bake.sweat.create.

Adventures in the kitchen, in fitness and with glitter!


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BLT+Pancakes

Yep, you read that right, it’s a pancake BLT. I pinned this Rachel Ray recipe about a month ago and was just waiting for a nice lazy Sunday to test it out. Last weekend revealed itself to be the perfect opportunity to create this epic sandwich. We didn’t even need to go to the store before hand, everything we needed was on hand. Full disclosure, we did substitute the described waffles for pancakes due to the lack of a waffle maker. But, it did not detract from the deliciousness! Here goes:

First, the batter – whole wheat flour, heaps of herbs and a handful of delicious sharp cheddar. This alone would be savory and delicious!

Starts with a simple pancake/waffle batter.

Starts with a simple pancake/waffle batter.

Second, we grilled them on our stove top cast iron griddle.

A strong test of will not to just eat these off the griddle.

A strong test of will not to just eat these off the griddle.

Third, we pulled together the inside ingredients of the sandwich. We had some Farmer’s Market cherry tomatoes to use up, decided on spinach over traditional lettuce and the BF cooked up some bacon in the oven. We mixed up some fresh maple syrup and dijon mustard on the side as well.

The inside of this epic sandwich.

The inside of this legendary sandwich.

Once the bacon was fully cooked we were ready to assemble our creation. We spread the syrup/mustard mixture on the bottom pancake, piled on bacon, tomatoes and spinach, added more of the syrup mixture to the inside of the second pancake and stacked it on top.

My masterpiece!

My masterpiece!

It was every bit as good as expected! Admittedly, I am not a huge bacon eater, so I only had half a slice of bacon on mine, just to experience the combination of all flavors. The side of the sandwich without bacon was still really yummy, but bacon does add another level of great taste. These sandwiches were heavenly and the perfect Sunday morning treat. Just wanted to give you all another reason to look forward to the weekend! Happy Hump Day!


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It’s December!

It’s December and that means a free for all in the cinnamon-cloves-cranberry department! Oh, and the holidays too! My favorite smells/flavors are warm cinnamon/cloves and cranberries. I count down the days in late fall every year, until a time that is appropriate to put on a pot of my favorite stove-top potpourri. Usually a good freeze or snow fall is the turning point. It is my absolute favorite and love to keep it simmering all day on my stove, while lounging indoors on a cold winter day. It came a little later this year with all the traveling and activities we have been doing, but it was worth the wait! All it takes in an orange, a handful of cranberries, a few cinnamon sticks, a sprinkle of whole cloves and a dash of nutmeg in a small pot. Fill the pot with water to just cover your ingredients and make sure the water doesn’t boil off completely, or else it will scorch your pot (experienced that!).

So easy to throw together!

So easy to throw together!

We had an awesome, casual weekend, part of which included friends coming over to watch the U.Va. men’s basketball game. I could’t resist making some mulled wine in the crockpot. I had a nostalgic bottle of red wine from my hometown, MisSOULa Red and was encouraged to make a spiced wine with it. I had a great recipe for a quick and easy Cranberry Orange Mulled Wine in the crockpot, made with cranberries, cinnamon sticks and brandy, which I happily poured from a bottle purchased for a summer sangria.

Seeing a similarity in my holiday ingredients...

Seeing a similarity in my holiday ingredients…

It was a hit! We had to throw in an extra bottle of red and crank up the crockpot again to simmer a second batch! My house smelled amazing all weekend! I hope everyone is enjoying this holiday season, more sharing and festive recipes to come!


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Carbo-Loading

And so it begins! I conquered my last set of intervals yesterday and am now in full rest mode. I had a nice swim this morning and this evening took it easy, doing some stretching and icing. I also had lasagna! The BF and I met at home over lunch and whipped up a couple pans of his homemade lasagna. He has a great recipe that he loves from him mom. We were conveniently making a to-go meal for his co-worker who’s wife recently had a baby and then also a pan for my own enjoyment.

If you know his mother at all, this recipe is fairly healthy. Lean meat, cottage cheese, spinach, mozzarella cheese and I whipped up some homemade sauce to replace store-bought sauce. It came together pretty quickly, we stored the pans in the fridge, and we were back from lunch just a few minutes late.

