Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Indian inspired Pizza

Pizza is one of my favorite foods.  I could eat it pretty much every day, not even joking.  But I get bored of the same old tomato sauce/mozzarella cheese combo, so I try to mix it up.  Some combinations are more successful than others, and the pizza I made last night was a definite winner.  The recipe has several parts.

Indian-inspired Pizza

For the dough, I like to make my own.  It takes about 10 minutes in my stand mixer, and about an hour to rise, and is so much better than store bought, but feel free to pick some up at the store.  Whole Foods makes a good whole grain dough that would work in this recipe.

This is my go to dough recipe, from Martha Stewart.  The cornmeal adds a nice crunch. I use half the recipe for a pizza for 2 people.

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
2/3 cups warm water
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/4 cup cornmeal, plus more for pizza peel or baking sheet
1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the warm water. Let stand until yeast is dissolved and mixture is foamy, about 10 minutes.
Combine flour, cornmeal, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, and add the yeast mixture and oil. Slowly stir ingredients with a wooden spoon just until dough starts to come together. Turn out dough on a lightly floured work surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, 7 to 10 minutes. Let rise for 1 hour in a lightly oiled bowl.

For the pizza
¼ head of cauliflower
Pinch of garam masala
Olive oil in a spray bottle
4 ounces goat cheese
Slightly under ripe mango, diced

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Dice up the cauliflower, sprinkle with garam masala, spritz with olive oil and bake for about 15 minutes or until just turning brown.

Spread the pizza dough out on a pizza pan, sprinkle with a garam masala, spritz with olive oil and bake.  I use a cast iron Lodge pan to make pizza, and it comes out nice and crispy.  Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven.

Take the Jalfrezi sauce and puree it with a stick blender or in a regular blender.  Spread over pizza, then top with the roasted cauliflower and the goat cheese.  Bake for another 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven; sprinkle the diced mango over the pizza.  Slice and serve.

This was a great combination of sweet with the goat cheese, tart with the mango, spicy with the sauce and smoky with the garam masala.  Try this to turn your pizza night into something different!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ashby Inn and Beet Lasagna

The view from our room

This past weekend, Scott and I had a little romantic weekend away at the Ashby Inn and Restaurant in Paris, VA.  We have wanted to go there ever since we attended Cochon 555 last a spring, an event that celebrates heritage pork and great chefs.  Chef Tarver King made some of the best things we had at Cochon, but with the restaurant being an hour and a half away, and knowing we would want to do the tasting menu with wine pairings, we knew it wouldn’t be a good idea to go for just the evening, so we decided to stay for a whole weekend and get away from the stress of everyday life.

We headed out Friday afternoon, and checked into the Ashy Inn.  We were staying in the School house, in the Lafayette room.  It was a beautifully appointed room, with a view of the hills and a wood-burning fireplace.  We headed out to the Hunter’s Head for dinner that evening, which is related to Ayrshire Farm.  Ayrshire Farm supplies heritage meat and eggs to many stores and restaurants in the Virginia, DC and Maryland Area, and the owner is a great supporter of Alley Cat Rescue.

A healthy, well balance lunch
On Saturday, I arranged for Scott and I have to a hot stone couples massage, which was a blissful experience.  After we stopped in to the Farmstore, also related to Ayrshire farm, and each had a maple glazed bacon covered donut, which I consider a very well balanced lunch.  Not sure if anyone else would agree.  We then walked around Middleburg, a beautiful town full of antique shops and interesting boutiques, and stopped by Chrysalis Vineyards for a wine tasting. 

That evening was our dinner at Ashby.  It was very nice to be staying two doors down, so no one had to drive to dinner.  Dinner was wonderful, and everything I had hoped for.  Well thought out, well executed dishes with a splash of fun, like when we cooked our own slices of beef on a rock heated up to 400 degrees, or the “hot and cold cider” accompanied by dry ice that had water poured over it which led to fog rolling over the table.

The first dish of the evening, a beet puree with goat cheese, is what inspired the beet lasagna I then made for dinner on Sunday evening when we got home. 

Beet & Goat Cheese Lasagna
Makes 6 servings

2 pounds beets
16 ounces goat cheese
15 ounces ricotta (get the best kind you can)
½ cup milk
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
½ onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Fresh Lasagna sheets
Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Boil beets for 45 minutes until soft, then peel (skins should slip right off).  Process in the food processor with about half of the goat cheese and the milk, some salt and pepper until smooth.

In the meantime, sauté the onion and mushrooms until brown, then add the garlic.  Continue to cook for one or two minutes until fragrant.

Take the ricotta mixture and the rest of the goat cheese and microwave for about a minute, then mix together with some salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a square baking dish, coat the bottom with olive oil, then put one layer of lasagna noodles.  I don’t bother to pre-cook the fresh lasagna noodles from Whole Foods, the moisture in the filling will cook them as they bake.

