Sunday, July 22, 2012

Grillin' = Eggplant + Tomato + Goat Cheese

During the summer heat, most of our meals around here consist of some type of protein and some vegetable…on the grill.  We have an AC in our house, but when its really hot, and that has been most of the time around here, the last thing I feel like doing is cooking indoors.

Luckily, I think most everything tastes amazing fresh off the grill so I’m not complaining. 

The dilemma I’m usually faced with is what seasonings to use to make tonight's dinner different from last nights. 


Fish is super easy when you grill it in foil!  This was a pieces of wild Alaskan salmon with lemon, capers, and herbs.


But generally we just check out what meats/fish are on sale and go from there.  However we just started a meat CSA share from Chestnut Farms which I’m psyched about and will let you know more as we work our way through our first month’s share. 


Anyways, so one day I was browsing through Anthropologie and saw this cookbook!  07-05-12

I think Anthro is one of my favorite places to find awesome cookbooks.  They don’t have many but they are all usually pretty good!

This book, The Gardner & The Grill is packed with recipes for the grill using all sorts of veggies, meats, fruits, and even sandwiches and flatbreads.

The first recipe I made was for a grilled Eggplant with Grilled Marinara Sauce!  I had an eggplant that needed to be used, so this was perfect and so easy.  IMG_4797

I’ve never been a huge eggplant fan, but I love it when it’s prepared so its cooked really well so it gets buttery and soft.  Even better with a nice grill flavor.

Because of this, I make sure to prep my eggplant to remove the bitterness and extra moisture…Eggplant will suck up any liquid or oil like a sponge!

I don’t remember exactly where I got this tip, but this is what I do:

Eggplant Prep!

  • slice eggplant in thin slices
  • arrange on a baking sheet
  • sprinkle both sides with a little salt
  • cover with paper towels
  • place another pan w/heavy object on top
  • let sit for at least 30 min.

I let mine sit for longer actually, until I’m ready to use it.  The salt brings the water to the surface so the paper towels can soak it up.  This also removes some of the bitterness. IMG_4801


  • Heat one side of your grill to medium/med-high
  • brush the eggplant with olive oil
  • Chop 2-3 large tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • handful of basil, rough chopped
  • salt + pepper

Make a faux pan out of aluminum foil and put in it the tomatoes, garlic, basil, drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt + pepper. IMG_4802

  • Grill eggplant slices over direct heat, and place pan of tomato mixture on indirect side.
  • Cook eggplant for 4-5 min per side, or until soft and it has good grill marks (watch thin pieces as they will burn fast).
  • Meanwhile stir tomatoes a couple times.
  • Once eggplant is done, remove everything from heat and arrange eggplant on a platter.
  • Top with tomatoes and crumbled fresh goat cheese.


This was fantastic!  Even Brian who didn’t think he really liked eggplant, loved this as well.  In fact I’ve been buying more and more eggplants lately and can’t wait to make this again.

This was super simple and would make a great side dish for a party or bbq. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Crossfit and 5k

I truly believe Crossfit has improved my running.  Since Reach the Beach, I’ve gone for 1 maybe 2 runs, aside from any running that may be incorporated into the workout that day in Crossfit.

Instead of running, I’ve been WODing…4-5 times a week, and I love it. 

(taken from our Crossfit facebook page)  That's me in front in case you couldn’t tell.

So then 4th of July rolls around and I register for a local 5k that is 5 min from my house and a bunch of people from Crossfit are running as well!

The 4th turned out to be a pretty warm day.  Brian was running too and we decided just to take it easy and see how it goes.  The heat usually doesn’t bode well for me.

A few minutes after we started I see that we’re keeping a fairly fast pace (for me) and I’m worried about crapping out later.

Let’s just say I was shocked that we maintained a good pace the whole time!  We stopped twice at each of the water stations, but just kept trucking…and I ended up with a new PR!!

28:26!!!!  My previous 5k PR was a couple years ago at 29:10, and since then I usually hover around 30 minutes.  I can NOT believe I maintained that pace in that heat!  I was so pumped!!

Some of my fellow crossfitters after the race!

Feeney 5k

Looking forward to more races :) 

So yeah Crossfit is awesome, I love it. 

