mix? I don't know why.

To0 many veggie flavors thrown together in this dish was the problem and adding the lentils just made matters worse. If this was a soup, it would have been tasty. Although, instead of slicing the veggies and adding the large pasta shape, I would have gone with chopped veggies and smaller pasta (not to mention using carrot and celery).

Leftovers for today? Not for me. But I'm sure Marty will eat them :-)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hot to Trot 8hr Run PRE-RACE MEAL

I decided on my mom's Grilled Salmon Marinade. I bought some fresh ginger root (which lasts forever in the freezer and defrosts very quickly). Marty grilled the salmon and the corn on the cob. We also had roasted potatoes with fresh rosemary and chives from my garden in addition to adamame (soy peas).

Recipe for the marinade:

small piece of ginger root (2-3 inch) peeled and chopped
about a teaspoon or so of chopped garlic (I use a lot)
1 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
3 tablespoons of dry white wine or dry vermouth (I like wine)
3 tablespoons of soy sauce
lots of lemon juice

In a ziplock bag, place cut up pieces of salmon, and used lemon wedges in the baggy. I like to marinate it for several hours but you don't need to for very long

Serve with more lemon wedges.

Roasted potatoes before going into the oven at 450 degrees.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hot to Trot-What's for Dinner the Night Before?

On Saturday, I'm running a GUTS club race which is a timed event. Okay, it's called Hot to Trot 8 Hour and basically, we will be running a 1.1 mile trail loop at Sweetwater Creek Park in Lithia Springs, GA, over and over again. The goal is to get as many loops in 8 hours. My goal is to have as much fun as possible seeing all my GUTS friends. Some people run 20 miles and some people run 50 miles. Some people sit out and hang out in between loops while others run the whole darn thing pretty hard. I'm somewhere in between.

Because I will be essentially running all day on Saturday, I need to start thinking about what I'm going to cook for dinner for Friday evening. Pre-race meals are a very personal thing. Some runners don't put a lot of thought into what they eat while others are so particular that they won't even eat restaurant food. Again, I'm somewhere in between.

When it comes to making the wrong selection regarding pre-race meals, I always thought that worse case scenario would involve having a little, should we say, stomach disturbance. That can definitely put a damper on the race experience but not the end of the world. It wasn't until Black Warrior 50K this past February (Ami, if you are reading this, I'm not doing Black Warrior next year) that I had the absolute worst response to my pre-race meal by having extreme food poisoning all night long until an hour before the race. Somehow, I was able to still pull off the 25k but came in dead last.

So, what am I going to eat (or not eat) the night before Hot to Trot?

I'm not going to eat Asian food, Mexican food, beans, fish, too many vegetables, and rich creamy dishes such as an Alfredo sauce, for example. My favorite pre-race meal is a classic and been fool proof-spaghetti with a marinara/tomato based sauce and a side salad. If I'm home, Italian is the way I usually go. In general, however, anything that I cook at home is safe. It's the restaurant food that can be more difficult. In restaurants, I have eaten pizza, calzones, and grilled chicken sandwich and french fries, which all seem to sit well with me.

I remember the night before the Tupelo Marathon I had a pasta dish with grilled shrimp and swore the shrimp was bad. It had a terrible taste and basically made me nauseous afterwards. We were in Tupelo, MS so you can' t exactly expect the Italian food to be delicious. I ended up having a 7 minute PR at the marathon so clearly, the nasty shrimp was not an issue. That weekend I established a new rule for myself which is to eat in chain restaurants only when out of town-especially in places like Tupelo.

Tomorrow's pre-race dinner? To be continued....

Hot to Trot 2010, Beth, Ash, and Des

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Jalapeno and Green Onion Quesadillas with Black bean and fresh corn salad

Tonight's dinner

When I shop at the grocery store, I buy what looks good and is on sale. After coming home from two vacations back to back, I was craving vegetables. Unfortunately, we don' t have a Whole Foods close by so I rely on Publix and Walmart. It's quite the outing to head to Duluth/Norcross to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's so I really don't get the chance to do so in the summer.

So, yesterday was a Walmart day because they have an abundance of veggies and fruits that are in season and cheap-not to mention I needed to buy a few non-food items. Naturally, I was drawn to the 25 cents for an ear of corn. So, for a family of three, I chose to buy 6 ears of corn. I can always figure out different ways to use corn. I was going to make my mom's "Summer Corn Chowder" but I'm really struggling with making a hot soup today considering it's 100 degrees outside. I've decided to definitely go vegetarian and make black bean and corn salad with cheese quesadillas. The recipe? I'm not going to follow a recipe today and just go with the basic tex-mex thing. Unfortunately, I forgot to buy tomatoes which is normally an unusual thing to forget to buy for me but I can make due without.

When I go vegetarian, I try very hard to consider my protein source. As a runner, I need my protein and can feel it when I haven't had it enough. After my morning run, I may be drawn to a bagel with cream cheese. Shortly thereafter, however, I'm reaching in the fridge for some cold leftover chicken. It's amazing of how your body will tell you what it's just a matter of listening and not giving into the bad stuff.