Sunday, February 28, 2010

Taste Testers

Finally feeling a little bit better!

I was up bright and early and trekked off to the grocery store to prep for tonight's dinner. I always get into trouble whenever I go to Whole Foods, so I made a strict list (yes, that says fun fruits) and packed one of my Envirosax bags.
I love these bags so much! Now that DC is charging 5 cents for each plastic bag, it helps that I can roll these up and keep them in my purse at all times...great for those impromptu post-work grocery trips.

Once I was all unpacked, I got to work on some mashed potatoes for my entry to Sophia's I am What I Cook Challenge and started on some dessert items. There's nothing I love more than multitasking in the kitchen. Getting into the groove with a bunch of different things going at once = awesome.

I was so psyched to come up with an entry for Sophia's challenge. The minute I read about it, I knew exactly what ingredients I wanted to use and I prayed they would work. According to tonight's dinner guests, they did! What dish defines me?
I present Karenabeana's Chorizo and Corn Potato Croquetas! There's nothing I love more than a big bowl of mashed potatoes, corn, cheese and doused in hot sauce. We all know this. I also love me some cilantro, lime and avocado. Hello, sauce!

How does this define me? Just like these croquettes, I like to be all tough (or maybe crispy) on the outside, but really I can be a giant mushy mess inside. I also like a hint of green in my life ;) I guess now is be a good time to explain the 'beans' in Run Beans, Run ya? In college my friends started calling me by my AIM screenname (karenabeana) and then it got shortened to 'beana' and then some shortened it to 'beans' and it just stuck.

Karenabeana's Chorizo and Corn Potato Croquetas
4 large yukon gold potatoes, boiled
1 tbsp butter
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
4 tbsp parrano cheese, shredded
1 c corn, drained
1 c chorizo, chopped
2 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp mexican cheese blend
2 tbsp panko, plus 1 c for dredging

Mash potatoes and mix with butter, salt, garlic powder and parrano. Chill for at least an hour.

Brown chorizo, drain well and cool.
Combine chorizo, corn, parmesan, mexican cheese blend, 2 tbsp panko and mashed potatoes. Form into 1 inch balls and roll in panko forming a slight oval shape.
Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until panko starts to crisp.

I split this in half to make some vegetarian ones for a friend. For the vegetarian version, I obviously omitted the chorizo, used 1/2 c corn, 1 tbsp adobo sauce (from chipotle peppers) and upped the cheeses a bit (about 1 1/2 tbsp each).

So, I'm not much of a deep fryer. In fact, tonight was my first deep frying experience. Big fat fail. These little suckers just fell apart in the hot oil. Then I tried pan frying. Nope, the panko just fell off. I gave up, sprayed them with PAM and baked them. Apparently I should have used some egg. Oops. They still tasted phenomenal. Little nuggets of potato, cheesy, chorizo-y goodness. AHHHHH :)

To counteract the richness of the croquettes, and because I heart green things (especially cilantro, lime and avocado), I served them with a smear and dollop of Cilantro Lime Avocado Sauce (yes, I'm terrible at naming things)

Cilantro Lime Avocado Sauce
1 handful cilantro
juice of one lime
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp greek yogurt
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp honey
1/4 tsp jalapeno pepper
3 tbsp avocado

Blend all ingredients with an immersion blender or food processor.

This was an AMAZING dollop of green! A great blend of spicy, sweet and earthiness. I'd probably even use this on chicken or pork I love it so much!

On the side, because every plate needs a little ruffage, some baby arugula blend dressed with some lemon juice, zest, honey, salt, pepper and olive oil. What's in your glass??
Sometimes a glass is better than a bowl for mixing!

So that was my 'me meal' slash appetizer for everyone. Tonight's main course was an attempt at a vegetarian dish. I'm terrible with vegetarian dishes - definitely not my forte. I'm just more comfortable being creative when meat products are involved :\ Anyway I decided to do a variation on an appetizer I made a longlong time ago - Goat Cheese Eggplant Rolls.
Goat Cheese Eggplant Rolls
1 large eggplant, sliced lengthwise into 1/4" slices
olive oil
Goat Cheese Filling
1 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated)

Pour sauce into an 8"x8" baking dish and set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Sprinkle salt on eggplant slices and let sit for 15 minutes. Pat slices dry.