I love being able to see the results each week…especially the lifting.  I’m really loving the Olympic lifts as well as the power lifts.  I guess its in my genes…my dad used to be a competitive power lifter.  I have photos I need to scan in…they are awesome from his lifting days back in the 70’s/80’s!

We recently started a Fran cycle at Crossfit.  We tested our Fran time, and from there we are going to do lots of workouts focused on improving those skills, and then re-test in about 6 weeks!

Fran is a well known benchmark workout…every crossfitter wants to know their “Fran time”. 

(me, Post Fran…loving me new Lulu top!!)

Its a quick workout, 21 reps, 15 reps, then 9 reps of thrusters (65lb for women) and pull-ups. 

Since this is supposed to be a quicker workout we found our maximum 1 rep thruster (which is a front squat with the bar, and as you stand up you “thrust” the bar up overhead)…. and then used 50% of our 1 rep max. 

The point is, you don't want to use such a heavy weight that it slows you down too much.  Our coach didn’t want anyone over the 6-8 min mark.

I used a 45lb bar, and body rows.  We didn’t use band assisted pull-ups this time…if you couldn’t do unassisted pull-ups you did ring rows or body rows.

My time was 5:52. 

Looking forward to testing it again!

And even thought I can’t really do unassisted pull-ups for a workout yet…  I did get THREE kipping pull-ups in a row!!  Booya! 

I guess that I’m just excited that in just over 7 months of Crossfit, I am able to see myself improving.  It’s definitely motivation to keep on going!


So there’s my little fitness update for you :)

What keeps you motivated??

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sweet Potato + Black Bean Hash

Oh snap…look who has another post this week!

Not that it should really be an accomplishment but I’ve gotta get back on track with baby steps I guess ;) 

Plus some things are just too good not to share!


Not sure where I got the inspiration for this, but I was trying to think of ways in use sweet potatoes in breakfast, plus I had some black beans in the fridge.  Boom.  Hash!

If you want to make it Paleo just leave out the beans…it would be delicious either way.  Personally I don’t get the whole “no beans” part of the paleo diet.  From what I’ve read the “anti-nutrients”in beans are in their uncooked state…and once properly soaked/prepared, the anti-nutrients are almost entirely gone.   Considering you can’t exactly eat uncooked beans, I’m not sure what the big deal is.

Woops, sidetracked.

Sweet Potato + Black Bean Hash
(for two people)

  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 medium sweet potato, diced
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red or green bell pepper (or 1/2 each) diced
  • 1/8 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp paprika (or use 1/4 tsp paprika if you don’t have smoked)
  • garlic powder, few shakes
  • crushed red pepper flakes, few shakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup black beans (cooked or canned)
  • 1 tsp butter or more coconut oil
  • 2 eggs
  • avocado (sliced, served on the side…optional, but SO good for you!)
  • sour cream (optional)
  • salsa (optional)

Note: best to chop the potato, onion, and pepper in small pieces so they cook faster.

In a cast iron or non-stick skillet heat the 2 tsp coconut oil over medium heat.  Add onion and pepper.  Sauté for 3-4 minutes.  Add sweet potato.  Stir in paprika, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, and salt.  Cook for another 5-7 minutes, only stir occasionally as the potatoes will only get browned if they sit still against the pan.  As the potatoes are just about done to the consistency you like, add the bean and cook another 1-2 minutes. 


Plate the hash on two plates, set aside somewhere to keep warm (sometimes I put them in a “cool” oven, or even turn the oven on for a couple minutes then off just to warm it a smidge).

In the same pan heat the 1 tsp butter or coconut oil.  Crack 2 eggs in the pan and cook to your liking….I did over easy.

Serve egg on top of hash….bacon on the side if you like!


The avocado on the side is a MUST for me.  I also added a little sour cream, but didn’t need any salsa…flavorful enough on its own.  I even liked a slightly runny yolk!!  Who am I??


I LOOOOVED this breakfast!!  It’s not a ton of food, but the proportions are really easy to adjust if you’re feeding more people or if you or your guest have bigger appetites!  Or just add more eggs :)  Brian and I tend to eat similar servings sometimes, but I know some of you might have husbands who eat way more so go nuts!  We were both completely satisfied…not too full, just right. 


