What Artie Eats When Jill Is Away

Jill and I were both supposed to go to Orlando for a baby shower this weekend, but because of some issues with our roof, I had to stay home. While she was out of town, I took the opportunity to replace the light fixture in the kitchen (which will hopefully help with taking photos for this blog), watch Ninja Master with the Halladay and Heddings families, and eat beef (aside from the occasionally crumble of bacon, Jill doesn’t eat red meat).

Since I still have a variety of lettuces growing in my back yard, I cut and washed just enough fresh lettuce for me.

Lettuce
Lettuce from the garden

I then seasoned some beef that I picked up from New Leaf Market.  To save time, I bought beef cut for fajitas. I seasoned the beef with a little salt and pepper and sautéed it in a non-stick skillet with a little oil (about 1 tsp).

Beef
Beef for fajitas

While cooking the beef, I added a couple of dashes of worcestershire sauce (probably about a tablespoon) and let it reduce down in the skillet with the meat.  When the beef was cooked how I like it (medium), I took it off the heat and let it rest.

Cooking the beef
Cooking the beef

While the meat rested, I cut strawberries in half and added them to the lettuce. I also added thin slices of parmesan cheese. I am a huge fan of the strawberry-parmesan cheese flavor combination.

Salad without meat
Salad before adding the beef

I thought about making a vinaigrette, but remembered that I had bought some roasted garlic salad dressing from Tomatoland.

Salad Dressing
Roasted Garlic Salad Dressing

I added the steak and dressed the salad.

Salad with beef
Lunch while Jill is out of town

This was a quick and light lunch that satisfied my desire for beef and left me plenty of time to play Xbox before Jill got home.

Veggie Pasta Salad

Alternate names for this recipe include Everything-but-the-Kitchen-Sink Pasta Salad or Clean-Out-the-Fridge Pasta Salad.  Once you have the basics down, you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand.  This is great to take to a potluck because it can be made in advance.  Also, this is a great dish to make on a Sunday afternoon and eat for lunches throughout the week.  You can bulk this up with as many veggies as you want and personalize it to suit your taste.

Veggie Pasta Salad

16 ounces rotini

teaspoon olive oil

8 ounce block of cheddar cheese

pint of grape tomatoes

crown of broccoli

orange bell pepper

large zucchini

15-ounce can of chickpeas

8 ounces light Italian salad dressing

handful of parsley

In a large pot of salted water, cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente.  Drain the pasta, toss it with a teaspoon of olive oil, and set it aside to cool.  While the pasta cools, prepare the rest of the ingredients.  Dice the cheese into small cubes.  Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.  Wash the broccoli and cut into small florets.  Dice the bell pepper and the zucchini.  Rinse and drain the chickpeas.  Chop the parsley.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Chill until ready to serve.

Variations:

Southwest: tomatoes, corn, pepper jack cheese, bell pepper, black beans, spicy vinaigrette, cilantro

Greek: tomatoes, feta cheese, artichoke hearts, bell pepper, black olives, chickpeas, parsley, light Cesar salad dressing

Biking and Eating Our Way Along Scenic 30-A

Due to being on the road, our vacation posts are a little bit out of order, but our beach trip included some great food that is definitely worth sharing.

Usually when I make the trip to South Walton (known by locals as SoWal) it is for business instead of recreation, so I was excited by the prospect of going to Scenic 30-A for vacation.

Last Sunday, we arrived at the beach house at Santa Rosa Beach and unpacked our bags and our bikes, took a scenic drive along 30-A, and went to the Publix in Watercolor for some food staples. Later in the evening, we decided to have a light dinner. We drove over to Watercolor for tapas. At Wine World, we each enjoyed a glass of 2008 Aventus Chardonnay. It was a nice velvety Chardonnay with hints of pineapple.

Aventus Chardonnary
Aventus Chardonnay

The next day began with a bike ride along the Timpoochee Trail. We made it from Santa Rosa Beach to Grayton Beach just in time to stop and have breakfast as the rain began. I ordered Waffle Wonderful (a delicious waffle covered with peanut butter, fresh fruit, and honey) at the Hibiscus Cafe and we waited for about an hour before the rain stopped.

Hibiscus Cafe Grayton Beach
Hibiscus Cafe Grayton Beach
Waffle Wonderful
Waffle Wonderful

When the rain allowed, we biked on to Seaside (where The Truman Show was filmed) before heading back to Santa Rosa Beach.  We ended up biking about 20 miles which isn’t bad considering how much it rained.

Later in the evening, we went back to Seaside for dinner at The Great Southern Cafe where we both ordered the famous Grits à Ya Ya and shared a slice of key lime pie.

Grits à Ya Ya
Grits à Ya Ya

The grits were perfectly creamy and paired nicely with the shrimp. The unique spinach sauce sets this dish apart from other shrimp and grits. The bread served alongside was a bit redundant given that most of the meal was carbohydrates and neither of us ended up eating the bread.

Key Lime Pie
Key Lime Pie

The key lime pie had a great taste, but the texture was more like cheesecake than custard.