Take half of the beet mixture, and layer that over the first layer of noodles.  Put another layer of noodles, then half the ricotta/goat cheese mixture and spread over that layer.  Spread the mushroom/onion mixture over the ricotta/goat cheese mixture, then top with another layer of noodles.  Layer the rest of the beet mixture on top, then another layer of noodles.  Finish with the rest of the ricotta/goat cheese mixture, then shred some Parmesan on top.  Bake for about 30 minutes, then switch oven to broil and broil until the top is browned.  Let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bangin Good Shrimp

Last night for dinner I made one of my favorite recipes.  It is quick, easy and spicy!  I found the recipe on Gina's Skinny Recipes, a great blog with lots of really good things to make.  This dish can be ready in the amount of time it takes to cook the shrimp, and is good hot or cold.

Bangin' Good Shrimp, adapted from Gina's Skinny Recipes

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a starter
5 tablespoons light mayo (I recommend Kraft Mayo with Olive Oil)
3 tablespoons Thai Sweet Chili Sauce
Sriracha to taste

1 pound shrimp
1 tsp oil
Shredded lettuce/cabbage- I use the broccoli slaw mix that has shredded carrots in it
Cilantro or green onions, sliced thin

Heat up the oil in a skillet and cook the shrimp until pink all the way through.  Mix the sauce ingredients, and put in the bottom of  a large bowl.  Put the cooked shrimp on the sauce and mix, which will loosen up the sauce and let it coat the salad ingredients.  Mix with the lettuce, cabbage or slaw mix and cilantro or green onions.  Enjoy warm, or let cool to room temperature.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Recipe: BKT

The other day I wrote about how great kale chips are.  During a discussion with my future sister-in-law about them, I realized that they would make a great addition to a BLT.  So the other night, I made up some BKTs, and they were awesome.  Here is the recipe:

(Per person)
2 slices of bread- you can use any kind, but I used a dense whole wheat from Whole Foods, toasted
1 tablespoon of mayonaisse
3 slices of bacon, cooked crisp
sliced tomoto
handful of kale chips (I spiced mine up before cooking so they added a little bit of heat)

Just layer all the ingredients in between the bread, and you possibly have one of the best BLTs you have ever had!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Recipe: Crispy Kale Chips

On Sunday night, Scott and I were really craving burgers.  My natural inclination when doing burgers is to do a starchy, crispy side, like french fries.  Of course, if you think about it, do you really need a side of carbs if you eat your burger on a bun?  Probably not.  So in trying to decide on what to serve with the burgers, I came across a recipe for crispy kale chips in my "You Can Trust A Skinny Cook" cookbook by Allison Fishman.  This sounded like the perfect thing to go with burgers- something crispy and salty without the excess carbs.

I'm not usually a huge fan of greens, and these definitely kept some of the bitterness, but it seemed tempered by the crunch.

Crispy Kale Chips adapted from "You Can Trust A Skinny Cook"
1 lb kale, stems removed, torn into 3x3 inch pieces
3 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Put the kale pieces in a bowl, and drizzle with the olive oil.  Use your hands to make sure all the pieces are evenly coated.  Spread the kale out on two baking sheets, and cook for 20 minutes, or until crispy.  Make sure the pieces are in one layer, or the ones underneath will not get as crunchy.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper while still warm.

We served this with buffalo burgers- make patties with 1/4 pound of buffalo meat, season liberally with salt and pepper.  Grill approximately 3 minutes per side. I served them on ciabatta rolls with a little bit of melted blue cheese and a slather of German mustard.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Vacation Eating Extravaganza: Yakima

After three days of eating and drinking in Portland, Scott and I headed off to Yakima.  We took the scenic route and drove along the Columbia River, then went up along the Klickitat River.  It was amazing to watch the terrain transform from forest to high mountain desert.
 Yakima was not a place where we went to great restaurants, but we did have some good food, and even made dinner over a fire one night.  The first night we were there, we went to an old-school burger joint called Miners.  The burgers were pretty good, but nothing to write home about.   However, they had awesome milkshakes.

We were staying at Cherry Wood Bed Breakfast and Barn, where they have teepees and horseback riding wine tours.  Yes, both the teepee and the wine tour were awesome! Pepper, one of the owners of Cherry Wood, made really delicious breakfasts both mornings, even though she doesn’t particularly like cooking.  If I was that good at something I didn’t care about, imagine how good I would be at the things I did care about!  The ride was really fun.  It was great to chat with the other people in our group, and we went to three wineries and had lunch at one of them.  It was “just” and antipasto spread, but everything on the place was good and it was plenty filling.  We went to three wineries, and ordered three bottles of wine from Cultura.  (Side note- Maryland wine laws are terrible so we had to send the wine to my parents in New York.)