Iced latte as my bevy of choice.

Lots of healthy fats, protein, and carbs here!  

I used to think I hated hash…in my mind it was always corned beef hash, like that weird stuff from a can, but thankfully now I know better and there are numerous ways to make a “hash” that do not involve canned meat products ;) 

Do you like hash?  Favorite version??

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Watermelon: Granita & Popsicles!


I just got back from an incredibly delicious dinner with my mom and Brian at Toro in the South End.  I haven’t been since last year and my mom and I were craving it…specifically the corn on the cob and paella. 

Anyways…just had to mention that.  Other than that it has been a pretty low key weekend.  My mom has been travelling a lot for work so it was nice to spend some time with her.  It’s also been pretty toasty around here although I can’t complain…it’s summer, and this is summer weather. Although I really wish we had a pool, or a least a close friend with one ;)


I bought a big whole watermelon earlier this week because I had a few people over on the 4th, but we never got around to eating it. 

I decided to hack away at it so we could eat it during this week.  


SO.MUCH.MELON.  It filled that bowl, and that’s a pretty large mixing bowl…about 12” diameter.  I don’t think the 2 of us could eat it all this week without it either going bad or us getting sick of it so I decided to use about less than 1/2 of it to make some frosty treats!

I saw this recipe on the Whole Foods website earlier in the week: Watermelon Granita


I made about 1/2 batch loosely following the recipe:

  • 4 cups watermelon, put into blender
  • blend until smooth
  • add juice & zest from 1/2 lime
  • 1 – 2 tsp honey (more or less if you like)
  • blend again
  • pour into a glass baking dish (mine was 11” x 7”)
  • Place in freezer
  • I stirred with a fork every 30min for about 2 hours (then left for dinner), when I came home it was frozen and time to scrape up with a fork!



Until it’s all icy



So cool and refreshing!!  This was so easy I’d love to try it with other flavors.  The original recipe said to top with mint or basil which I think either would be delicious.

I think I want to try Espresso Granita next…we had some in Rome on our honeymoon….it was sweet espresso granita topped with freshly whipped (unsweetened) cream…amazing.      


This is perfect hot weather food.   



Using the same ingredients, I put more watermelon chunks in the blender, the juice and zest from the other half of the lime and blended again.

This time I ran the mixture through a fine mesh sieve:


And filled popsicle molds with the remaining strained watermelon juice!


I bought those popsicle molds for less than $10 at Bed Beth and Beyond and have been dying to try them out. 

These will also come in handy on these hot days! IMG_4835

Don’t worry, we still have a GIANT container of fresh watermelon to eat this week ;)

sidenote: the pops and granita are paleo friendly!  The use of honey is up to you :)

You could also make some amazing cocktails with fresh watermelon puree…mojitos, margaritas… the possibilities are endless.  I also plan to enjoy some watermelon + feta this week too! 

What’s your favorite way to use up extra watermelon??

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Adventures in Cake Decorating: My 1st with Fondant!

Happy July friends! 

Scary that one of the “summer” months is already down! 

My weekend has been a combination of crazy, busy, delicious, and relaxing!  That’s a lot of different things for one weekend.

Friday -  Saturday: Crazy/Busy!  And OK, delicious.

My goddaughter Riley had her 3rd birthday party on Saturday and I was flattered when her mom (my good friend) asked if I’d make the cake!  See, Riley is allergic to eggs and my friend remembered when I made those yummy eggless Guinness cupcakes for St. Patty’s day this year, so she asked if I could make an eggless birthday cake!

I was especially excited when she told me it was a Tangled themed party.  For those of us without kids/not around kids…Tangled is the new Disney version of Rapunzel.


This was my first chance to make a fun, colorful, themed cake!! 

I started Googling “Tangled birthday cakes” and found some great ideas!  One of my favorite ideas involved making a long yellow (“blonde”) braid out of fondant to wrap around the cake!  This seemed like a fairly easy, but cool looking effect!


I had never used fondant before (and was never really a fan of the taste), so I was excited/nervous to try it out.  I asked my pastry chef aunt what kind she recommended to buy.  She directed me to the “Duff” brand.  Yeah, the guy from Ace of Cakes!  He has a whole line of colored fondants and other cake decorating supplies at Michaels stores. 


