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Rise and Shine On the Go

Hello everyone! I hope everyone had a great week. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it out the Farmer’s Market this weekend, so no interesting produce to work with for a recipe. Back at the end of the summer, I started a 200 hour yoga teacher training program, and this weekend is training number 3 of 7. I got started in yoga a few years ago when I started running. As I progressed in my distance with running, my left knee started bothering me more and more until it became unbearable. I iced it, tried doing warm-ups, and even got fitted for running shoes and nothing worked. I ended up going to the doctor who took x-rays which revealed that nothing was really wrong other than my kneecap would shift around when I moved. His solution, yoga. I needed to build strength in my quads and flexibility in my hamstrings. One groupon later, I was hooked. I have always admired the teachers at the studios I’ve been to and love the practice so I finally decided to take the plunge, put in the work, and deepen my practice to eventually become a certified teacher.

Each studio which offers the 200 hour teacher training operates on different schedules, the one that I go through, Spark Yoga in Arlington offers the training one weekend per month for seven months along with several assignments outside of class time and logging classes regularly as well.  Our training is literally all weekend long and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s like a retreat. I love all of the students that are in the training with me and all of the teachers we have. I decided we needed some major snackage for one of these weekends and while looking through Back to Basics, I found a recipe for Homemade Granola Bars.

Ina states that she prefers to make her own homemade granola bars because store-bought ones have a plethora of artificial ingredients, many of which are difficult to pronounce. This resonates with me because I actually prefer to make my own homemade granola versus buying store-bought. First of all – granola is EXPENSIVE. It’s mainly just oats, sweetener, nuts and fruit. Why is it like $7-$10 for a bag of it? I can purchase a whole bag of almonds at Whole Foods for less. Second, I control what goes in it. That means, using coconut oil as the fat versus butter or dried blueberries instead of raisins. I’ve also added egg whites to it to add extra protein. Third, and lastly, it’s easy. It’s essentially mixing ingredients together in a bowl and baking them.

Beginning stages of some awesome granola bars

Beginning stages of some awesome granola bars

This granola bar recipe is very similar. It is oats, nuts, fruit, some fat and some sweetener which are baked in a pan and allowed to set and cool into bars. I went rouge a little on the recipe and for the fruit I only used dried apricots and dried cherries versus the dates and cranberries that Ian suggests. I do believe that a recipe is more or less a suggestion of ingredients. One should cook to taste and not be afraid to experiment with subbing out similar ingredients. You never know what you might come up with. Could be gross it could be delish. One way to find out. The apricots and cherries end up being delish, you can ask my yoga friends as they enjoyed them yesterday for sustenance during one of our breaks!

Post bakeage

Post bakeage

I encourage you to give this recipe a go. Try it on a Sunday evening, cut them up and wrap in plastic wrap and you can have them for breakfast or snacks throughout the week or send them in  your kids’ lunchboxes.

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Print Recipe
Homemade Granola Bars
From Back to Basics, by Ina Garten page 242
Course Breakfast
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
bars
Ingredients
Course Breakfast
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
bars
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8 x 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the wheat germ.
  3. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.
  4. Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dried fruit and mix well.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours to set before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.
Recipe Notes

You can sub out any dried fruit you want for this recipe. Also, wheat germ can easily be found in the isle of your grocery store with the cereal/breakfast items. It's typically sold in a glass jar near the oatmeal.

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In Season Salad

So apparently THE Ina Garten was in DC this week. I must have missed her invite for lunch this week 😀 hahaha. One can dream. I’m not sure what she was up to as she used to live in the area before she bought the Barefoot Contessa, so maybe she was visiting for old times’ sake or maybe she was here for her show. DC could be on the map on her next season of Barefoot Contessa! That’s exciting!  DC is really becoming a foodie paradise and is very up-and-coming with new restaurants, stores and bars popping up all over the place. One thing I love about DC is the weekly Farmer’s Market that they hold at City Center every Tuesday. This allows me to get out and see what seasonal items are available from local stores and farms mid-week so that I can pick up something to make versus having to plan it on the weekend.

All the pears

All the pears

Today I stopped by at lunch and noticed tons of pears. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it is also mentioned in Back to Basics and is stated by Ina many, many times in her shows. In season fruits and veggies are always the best. Sure you can get them from a store any time of year and they are good, but they are REALLY good when they are from a local farm when the season is ripe. When I saw this plethora of semi-ripe pears available, I knew that I’d have to find a recipe to utilize them. Luckily, in Back to Basics, Ina included a recipe that takes a simple pear and turns it over the top into a simple, arguably elegant and extremely delicious lunch or dinner.