That evening, we decided to build a fire outside of our teepee and cook on it.  The grocery store in Zillah, the town where Cherry Wood is actually located, didn’t exactly have much in the way of selection, but we got some sausage and some corn and cooked them over the open flame.  It was really nice and relaxing, overlooking the valley and listening to the coyotes howling. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Vacation Eating Extravaganza: Portland

I’m back!  Okay, I’ve been back for like two weeks, but I’ve been busy with work and life and just getting back into the groove of things.  Scott and I spend 12 days driving around the Pacific northwest, and we had an AMAZING time!  We wish we could move there right now.  We started in Portland, which I loved.  It is a great food town with a laid back vibe, and I could see myself living there.
When we first arrived, we had dinner at a place called the Little Bird Bistro.  It is this adorable French bistro.  Scott and I shared one of the best charcuterie plates I have ever had. Everything was made in-house, and you could tell that even though there were only a few bites of each type, they were each made with love.  The truffle crème brulee was divine, but so rich I was glad I had Scott to share it with!  I then had the confit of Poussin aka baby chicken.  I’m not a huge fan of chicken, but I figured in a place called “Little Bird Bistro” they better make a ROCKING chicken.  And I was right.  It was super tender, and just melted off the bone. 
The next morning, we had to make a pilgrimage to Voodoo donuts.  I figured that it was something you just have to do.  So we went, and it was worth every tooth-rotting sugar filled bite. Scott of course got the infamous maple-bacon bar, and I had a donut covered in fruit loops.  We decided to split the Memphis Mafia, which is fried dough with banana chunks and Cinnamon sugar, covered in a glaze of chocolate frosting, peanut butter, peanuts, and chocolate chips. We ate about half of that before I felt like a diabetic coma was coming on.
Since we had such giant breakfast both days in Portland, we decided to just skip lunch.  For our second dinner, we went to Gruner, a modern German restaurants where I ate carbs covered in cheese, and it was great! Gruner was on GQ’s top ten best new restaurants in 2010, and Christopher Israel, the chef was nominated for a James Beard award in 2011.
Scott and I started by sharing the  crisp polenta croquettes stuffed with raclette cheese, and then I had the  tarte flambée:  alsatian “pizza” with sweet onions, smoky bacon, fromage blanc, chives, which could have been an entrée.  The croquettes were delightfully crispy and the cheese just oozed from the inside.  The “pizza” was on a super-thin crust that was rich enough to stand up to the bacon and cheese.  For my entrée, I had the quark spätzle with chanterelles, edelweiss black forest ham, riesling, crème fraîche, asiago & chives aka more carbs and cheese (and pork!). It was so so rich, but in a great way.
 On our second day, for breakfast we went across the bridge to Pine State Biscuits. Another ridiculous meal that was totally delicious.  I had the Reggie, which is a biscuit with fried chicken, bacon, cheese and gravy. Scott had the Chatfield, which is the same as the Reggie but with apple butter instead of gravy. I’m not sure who won this one, because they were both delicious. For dinner that night we went on a beer crawl and just had appetizers.  We started at Bridgeport Brewing Company, where we each had a beer sampler and pretzels with beer spread.  I really enjoyed the beers at Bridgeport.  They were fresh and all had good clean flavors. 
We then moved onto Rogue, where we had kobe meatballs stuffed with blue cheese, and buffalo chips, which were super thick cup potato chips in buffalo sauce.  We also had beer samplers at Rogue, but you got to pick which beers you wanted.  I chose beers like Morimoto Soba Ale and Yellow Snow IPA.  Finally we ended up at Deschutes, which was my least favorite.  First of all, the service was terrible.  It was impossible to get anyone to help you when standing in the bar area, and there were clearly waiters that were supposed to be working that area.  We only had one beer each there, and it was just okay.  There we had a grilled Washington Pear and goat cheese flatbread, that was made with a spent grain dough.  The dough made of the spent grains was interesting, but overall was not very exciting.
Finally on our last morning in Portland, before we headed out to Yakima, we had breakfast at Kenny and Zukes, which was right next to the Ace Hotel where we stayed.  I had the 222, which was 2 eggs, 2 slices of pastrami and 2 latkes, and a bialy. The bialy was a little softer than the kind I am used to from New York, but it was really good in a different way.  The pastrami was AMAZING.  It was sliced thickly, and almost reminded me of bacon.  Speaking of which, I need to get Scott to smoke me some pastrami! 
That is just the first installment of my vacation eating extravaganza.  More will be coming soon!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Recipe: Tomato Chickpea Soup

It is dreary.  It has been raining on an off for what seems like forever.  It is supposed to be fall, but all this rain and temperatures hitting the 80s don’t exactly scream hot cider and sweaters.  However, none of this stopped me from making some soup for dinner on Friday of last week.  I wanted something comforting but easy, so I threw together this soup.  It was great because almost all of the ingredients can be kept in the cupboard. 