Drizzle olive oil in a grill pan and cook eggplant for 2-3 minutes on each side. Lay eggplant on a flat surface and smear 1/2-1 tbsp of filling in the middle of each slice. Roll slices and place seam side down in baking dish with sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese and bake for another 5 minutes.
Goat Cheese Filling
4 oz goat cheese
3 tbsp greek yogurt
2 tbsp roasted red pepper diced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp shallot, minced

Mash all ingredients in a small bowl and keep at room temperature until ready to fill the eggplant.

Overall, not a bad experiment. The Arrabbiata sauce wasn't too overpowering or spicy as I thought it would be. Pretty tasty! Thanks Foodbuzz and Bertolli!

For dessert some Pecan Pie Tarts and brownies!
Have a good Monday!!

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Work week is OVER!! I'm so excited to finally have a Sunday off :)

I took the rest of the week easy and tried my best to eat leftovers...nothing too exciting on the food front. I did get a call the other day from my front desk saying I had a FedEx waiting for me. I had no idea what it could possibly be. Definitely didn't order anything. I didn't think...
Ta da! I completely forgot I opted in to Foodbuzz's Tastemaker item this month - Bertolli Sauces! Inside this nifty little box:
I'm psyched to try the Arrabbiata Sauce...maybe I'll use it tomorrow when I have friends over for dinner. I'm thinking something with eggplant? Stay tuned to find out what I do :)

Other than that, my week was pretty laid back. Didn't get any run/walks in after Monday since I still haven't been feeling 100%. Instead I caught up on this:
Oh, Lost, how I've missed you so much! I skipped the last two episodes because I had work to get done so I sat down last night to play catch up. LOVE!

I've also gotten into this:
And wish I had known how awesome Arrested Development was while it was on the air! I seriously cackled repeatedly. Alone. In my apartment. Loudly. You bet I will be Netflixing the other seasons soon.

I'm also counting the days till my next vacation...a much needed break!! Where am I off to?
*me on the trip of many firsts - first trip to SF and first marathon :)

That's right, back to one of my favorite cities at the end of the month! WOOO! I'm definitely up for food suggestions and blogger meet ups!

That's all for now. I've got a day of cooking planned for tomorrow so I'll have plenty to post :) Hope everyone is enjoying their weekends!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Time to chillax

I've been a bit of a stress ball lately and I'm realizing it's about time I took some time to chill out and detach from things. I spent a couple hours getting checked out by a doc and while I walked out with a clean bill of health, I decided I needed to start learning how to leave work at work and stop taking on so much at once. Easier said than done.

First thing I did when I got home? Made myself a large, beautiful, well-balanced meal.
I was so worked up today that I only had a banana and some Cheerios around 3pm, post doc visit. I figured I earned some quality kitchen time and a pretty meal :) Do you cook to de-stress?

I had one fairly large piece of salmon defrosting from yesterday, plus I had an urge to make a mustard sauce. Salmon + mustard = yum! Did I mention I also stashed a lonely sweet potato in my grocery basket this weekend? I think sweet potatoes go wonderfully with mustard. Wait, who am I kidding...I think everything goes great with mustard haha.

To start things off, I troasted some diced sweet potatoes. Kept them simple and only sprayed them with some olive oil.
Why did I troast? Because there's no reason to use the whole oven for just one sweet potato! These babies troasted for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees.

While those were cooking, I got started on the spinach and TJ's Harvest Grain Blend. All together, I think this meal took about 45 minutes to make? A glorious and relaxing 45 minutes :) The most stressful part was trying to cut the Harvest Grain Blend proportions in half. Who has a 5/8 measuring cup?? Thanks, Google for informing me 5/8 c equals 10 tablespoons!

