Springtime Snow Comforts

Having off on Thursday and Friday to take care of some personal things allowed me to get reacquainted with my tiny, but efficient kitchen. Our current kitchen is easily a third of the size of our previous, but the counter space is about the same. Plus, we now have an electric stove, which adds extra counter-space when it isn’t being used. But I digress, as no one is interested in my cooking space (it’s boring).

After I got home, I headed out for a 4-mile run. I had debated the gym all of Wednesday, and when I woke up to an inch of slushy cold snow plastered to my car, was convinced I’d be spending my afternoon with the treadmill. Despite the early morning snow, it really wasn’t that cold out, and by 9am there weren’t any signs of precipitation. So I threw on some tights, a long-sleeve shirt, and sweatshirt, and got to work. I find that when I run in the cold, I feel painfully slow, but am almost always pleasantly surprised with my pace. In the summer, I also feel painfully slow, and that’s usually because I am. At any rate, the 4 miles weren’t all that bad.

After my run, and some quality homework time while cuddling with the cat, I got to  work in the kitchen. I found a recipe for a potato, leek, and feta tart on Real Simple. I’ve actually never purchased leeks before, and I probably won’t again for awhile – they were $4 each, and I had to buy two! My fiancé balked at the price and said, “this thing better be good.” So, the pressure was on. It’s definitely a perfect meal for a snowy Spring day. Oh, that pains me to write.

Hopefully I can start making some Spring appropriate dishes soon. I fear we might be skipping Spring and heading right into Summer. We’ll see though…

Potato, Leek, and Feta Tart
– Serves 4 –

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks (white and light green parts), cut into half-moons
2 small zucchini, cut into half-moons
kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup crumbled Feta (about 2 ounces)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 Red Bliss potatoes (8 ounces), thinly sliced
1 store-bought 9-inch piecrust

1. Heat oven to 375º F. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, zucchini, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the Feta and dill. Add the potatoes and toss to combine.
2. On a piece of parchment paper, roll the piecrust to a 12-inch diameter. Slide the paper onto a baking sheet. Spoon the potato mixture onto the piecrust, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the edge of the piecrust over the edge of the potato mixture. Bake (covering with foil if the crust gets too dark) until the piecrust is golden brown and the potatoes are tender, 50 to 60 minutes.

Eggy Pasta

Here I was just the other day going on and on about how I’m not a big breakfast fan (specifically eggs), and then I go and have eggs for dinner! I know, I confuse myself sometimes. But when I found this Recipe on Real Simple’s site under their Quick Meals section, I figured I’d give it a whirl. My fiancé has been going for physical therapy for his ankle injury post half marathon, and they’re hour-long visits twice a week,  either an hour or two after work. So, I’ve been trying even harder than usual to come up with quick and easy dinners we can have either before he goes to PT, or when he gets back.

The recipe only requires a few ingredients, and aside from cooking the pasta and sautéing the veggies then combining it all with a cheesy eggy mixture, there isn’t much work involved. Plus, if you are looking for an easy way to get some protein in a non-meat way, this badboy has four whole eggs in it (and according to their nutrition info, has 17g of protein)! I could definitely see this as a brunch dish, for someone that can’t really decide if they want more of breakfast, or lunch. The only modification I made to the recipe was adding extra red pepper flakes (of course), and using whole wheat spagetti. It’s also great because you’ll likely have some variation of all of the required ingredients already in your fridge/pantry. I’m definitely keeping this on my “Uhh… what can I make for dinner?” go to list!

Scrambled Pasta via Real Simple
– Serves  4 –

1/4 of a 1-pound box of spaghetti (about 2 cups cooked)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 green Italian frying pepper or 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 whole scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
4 large eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves

1. Cook spaghetti according to the package directions.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the green pepper, scallions, and crushed red pepper (if desired) until tender but not brown, 3 to 4 minutes.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the Parmesan and salt; add them to the skillet with the spaghetti and basil. Toss gently over heat until eggs are set.
4. Serve with grated Parmesan and crusty bread.

A little spice goes a long way

It’s no secret that I love spicy food. However, I have my limits, and they were met this weekend. On Saturday after a failed attempt at taking my mom out for her birthday dinner, we wound up getting take-out Thai food. When I had mentioned getting dinner on Saturday, February 12th, no one thought to mention to me that it was the Saturday before Valentine’s Day, and every restaurant would likely be crowded. After calling ahead, and still being told we’d wait for at least an additional 30 minutes, my parents decided they would much rather have food before their bedtime, in the comfort of their own home. Not being one to argue, I ordered my usual – Pad Kee Mao, and my fiancé ordered his usual – Pad Thai.

The restaurant we order from, Thailand Restaurant, makes their food hot. They let you know when you order, making sure you know it’s spicy when you ask for it “medium.” My fiancé decided to order it hot. I myself have never ordered hot, only medium. Well, let me tell you, my medium was hot. So before my fiancé even started eating the noodles I could smell the heat, and see the spice all over it. Needless to say he wasn’t able to finish the meal, and spent a portion of the evening downing sugar and drinking milk.

On Sunday, the fiancé decided to make me dinner, and we had a stir-fry. It was really good, except he decided to put two large drops of Blair’s Mega Death hot sauce in it. Big mistake. After mixing in some plain Chobani, it was still just too hot to eat. It was disappointing because it was really good. After fiancé’s bout with his extremely spicy food on Saturday, his concoction on Sunday was no problem for him.