Tomato and chickpea soup
One onion- diced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
A pinch of red pepper flakes
28 ounce can of tomatoes- I used crushed with basil but I think diced would be better
15 ounce can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pot.  Sauté onion for 4-5 minutes, until translucent.  Sprinkle oregano over onion and stir for 30 seconds.  Pour in tomatoes and chickpeas and one cup of water.  Let simmer for 30-40 minutes.  Using either a stick blender, puree the soup until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.  Use water to get the soup to the consistency you prefer- I used an additional cup and half.   Simmer for an additional five minutes.

I split this into four servings, and served with a Panini made with sourdough bread and herbed goat cheese inside.  The gooeyness of the cheese really complimented the soup well.  It would also be good served with toasted bread for dipping or parmesan crisps.   

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Recipe: Buffalo Chicken Salad

The other day I had to run out to the store to pick something up.  The store was right next door to a sports bar with an outdoor seating area, and the smell of buffalo chicken wings was wafting through the parking lot.  I love all things buffalo-style, so this really set off a craving.  Instead of indulging in deep fried wing goodness, I decided to throw together a buffalo chicken salad for dinner one night this week.  It came out really well, so I thought I would share the recipe.  I didn’t really measure everything, so most of these ingredients are approximates.

Buffalo Chicken Salad (serves 2)

1 head of lettuce, I used romaine
½ pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

2 ounces of tortilla chips, I used Late July Sea Salt by the Seashore Tortilla Chips

8 chicken nuggets, I used Boca soy chicken nuggets since I don’t like to eat meat during the week

Blue cheese crumbles, about half a cup

Franks hot sauce, to taste, I used about ¼ cup

White wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons

Olive oil, ¼ cup

These tortilla chips were good on the salad,
but if eaten alone would need a dip of some kind

Cook the chicken (or fake chicken) nuggets according to the direction on the package.  In the meantime, chop up the lettuce and tomatoes, and crush the tortilla chips in your hand and put everything in a bowl. Put half the blue cheese crumbles in the salad.  Take the other half of the blue cheese crumbles and combine with the olive oil, vinegar and hot sauce.  Use a food processer or stick blender to blend until smooth.  When the chicken nuggets are done, chop up and add to the salad. Pour on the dressing and toss to combine.

I can be pretty “blah” about salads, but this was great.  It really had the flavor of buffalo chicken, and the crushed tortilla chips added the necessary crunch.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Recipe: Marinated Tomatoes

      A few weeks ago I bought a new cookbook, "You Can Trust a Skinny Cook" by Allison Fishman.  So far I have made a few recipes from the book, and been really happy with all of them.  One of the things I love about the book is that she uses all REAL ingredients.  No "light butter", no turkey bacon (because we all know that turkey bacon shouldn't even be called bacon!).  She just uses the ingredients in moderation.
      Last weekend, Scott smoked a brisket on the Big Green Egg, and I was looking for a side that would take advantage of one of my favorite foods of summer: tomatoes. This recipe was easy and required no cooking.  It tasted great, and you can eat it over several days if you want as the flavors will just continue to meld.

Marinated Tomatoes
1 lb ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbl red wine vinegar (we only had white)
1.5 tbl dried parsley
Greens of 1 scallion, chopped
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp garlic power (I used a little bit of garlic salt)
salt and pepper to taste
I also added a teaspoon of garam masala to complement the BBQ

Whisk together all the ingredients and pour over the tomatoes.  Marinate at least 30 minutes or up to 5 days.  (The dried herbs allow the recipe to be kept for longer)

     This recipe really allowed the flavor of the ripe tomatoes to shine through, but added an nice punch.  It would be great in salads, and no need for additional dressing, or on a sandwich with fresh mozzarella or goat cheese.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Favorite Things: Crabs

As a resident of Maryland, it is pretty much a requirement to eat crabs at least a few times a summer.  At first, I wasn’t too sure about them because they seemed like a LOT of work for not a lot of reward.  Plus, I grew up spending my summers on Cape Cod, which made me a lobster-person, through and through.  Lobsters also seemed better because it is easier to avoid all the “icky” parts.
                Turns out, crabs are great.  Not only do they taste great, they are an excellent bang for your calorie buck.  The meat is sweeter than lobster, so there is no need to dip them in butter.  They are only 2 or 3 Weight Watchers point per crab, so you can have half a dozen and stay within your daily points value (or use some flex points and have more!).  Of course, I always use flex points with crabs because you really can’t eat crabs without something alcoholic to drink.
Crabs covered in Old Bay: a Maryland Tradition
                Another great benefit of crabs is that they take a while to eat, so there is no way to rush through your meal.  It is a very social event, and a dozen crabs can take an hour or two to get through.  If it is just Scott and I, we like to get crabs and bring them home.  First, we can drink as much as we want and not have to worry about driving.  Second, we put some towels in a cooler, and this keeps them warm for a lot longer than just dumping them on your table at a restaurant.  So my advice, if you haven’t jumped on the crab bandwagon, is to go out as soon as possible to try them!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Restaurant Review: Rogue 24

