In our effort to eat cleaner and improve our athletic performance, my husband has become a disciple of Dr. Allen Lim, one of the authors of The Feed Zone Cookbook. Our copy of The Feed Zone Cookbook arrived last week and I was itching to prepare a recipe from it. It just so happened that we had an abundance of fresh picked blueberries from our weekend visit to Oak Hill Farms so I couldn’t resist giving this buttermilk pancake recipe a try.

This recipe is a bit different from my go to pancake recipe mainly due to the addition of 2 Tablespoons of brown sugar. All I had on hand was dark brown sugar which was a bit overpowering (i.e. a gingerbread like flavor). Even so, they were a welcome deviation from our typical morning oatmeal. I look forward to making these again with light brown sugar. While I didn’t have any buttermilk on hand, I did have powdered buttermilk which I combined with water to “make” buttermilk (4 Tbsp buttermilk powder + 1 cup water = 1 cup buttermilk). While the recipe called for 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, I found 1 cup of reconstituted buttermilk to be quite adequate.

If you’re sitting the fence on whether or not to give this cookbook a try, check out this blog which chronicles a family’s endeavor to eat their way through The Feed Zone Cookbook. Even if you do not consider yourself an athlete per se, this is still a healthy way of eating as the cookbook offers scads of gluten-free recipes. Let’s get healthy!

On a side note, does anyone have a masticating juicer they would recommend? We’re looking to purchase one in the near future (primarily to make beet juice) and want to make sure we get a durable one…preferably without breaking the bank.

The White House

Each year my mom and I like to take a trip just the two of us. This year’s excursion led us toWashington,D.C. My last visit to D.C. was a work-related trip in 2004. Yes, the year the periodical cicacads reared their ugly heads. With no work and no cicadas this year, we were already off to a great start!

We arrived on a Thursday night and dined at Cafe Italia on 23rdStreet in Arlington. Our cozy table on the enclosed patio made for some interesting people-watching. This restaurant has an authentic menu and food so good I would have gladly “kissed the cook.” Mom’s Gnocchi Alla Pomodoro (homemade potato pillows cooked with basil, sun dried tomatoes and black olives in a garlic tomato sauce) was warm and flavorful…perfect for a chilly evening. I couldn’t resist the Manicotti Alla Florentina (pasta crepes stuffed with fresh spinach and ricotta cheese and baked in a tomato sauce) and it certainly did not disappoint. I would go so far as to say this could be the epitome of Italian comfort food.

The next day, we headed off to the zoo to view the pandas (among other exhibits). Afterwards, we milled about, making a stop at the beautiful and historic St. Matthew’s Cathedral.

St. Matthew’s Cathedral

Lunch was an unexpected delight…Noodles & Company. I relished the Pasta Fresca with chicken breast. I could not believe the quality of the food and the speed in which it was served. This was the perfect fit for a quick lunch where we didn’t want to feel weighed down. Oh, and the price…very, very economical. Refueled and not ones to waste vacation time, we spent the afternoon seeing the sights courtesy of D.C.’s hop on-hop off bus tour. We hopped off at the World War II Memorial and enjoyed views of the Washington Monument

WWII Memorial and Washington Monument

We walked to the Lincoln Memorial and Korean War Veterans Memorial.

Lincoln Memorial

That night, we returned to 23rd Street for dinner at the Crystal City Sports Pub where we gnoshed on Southwest Chicken Egg Rolls to start followed by the crab cakes for mom and a burger for me.

Saturday was highlighted by the Cherry Blossom Festival. Afterwards, we took a quick stroll through the National Gallery of Art.

Me & mom at the National Gallery of Art

It was a gorgeous day so we lunched in the garden surrounding the Smithsonian Castle. While the crowd at the Castle Cafe was nearly overwhelming and the fare was expectedly overpriced, their black bean salad is quite delightful (DISCLAIMER: the salad is chock full of red onion so eat this at the risk of your companion!).