So when I found this Linguine with Zucchini and Chickpeas recipe from Real Simple, a littles spice was more than welcomed. This is a perfect weeknight recipe, since it only takes as long to prepare as it does to cook the pasta. Of course I doubled the red pepper amount, but it was still plenty cool in comparison to my other meals from the week.

There are noodles under there, I swear!

Linguine with Zucchini and Chickpeas via Real Simple
– Serves 4 –

12 ounces linguine (3/4 box)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 small zucchini, cut into thin half-moons
kosher salt
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water, drain, and return the pasta to the pot.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini and ½ teaspoon salt.
3. Cook the zucchini, tossing often, until just tender, 4 to 5 minutes.
4. Add the chickpeas, garlic, and red pepper and cook until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Toss the pasta with the reserved pasta water and ¼ cup of the Parmesan.
6. Divide the pasta among bowls and top with the zucchini mixture and the remaining ¼ cup of Parmesan.

Curried Eggplant with Tomato and Basil

When I was in college, I made sure to hit up the salad bar every night. After swim practice, we all loaded up our trays and on my tray at least one corner had a little plastic bowl full of salad in it. The lettuce, though, was usually buried underneath a pile of chickpeas. Teammates and friends used to joke that I was having a little salad with my chickpeas, but I just couldn’t help it – they’re so good! So whenever I find a recipe that has chickpeas in them, I do my best to make it.

This recipe came from Real Simple magazine, which always seems to have such great (and usually pretty easy) recipes. Hmm, maybe the title of the magazine lends to the easy, or should I say, simple recipes. I was lucky enough to score a subscription to the magazine after my friend got me the bridal edition. I look forward to each issue!

It wasn’t until a few months ago that I began cooking with curry, and I LOVE it. Now that we don’t have any neighbors upstairs, downstairs, etc. we don’t have to worry about “stinking” up the place with our cooking. I think all aromas coming from the kitchen are great, aside from the garbage of course. Now that I have curry powder, Thai red curry, and a big bag of garam masala, I have every intention of adding to that collection and making more curry-based dishes.

I was able to put this all together post-gym since I didn’t get up early enough to run Tuesday morning (but I did Monday!). Being able to have the rice cook while taking care of everything else was definitely helpful. In addition to the regular recipe, I added some dried red chilis to the mix. My fiancé decided to throw some hot sauce we recently got from Serial Baker during her trip to California, and he over did it. I stuck to a squirt of Sriracha and was fine, while he was guzzling water. Oops!

Next on my chickpea to make list is RhodeyGirl’s Chickpea fries. I just need to figure out how to prevent oil from flying all over the counters as well as my arms.

Curried Eggplant with Tomato and Basil
– Serves 4 –

1 cup white basmati rice
kosher salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
1 eggplant (about 1 pound), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
1/2 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt (preferably Greek), optional

1. In a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, combine the rice, 1 ½ cups water, and ½ teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Stir the rice once, cover, and reduce heat to low.
2. Simmer for 18 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes.
4. Stir in the tomatoes, eggplant, curry powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
5. Add 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until eggplant is tender, 12 to 15 minutes.
6. Stir in the chickpeas and cook just until heated through, about 3 minutes.
7. Remove the vegetables from heat and stir in the basil. Fluff the rice with a fork. Serve the vegetables over the rice with yogurt, if using.

Curried rice: where the spice is nice

This week’s trend can simply be labeled, “fire in the hole,” fondly relating to the feeling my poor little mouth has had all week. Believe me, this isn’t a complaint, rather a way I wish I could spend (almost) every day!

Since we procured a pretty large bag of dried red chilies at the Asian market this past weekend, I figured I would put them to use with a curry dish I had found earlier last week. Plus, since I was planning to make it on Meatless Monday, it worked out perfectly. The recipe actually called for shrimp, but I left them out. After my last experience with shrimp, I didn’t really feel like dealing with them.

I’ve come to feel like I sautée onions and peppers on an almost daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an complaint but rather a mere observation. I could have sauteed onions and pepers on everything; pasta, pizza, rice, in burritos, mixed with eggs, you get the drift. So naturally when this recipe suggested carrots but also left wiggle room for replacement veggies, I immediately swapped the carrot for red bell pepper. Aside from that swap and the shrimp omission, I stayed true to the recipe, and it was delicious.

The smell of curry cooking is one of those smells that I think are aquired, and I love it. Throw in a little heat and mix it up with some brown rice and sauteed veggies and you’re good to go! I also really enjoyed the fresh basil leaves; it reminded me of some of my favorite Thai dishes, so of course adding a ton of dried red chilies was necessary.We were definitely feeling the burn, but in a good way; it wasn’t unbarable, kind of like the stuffed hot peppers were. I think I’ll need to lay off the heat next week to give my insides time to recover!

Curried Rice (with or without Shrimp)
Adapted from Real Simple

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 cup long-grain white rice
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp
1/2 cup fresh basil

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 6 to 8 minutes.
2. Add the garlic and curry and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 2 minutes.
Add the rice, 2 ½ cups water, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
3. Season the shrimp with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and nestle them in the partially cooked rice. Cover and cook until the shrimp are opaque throughout, 4 to 5 minutes. Fold in the basil.