On Saturday night, despite Hurricane Irene barreling towards us, Scott and I got on the metro and went to dinner at Rogue 24.  If you follow the Washington, D.C. restaurant scene, you know that Rogue 24 has had some controversy since opening a few weeks ago regarding their reservation contract.  Due to the concept of Rogue 24, which is a small space that only serves two tasting menus, they implemented a “strict” cancellation policy in order to prevent last minute cancellations and empty tables.  It isn’t exactly a restaurant you would walk into without a reservation.  Personally, I had no problem with the contract, especially because it also asked for information regarding allergies and food preferences (vegetarian, vegan, etc) so that RJ Cooper, the chef, can make sure everyone has an amazing meal.
I had been looking forward to this meal for weeks, and was not going to let a little hurricane ruin my time.  So maybe I was a little soaked because an umbrella doesn’t help much when it is raining sideways, and my hair may have been a mess.  (For anyone considering getting bangs- they SUCK in the rain because there is pretty much no way to keep them from looking like a mess!)  Now, you also have to imagine the location: it is a few blocks from the convention center, off of N St.  You have to turn down a really sketchy looking alley.  Scott loves to talk about all the random places I make him go in the name of food and drink.
 We arrived for our reservations a little early, so we had cocktails in the lounge.  Naturally, I had the “Irene” in honor of the lovely weather, which was a take on the classic hurricane. It was delicious and clearly well thought out and hand made.  Scott had something with bourbon (I think) and smoked cola, which he loved.   Before we headed into the main part of the restaurant for dinner, we were also given a small non-alcoholic cocktail.  It was about the size of a shot glass, and tasted like watermelon.   If you are ever in the neighborhood, I recommend stopping into the lounge for a drink.  The space is very nice, with a little bit of a retro feel.
Then we were brought into the main part of the restaurant.  The kitchen is smack in the middle, with tables on either side.  Right when you walk in is a little four-seat bar that butts up against the dessert station.  We got to sit there, and it was really cool to watch the pastry Chef, Chris Ford, work his magic.  I had tried really hard to avoid learning what exactly was on the menu, although it was pretty impossible not to hear about a few of the bites.  Scott and I had the 24 course menu with the pairings, which included a small cocktail, several wines, a cider, and a beer.  They also offer a 16 course tasting.
When Scott and I were discussing the meal early on, I said that it was probably not necessarily going to be the best food we have ever had, but it would certainly be food we had NEVER had before, and my assessment turned out to be spot on.  Of course, if you find molecular gastronomy pretentious and hipster-y, Rogue 24 is not for you.  If you want to try a place that has taken food to a different level, and used techniques that are not done every day, and that you probably (unless you have a lot of specialized tools and ingredients) could never make at home, then you would probably enjoy Rogue 24.
I don’t want to go into every single course, because there were just so many, so I will tell you a little about some of my favorites, and some of my least favorites (which makes me kind of feel like a judge on Top Chef).  Before I do that, I just want to make a note about the service: it was impeccable.  Every single time I got up to use the restroom, which if you know me is pretty often, I came back to my napkin folded nicely and someone to pull out my chair and push it back in.  Plates were removed promptly, but I never felt rushed.  We had clean silverware for every course. The sommelier was entertaining and explained every pairing clearly, and engaged in conversation.  RJ Cooper was a jovial presence in the dining room.  I wish every restaurant had service like Rogue 24.  Also, I want someone at work to pull out my chair for me all the time.
As far as the things I didn’t like go, most of them are on that list because I don’t like olives.  Scott thought everything with the olives was good, and I’m sure they were, but I just couldn’t get past the olive-ness of them.  It is actually sort of hard to put anything else in the category of “didn’t like” because there really wasn’t anything else that I didn’t like.  Some of the things were less memorable than others, but with 24 courses that is understandable.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the foie gras, but I think that is because it was served very cold and shaved, and I prefer room temperature or warm foie gras.  The desserts were good at the time, but not particularly memorable, which may also have to do with the amount of alcohol consumed by the time you get to those courses.  My favorite of the three was the Tennessee, which had chocolate, shaved cream, and “wood and dirt”. 
On the other hand, my favorite courses were pretty varied.  I really enjoyed the cracklins with kimchi, sesame and soy, the “What’s up Doc”, with rabbit, carrots and a sauce made out of the carrot tops, and the Garden Mosaic with green goddess ice cream.  But my absolute favorites have a four way tie going on.  One of the things I loved was the caprese salad.  Of course this was no ordinary caprese salad.  The tomatoes were perfect specimens, and they were served with balsamic power and balsamic soaked roe. The next one I loved was the “Hail Buben”- a fried ball of grits that was crunchy on the outside and liquid on the inside, with shrimp that was made into a kind of chorizo and sliced thinly. The “Fowl Play”, which came out in a little glass domed dish, was made of edible hay topped with chicken gizzards and a partridge egg.  When you open the dome, a smoky vapor is released that has lightly permeated the entire dish.  Finally, the “Hog Jowl”, which was most definitely Scott’s favorite part of the meal and one of my top dishes, was just divine.  From the perfectly cooked pork, to the caramelized onion gelato, it was a perfect symphony of pork-yness. 
If you are adventurous, and have some money to spend, Rogue 24 is definitely worth the trip.  I hope that the menu changes enough in the future that a return trip is worth it. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Journey to this Point

