A Collegiate Weekend

This past weekend, I took a trip up to The University of Rochester with my mom and dad to visit my younger sister, who is a sophomore at the university for their Meloria weekend. Even though this is her second year, it was my first trip up and I was excited to see her – I haven’t seen her since the summer! I was also excited knowing there was some delicious food to be eaten – including BBQ and a trip to the original Wegmans.

First up was a trip to one of the university’s cafeterias that had ready to eat cookie dough! We needed a snack before dinner having been in the car for 6 hours, so it was just what I needed. I opted for the rocky road version, and it was awesome.

During my sister’s rendition of a campus tour, we of course had to stop at the full-sized Starbucks they have on campus. The University of Scranton had a Starbucks added to their new cafeteria my senior year, but it wasn’t much more than a countertop in the quick service section. At The University of Rochester, though, it’s a fully operating store which blew my mind. My sister’s boyfriend works there, and they operate regular (late) store hours as well, which I think is genius for a college campus. I also got my first glimpse of the trenta – I love coffee, but I don’t think I could drink that much!

Dinner on Friday night was at Benucci’s which my parents and sister had been to before. Go to Parks near Rochester, NY for a stroll after a nice meal. I had a really hard time deciding on what to get, but I ultimately went with their spicy penne vodka, and of course shared some fried calamari appetizer with the table. The pasta was delicious – it was at the perfect spice level for me, which was nice and spicy.

Saturday started early with a trip to the hotel’s gym, and unfortunately my run ended sooner than I had originally anticipated. The gym was 80 degrees (I wish I was exaggerating, but I checked the locked up thermostat) so I could only muster up 5 miles. Of course, when I was done it felt like I ran at least double that. We then headed to the university, first stopping at Starbucks (I scored a free sample of their pumpkin white mocha – yum!) and then continuing on to watch Bill Clinton deliver the keynote address.
Having heard only delicious things about Rochester’s BBQ, so we decided to check out Sticky Lips BBQ for lunch. Adam Richman’s Man vs. Food actually visited there and took on the atomic challenge, so we knew it had to be good. While no one at our table attempted the challenge, we all got a ton of food. I decided to go with the veggie sticky icky plate, because I’m not a big fan of ribs, pork, etc. It was so delicious. It had french fries, black beans, macaroni salad, and was smothered with vegetable etouffe and of course came with a slab of cornbread. I tackled about half, and saved the other half for dinner.

Our final stop of the day was the original Wegmans, where I discovered Maine Root’s Pumpkin Pie Soda!
 Despite the 6 hour trip, it was great to spend the weekend with my parents (who celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary on Sunday – wow!), and get to see my sister and her boyfriend. The next time we’ll all be reunited is Thanksgiving, which we’ll be hosting for the third year in a row. This weekend reaffirmed my beliefs that my love and obsession with food is thanks to my family. The four of us have food on the brain, all the time.

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway – you have until Thursday at 9pm EDT! 

Butter Me Up

Last week, a friend of ours stopped over with a wonderful little jar of homemade pumpkin butter. After reading all over the Internets about everyone making pumpkin, apple, and other kinds of butters, I was psyched to give this one a try. While I don’t have the recipe, I’m planning on making my own special version later this week, so stay tuned for that.

I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with the contents of the jar all week. Over the weekend, I slathered some on top of a Wegmans cinnamon bun because I didn’t feel like using the cream cheese frosting. It was really good! Yesterday, Runner’s Trials tweeted about having peanut butter and pumpkin butter, and a light bulb went off – hello sandwich time!

So today for breakfast, I feasted on this bad boy – some chunky peanut butter and pumpkin butter on toast. Oh heck yes; it was delicious!

I’m totally ready to conquer the day now 🙂

Another set back plus poblano chile & cheese enchiladas

After writing up a blog post about my injury and taking it easy, I went for a 3 mile run in the rain Monday night. By the end, though, my heel hurt in a way it hadn’t before. Enter a few days later, and I’m hobbling around. Now that my ankle pain is pretty much gone, it’s moved on to my heel (awesome!). Everything I read says plantar facitis, but my lack of arch pain says otherwise. While trying to self diagnose, my fiancé made a good point; a doctor would be able to tell you exactly what it is. So I made a doctor’s appointment and was told to get an x-ray. I decided to try and make an appointment with an orthopedist, but unfortunately they’re booked until the end of the month, so I’m hoping to be better by then but we’ll see.

On top of my nagging injury, I also managed to develop a cold. So, even though I stayed home from work both Wednesday and Thursday, it didn’t keep me out of the kitchen completely. I decided to make Poblano Chile & Cheese Enchiladas, and to for once have dinner ready for my fiancé when he got home. Of course, peeling myself away from wedding shows was difficult, but I managed.