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I feel like pear, blue cheese, walnuts, and dried cranberry salads are a staple at many restaurants. In fact, I feel like it is a very British thing – possibly because of the blue cheese? Don’t get me wrong, the flavors are delicious, but this is not your typical salad. The pears are halved and hulled and filled with a mixture of dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, and blue cheese. When I was shopping around for blue cheese, I spotted some Roquefort from France at the store and though I’ve never had it, I knew I had to try it. It’s definitely better than any other blue cheese I’ve had. It still had the signature pungency that is well known throughout the blue cheese family. However this had a more fresh and sharp flavor, similar to cheddar to me. Note: If you can’t stand blue cheese, you could easily sub it out for some diced sharp white cheddar cheese. It’s more to balance out the sweet from the pear and cranberries.

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Once filled, the pears are basted with a syrup made of apple cider, port and brown sugar. I’m using a port that I got from a local Virginia Winery, Barrel Oak. This port is aged in whiskey barrels so it has an extra depth of flavor. Also, if you’re wondering how to open a wine bottle with a wax coating, it’s extremely simple. Just open it like you would a normal wine bottle and the cork will pop right through the wax coating. It does make a little bit of a mess though.

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While baking, I basted the pears with the liquid a few times to make sure they absorbed all the delicious flavor from the port and apple cider. Once finished and cooled, don’t throw away that basting syrup in the bottom of the pan. It gets used for the dressing of the salad, which is just some simple arugula. This is probably my favorite part of the salad. A mixture of the port basting liquid, lemon juice and olive oil with some salt and pepper is FANTASTIC on basically any salad. In fact, I used it all week for lunches at work.

I highly recommend this salad and play around with the ingredients. You could use apples instead of pears, any kind of dried fruit for the cranberries, cheddar or even gouda for the blue cheese, and if you don’t have port or wish to not use it, use all apple cider. I think that food and recipes should be easy and stress-free and I certainly don’t believe in making a special trip to a wine store to get a whole bottle of port if you know that you’ll never use it again. Cook to taste and personal preference and don’t be afraid to deviate from the recipes a little.

I hope you all enjoy and have a great week!

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Print Recipe
Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese
From Back to Basics, by Ina Garten, page 96
Course Lunch
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Lunch
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat Oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Peel the pears (or not if you wish to leave the skins on like I did) and slice them lengthwise into halves. With a small knife or melon baller, remove the core and seeds from each pear, leaving a round well for the filling. Trim a small slice away from the founded sides of each pear half so that they will sit in the baking dish without wobbling. Toss the pears with some lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown. Arrange them, well side up, in a baking dish.
  3. Gently toss the crumbled blue cheese, dried cranberries, and walnuts together in a small bowl. Divide the mixture among the pears, mounding it in the well.
  4. In the same bowl, combine the apple cider, port, and brown sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the mixture over and around the pears. Bake, basting occasionally with the cider mixture, for 30 minutes, or until tender. Set aside for about 30 minutes until warm or room temp.
  5. Just before serving, whisk together the olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of the basting liquid into a bowl with some salt and pepper to taste. Toss with the arugula and divide among 6 plates and top each with a pear half. Drizzle each pear with some of the basting liquid and serve.
Recipe Notes

You can honestly swap out the cheese in this recipe with some sharp cheddar or leave it out. I also tried this recipe with some apples instead of pears and it works perfectly!

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“Healthier” Fries

So this has been a fun week – sarcasm intended – between it being both long and busy, it is safe to say that I’m glad it is the weekend! It is also the start of Fall, meaning the holidays are creeping ever closer and a trip to Thailand is in my future. I need to get my life together and start planning for it! If anyone knows of some good Pinterest boards or articles on traveling to Thailand, please let me know. I could greatly use it. 🙂

Since this was a busy week, I didn’t have much time to invest in dinner so I needed a recipe that would be quick, easy, and somewhat healthy. Enter Ina Garten’s Baked Sweet Potato Fries. Who doesn’t love fries? Potatoes are always delicious no matter how they are cooked. Carby, starchy goodness just waiting to be mashed, baked, fried, you name it. This recipe utilizes sweet potatoes which I’m sure everyone has seen or had before.

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The orange-toned flesh cousin of the common baking potato. It definitely has more flavor on its own than the regular baking potato which makes it perfect for light seasoning.

These aren’t your regular french fries. The common fry is peeled, sliced thin, and fried…twice. Once to cook it and the second to crisp it. Consequently they absorb quite a bit of the fat from which they are fried. That’s one reason they have come to be a no-no for diets everywhere (that and the simple carbohydrates they contain and the tons of salt typically poured on them). In order to minimize the fat absorption – these are sliced thicker and coated with a little bit of olive oil. These don’t get as crispy as regular fries but the brown sugar does caramelize and help out a bit.