Me and Scott in December 2010

I have noticed while watching TV and shopping that it seems that boot cut and flare jeans are in this fall and winter.  This makes me a very happy camper, because a few years ago when I had lost some weight I bought several pairs of jeans that have not fit in a long time and are practically brand-new.   But now they fit again!  YAY! Which brings me to my pain point: this isn’t my first time at the weight loss rodeo.   
Like most people who have struggled with weight loss, I have gained and lost a pretty significant amount of weight several times in my life.   The first time was the summer between freshman and sophomore year of college.  At that point, my weight loss was done in a really unhealthy way.  I would pretty much only eat one meal a day and was spending a lot of time at the gym, plus I was teaching tennis outside that summer.    So while I may have looked great by the end of the summer, I had gained a really unhealthy obsession with not eating.  And of course the minute I went back to school where most of my life revolved around eating and drinking beer (and occasionally doing some homework and going to class), I of course gained the weight back.  It was a slow gain, and took about a year, and while it was disappointing, why did I magically think that anything different would happen. 
The second major time I lost weight was right after I graduated from college.  At that point I decided to do weight watchers at home.  The plan worked, and once again I lost weight, but once I had gotten to a point where I was comfortable, I pretty much stopped paying attention and went back to my old habits.  And once again, I gained the weight I had lost back.  Between then and the summer of 2010, I had kept a steady weight that was between 10 and 15 pounds less than my highest weight.  But this past fall, for some reason I became even lazier at watching my portions, and not cooking with a ton of butter and oil, eating a lot of take out and fast food at work, and the pounds packed on, resulting in a very upsetting step onto the scale.
Me this past May
This is why in January, after Scott and I got home from our holiday trip to Cape Cod, we joined Weight Watchers again.  This time we are doing it online.  So, what makes me think that this time losing weight will be different for me?  While I can’t and won’t make any guarantees that I won’t slip back into old habits, I do feel like some of the changes I have made so far this time around are the kind that will stick with me.  First, I am not trying to lose as much weight as possible in the shortest amount of time possible.  If takes me a year, or 18 months, or two years to get to my goal weight, that is fine.  This time I also plan on not quitting when I get into the maintenance phase.  Yes, I am learning how much I need to eat to lose weight, but I will need to learn how much I need to eat to maintain my weight when I get there.  And to be honest, if maintaining my weight loss involves paying Weight Watchers a monthly fee, I am okay with that.  So this is me, laying out my goals and hopes for this time around.  Thank you for your support and wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Portion Control

One of the biggest struggles I have when trying to lose weight is portion control.  You know those family-sized containers of fresh ravioli they sell at the grocery store?  I can, and have, eaten the entire thing by myself.  Even while doing it, I was aware that is not healthy and that when I am done I will not feel well, or good about myself.
This time around on Weight Watchers, I have really taken the whole concept of portion control seriously, and have found that what used to be a struggle has started to come naturally.  A kitchen scale is a great tool for this, because it is way more precise than measuring cups.  I always weigh out my pasta now, and after six months really do feel like 2 or 3 ounces of pasta is enough. 
On Sunday night, Scott and I wanted to grill up lamb chops.  We bought four double cut rib chops, which is 4 chops per person.  BWW (Before Weight Watchers) I would have probably gotten at least one and a half times that much meat, if not twice as much.  We coated the chops in a mixture of garam masala and oregano.  Garam masala is one of Scott’s favorite spice mixtures, and it was perfect for the chops because the heat of the grill made the spices all toasty, which is important.  We also had a grilled ear of corn each and couscous with feta, almonds and dried fruit.  It was a perfect Sunday night dinner- a little indulgent, but still relatively healthy and really, really delicious. 
One of the things I worry about when I get to my goal weight and stop following Weight Watchers closely is that I will slowly go back to my old habits of eating large portions.  This will definitely be a struggle for me, and I need to really concentrate on keeping my portions in check.  I hope that the time I have spent on WW will make weighing and measuring my food a life-long habit.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fresh Summer Pasta

For the past few summers, Scott and I have been trying to grow food.  We tried planting stuff in the backyard, but the dogs just trampled it and we didn’t get enough sunlight.  Then we tried to grow a couple of things in pots, still in the backyard.  We eventually ended up with beets the size of a gumball and nothing else.  Finally this year we figured that we needed a place with more sunlight, so we bought a couple of tomato plants, some mind, rosemary, thyme, and basil, and planted them in pots on the side of our house.  Well, for the first time ever, we have successfully grown something we can eat! 
Our tomatoes are ripening beautifully, and we had about four that would be ready for dinner, so we decided to throw together a simple pasta dish.  Have you ever picked a tomato right from the  vine?  They are warm and fragrant, and just slightly heavenly.   This is another recipe that is PERFECT for a weeknight because everything can be tossed together while the pasta cooks.

