Thursday, March 31, 2011

Waiting for my bread to bake...

As soon as I threw my bread in the oven, I started to think about dinner. I had eaten a light lunch and even resisted the cookies at an afternoon meeting and beautiful dulce de leches at a colleague's going away party.

Since I had pizza last night, I decided on a veggie loaded dinner tonight. I pierced a sweet potato several times with a fork and put it in the oven next to my bread. While the potato baked, I caramelized some red onion with a little olive oil and brown sugar. To the saute pan I added green beans, fresh garlic, and jumbo shrimp.

When the potato was ready I tossed everything together in a homemade honey balsamic vinaigrette that I am obsessed with!
It tastes as good as it looks!
For dessert, homemade bread! Now off to sleep, tomorrow is supposed to be my day off but I'm going into the Bank for at least a few hours and then Carmine's to bartend. I plan on spending every penny I make shopping on Sunday, so I'm okay with it :)

I hope everyone has a good weekend!

Honey Oat Beer Bread

Apparently I didn't get the baking bug out of my system last night, so tonight on the menu: Honey Oat Beer Bread. I have been wanting to bake more bread, so why not tonight? I chose this super easy recipe because I already had all of the ingredients and by the time I got home from the gym it was already 9:00. The workout tonight was 3.5 miles on the treadmill. After each mile I increased the incline and the speed until I wanted to die haha. My right knee has been hurting a little, so I didn't want to push myself too much.  I followed the run with 10 minutes of abs, 10 minutes of arms, and 20 minutes of legs. The gym was pretty empty so another girl put American Idol on the TV, which I was loving. At the very end of my workout I could tell about 6 guys were dying to watch opening season baseball. Finally, one of them changed the channel so I that was my signal to head back upstairs to do some baking.

Like I said, this bread is super easy and only has a few ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs honey
1 (12 fl oz) bottle beer
1/8 cup melted butter.

1. Preheat oven to 375* and grease a 5x9 loaf pan.
2. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl and drizzle the honey on top.
3. Add the beer and mix until everything is well incorporated. I used Miller Light because that is all we had in the fridge (classy I know...).
4. Pour batter into the loaf pan and top with the melted butter (no waiting time for the dough to rise) and bake for at least 35 minutes.
5. With about 10 minutes left, I added some toasted oats and a drizzle of honey on top of the bread.
With 10 minutes left to go
There are few things more comforting than fresh baked bread.The whole apartment smelled like honey toasted goodness by the time I pulled the bread out of the oven. If I had put a little more effort into it, I would have made some honey butter to go with the bread. Oh well, maybe next time. It was still delicious without the butter and I loved how the outside got nice and crispy while the inside was soft and moist. The touch of sweetness satisfied my nightly craving and will make a great breakfast tomorrow with a banana or some jelly.


Lemon Ricotta Biscuits with Almonds

I spent most of last night trying to stay busy waiting for the Season Finale of Top Chef. I worked pretty late, went tanning, stopped by the grocery store, hit the gym, and made these fabulous biscuits. Don't judge about the tanning please. I know it's not great for you, but the weather has reverted back to winter and I NEED some warmth and color. Anyway, the gym went well. I ran in the morning so after work I did a quick three miles and then 15 minutes of abs and arms.

I chose to make these biscuits because I really like to bake but wasn't in the mood for something sweet (I know right?? so strange...). I found this recipe in the Food Network Favorite's Cookbook. It is from Giada di Laurentiis' great grandmother and had lots and lots of good reviews on the website. The best part is that I already had all of the ingredients in my kitchen and only had to buy the ricotta. 

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 salt
1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tbs grated lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese (I used skim)
1 large egg
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/3 cup thinly sliced almonds
For Glaze:
1 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs powdered sugar

1. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Preheat oven to 350*. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl to blend.

2. In a large bowl, beat 1 cup sugar, butter, and lemon zest in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the ricotta. Add the egg, lemon juice, and almond extract. Mix in the dry ingredients and stir until blended. The batter will be think and fluffy.
A micro-plane is the easiest way to zest a lemon
3. Divide the batter among 12 muffin cup paper liners. Sprinkle the almonds and some sugar over the biscuits and bake until lightly golden, or about 25 minutes.

Ready for the oven

4. Cool slightly and top with the lemon glaze. The lemon glaze isn't part of the recipe. I added this to make the biscuits slightly sweet. I came across this easy glaze during my Christmas baking extravaganza and loved it!
The perfect mix of savory and sweet

The biscuits are a little savory, a little sweet, and refreshing with the lemon zest. They are a perfect brunch item. 

While the biscuits were in the oven, I made a quick pita pizza for dinner. I used a whole wheat pita topped with a tbs of marinara sauce and some shredded cheddar and pepper jack cheese. I threw it in the oven on the bottom rack for a few minutes until the pita was crispy and the cheese was melted. Yum :)

I enjoyed the pizza during the Top Chef episode and the biscuit for dessert. P.S. my prediction was right, Richard won! Now we just have to wait for the premier of Top Chef Masters. 
5 minute meal

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Who is going to pack their knives and go?