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One important item to remember before starting this – please make sure your oven is clean! You’ll be turning up the oven to a rather high temperature of 450 degrees. Even though I did manage to clean out the oven before starting, I still managed to set off the fire alarm for a few seconds in the apartment. I cranked the temperature down for a brief moment then turned it back up after it stopped. 😀 Even if we had to evacuate – it would have been worth it. Fries are worth it. Don’t let that deter you from making these though. Another option is to only turn the oven to 400 degrees and bake them for about 5-7 minutes longer or until they are crisp.

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I paired these with some simple grilled chicken and a kale salad to complete the meal. Also, that is sriracha mayo I’ve got to dip it in. It’s just some mayonnaise with sriracha and garlic powder. The ratio of mayonnaise to sriracha I use is about 1 Tablespoon of mayo to 1/2 teaspoon of sriracha. I recommend starting maybe with 1/4 teaspoon and working your way up. Then I sprinkle in a little bit of garlic powder and done. The spiciness of the sriracha goes well with the sweetness of the fries and the brown sugar.

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Of course I needed some Winc wine to go with it so I went with a favorite of mine. Pinot Noir is a varietal of grape that usually is originally from France but is widely grown in California.

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This particular brand is called Local Flavor, and for every sale of the Local Flavor brand of wine, Winc donates a portion of the funds to help promote the arts in schools in California. It’s a great cause and the wine is delicious. To me, most Pinot Noir is an easy-drinking red wine. It’s not too tannic and has a lot of fruit flavors with some oak flavors as well. The flavors I picked up are cherry, licorice, vanilla, and cinnamon right off the bat. You really don’t need to aerate this wine at all and it will go well with literally any dinner option you can think of. Or you could simply pair it with some popcorn and a movie for one of those nights when you just can’t even.

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B2B #11: Baked Sweet Potato Fries
From Ina Garten's Back to Basics pg. 180.
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Halve the sweet potatoes lengthwise and cut each half into 3 to 4 long spears. Place them on a sheet pan and toss with the olive oil. Spread the potatoes in one layer. Combine the brown sugar, salt, and pepper and sprinkle on the potatoes. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn with a spatula. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Sprinkle Lightly with salt and serve hot.
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Pumpkin Spice Up Your Life

Alright – I know…it’s not an Ina Garten recipe like I said I’d be doing way back when this first started. However, today is the Autumnal Equinox, which means it is officially Fall! Also – these muffins turned out amazing. I know it seems daunting with all the steps and parts, but trust me, it’s not that bad.

Mixing up the batter with this Jimmy Kimmel spatula from Williams-Sonoma

Mixing up the batter with this Jimmy Kimmel spatula from Williams Sonoma

I adapted this recipe from King Arthur Flour and I tried to make the process a little bit easier by just measuring out the muffin with a regular tablespoon. The original recipe called for a heaping tablespoon at one point and level for another. That’s too much to think about when you are assembling muffins – so just go with the tablespoon and it will all work out. Also, instead of using a tablespoon to get the cream cheese filling in there, I instructed to just put it in a zip-top bag and snip the corner off of one end. Then you can easily pipe the filling right into the center of each one.

Streusel Everywhere

Streusel Everywhere

Anyway, lastly I added cinnamon to the streusel topping for the same reason I added it to Ina’s plum crunch a few weeks ago. IT’S NECESSARY. The addition of the pepitas adds color and some extra flavor to the topping. Pepita is a Spanish term commonly used for pumpkin seeds. They are green and are inside the white flat pumpkin seeds we are used to seeing in America. You can find them in the bulk section of pretty much any grocery store that has one. If you’re in the mood this weekend, I say give these a go.

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If you’re in the mood this weekend, I say give these a go. They are a great dessert but would be even better on a crisp Autumn morning with a dark cup of coffee along side it.