I bought a container of the yellow, and a small container of hot pink that I figured I could use for other decorations on the cake. 

After scanning through some recipes on line I decided to use this recipe for the cake:  Chocolate Layer Cake from Eggless Cooking, except I used the equivalent of 2 flax eggs instead of the applesauce.

And a raspberry mousse filling using these two recipes as a guide: Raspberry Mousse 1 & Raspberry Mousse 2.  My version involved:

  • 1 bag frozen raspberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 packet gelatin
  • 1.5 cups heavy cream

I heated the raspberries and sugar until the raspberries were breaking down, then added the gelatin, stirred and brought to a boil, lowered heat and kept stirring until it was all dissolved (next time I might dissolve gelatin first in some hot water).  This mixture needs to cool.  Then whip cream to soft peaks, and fold berry mixture in. 

Friday night I baked the cakes.  I did 1.5 times the recipe and made a 10” round, 8” round, and 6 cupcakes which I was planning to use as the “tower” on my cake. 

I also made the mousse Friday night and chilled overnight. 

Luckily I couldn’t sleep well that night and decided just to wake up at 5:30am Saturday morning (instead of the 7:30am I had set my alarm to).

This was a good thing considering I was working on that cake up until we left the house at 11:15am!!


First order of business was to slice the cakes to layer them.  I was NERVOUS!  Eggless cakes don’t hold together as well, and these layers were going to be thin!





I then SLOWLY transferred the top layer back into the pan now lined with plastic wrap.


This went well for both cakes…I thought I was good to go!

Filled with the raspberry mousse:



All that was left was to put the other layer on top…that’s when THIS happened:

IMG_4763 Yes I had to puzzle piece my top layer on the mousse!!!  OMG I was freaking out, but just had to go with it and decided that would be on the bottom of the cake.   

Luckily the 8” cake went better, then both went back in the fridge to set.

Meanwhile I got to work on my fondant braids :)


I rolled out long pieces of fondant (p.s. this stuff IS good, tastes like candy corn/circus peanuts).

I started to braid, but seeing as those strips ended up being almost 4ft long, it was NOT easy.  So I opted to break them and make 2 shorter braids.

The cupcakes for the tower were not staying together, so I used 4 cake cones, “glued” together with frosting.


In the back is some rolled out pink fondant, I used cookie cutters to make flowers, and also rolled out more to wrap around this cake cone tower.

Note: I used simple butter cream for this: butter, confectioners sugar, vanilla, cream.  Simple yet delicious, it’s my FAVORITE kind of frosting. 

Kitchen was a MESS at this point!


I began assembling and frosting the cakes.  I first did a crumb coat, which is a very thin layer of frosting which you let harden before applying the rest of it.  This is to prevent crumbs from mixing with your frosting (it’s okay if they mix with the crumb coat).

The mousse layer, even though it had chilled a couple hours, was bulging out the sides a little and in turn mixing with my frosting!  Even with the crumb coat!  I was having ISSUES.

This is where the fondant saved the day.  Now I get why this stuff is so popular for cake decorating!  It makes it SO easy to make a smooth clean finish…and/or cover up a crappy icing job ;)

I made a “stripe” out of the remaining pink fondant and wrapped it around the bottom layer.  The fondant braid covered a lot too…it was awesome.


I used two long “lollipop” sticks as dowels to hold the tower into the cake, and the top of the tower was a sugar cone covered in icing.


Ok, so it looked like a pastel Christmas tree to me, but give me a break…I’m learning.

I really wanted a “window” for the hair to be coming out of, but I just did NOT have the time or patience at that moment.  

I still have a LONG way to go in the cake decorating department but I was pretty pleased with how it came out!



IMG_4785 And regardless of how it came out, I thought it tasted awesome!  That was a really nice cake recipe…very moist and chocolaty!   I’d probably use less filling next time too…or make double the cakes so the cake layers would be thicker. 

Now I’m itching to try another, but next time I’ll give myself MUCH more time the day before. 


Have you gotten into cake decorating?  Played with fondant??  That Duff brand was awesome…very forgiving.  It’s pretty much like edible play dough…screw up and just roll it back up and start over.