Sweet Potato Grains
10 tbsp Trader Joe's Harvest Grain Blend
1 tbsp butter
1 c chicken broth
1/2 onion, diced
1/8 tsp allspice
pinch salt
1 sweet potato, diced and roasted

Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion, allspice and salt until onion is softened. Add grains and stir for a minute or so until coated. Pour in chicken broth and stir in sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Oniony Spinach
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp chicken broth
3 c baby spinach

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. Saute onion until it starts to brown. Add spinach and broth. Stir and cover for 1 minute. Uncover and cook until spinach is wilted.

Sweet Whole Grain Mustard Sauce
3 tbsp whole grain mustard
1 1/2 tsp greek yogurt
3/4 tsp milk
1/2 tsp mirin
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp maple syrup

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in mustard, yogurt, mirin and maple syrup. Add milk slowly until desired consistency. Continue whisking over heat for 1-2 minutes.

Take all those elements and combine them with a simply pan seared salmon fillet and you've got quite a meal!
The sweet potatoes went wonderfully with the grains. They added a nice flavor and texture - not too mushy either! I was worried since a few pieces weren't totally troasted, but those 10 minutes in the broth made them perfectly soft. The mustard was EXACTLY what I was looking for with the salmon and potatoes :) What are your favorite ingredient combos?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Catch up time!

It's been awhile since I last was a busy, unproductive weekend full of good food, good times and good friends ;p

Hm...let's start on Friday, shall we?

Um yeah, so I planned on getting a morning run/walk session in Friday morning, but woke up with some tenderness in my achilles and hobbled out of bed. :( I think I either a) didn't stretch enough post Thursday morning workout b) didn't stick enough post workout c) walked too much too fast throughout the day or d) all of the above. Not cool. Perhaps it's telling me I need to chill out a bit. What? It's really hard to not run :( :(

Between the office and running store I got a crazy craving for some banh mi.
I did some research and realized the only good banh mi place was all the way out in Falls Church! Dug around some more and found out that Pho 14 in Columbia Heights actually had a pretty decent selection and thought I'd give it a chance.

Met up with Sparky around 8:30 and we ended up waiting about 30 minutes for a table in the teeny restaurant. I was pretty shocked at the wait, especially since it's tucked away on a side street that doesn't get too much foot traffic. By the time we sat down I was STARVING. I could have easily eaten like 2 banh mi! Luckily Pho 14 offers a Banh Mi Platter where you can get a banh mi of your choice, an appetizer (choice of 6), and a cup of their beef broth...for $8.95. Hello, deal!

I started off with some Spring Rolls (two rolls wrapped in rice paper filled with tofu, lettuce, bean sprouts, and vermicelli noodles served with peanut hoisin sauce). These were perfect, tightly wrapped little rolls. My only complaint was the tofu. It wasn't what I was fact, Sparky and I both thought it was chicken!

Next up was the actual banh mi and a cup of the beef broth. I went with the Banh Mi Pate Cha (pate & cured pork), which was good, but no Saigon Sandwich. It definitely satisfied my craving, but I wished it packed more flavor. My jalapenos were cut a little too thick so my mouth was on fire after chomping on the first one.

The broth was very aromatic...very star anise-y. In fact, star anise was pretty much all I could taste in my first couple of sips. I kept sipping, trying to decide whether or not I liked this very in your face taste and I remained pretty indifferent. Bottom line - I prefer my pho broth to be beefy. This didn't quite cut it.

After dinner I discovered the wonder that is Rock Band
and learned that large glasses of mimosas are not a good idea after 10pm.
I met up with an elementary school friend on Saturday night that made the trek from the Bmore area for dinner, drinks and catching up. We decided on sushi at Sakana in Dupont Circle for dinner.
An old coworker introduced me to Sakana a few years ago and I've been hooked ever since. It's a small place with a pretty basic menu and delicious sushi. Even better, it's not ridiculously expensive!

We split a variety of rolls and some vino before meeting up with a high school friend of hers that happened to be at Buffalo Billiards. Small world! This was when I realized I am no longer in my early 20s and I can no longer do 3 days in a row of staying out late and drinking. I could barely keep my eyes open past 10:30!!

