a cheery nog

Has it really been a whole week since I was last here with you all? It feels like its been barely more than a day. Earlier this week I started working as a research assistant at a local hospital, which I do at night after I’m done at my current job. It’s also finals week at school, and my course’s final exam is next Tuesday. I feel like I’m in a time warp and somehow ended up here…

I would post pictures of some gorgeous muffins or healthy dinner plates, but over the past few days when I’ve been eating it’s been whatever was:

a. within arms reach,

b. seemed to be food-like; or

c. easiest and quickest.

Nothing special or especially healthful, which is why I won’t be sharing anything interesting tonight. I did, however, get to have a quick moment of holiday cheer this evening. I’m not sure this is what Sam Adams intended his taster glass to be used for, but whats not to love about a shot of nutmeg & nog?

Cheers!

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whole wheat apple muffins

These past few weeks I have been going to the gym before work. It’s been cold, windy, and exceptionally dark when I wake up. None of these things make it easy to keep going, especially since I am the last person who would be called a “morning-person.” Even as a joke. It’s just not funny.

I’ve been known to groan and make guttural noises when woken up. I pull covers over my head, squeeze my eyes shut, and curl my body up tight like a cashew. Mornings and I are definitely not friends.

But – like all things – you get used to change over time, and I’m slowly (and reluctantly) becoming a morning person.

I can’t believe I just wrote those words, in reference to myself.

I wish I could say that I am naturally able to gracefully adapt to all new and challenging situations. Instead, I owe everything to these muffins.

They are hearty but still light, and have a rich flavor and texture from the whole wheat. They are healthy but still delicious, and they are full of giant baked apple chunks that remind you of summer and fool you into thinking you’re eating pie for breakfast (which I wholeheartedly support).

These muffins save my mornings. Instead of ignoring the alarm, the thought of one of these makes me unfold from my cashew pose, lift the covers off my head, and shuffle (eyes still closed) into the kitchen. They really are that good.

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

Adapted from King Arthur Flour and Smitten Kitchen

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 large apples, peeled and cubed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease and flour muffin pan and set aside for later.

Combine whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium-size bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Continue stirring until the mixture becomes fluffy, and then add the egg. Thoroughly mix in the egg, and then add the yogurt gently, not over-stirring. It doesn’t need to be completely mixed in. Add the apple cubes, mixing only enough to distribute the apples.

Spoon the batter into the muffin pan, making sure to pack the batter down into the bottom. The apple chunks can sometimes keep the batter from falling into the bottom of the cups, which can leave you with odd-shaped muffins. Personally, I love muffins of all shapes and sizes… but this also helps with even baking.

Bake for 10 minutes, and the turn the heat down to 350 degrees. Continue baking for another 10-15 minutes, being sure to check with a toothpick to make sure they’re cooked in the center.

Enjoy!

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draw-string pants.

My favorite time of day is when I can finally take off my work clothes, or my weekend clothes, and make the much-desired change into sweatpants. You thought I was more glamorous than that, didn’t you? Sorry to disappoint. I’m sure you can understand, though, especially with the holiday season being upon us.

Of the entire year, there is not a single more gratifying day for donning sweatpants than the night of Thanksgiving after the dishes have been put away, the cranberry sauce packaged, and after guests have left (or before, if you’re desperate). I’m currently lying supine on The Man’s sister’s couch, post-Thanksgiving Meal II, and I could not be happier to be in my favorite sweats. We are about to have Thanksgiving Pie II in a bit, but I’m ready for it.

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andean bean stew

I was feeling a little anxious last night about today’s eating-fest holiday. I could already feel my stomach stretching (angrily) from the meals to come, but I was hungry for dinner – horror of all horrors. I was craving something hearty and full of flavor, but I couldn’t fathom ruining my appetite for Thanksgiving dinner. Clearly I take this holiday very seriously.

This bean stew is chock full of vegetables, both the delicious starchy kinds and the more healthful palate-cleansing kinds. It is adapted from a Chilean stew, which uses corn instead of the quinoa that is used in this dish. The base of the stew is made from pinto beans, quinoa, onions, tomatoes and squash. It is a stew to feel good about, especially knowing that your Thanksgiving dinner is safe.

Andean Bean Stew

Adapted from the New York Times, Recipes for Health

  • 1 pound dried pinto beans
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tbs oregano
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 3 tbs chopped fresh basil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

This recipe starts early – either the night before you plan to cook, or 6 hours prior. Take your pinto beans and place in a tupperware with 2 quarts of water. Cover and let set for 6 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to start the stew, drain the beans and place them in a large pot. Fill the pot with water until it covers the beans by about 2 inches, and add about a teaspoon of salt. Bring the pot to a boil, and then drop the heat to a simmer. Skim the foam off the top of the water, and then cover and let simmer slowly for an hour, or until the beans are tender.