This is another wonderful recipe from Vegetarian Times. I cheated by not creating my own enchilada sauce. Sometimes you just need to cut corners. Thankfully, the sauce was pretty decent, so it didn’t come back and bite me in the bee-hind. The poblano chiles added a nice heat, and I added a habanero for extra. I know, I know, I add habaneros to everything. My fiancé grabs 2-4 without fail every week at Wegmans. So, I just make sure to put them to good use.

There was enough left over for lunch the next day, and they were just as good re-heated. I’ve decided I need to incorporate poblano chiles more into my cooking. After discovering them when ordering a chile relleno, I fell in love. So yes, I may have had a burrito for breakfast, left-over enchiladas, and quesadillas for dinner in one day. I think it’s safe to say I should probably move to the South-West.

Poblano Chile & Cheese Enchiladas

Sauce Ingredients:
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
2½ oz. dried New Mexican chiles, halved, stemmed, and seeded
4 medium tomatoes, chopped

Enchilada Ingredients:
6 Poblano or Anaheim chiles
1 Tbs. olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
1½ cups queso fresco
½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
2 Tbs. chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
12 6-inch corn tortillas

1. To make Sauce: Heat olive oil in saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic in oil 5 to 7 minutes, or until soft. Add dried chilies, and sauté 3 minutes more. Stir in tomatoes and 2 cups water. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, or until chiles are soft. Remove from heat, cool 5 minutes, then purée in blender or food processor until smooth.
2. To make Enchiladas: Preheat oven to broil. Place poblano chiles on baking sheet, and broil 15 to 20 minutes, or until blackened on all sides, turning often. Cool in covered bowl, then peel off skins and remove seeds. Chop chiles into 1/4-inch pieces.
3. Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic in oil 3 to 5 minutes, or until soft. Transfer to mixing bowl, and add queso fresco, 1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, cilantro, and chopped chiles.
4. Spread tortillas on baking sheet. Warm 3 minutes in oven to soften.
5. Spread 1 cup sauce over bottom of 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Divide cheese mixture among tortillas, and roll loosely. Place filled, rolled tortillas in baking dish. Top with remaining Sauce, and sprinkle with remaining Monterey Jack cheese. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until Sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted. Sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

Product Review: Veggie Style

Gardein Santa Fe Chicken

Most tried and true vegetarians would probably shudder at the thought of pre-packed and processed vegetarian options, but when it comes to lunch, I need something quick and easy. And while I’m only a part-time veghead (I’ve graduated from halfetarian to threequarteraterian), I really do enjoy vegetarian food. I can’t pass up a box of Morningstar Farms’ Black Bean Burgers, or Amy’s Organic Breakfast Burritos. So, while in Wegmans this past weekend, I decided to pick up two things for my lunch this week; Gardein’s Chick’n Santa Fe and also Light Life Smart Deli’s Bologna Style veggie meat. A mouth full, I know.

So let’s start with the Gardein Chick’n Santa Fe. The package comes with two chik’n patties, which are considered to be two separate servings. At just 140 calories each, I figured I could probably have two. However, in order to stretch my dollar, I decided to just bring one for lunch on Tuesday, and I paired it with the leftover mango cous cous I had. It actually turned out to be impressively filling, and I was glad I saved the other patty for later in the week. As someone that does still eat meat, I was shocked at how meat-like the chicken really was. Even my fiancé was impressed with it’s look in terms of color and texture. The patty was stuffed with corn and black beans, and came with a spicy(ish) tomato sauce to pour on top. It only took 2 minutes to microwave, and was perfectly cooked. Needless to say I was really impressed with it, and am looking forward to trying more Gardein selections!

Onto the veggie bologna. Growing up my go-to sandwich was Boars Head bologna with yellow American cheese, cut into quarters. I am salvating just thinking about it. But let’s be honest, for both the meat eaters and non-meat eaters, bologna is pretty gross. So, I decided to give the veggie (and hopefully more healthy) option a try, as my vegetarian friend loves it. I was a bit wary, considering I’ve had real bologna and it was one of my favorite deli meats growing up. I made my sandwich Tuesday night, paired it with some American cheese, and while I was tempted to have a taste, anxiously awaited until 12pm Wednesday to give it a try. While it isn’t real bologna, it definitely does a pretty good job imitating. If I hadn’t known it was veggie bologna, I probably would have assumed it to be legit.

It’s important to keep in mind when having vegetarian substitutes, they aren’t going to taste exactly like that meat you’re swapping out (in most cases). I think if you go into trying something with the idea that it’ll taste exactly like your favorite piece of chicken, hamburger, etc. you’ll be disappointed. However, if you’re willing to try some new flavors and expand your eating palate, veggie substitutes will be nice additions (or swaps)!

I’ll grill anything – including pizza

I found a recipe for grilled pizza a few weeks ago, and after finally procuring a grill, we had to try it. I’d heard of grilling pizza before (I mean heck – you can grill lettuce) but had never actually done it. I was excited, but a bit nervous for it’s outcome. I had visions of an extremely charred and barely edible crust, or the opposite, a just warmed not crispy crust. My fiance and I somehow managed to grill it pretty perfectly – a nice crunch around the edge of the crust, and keeping it crisp, but not over or under cooked towards the center. Plust, all of the veggies and cheese were just the right temperature.