On the way home I made a special stop at the Market Street Market in downtown Charlottesville. They have the best baguettes in town! They are baked fresh daily and the BF swears they ship the dough down special from NYC. I thought it would be a nice treat for the two of us.

After I got home, I added the last layer of the lasagna and topped it with some cheese – a nice layer of mozzarella and fresh grated parmesan. I popped it in the oven for about 45 minutes, until it was bubbling and the cheese was just browned. I sealed up the second pan, without baking it, and the BF will deliver it to his co-worker tomorrow.

The finished product was awesome and we made some nice garlic bread and salad on the side, our normal staples. We have tons of leftovers, so this may also now be my pre-race meal.

I love racing when it allows me to indulge like this!

I love racing when it allows me to indulge like this!

I’m off to Richmond tomorrow after work to pick-up my race packet and check out the course. A cold front is moving in so my clothing strategy will begin tomorrow as well. Saturday will be here before I know it. Finish out the week strong, y’all!


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Race Week!

We are less than five days away from the American Family Fitness Half-Marathon in Richmond. The countdown is real and so are my nerves! I know I have trained well and am prepared, so I am focusing on my food in-take for the next four days as my final preparation.

I really needed to use some beets that have been in my kitchen for over two weeks, and a ripe spaghetti squash. I found an easy Roasted Beet and Garlic Pasta recipe and decided to adapted it to what I had at home. I made the beet pesto by boiling the beets on the stove for about 45 minutes. Then ground them in the food processor with the walnuts, garlic, sun dried tomatoes and EVOO. I was skeptical of the taste but it turned out really nice. I would add more than the recommended 2 tablespoons of sun dried tomatoes for a bit more balance of flavor.

Then instead of serving it over pasta, I roasted the spaghetti squash, scooped it out of the shell and mixed in the pesto. Spaghetti squash was a great substitute. We sprinkled some freshly grated parmesan cheese over the top too, it was delicious! We rounded out the meal with a fresh baguette we got a Trader Joe’s. I warmed up in the oven with a bit of butter and minced garlic. I love a good, fresh baguette!

I have my last set of intervals in the morning, 3x800m at 3:33 pace. The BF has been sick for the last several days so I may be on my own in the morning. Wish me luck!

More recipes to come this week – we are cooking lasagna for our friends with a new baby and I will be carbo-loading a couple days this week for the race too. Have a great week!


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Home Stretch

I’ve reached the home-stretch in my fall training! I’m 10 days away from the Anthem Richmond Half-Marathon and today was my last hard interval workout. Daylight savings came in clutch this morning and the sun was up as we did 4x1600m on the track. I’ve been coercing the BF into running my weekly track workouts with me. It really hasn’t taken too much coercing, he ran track in HS, so goes back to his roots on the track, but it still can be early for him. My goal pace for the 1600m was 7:27. We hit 7:16, 7:28, 7:25 and 7:19. I felt great for most of the workout but was definitely tired by the end. I am coming off a 12 mile run on Saturday so I feel good about my training level and taper plan leading into next Saturday.

Over the next 10 days I am going to try to concentrate even more on what I am consuming. Eating a plentiful amount of fruits, vegetables and lean protein and (try to) avoid too many sugars. I have been intrigued by stuffed peppers for months now, but also avoiding them. Today after work I decided to dive in after finding this Rachel Ray recipe for Lamb, Feta and Couscous Stuffed Peppers and recognizing I had the makings of this recipe at home. Now before you get too excited, I didn’t use lamb. We had chicken in the refrigerator that needed to be cooked. I have also been trying to find a creative way to repurpose leftover couscous and this fit the bill. Any recipe with feta gets my attention too! Another note, I subbed the zucchini for fresh carrots I had leftover from the soup. So not quite everything in the recipe from my fridge, but I think the substitutions I made were a delicious twist. The stuffing mixture came together quickly in a frying pan, cooking and shredding the chicken and softening the onions and carrots. I tossed it all with the tomato sauce, couscous and feta and once the orange pepper was softened in the oven I stuffed each half of the pepper and roasted it again.

The recipe came together in about 35 minutes.

The recipe came together in about 35 minutes.

I realized a silly part of what intimidated me about stuffed peppers was how to eat them once they come out of the oven. Easy trick – a knife. Not even a trick, just common sense! We paired it with a nice spinach salad, with more feta of course. My latest salad dressing obsession in Brianna’s Real French Vinaigrette. It’s sugar free which is a huge plus for a salad dressing!