A beautiful day at the Smithsonian Castle

Then, we were off to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, the National Mall, and finally a stop by The White House. I love the Natural History Museum so much I would have been happy to visit it every day of our trip! They offer a spectacular butterfly experience which I highly recommend.

Do not touch the butteflies, but if they land on you it’s okay.

The culinary highpoint of our trip came courtesy of Old Ebbitt Grill. This iconic D.C. establishment was recommended by a local I chatted up on our flight up from Atlanta to D.C. Her recommendation was spot on. I devoured The Norwegian sandwich (smoked salmon, hardboiled egg, olive cream, onions, arugula, & tomatoes on pumpernickel bread), but mom’s order of Spring Vegetable Ravioli (asparagus, oven roasted tomatoes, roasted onions, portobello mushrooms, Pecorino Romano and citrus olive oil) stole the show. Old Ebbitt Grill certainly tops the list of places to return on our next trip to D.C.

Sunday we went into Old Town Alexandria as suggested by a friend. Unbeknownst to us, this area likes to ease into Sunday. All of the stores were closed expect for the obligatory corner Starbuck’s. We enjoyed the scenery nonetheless – a walk along the waterfront, traipsing through Founders Park, and exploring Carlyle House.

Carlyle House

Before I knew it, it was time to board our flight and return to the Gulf Coast. It’s always exciting to leave town in search of adventure, but it doesn’t take long before I’m jonesin’ for sweet tea and Southern hospitality. If you plan to visit the D.C. area in the near future, I suggest the DCRider app for your smartphone. It’s absolutely free and makes navigating the metro a breeze.

Hello, there! I could make a lot of excuses for my extended absence, but that would be mundane. The point is I’m back and you may notice a change in the topics I write about. I am trying to become less gluttonous (chocolate, butter, cream, more butter!) and am working towards a more health conscious approach to cooking and life in general. While I will still post about new recipes, I may also write about my latest fitness adventures and goals.

 I had all but abandoned my baking until last Sunday when I made this Orange & Rosemary Butter Cake for some friends who could use some comforting. The aromas in the kitchen were enough to make me want to ditch my diet and training plan. I cannot wait to make this cake again so I can try it. If it’s half as good as the batter tastes, then this recipe is a keeper! I have discovered quite a few recipes that I am really excited to try so bear with me as I get back into my blogging groove.

Curious what I’ve been up to this past year? Here’s the highlight reel:

  • July 2011 – earned a promotion
  • August 2011 – began grad school & diagnosed with hypertension (Coincidence? I think not!)
  • October 2011 – finished Urbanathlon Chicago 

    2011 Chicago Urbanathlon

  • January 2012 – quit grad school; ran my first half-marathon
  • February 2012 – began practicing Bikram hot yoga and taking Zumba classes
  • April 2012 – vacation in Washington, D.C.

    I love D.C. in the spring!

  • April 2012 – completed my first Warrior Dash

    2012 Warrior Dash Jackson, MS

    It’s gettin’ hot in here!

Stay tuned…there’s plenty more adventure ahead as I prepare for my first triathlon and taking my group fitness instructor certification next month. Onward and upward!

Wow! It has been a while since I’ve posted. I anticipated my blog come back would be an amazing post with mouth-watering photos and fun details. Sadly, this one will be brief, but this dish was too good not to give a shout out on the ole’ blog. But first, a little backstory…

Last weekend, my husband and I traveled to Dahlonega, Georgia for his first cyclocross race, the Southern Cross hosted at the Montaluce Winery. Three other couples joined us for the fun. This meant two things – 1) the racers would be exhausted at the end of the day and 2) it would be THE WEEKEND OF GLUTTONY.