When the beans have about 20 minutes left to cook, put your olive oil and chopped onion in a medium-size pan, and cook the onions until see-through. Add your minced garlic, and cook for another 3-5 minutes. To the onions, add your chopped tomatoes, including the liquid. Cook down until the liquid is almost gone, then add the mix to the pot of beans. Add your squash cubes, quinoa, bay leaf and oregano to the pot of beans, and taste for sat & pepper. Let simmer for another 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and add your fresh basil. Let the stew stand for about 30 minutes while covered, and then serve.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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israeli couscous with pancetta, spinach & golden raisins

I ate this meal three nights ago, and I’m still salivating at these pictures. This couscous recipe is one of the most flavorful, colorful and interesting dishes that I have had in a long time. Excitement and anticipation are key ingredients in most aspects of life – and this recipe has both.

The couscous is studded with golden raisins that are re-hydrated, making them plump and flavorful. Their tangy sweetness adds serious depth to the dish’s flavor. I found myself hoping that I would get a raisin in each bite.

To balance the sweet, soft raisins I added pan-fried pancetta for a salty and savory crunch. Pancetta is very similar to bacon, and if you cook with bacon, you know that bacon makes everything better – this was no exception.

Israeli couscous has a very mild flavor on it’s own, and has to be cooked al dente so that it has some bite to it. It’s easy to over-cook, which would leave you with pillowy flavorless grains of pasta … not so desirable. This recipe calls for a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, fresh thyme and chili powder. This powerful combination added tart and spice to the already complex flavor. This dressing was so good that the next time I make this, I may double the dressing, and turn it into a reduction – rockin’ good.

After everything finishes cooking, you add fresh spinach while it’s hot, making the greens wilt and almost melt into the couscous. This dish really has it all. For food superlatives, I would absolutely give it “most likely to succeed.”

Israeli Couscous with Spinach, Pancetta and Golden Raisins

Adapted from a recipe in The Boston Globe (Oct, 2010)

  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 lb. pancetta, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 4 cups spinach
  • 3 tbs lemon juice
  • 4 tsp fresh thyme, diced
  • 1 tsp chili powder

Place golden raisins in small bowl and cover with hot water – set aside. Fill a large pot of water, and place on high heat. Allow this water to come to a boil while you are working on the dressing. When the water comes to a boil, add the couscous (at any time) and cook for 6 minutes, or until al dente.

Place olive oil in pan, and cook pancetta until crisp, roughly 10-15 minutes on medium-low. Remove pancetta and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Pour out the oil + drippings, leaving 1-2 tbs in the pan. Add your 8 cloves of sliced garlic to the pan, cook on medium-low until golden brown. Remove from pan – leaving the oil in the pan – and place on paper towel-lined plate.

Add to the oil your thyme and chili pepper. Keeping the heat on medium-low, stir in the spices for roughly one minute. This will allow the oil to really soak up and meld these flavors together. Turn off the heat, add your lemon juice, and stir together – this is your dressing, which you will add to the couscous – set aside.

Drain your couscous and add the dressing, tossing lightly. Drain your raisins – they should be plump and soft by now – and add them to the couscous. Add the pancetta, and you may add as much of the garlic as your would like. Add the spinach, and toss the entire mix together. Cover the couscous so that you keep in the heat, which will allow the spinach to wilt. After about 5-10 minutes the dish is ready to serve.

Enjoy!

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breakfast crisp

Food is so delicious.

Specifically crunchy, chewy, and crispy foods. After a week of recovering from getting my wisdom teeth removed I can chew again! I haven’t been in the kitchen longer than it takes to microwave a potato in what seems like ages, and I can’t wait to cook real meals. I’ve got big plans for this weekend… including prep for an office Thanksgiving potluck.

Before I go running open-armed into my kitchen, I wanted to share with you my first chewy meal post-tooth-yanking: breakfast apple granola crisp. This is as close to having dessert for breakfast as you can get, without the residual pangs of guilt. The recipe is from Deb of Smitten Kitchen – one of my favorite places to go for inspiration and beautiful food photography.

Go forth, and crisp.

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chocolate pudding

It’s hard to refute the deliciousness of good old chocolate pudding. It’s creamy, light, chocolaty, and can satisfy almost any sweet dessert craving. I mean, look at this stuff – it’s like a confectionery gold mine. So smoooooth.

And everything is better in large quantities, especially dessert, right? Wrong. I’m on pudding cup #27 and I can say in all seriousness that I never want to see another pudding cup for a long time. I had my wisdom teeth out and I’m on a strict chocolate-pudding-mashed-potato-smoothie diet. I can’t stand it.

I have a mental list of one million things that I want to cook and chew and share, once I regain the use of my jaw. I hope you’re not busy.

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