Full & clean plate!

Full & clean plate!

This recipe made lots of leftovers, so I am looking forward to packing some easy lunches for the rest of the week. Happy eating!


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SFFD

I’m rejoined a weekly tradition since I’ve been back in Charlottesville, SFFD. A close friend of ours started SFFD with her family and has passed along the tradition of Sunday Family Dinner to our little foursome. We alternate cooking and tonight was our night. I’ve still got that autumn food obsession and after a cold morning volunteering with the Junior League of Charlottesville, all I wanted was soup! Luckily I had picked up a butternut squash at the Farmers’ Market yesterday and decided on this Savory Butternut Squash soup. I had nearly everything at the house and roasted the squash, onion and apples with the spices in the oven. Once that mixture was soft, I dumped the tray in my dutch oven and added the broth. I then used my immersion blender instead of a regular blender to liquify the soup. It just dawned on me, I forgot the garlic! Quite out of the ordinary for me, especially with garlic! But I added a pinch more salt and several grinds of pepper during the simmer process and didn’t know the difference. Now I am really curious about how the garlic will change the flavor. I’m libel to try this again next week for version two: with garlic. I added a bit of cream at the end, but after tasting the before and after, I don’t think the cream is completely necessary.

One small squash in the recipe and it made over six cups of soup!

One small squash in the recipe and it made over six cups of soup!

We paired the soup with some gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, with grilled onions and extra sharp Cabot cheddar. Yum! After dinner I remembered the caramel in the cupboard I had purchased a week ago and it almost burning a hole in my pocket! I decided to whip up a couple carmel apples. We had just bought apples this afternoon and I couldn’t resist.

Sprinkles for me, roasted peanuts for the BF!

Sprinkles were my choice, roasted peanuts were the BF!

Sunday’s are always a nice, relaxing time with the crew and it feels great to be back with everyone again. Happy Sunday, y’all! Have a great week.


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Fall Flavors

Fall has really taken over Albemarle County. We enjoyed a lovely Sunday drive through the country and took in the colors (along with two wineries!).

What a view!

What a view!

We also picked up some more squash! We got another spaghetti and a butternut squash. On Tuesday, we made this spicy butternut squash, along with some barbecue chicken on the grill. Tonight I was feeling a little more adventurous and wanted to use the remaining squash so I dug out my old recipe book and found a Spicy Chicken and Butternut Squash recipe. It was fairly easy and with the squash at home, I had most everything else and didn’t have to make a special trip to the grocery store. Turmeric was missing from my spice cabinet, but I substituted with some curry powder.

The chicken cooking up in the spice mix and stock.

The chicken cooking up in the spice mix and stock.

The recipe recommend it to be served with some Citrus Couscous, which was a great addition and these roasted almonds smelled awesome.

A handful of almonds roasted before adding the couscous and stock.

A handful of almonds roasted before adding the couscous and stock.

The whole meal took little more than 40 minutes to throw together and was delicious! It was a curry-like sauce that we poured over the citrus couscous and the chicken was nice and moist. Our effort to eat a more balanced diet and a little cleaner is working with yummy recipes like this! (Full recipe below).

Simmering and waiting to be served.

Simmering and waiting to be served.

Full Recipe*:

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), seeded, peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 4 tablespoons EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs, chopped
  • 1 large onion, quartered and sliced
  • 12 dried pitted dates, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup (a large handful) cilantro or flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped

Yields: 4 servings

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Arrange the squash on a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons EVOO and season with salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat and roast in the hot oven until tender, about 30 minutes.

While the squash is working, place a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat with 2 turns of the pan of EVOO, about 2 tablespoons. Add the chicken to the pan, season with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown and almost cooked through, 6-7 minutes.

Add the onion, dates, spices, bay leaf and cinnamon stick to the pan, and continue cooking until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the pan and cook for about 1 minute. Add the stock to the pan and bring up to a bubble. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until thickened and dates are plump, 5-6 minutes.

Remove and discard the bay leaf and cinnamon stick from the stew. Stir in the roasted butternut squash. Garnish with the cilantro or parsley.

*I did cut this recipe in half to serve two people and we still had leftovers.