T-15 hours until the Top Chef finale! The final two all-star chef-testants are Richard Blais and Mike Isabella. Mike has been on a roll lately winning nearly all of the quick-fires and elimination challenges. Mike has DC connections and his Italian food is close to my heart. I would literally eat homemade pasta every single day if I could. However, tonight I have my money on Richard. I really admire how he combines cooking, chemistry and technology to create his dishes. Even though I am not familiar with Richard's style of cooking (I don't think I've ever eaten anything prepared with liquid nitrogen), I think Richard is more creative and deserves the win if he can pull it together tonight. I wish the finale location was somewhere a little more exotic than the Caribbean, but we'll see what happens!

Have a good day everyone :) P.S. There is a Top Chef Marathon on right now @ 6:00 am, wish I could stay home all day and watch...


Monday, March 28, 2011

Mexican Monday-->Enchiladas

It's Mexican Monday! For dinner tonight--->Enchiladas! 

I have a final in my Spanish class tomorrow, so I figured a Mexican meal would be a good replacement for studying. When it comes to learning languages, I don't really believe you can "cram" for a test. You either know it or you don't. I've kept up with all of the homework and assignments the whole semester, so I'm not too worried about the test. It's not that I couldn't spend the whole night studying, it's just that cooking is more fun :)

I don't really have a recipe for enchiladas and these aren't the most authentic enchiladas ever, but they were super tasty. For the filling I diced red pepper, yellow pepper, onion, and jalapenos. I also defrosted some frozen corn.  While I was dicing away, I baked two chicken breasts seasoned with a little salt and pepper at 375* for 30 minutes.

 Next step: Once the chicken has finished cooking and is cool enough to touch, shred apart with a fork.

 Saute everything together in a large skillet. Add one can of diced tomatoes. Usually, I like to use fresh tomatoes, but tonight I took some help from the store.

Fresh veggies, diced tomatoes and shredded chicken
While everything was simmering away, I shredded cheddar and pepperjack cheese.
My favorite part of any meal :)
To make the enchiladas, I used small corn tortillas which I filled with the chicken/veggie mixture. Once I stuffed all of the tortillas, I topped them with a spicy red enchilada sauce and the shredded cheese.
Ready for the oven
To finish the enchiladas, I baked them at 400* for 15 minutes until the cheese was nice and melted.

I finished the meal with a side of 90 second Spanish rice. It's not the prettiest plate, but what it lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in flavor. 
Dinner :)
And now for the rest of the night? I'm going to freeze the left over enchiladas and do the dishes (my least favorite part of cooking). And later I'm off to watch James Franco cut his own arm off in 127 hours. We watched half of the movie last night before falling asleep. So far, I think the movie is pretty slow and I'm not that impressed with James Franco's performance. Maybe the second half is better than the first. I don't know if it's just me, but if I had to cut my own arm off, I would be in much more pain than James Franco portrays.

Dinner + Movie is a very standard Monday for Lupe and I. It's a great way to start a busy week. I hope everyone has a great night :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Study Snack

To suck less at Spanish, I am taking a grammar intensive graduate level Spanish class. I will eventually need to prove fluency by the time I finish my graduate degree, so I am getting a jump start on classes to eventually make my life easier by the time I start grad school full time. Being fluent will enhance my career professionally and will come in handy when I retire on a beach in Costa Rica (this IS happening).

I really needed to get some major studying done today, but had to get out of the house. There was a Sex and the City marathon on TV that was completely distracting me from doing anything productive. After a gym session I headed to Le Pain Quotidien to study and had some much needed coffee and a snack. 

Giant skim Cappuccino :)
From the menu I chose an open faced roasted turkey sandwich on fresh baked whole wheat bread. The turkey was topped with roasted red peppers, dill, and melted age cheddar cheese.


A perfect study snack :)
I ended up studying for about two hours before heading home, so mission complete! 

Oreo Kisses

Four words: OREO CHOCOLATE COVERED KISSES! I instantly decided to make these delicious little guys when I saw this recipe on Bakerella's blog. There are only three ingredients and the whole recipe took about an hour to make from start to finish. 
Bakerella's Oreo Kisses

3 Ingredients make this recipe super easy
To make the filling, I used a rolling pin to crush an entire package of oreos inside of a ziplock bag.

In a medium size mixing bowl combine the oreos with 8 ounces of softened cream cheese and form one inch balls.

Next, shape the balls into a Hershey's kiss. This part took a little practice. It helps to freeze the oreo/cream cheese mixture for a few minutes before molding the kisses. 

Next, melt the chocolate bark over a double boiler and cover the kisses with a thin layer of chocolate. Place the kisses on parchment paper to dry. I was surprised that the chocolate had hardened completely within a matter of minutes. 

I could hardly wait to pop one of these kisses into my mouth. The end result? SOOO GOOD, like unbelievably good! 

I wrapped the kisses in tinfoil and shared them with friends and co-workers. Everyone loved them. I will definitely be making these again, possibly with a white chocolate coating or maybe with flavored oreos.