On Tuesday morning, we planned to bike the trail to Alys Beach (about 17 miles east of the beach house) and back. Once again we waited out the rain at Hibiscus Cafe (the food was so good we went back for a second Waffle Wonderful breakfast) and when the rain subsided, we set out to bike 35 miles.

On the way back from Alys Beach, we stopped at Queen Bee Cupcakes in Seaside.  Whenever I come to Seaside for work, I bring Jill a salted caramel cupcake.

Queen Bee Cupcakes
Queen Bee Cupcakes

Although they did not have salted caramel cupcakes on Tuesday, after this:

2 hour point
Two Hour/25 Mile Mark

this vanilla cupcake with pink frosting and vanilla frozen yogurt:

Vanilla Cupcake with Pink Frosting and Vanilla Ice Cream
Vanilla Cupcake with Pink Frosting and Vanilla Ice Cream

became this:

The aftermath
The Aftermath

in about two minutes flat. It was the perfect mid-ride snack.

After our bike ride, we hit the beach only to have our flip flops soiled with oil (we look forward to coming back despite the oil), got cleaned up, and stopped and P.F. Changs for dinner before heading back to Tallahassee.

If you are in the area, we highly recommend Wine World, Hibiscus Cafe, Great Southern Cafe, and Queen Bee Cupcakes for delicious eats in the Grayton Beach/Watercolor/Seaside area.

Fiesta Spinach Salad

Oh, this was soooooo good!  On Wednesday, after a long day of cleaning out the storage closet at work (no small feat!) followed by a post-work bike ride, all I wanted for dinner was something simple and delicious that used up some random ingredients in my fridge: black beans, an avocado on its last leg, and spinach.  Enter my creation of the Fiesta Spinach Salad:

Start with a bed of spinach (I used two big handfuls).  I give mine a quick chop first.

Top with chopped bell pepper.  I used 1/2 of a large pepper, but you could use the whole thing if you bought a small one.

Top with about 1/2 cup-ish of black beans – I just eyeballed it.

Top with the protein of your choice.  I’m currently in love with Amy’s veggie burgers, which I mentioned before in this post.  As far as frozen veggie burgers go, these have the best texture, flavor, and ingredient list, hands down.

Top with 1/2 a small avocado.  Want to know an easy way to dice an avocado?  After slicing the avocado in half lengthwise, carefully score the avocado (make crisscross cuts that don’t pierce the skin).

Then carefully use a spoon to scoop the avocado out of the skin.  So easy!

To keep the other half of the avocado from turning brown (the technical term is oxidative enzymatic browning – can’t believe I remember that from an undergraduate nutrition class!), wrap the avocado in plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap is touching the entire surface of the avocado.  This will keep the other half from turning brown as quickly.

Back to the salad – top the whole creation with a healthy amount of salsa.  
Another one of my favorites.  Paul Newman, what a guy!  Artie and I probably go through a jar of this each week.

Finally, give the entire thing a sprinkle of cheese.  We had white cheddar on hand.

Mmmmm so good.  This was easy to assemble (only got 6 dishes dirty – a cutting board, a knife, the cheese grater, a spoon, a fork, and a bowl), tasty, and exactly what I was craving.  It was enjoyed with an episode of this:
And the recipe was easily replicated the next morning to make for a delicious Thursday lunch:

The second time around, I didn’t have much spinach left (maybe a handful or so?) so I added in about a cup of raw broccoli florets, chopped into little pieces, and it worked really well.

Have a great weekend!

Perfect PB&J

I should start this post by saying that I do not like jam or jelly at all. I have unpleasant memories of globby grape jelly on my childhood peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  But this stuff is great on PB&J:

Crofter's SuperfruitCrofter’s makes four superfruit flavors: Asia, Europe, North America, and South America.  I love that the ingredient list is simple and completely organic: organic fruit, organic fair trade cane sugar, natural fruit pectin (gelling agent), and ascorbic acid (preservative).

The only flavor I’ve tried so far is the North American (pictured above), but I have the other three flavors on standby in the pantry (there was a sale at New Leaf, so we stocked up!).  The North American blend has a sweet, slightly tart flavor but I think more than anything, I like the texture. There are pieces of whole berries and it isn’t terribly sweet or syrupy.

My new favorite snack, especially before a bike ride:

PB, Jelly, and Sandwich with bite
Almond butter and Superfruit Spread on a sandwich thin. Yummy in my tummy.

I first saw Crofter’s on a blog that I follow (http://katheats.com) and I was intrigued.  It isn’t available at Publix, but I finally found it at a local grocery co-op, and a search on the Crofter’s website revealed that it is for sale at a number of health stores across Florida.  I would highly recommend this – it takes PB&J from kid food to a yummy, healthy, grown-up snack.

By the way, I am not getting $ or free products from Crofter’s to review their Superfruit Spread, so my opinion is not biased – I just wanted to share that I think it is a great find and part of a great snack!