This “Smoky BBQ Grilled Pizza” comes from Eating Well, which YumSugar had linked to a few weeks ago. I saved it in my Dinner cart on KartMe until the perfect moment, which was this past Thursday. I grabbed a package of pre-made pizza dough from Wegmans’, and it actually had two pizzas in it – enough for a breakfast pizza on Saturday! The recipe calls for tomatoes, but I forgot to grab one at the store (story of my life), so instead I caramelized some onions and tried to salvage what I could of the wilting Jamaican hot peppers. That added a nice sweet kick to the already tangy pizza.

It literally was grilled for 10 minutes, and though a little charred around the edges, overall a decently cooked pizza. My fiancé and I devoured the whole pizza (hey, it was kind of small) with a salad, and we were stuffed! Sure, it’s supposed to serve 6, but after a solid run and a long day of work, the pizza was no match for the two of us! I know BBQ sauce in place of tomato sauce sounds kind of odd, but it works – especially with that smoky grilled flavor! Either way, you can really put whatever you want on your pizza. I made a breakfast pizza Saturday with scrambled eggs, onions, peppers, corn, beans, salsa as the sauce, and cheese. It was equally delicious!

Though we’re out of dough for now, I have every intention of grilling up some other pizza concoctions, so suggestions are welcomed!

Pardon the less than stellar iPhone picture!

Barbecued Smoky Corn & Black Bean Pizza
from Eating Well

1 plum tomato, diced
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed
1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 pound prepared whole-wheat pizza dough
1/3 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella, preferably smoked mozzarella

1. Preheat grill to medium.
2. Combine tomato, beans and corn in a medium bowl. Sprinkle cornmeal onto a large baking sheet. Stretch the dough into about a 12-inch circle and lay it on top of the cornmeal, coating the entire underside of the dough.
3. Transfer the crust from the baking sheet to the grill. Close the lid and cook until the crust is puffed and lightly browned on the bottom, 4 to 5 minutes.
Using a large spatula, flip the crust. Spread barbecue sauce on it and quickly sprinkle with the tomato mixture and cheese. Close the lid; grill until the cheese is melted and the bottom of the crust is browned, 4 to 5 minutes.

Summery Tomato Salad

Aside from having both veggie and regular hot dogs and hamburgers for this past Saturday’s BBQ, I made a bunch of different side salads, and of course cupcakes. I have to admit, aside from my fiancé’s super spicy burgers, I think my salads were show stealers. In addition to the Corn & Black Bean Salad I’ve made a few times, I also made a tomato salad, which was awesome. I think this recipe came from Vegetarian Times, but I don’t remember for sure. I of course made some tweaks to what was available, and doubled the recipe. Thankfully, we had some left over, so I’m looking forward to enjoying some of it with a giant ear of corn later!

These fruit and vegetable salads are some of the most flavorful, and easiest dishes I’ve made! Since neither my fiancé or I are fans of mayo (I can eat things with it, but he can’t even be near it) we don’t ever have potato salad or maccaroni salad. So, I’ve been exploring other cook-out and picnic accompaniments, which have been awesome. This recipe suggests to make the dressing the night before and allow it to marinade overnight before combining it with the tomatoes and cucumbers and it’s defintely a suggestion to heed.

I’ve decided that ShopRite really isn’t cutting it for me these days. Unfortunately, we don’t have many other (better) options, aside from Wegman’s. I’d love to be closer to a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, but I know I’d wind up spending double every trip since they have such an awesome selection. My parents have a Trader Joe’s in their town, so if I’m looking for something specific or just want to treat myself to some yummy goodness, I’ll stop in. My latest problem with StopRite was their lack of heirloom tomatoes. Oh, and the fact that on Friday afternoon when we went after work, they didn’t have any corn left! Thankfully the Stop & Shop near our house had a ton of corn, so we stocked up. Since I didn’t get the heirloom tomatoes, I just used Jersey tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and plum tomatoes – good enough!

So aside from the tomato mishap, the only other difference with this recipe was the cheese. I went with an herb seasoned feta, which was delicious! I also decided not to puree the dressing and just cut the basil into little pieces, and combined it only with 1/2 tsp of oil, leaving out the second two tsp. The salad was a hit, and everyone was asking for the recipe. So here it is!

Heirloom (or any tomato) Summer Salad
– Serves 6-8 –

2/3 cup of fresh basil leaves (and more for garnish)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil

12 oz. heirloom (or other) peak tomatoes, cut in different shapes
1 medium cucumber peeled & sliced
1/4 cup small red onion, chopped
1 1/2 oz. ricotta salata, crumbled

1. Puree basil, garlic, and 1/2 tsp of oil, stir in remaining oil
2. Toss together veggies
3. Pour dressing and combine