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Cream-Cheese Filled Pumpkin Muffins
Get ready for Fall with these spiced pumpkin muffins with a streusel topping and a cream cheese filling that are perfect as a morning treat with some coffee. Adapted from King Arthur Flour.
Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
muffins
Ingredients
Streusel Topping
Cream Cheese Filling
Pumpkin Muffins
Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
muffins
Ingredients
Streusel Topping
Cream Cheese Filling
Pumpkin Muffins
Instructions
For the Streusel
  1. Cut up the butter into small chunks. Mix all ingredients in a bowl until it is crumbly and looks kind of like sand.
For the Cream Cheese Filling
  1. Beat all ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly combined. It is important to have the cream cheese at room temperature otherwise it won't incorporate well at all. Place into a zip-top bag and place in the refrigerator.
For the Muffins
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix everything except the flour into a large bowl, until thoroughly combined. Slowly add in the 1 and 1/2 cups of flour mixing until it is just combined. (Don't over-mix or the muffins will be tough!).
Assembly
  1. Line a 12 count muffin tin with paper liners and lightly spray them with non-stick cooking spray. Scoop in 2 tablespoons of the pumpkin batter into each muffin tin. Be sure to spread it out with a spoon to make sure it covers the entire bottom of each tin.
  2. Snip a tiny corner off of the zip-top bag with the cream cheese filling in it. Pipe about 1 tablespoon (eyeball it) into the center of each tin right on top of the pumpkin. You can always go back and add a little bit more if you were modest at adding it at first.
  3. Scoop 2 more tablespoons of the pumpkin batter on top of each muffin lightly spreading it around so it encompasses the cream cheese. Top each muffin with the streusel topping, covering them liberally.
  4. Bake for about 18-20 minutes until puffed and a toothpick comes out clean when poked down through the side (not the center because of the cream cheese). Allow to cool before enjoying!
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Farmer’s Market Find

September is in full swing and it is time for the fall fruit to being showing up the local farmer’s market. This past weekend I stumbled upon some Italian prune plums which are the variety that are dried to make the prunes that you purchase at the store (hence the name).

Beautiful Italian Prune Plums from the local Farmer's Market

Beautiful Italian Prune Plums from the local Farmer’s Market

This particular variety is only available for a very short period in early September and as soon as I found them I knew I had to make Ina Garten’s Plum Crunch recipe. One of her core tenants is to use in season fruits and veggies. This is when they have the most flavor and often times, are most affordable since they are so abundant.

I decided to stock up on extras and freeze some for later. If you want to do the same, there are several steps you should follow:

  1. Wash and dry them thoroughly and prep them while you’re at it. I sliced these in half and removed the pit from the middle.
  2. Lay them out in a single layer on a tray or plate to freeze them for about 4-5 hours. Freezing them this way first ensures that won’t stick together later on. Do this step no matter what kind of fruit your are freezing – it really does work.
  3. Place them in an air tight container or zip-top bag and place in the freezer for storage. They will stay good for months and you can have Italian plums in the middle of winter!

Since I was basically making this for myself, I decided to use a small ramekin to bake it in which held about 10 ounces of plums (about 6). I cut the crisp part into fourths, and froze  what I didn’t use so I can make another one later on with the frozen plums from above.

Sliced Plums

Ina is all about adding ingredients to bring out the flavor of the main ingredient(s) in a dish. In this recipe, she recommends creme de cassis which is a black currant liqueur. I’m sure it does add great flavor to the dish but I’m not about to go out and buy a whole bottle of liqueur just to utilize in one recipe – albeit that Ina does recommend that you can mix the liqueur with white wine or champagne to make kir or kir royale (sounds super fancy – right?). However, I just used lemon juice with a tiny bit of vanilla. The acidity from the lemon will bring out the flavor of the plums just fine and also mix with the flour and sugar to create the “goo” that is a staple for any good crisp recipe. I also added my own twist to this by adding cinnamon to the topping. Just about a quarter of a teaspoon adds a little warmth and it totally appropriate for the start of fall.

Pre-bake!

Pre-bake!

Lastly, just something to keep in mind – when baking or even cooking using fruit, try to choose fruit that are not quite ripe yet. If the fruit is overripe, it will turn to mush when cooked whereas when under ripe, it will soften and still hold its shape.

P.S. – I don’t think anyone would mind if you served this with some ice cream… 🙂

Plum Crunch with Ice cream

Enjoy!

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B2B #9: Plum Crunch
A new take on a crisp using seasonal Italian Prune Plums. From Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 205
Servings
people
Ingredients
Filling
Topping
Servings
people
Ingredients
Filling
Topping
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. For the fruit - in a large bowl, combine the plums, brown sugar, flour and cassis (or lemon juice and vanilla). Pour the mixture into a shallow baking dish, pie plate, or individual ramekins.
  3. For the topping - combine the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, oatmeal, walnuts, cinnamon, and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is the size of peas. Scatter evenly over the plum mixture.
  4. Bake the plum crunch for 40 to 45 minutes. I recommend that you place the dish on a baking sheet with either foil or parchment paper because it will bake over and will catch the drippings. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream.
Recipe Notes

Plums not your thing? You can use peaches that are in season - just make sure they are under ripe so they don't cook to mush.

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