Pesto Potato and Green Bean Salad: Two Ways

About a week ago we went up to Georgia and Artie’s parents showered us with our second batch of summer produce, which I wrote about in this post.  The produce included a big bag of little red potatoes and a big bag of green beans.

Red Potatoes

Green Beans

I made a big batch of Pesto Potato and Green Bean Salad (the recipe is at the end of the post), which we served two ways this week.

The first meal we had included Pesto Potato Salad, baked beans, and a veggie burger.  The Pesto Potato and Green Bean Salad rounded out this very summery, holiday-picnic type meal in a unique and creative way without being too heavy like mayonnaise-based potato salads.  The veggie burger wasn’t half bad either – it was Amy’s brand (probably the best frozen veggie burger I’ve ever had) on a Pepperidge Farm whole wheat sandwich thin with mozzarella cheese, spinach, and Paul Newman’s Farmer’s Garden salsa.

Pesto Potato Salad 1

The second night, I transformed the Pesto Potato and Green Bean Salad into what I’m calling Potato Salad Nicoise.  Nicoise Salad is a French salad which includes tuna, green beans, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, onion, capers, and potatoes.  Artie isn’t a huge fan of canned tuna, so I came up with this while he was out of town.  To the original potato salad, I added canned tuna (prepared with a little bit of plain Greek yogurt and salt – I do not like mayonnaise) and a sprinkling of sliced black olives.  It wasn’t a perfect Nicoise potato salad since I was working with what I had in the pantry, but it was pretty good and I’d make it again.  Next time I would probably add some halved cherry tomatoes.

Potato Salad NicoiseAll in all, I’d say it was a week of good meals and a creative way to repurpose leftovers.

Pesto Potato and Green Bean Salad

This recipe makes a lot of potato salad.  If you aren’t serving this to a crowd or planning to eat it for multiple meals, you may want to cut the quantities below in half.

Scrub two pounds of red potatoes and then dry potatoes on a kitchen towel.  Cut potatoes in half or in quarters to make bite-sized pieces.  Place potatoes in a large stock pot and cover with cold water.  Bring the potatoes to a boil over high heat.  Boil potatoes until fork tender.

While the potatoes are boiling, wash one pound of green beans and cut into 1-inch pieces.  Just as the potatoes are finishing cooking, add the green beans to the pot and cook for one minute.  Remove the pot from the heat and drain the potatoes and green beans in a large colander.  Run the vegetables under cold water to cool before placing potatoes and green beans in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix together eight ounces pesto (store bought or homemade) and 18 ounces Greek yogurt*.  Top the potato and green bean mixture with the pesto and yogurt mixture and stir gently to combine.  Cover and refrigerate until chilled.  Serve cold.

*The amount of yogurt you use will depend upon how creamy you like your potato salad.  The first time I made this, I used a 1 to 1 ratio of pesto to yogurt and the salad was too dry.  The last time I made it, I used the measurements above and it came out much better.  Also, if you aren’t a fan of the tangy flavor of Greek yogurt (which I love) you could substitute sour cream or plain yogurt for up to one-third of the Greek yogurt.

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup

Jill’s favorite food is eggplant. At least it was last time I checked. Combining her love for eggplant with her childhood stories of watching David the Gnome while eating tomato soup, I ventured to make this recipe. I also had the good fortune of being given some fresh eggplant my parents grew.

This recipe begins with ingredients shown below:

Eggplant, Tomatoes, Onion, Garlic, and Chicken Stock
Eggplant, Tomatoes, Onion, Garlic, and Chicken Stock

The two japanese style eggplants from my parents garden were supplemented with an Italian style eggplant from Publix. Olive oil, salt, pepper, cilantro (from my garden) and goat cheese are not shown in the photo.

After slicing the veggies in half, they were all seared in a little olive oil before going into the oven to roast.

Searing the eggplants

After about 25 minutes in a 350 degree (F) oven, the roasted veggies should be caramelized nicely. After making this recipe the first time, I could definitely roast more garlic. Much more garlic.

Roasted Veggies
Roasted Veggies

Before pureeing the vegetables in a food processor, the eggplant pulp should be pulled away from the skin. If your vegetables have roasted enough, this should be easy to do. Blend the roasted vegetables in a food processor with some of the chicken broth until smooth. Pour the puree into a pot over medium heat. At this point, it probably will not look overly appetizing and will resemble baby food like the photo below.

Roasted Vegetable Puree
Roasted Vegetable Puree

As the puree heats up, gradually add more of the chicken stock and stir to incorporate. I ended up using a total of four cups of chicken stock, including the stock used while blending the vegetables. After incorporating the stock, the soup looked like this:

While the soup simmered, I decided to add goat cheese. I lightly browned the goat cheese in a small amount of olive oil, but would probably add unheated goat cheese next time.

Warmed goat cheese
Warmed Goat cheese

To finish things off, I added cilantro from my garden to the soup as a garnish and served.

Soup in bowls
Soup and Goat Cheese Garnished with Cilantro

This recipe was adapted from “Charred Eggplant-Tomato Soup with Cilantro” from Cat Cora’s cookbook Cooking from the Hip.