Fresh tomato pasta (serves 2)

6 ounces of your favorite pasta, though small pieces are better than long in this case

Boil the pasta according the direction on the package

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, put:

4 ripe tomatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
Herb of your choice (I used rosemary), minced
Drizzle of balsamic syrup (I prefer balsamic syrup if I am not making an emulsion out of it.  It has better  mouth feel and makes a thicker sauce)
Raw egg yolk (can be omitted, but helps make the balsamic into a thicker sauce)
Salt and pepper to taste

Once the pasta is done boiling, drain and throw on top of the other ingredients.  Mix up.  Nom.

This was just the perfect combination of summer flavors, and light enough to not bog me down after yoga.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Challenges: Weekends Away

This summer I have spent several weekends away, visiting friends and family.  I find that these types of mini-trips are one of the biggest challenges I face on my weight loss journey.  This weekend I am going to the beach in Delaware to a bachelorette party.  This will of course mean drinking and eating out. 
                The trouble comes with trying to make the right choices.  Of course, I want to eat the deep-fried foods and the sugary, frozen adult beverages.  But I know that doing that will throw me off course.  On the other hand, I don’t want to completely deprive myself, and be downer.  So the focus has to be on balance.  Would I rather have the decedent entrée, or an extra glass of champagne?  Rationally, I know the answer is to make wise choices, pick healthy foods, and only drink a little.  But faced with the reality of the situation I often find myself making the wrong choices. 
                After a few months of being on Weight Watchers, I do feel that I am making better choices consistently.  For example, a couple of weekends ago on the way to Wildwood, Scott and I stopped at a rest stop and we were both getting hungry.  Despite the fact that in my mind a road-trip=excuse for junk food (Combo’s are my weakness), I choose to get a fresh fruit cup.  It was great that they even had that option and that I was able to make a good choice.
                So hopefully this weekend I can put some of the lessons I have learned into practice and make the best choices for me.  Ones that will leave me satisfied, but still able to have fun!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Recipe: Green Spaghetti

I am a carboholic.  I am pretty sure that if I lived alone I would just eat a giant bowl of pasta every night.  I might mix up the sauces, but it would be all pasta all the time.  And the “serving size” of pasta?  HA!  I could probably eat an entire 1 lb box of pasta if I really set my mind to it.  Serving size is one of those things I have to really watch in order to lose or maintain my weight.  So now I diligently measure out my pasta on my food scale.  And by diligently, I mean I usually have a serving and a half of pasta, because even on a diet, one serving won’t be satisfying.

This is a great recipe that I made last night. It look approximately 10 minutes to make, which is great for a weekday evening or when you don’t really feel like cooking.  I modified the recipe from one of my vegetarian cookbooks.

Recipe: Green Spaghetti (serves 2)
6 oz capellini or spaghetti
Frozen broccoli (I used about half a pound)
1/3 cup skim milk
Garlic clove, pressed or finely chopped
¼ cup Blue Cheese
Salt and pepper

Boil pasta for however long the box says to.  Meanwhile, use a steamer basket set over the pasta water to steam the broccoli for about 4 minutes.  Once the broccoli is steamed put in a blender or food processor with the rest of the ingredients.  Blend until smooth.  Mix with cooked pasta and serve hot.

This was surprisingly good for something so simple.  It had a fresh flavor from the broccoli, and the small amount of blue cheese added a great tanginess to the dish. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

recipe: grilled buffalo wings

For the last few weeks I have been craving buffalo wings. But I did not want all the butter and oil that usually comes with fried wings. I decided that it would be better to make them at home to get all the spicy goodness without the fried part. i picked up a pound and a half of wings at Whole Foods and looked up some grilled wing recipes. i decided to go with a Weight Watchers recipe with a few modifications. Here is the recipe:

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons Franks hot sauce
1/8th of a cup fat free chicken broth
red pepper flakes
salt to taste

Mix all the above ingredients in a plastic bag. Put wings in bag and marinate for at least an hour.
I let Scott, also known as the grillmaster, take care of the cooking. he cooked them for about 5-7 minutes per side and basted them with additional hot sauce. We also grilled up some mushrooms and asparagus. Serve with your favorite blue cheese or ranch dressing.

The wings came out nice and crispy and perfectly spicy. They definitely satisfied my wing craving.

Dinner at Graffiato

Me at trapeze class
On Saturday night, after trapeze class (yes, I said trapeze class. It is awesome and challenging and exhilarating), Scott and I went to Graffiato, the restaurant that Mike Isabella, a Top-Chef contestant, recently opened near the Verizon Center in Washington, DC.  I have met Mike once before, at Cochon 555, and had eaten at Zatinya when he was cooking there, so I was really excited to see what he was doing in his own space.