We called it a night and I spent Sunday night INDOORS cooking and crashing early. On the menu: Noodle Salad with Tahini Ginger Dressing and Garlicky Shrimp
Noodle Salad
1 c cucumber, sliced
1 1/2 c bean sprouts
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 c cilantro, chopped
2 bunches glass noodles, soaked and cooled
Tahini Ginger Dressing (see recipe below)
Garlicky Shrimp (see recipe below)

Toss ingredients together in a bowl and let sit for about 10 minutes to let flavors soak in.
Garlicky Shrimp
10-12 large shrimp, shelled
1 tbsp lemongrass, chopped
1 tsp chili garlic paste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp greek yogurt
pinch salt
juice of 1/2 lime

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let marinate for 5-10 minutes. Heat a pan over medium high heat and cook shrimp for about 2 minutes on each side.

Tahini Ginger Dressing
3 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp ginger, finely grated
1/2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp grated onion
1/2 tsp sesame oil
juice of one lime

Whisk ingredients together.
Pretty easy recipes, no? I ended up eating leftovers for dinner tonight since my run/walk ran late and my salmon didn't defrost enough. The bits at the bottom of the bowl that had soaked up the flavors from the shrimp and dressing - YUUUUM. I wanted to toss some carrots in too, but forgot I lost my bag of carrots last week hehe. It's such a light dish that reminds me of summertime. Exactly what I needed on this gloomy, rainy Monday :)

How do you beat the winter dinnertime blues?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Back to Basics

Hi all! I made a super quick and simple pasta dish last night, simply because I was craving it. Have you ever craved some no frills pasta?

I knew I had some anchovies and spinach I needed to get rid of so I thought I'd throw them into a garlicky pasta. Makes sense, right?

The result? A deliciously garlicky, briny pasta with just the right amount of green :)
Garlic Anchovy Pasta
1 serving linguini, cooked
1 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 - 1 anchovy fillet, minced
handful spinach, chopped
2 tbsp parrano cheese, shredded
freshly ground pepper

Heat butter in a saucepan and saute garlic and anchovy for 1-2 minutes. Add half the spinach and cook until wilted. Add pasta and remaining spinach. Stir for 1 minute or until completely coated. Plate and sprinkle cheese and pepper on top.

Totally what I was craving and super fast. The worst part was waiting for the water to boil! I guess this is a step up from pasta with butter and cheese??

Today started out pretty well...I passed out before 10pm last night so I was up and ready to go at 6:15 this morning. Laced up the new Inspires and was on the treadmill pumped for a nice long run/walk session. Total time: 45 minutes. Average run speed: 8:45. SWWEEEET!!

To celebrate, I had a fairly productive day at work and was psyched to find out we were ordering lunch in (yay for not having to eat boring turkey sammich pulled together at the last minute!). We ordered from Bangkok One, which I've eaten at before. I scrambled to find suggestions from friends and settled on the Ginger Rice (house special rice topped with steamed chicken, served with spicy ginger bean sauce, cucumber and cilantro). It sounded pretty good and a nice change from the usual pad thai or chicken with basil and chili.

Unfortunately it didn't live up to my expectations. The ginger bean sauce was nice...packed a little heat, but really didn't make the dish shine. I expected a gingery, flavorful rice, but ended up with a somewhat mushy plain rice. I've had a good experience with Bangkok One in the past, so I'm going to assume this just isn't a strong dish for them. Everyone else had delicious looking food, but I felt a little weird asking (in detail) what they thought.

I had plans to meet up with a running store coworker and a (completely random) mutual friend of ours in Adams Morgan after work. After a LONG day of work....

We settled on Bourbon since mutual friend already had plans to go there.
Genius me decided to walk the 1.8 miles from the office. Um, it was way too cold, way too windy and way too not shoveled for me to do that. Regardless, I got there at a decent hour and took a brief trip down memory lane as I walked the route I would walk from work to kickball...oh kickball...