The weekend consisted of breakfasts at country diners, a batch of NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookies, and a post-race “dinner” of pizzas, chips and salsa, cookies & cream ice cream, and let’s not forget the smores around the campfire. It was hands down the best bike race I’ve ever attended. In large part due to the exceptional company, but also the exquisite grounds of the Montaluce Winery. The non-racers and I were only too happy to partake in the wine tastings offered at Montaluce. I enjoyed the red flight with the 2008 Montaluce Merlot emerging as my favorite and just when I thought I was a Cabernet Sauvignon girl.

Oh, and did I mention the trip to Jim ‘N Nicks on the way home? Gluttons, indeed! Needless to say, we felt like a couple of stuffed pigs by Sunday night. In need of some major detox and rehydration, we snacked on fruits and veggies yesterday, but I was at a loss for dinner ideas. Then, I found this recipe for Tofu au Vin for Two.

photo by Ken Burris

This was just what we needed last night – healthy and satisfying. This dish had such a rich flavor, I didn’t feel the least bit deprived as I often do with tofu. I can assure you it will be making regular appearances at our dinner table. Here’s to getting back on track – cheers!

Here’s a flavorful vegetarian-friendly chili by Chef Ian Russo, courtesy of my friends over at Meatless Monday. Click here for the recipe.

Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 90 minutes Serves: 4*

  • 1 medium Spanish onion, diced
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, diced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbs chili powder
  • 1 tbs paprika
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 cups cold water
  • 1 15-ounce can red kidney beans
  • 1 15-ounce can navy beans
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans
  • 7 ounces Goya Recaito (a pre-cooked Spanish spice)

Directions:
Saute onion and peppers in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic, chili powder, paprika and crushed red pepper and cook for another minute.

Add sautèed ingredients to a large stockpot. Add cold water and beans. Simmer slowly for 1 1/2hours, then add the recaito. Cook for about 3 more minutes. Adjust the seasoning to your personal taste.

Note: for thicker chili, cook an extra 10-20 minutes, or puree 4 ounces of chili in a blender or food processor, and add back to the chili.

Ian’s Quick Tip – To make spicier chili, add Tabasco sauce: Add 1 tsp to make chili spicy Add 2 tsp to make chili extra spicy Add 3 tsp to make chili red hot spicy.

*The Eclectic Connoisseur’s Notes:
1.  I followed the recipe to the letter, and found it to yield significantly more than 4 servings.
2.  At first taste, this chili didn’t have enough heat for my husband and I. However, the next day…YOWZA! So, before you go crazy adding Tabasco, give it a day to let the flavors come alive.

Have a great week!

I hope everyone’s Thanksgiving was as delightfully delicious as mine!

Looking for a light dinner? This week’s Meatless Monday is all about flavor with (almost) zero effort thanks to this Spaghetti al Limone. I stumbled across this recipe from O magazine on delish.com.

Ingredients

 

 

 

  • 1 pound(s) spaghetti
  • 1 1/2 cup(s) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3/4 cup(s) fresh lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup(s) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoon(s) grated lemon zest
  • 2 cup(s) slivered firmly packed basil leaves

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, cook spaghetti in salted, boiling water until al dente. Place a colander over a large serving bowl, then drain spaghetti into it (hot water will warm bowl). Pour water from bowl, wipe bowl dry, then empty spaghetti into it.
  2. Meanwhile, combine cheese and lemon juice in a small mixing bowl. Gradually beat in olive oil until mixture becomes thick and creamy and cheese “melts” into oil. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in lemon zest.
  3. Pour sauce over cooked spaghetti in serving bowl; toss thoroughly. Add basil, toss again, and serve.

From The Oprah Magazine Cookbook ©2008 Hearst Communications, Inc.

Easier than pie…and no guilt! You have to love that. Enjoy your Cyber Monday, everyone!

So, what do you do when a friend brings you a couple pounds of fresh Gulf shrimp? Of course frying them was the first thing that came to mind, but then I remembered a recipe from this month’s issue of Cooking Light – Gnocchi with Shrimp, Asparagus, and Pesto.