These did not last long! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Always Hungry for Dessert

After a long day at work, a bunch of errands, and two gym sessions, I did not feel like cooking tonight. Instead of cooking and making a big mess, I decided to clean my kitchen. 
Nice and Clean :)
I had 1/2 an apple topped with some peanut butter before I hit the gym tonight, so I wasn't that hungry for dinner. However, I am always hungry for dessert. Look what I whipped up!
My absolute favorite thing to satisfy my daily chocolate craving is a jell-o dark chocolate sugar free (60 calorie) pudding cup. Tonight I topped it with a sliced frozen banana, 1/4 cup of low fat granola, and a few white chocolate chips.
How good does that look?
This dessert is super indulgent and satisfying but is relatively healthy. Up next? The new Top Chef (exciting) and lots of laundry (not so exciting).

Happy World Water Day from Hillary Clinton

Yesterday was World Water Day (yes, there is a water day). We celebrated at the World Bank by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the United States Government to work together to address the world's water issues. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was on hand to sign the MOU. Secretary Clinton is a busy busy lady these days, so it was awesome that she was able to make the event.

The event took place in the beautiful main atrium of the head quarters main complex (MC). We were connected to the United Nation's celebration of World Water Day in Cape Town, South Africa. 
Over 17 NGOs participated in the event along with lots of press. Because of all the attention, the event was standing room only. We stood for about 2.5 hours from beginning to end. Thankfully, all of the speakers brought their personal and interesting perspective on the world's water crisis.

Waiting for Hillary.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick

Secretary Clinton

Signing the Memo of Understanding
Access to clean and sustainable water is directly connected to every single poverty issue around the world, so bringing global attention to the issue is definitely positive. The challenge will be to act on our promises. Maybe one day Washington will even get around to cleaning up the Potomac River and making our tap water drinkable :).

Did you hear about World Water Day?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lemon Salmon with Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Today after work I wanted to work out, cook dinner, and relax. I was so tired that by the time I got home all I wanted to do was take a nap. Lupe convinced me to go for a run and since the weather was so nice, I couldn't say no. For dinner we had baked lemon salmon, mashed sweet potatoes, and a mixed green salad with honey balsamic vinaigrette.

For the salmon, I preheated the oven to 350* and lined a baking pan with tinfoil. I brushed the salmon with olive oil, diced garlic and a little salt and pepper. I topped the salmon with lemon slices and baked it in the oven for 15 minutes.

Ready for the oven!

To make the mashed sweet potatoes, I baked one medium sweet potato in the oven along side the salmon until it was fork tender. Meanwhile, I heated one teaspoon of olive oil and one teaspoon of butter in a small saucepan. After the butter melted, I added 1/4 cup diced onion, 1/4 cup diced red pepper, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, salt, pepper, and a little cinnamon. I sauteed everything together until the onions were nice and caramelized. When the potato was finished I mashed it together with 1 teaspoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of skim milk and mixed everything together until it was nice and creamy. I finished the dish with fresh chives for some freshness.
Caramelized onions and red peppers

Mashed Sweet Potatoes! The only thing that could make these better is bacon :)
For the salad, see the recipe that I made last week. Instead of the pear champagne vinaigrette, I mixed 1 teaspoon of aged balsamic vinegar with one tablespoon of honey. I am obsessed with this salad, it is so good :).

For dessert I picked up some sweet mint chocolate ice cream gum to enjoy while browsing recipes in Rachel Ray's magazine. We'll see if the gum satisfies my sweet tooth. I seriously have my doubts.
Dessert gum...what do you think?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ray's Hell Burger

Sunday afternoon I met up with Kasia for a late lunch. I had been craving a hamburger, mostly because I had been watching the Food Network's "The Best Thing I've Ever Ate" earlier this morning and the subject was, of course, hamburgers. We decided on Ray's Hell Burger, which is a no frills restaurant that serves only burgers in a cafeteria type setting where you order from a cashier, get a number, and try to find a table. Despite the complete lack of atmosphere, the burgers are awesome. Kasia and I both ordered the "Soul Burger Number One" with applewood smoked bacon, swiss cheese, and cognac and sherry sauteed mushrooms. We ordered our burgers medium-well, but they came out more towards the well-done side. However, they were still delicious.
The Soul Burger Number One and Sweet Potato Fries
Obama and Biden like Ray's Hell Burger as well! They made headlines when they surprised diners during a lunchtime rush in 2009. Rumor has it Obama has treated Russian President Demitry Medvedev to a Ray's burger as well.

An original cheddar cheeseburger for Obama

Ray's Hell Burger is part of a local beef empire owned by Chef Michael Landrum, which also includes Ray's the Steaks down the street. Ray's the Steaks in a more upscale concept that offers great steaks and delicious sides. I've been there once to celebrate my friend Adam's birthday this past Fall. Everything was SO good and super affordable.
The group!

The Birthday Boy!
Our steak dinner was followed by a great dessert tasting. We asked our server to do something special to end our meal and he literally brought out at least one of everything on the menu :) It was a perfect ending to a great night. I can't wait to go back to either location.