Once there, I was able to catch up a bit with mutual friend and then caught up with running store coworker. Sampled some tasty Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA:
Usually I'm not a big IPA fan, but this was pretty good. So good I had two rounds of it ;)

And keeping with the West Coast theme, I decided to close the night out with a Rogue Dead Guy Ale
Sandwiched between those were some quality Bourbon Tots. Yes, in tater tots. I consider myself a fried potato snob. I like to sample a good fried potato anything if it's available. Bourbon tots have never failed me. Crisp and delicious!

To get rid of the insane fullness, and save money, I am happy to report that I walked the 3/4 mile from Bourbon to the Woodley Park Metro and metroed home. Proud?? I sure am. :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Goodies Galore!

This is going to (hopefully) be a quickie post since I'm only allowing 30 minutes of blogging time tonight!

I'm turning over a new leaf...a responsible one. I've set up a work area in my dining room (conveniently at a table I haven't been able to move on my own since Christmas - WEAK!) to keep myself from typing from the couch and get organized.
What do you think? It's still a little messy as I'm trying to figure out an iTunes/iPhone connection thing from my old laptop. It forces me to look at the white wall of no distraction haha.

Another part of this leaf turning process was passing up on an annual Chinese New Year dinner with friends. Every year my friends (also big food nerds) do a big Chinese New Year feast at a local restaurant and every year it is jam packed with delicious food. Tonight's celebration was at Joe's Noodle House in Rockville, a small restaurant with quality dishes. I'm bummed, but I turned it down with very good reasons: 1) I had to put in extra time at the office 2) I needed a run 3) I'm trying to be financially responsible and 4) I wore this today:
Yes, two different socks. That means laundry time. Big laundry time.

My spirits lightened up a bit when I checked the mail and saw a package from Jamie! All the snow delayed its arrival and Jamie kept talking it up on Skype. I definitely didn't expect the onslaught of goodies when I opened the box!

First up, some curry/saucy things
And instead of packing peanuts, I got a bunch of these marshmallows:
That one was filled with some sort of strawberry creme (just a dab) and the other flavor (not pictured) appeared to be a 'purple fairy' flavor. Apparently a picture of a purple fairy means delicious chocolate surprise.
Kiwi Creme Cake took up the most space in the box. I think these are like Tastycakes. Jamie started snacking on a sweet potato one while Skyping and it definitely wasn't what I imagined when he said he got sweet potato cakes. Eh, I'll give one a shot.

I giggled when I saw this next treat:
Yes, Crunky. Upon further inspection, it sounds like heavenly candy - malt balls in chocolate? HELLO.

He also sent some SPAM singles.
Have I mentioned my love of SPAM? I share this love with my siblings too and I think it's TOTALLY NORMAL. haha. My gramma used to make SPAM when we were little and I never questioned it. She would either pan fry some thin slices or pop them in the toaster until they got crispy and served it with some rice. SO yummy. Not exactly the healthiest dish, but at the time it was quick, simple and delicious. Now it's one of the many random tasty memories I have of my childhood. What foods bring you back to your childhood?

These single packs looked fun, but I looked a little closer and noticed they were different flavors:
Yeeh! A little scary. Sweet potato SPAM? How does that work?? I did like the nifty pictures of what you can do with SPAM, though hehe
Shrimp Chips were also tossed in.
Have you had shrimp chips before? They're not as scary as they may sound. It's usually not an in your face shrimp taste...mostly a crispy chip taste with a hint of shrimp. My mom used to get the shrimp chip disks (they're brightly colored, plasticky looking circles) that you fry up at home. Those are WAY better than the french fry looking ones typically found at Asian markets. Just a heads up.

And last, but not least, some chewy fruit candies (I think) that look a little bit like Hi-Chu so I'm going to bet they're good. I trust Jamie's sweet tooth.
Not quite sure what to do with all these goodies, though. There will be sampling, but the rest will probably be stashed until he returns...whenever that may be :\

Do you have any favorite foods/candies/beverages from travels abroad?

I'm off to get some work done and finish laundry! Already got my run/walk in for the day and am happy to report I'm consistently doing run portions well under 9 minute pace with no pain :) :) SOOOOOO happy!