This is one of those easy-peasy  recipes that is full of flavor. Be sure to visit Cooking Light for the recipe by clicking here. I’ll be back later in the week with more tasty treats to share. Have a great Sunday, everyone!

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

We’re not talking about some namby pampy peanut butter. No, we’re talking gourmet walnut butter here. This was a no fuss, no muss kind of challenge and perfect for summer since it required neither stove nor oven. Plus, it gave me an excuse to indulge in my favorite pita chips.

Walnut White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage
Recipe notes: Canned beans tend to be salty, so you may not need additional salt. Taste the dip after blending and add salt as needed.

Ingredients:
½ cup (120 ml) walnuts*
1 (15.8 oz/448g) can Great Northern, Cannellini, or other white beans, drained and rinsed 1 garlic clove, chopped 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons (10 ml) fresh rosemary, chopped
2 teaspoons (10 ml) fresh sage, chopped
¼ teaspoon (1 ml) lemon zest (optional) ¼ teaspoon (1 ml) black pepper salt to taste

Directions:

  • Make walnut butter by grinding ½ cup (120 ml) walnuts in food processor for about a minute until it forms a nut butter or paste. (*Alternately, start with ¼ cup (60 ml) prepared walnut butter.) Add beans, garlic, lemon juice, rosemary, sage, lemon zest (if using), and black pepper to the walnut butter in the food processor. Process the mixture to a smooth consistency. Taste and add salt as desired. Garnish dip with chopped walnuts and/or chopped fresh rosemary or sage, if desired. Serve dip with pita wedges, crostini, or assorted vegetables.

For a downloadable pdf of the recipes, click here and while you’re at it, visit the Daring Cooks’ blogroll for more fun with homemade nut butter.

In all actuality, I should have titled this post Tuesdays With Dorie Catch Up. I feel a tad guilty about neglecting my poor little blog, but this has been one crazy-busy, FUN summer.

For the week of July 12th, Kelly of Our Crazy Blessed Life chose Dorie‘s Brrrr-ownies. These refreshing brownies are the perfect way to cool down from the summer heat. How can a brownie be refreshing, you ask? They’re chock-full of York peppermint patties, that’s how. “When I bite into a York peppermint patty, I get the sensation of being on top of a cold mountain, and all I want to do is yodel! YO-DE-LAY-HEE-HOO!”

The key to these brownies is to cut the peppermint patties, leaving them in large chunks. Too small and you’ll have a gooey pepperminty paste instead of a nice pepperminty bite. Visit Kelly for the recipe [click here] and be sure to catch up with the rest of the TWD gang.

Now, on to the Chewy, Chunky Blondies selected by Nicole of Cookies on Friday for last week’s TWD recipe. I want to give Nicole a big hug for choosing blondies. And these are even more fabulous than your typical blondie – walnuts, chocolate (I used bittersweet), sweetened coconut, and toffee!! What’s not to love, right?

When your dessert glistens, you know it's going to taste incredible!

You’ll want this recipe and lucky for you it’s posted here on Nicole’s blog. To see the rest of the TWD bakers’ blondies visit the Leave Your Link page here.

I’m sitting out for this week’s TWD recipe. I have way too many goodies in the house right now, but I’ll be back next week with Dorie’s Chocolate Ganache Ice Cream. Forget bathing suit season!

I asked my darling husband to select the recipe for Meatless Monday. He made a beeline to one of his favorite cookbooks, Chris Carmichael’s Eat Right to Train Right. After considering a few recipes, he chose the Leafy Spinach Lasagna. And an excellent choice it was!

The recipe calls for fat-free cottage cheese and part-skim mozzarella, but I opted for regular. I mean, shouldn’t we get some reward for going meatless? Next time, I’ll add some mushrooms and perhaps try it with goat cheese. Mmm…

Join me tomorrow as I attempt to catch up on my Tuesdays With Dorie posts. I’ll have something for everyone – chocolate, mint, coconut, walnuts, toffee. Not all together mind you. Until then…

"Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity." ~Voltaire

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