Mike Isabll and I
We had 7 p.m reservations, but got there a little early to have drink.  They have an interesting cocktail menu, and Scott was impressed with the beer selection.  They even make the "regular" beers a little different by offering them in pony bottles.  I had two cocktails: the Tony Starr (illegal mezcal, market fruit puree, solerno blood orange liquor, lime) and the Market Punch (seasonal flavors, booze).  Of the two, I preferred the Tony Starr.  The bartenders were using super-fresh ingredients, and everything was hand-made.  The Market Punch was a little dry for my taste, and kind of one-note.  Scott had the AleWerks Washington's Porter and the Staring at the Sun (basil hayden’s bourbon, apricot nectar, ginger, basil). 

After our drinks, we headed upstairs for dinner.  The whole place has the industrial vibe that is so popular right now.  I like that look, so that wasn't a problem for me.  Once upstairs, we were seated towards the front of the building, with large picture windows that let in a lot of light.  You can also see the open kitchen towards the back of the building.  Scott was a big fan of the meat cleavers hanging from above the kitchen. 

Our waiter came by, and explained the menu, and we decided to go with the chef's tasting. At $55, it seemed like a good deal, and we had more than enough food throughout the evening.  Our waiter made sure there was nothing we were allergic to, or didn't eat, because they do have some flexibility with the tasting menu.  I mentioned my disdain for olives, which was good because they are usually included. He also brought by a bowl of spice pistachios, which had an almost BBQ flavor to them.  They were an excellent hint to how the rest of the meal would go. We started off with a glass of the Montelvini prosecco on draft.  It was pretty good, especially for the price ($7 a glass).  Light and crisp, and it paired well with our first course of food. 

It was a little embarrassing watching the first course come out.  We had the bread basket, the spiced red beets, the roasted cauliflower, the ham plate, burrata with heirloom tomatoes, and tuna crudo with crushed pistachios.  Of these dishes, my favorite was the roasted cauliflower.  It was so simple, with pecorino cheese and a little mint, but the flavor was just explosive.  The ham plate and burrata were deliciously simple, and the red beets paired very well with the orange segments.  I couldn't detect the pork in the "pork fried almonds" that came with the beets, but they added a nice crunch. Of all the dishes of the night, the tuna was my least favorite.  It just seemed bland.  The tuna was fresh, but I could barely detect the balsamic vinegar, and it needed more acid, or maybe even more salt.  The bread basket had three types of bread, and a ricotta spread and an olive oil jam.  The olive oil jam was to die for, especially when spread on the polenta bread, which was like a softer corn bread.

The second course was the pizza and salad course. Our waiter suggested a great red wine.  I didn’t take note to what it was, but it was well balanced with fruit and earthiness, and went well with the rest of the meal. We had the Caesar salad and the "Choppin Broccoli" with sausage added.  The pizza was good.  I thought the crust could have been crispier, and was a little surprised since they use a real brick oven (we could see the cooks pulling coals out when we were at the bar). I did like the nice char that the crust had.  The cheese and broccoli rabe combo was very good though, and the sausage added a nice complement to the bitterness of the broccoli rabe. The highlight of this course was the "crouton" on the Caesar salad.  It was really a fried cube of cream cheese that just melted in your mouth.  The dressing on the salad was really flavorful, the lettuce crunchy and fresh.

The third course was the "main" course, and consisted of pastas and items from the brick oven.  We had the sweet corn agnolotti, the polenta with spicy pork meatballs, the octopus and the chicken thighs with Mike's famous pepperoni sauce. The polenta with the pork meatballs was very good, although it came with a soft egg, and while I love a good runny egg, this erred on the side of too runny for my taste.  The octopus was just okay.  A little bland, and a little rubbery.  The chicken thighs were moist and tender, with crispy skin, and the pepperoni sauce had a great zing to it.  Mike should bottle that and become a billionaire. The best part of the course, and really, best part of the meal was the agnolotti.  It was the part I will keep coming back to over and over in my mind.  The pasta was light, and the filling was rich. The taste of the corn was very strong and went perfectly with the chanterelle mushrooms and pine nuts.  A few weeks ago I made some homemade ravioli with a corn filling that were really good, but these blew mine out of the water.  I would go back just for the corn agnolotti.

Finally, we got to dessert.  I wasn’t sure I could eat any more at this point, but I managed to power through. We had the chocolate tart with sea salt gelato.  It was a great end to the meal: the chocolate tart was smooth and rich, and the gelato was light and airy, and the tartness was a perfect foil. 

Overall, I thought Graffiato was great.  I was a little worried it would not live up to the hype, but I was impressed.  One thing I really enjoyed was the atmosphere- I feel like I could stop in for a drink and a small bite to eat with no problem. I think that if Graffiato can weather the economic storm we are in, then it will be around for a long time.


My name is Kylie, and I am 27 years old.  At the end of 2010 I had a realization: I either had to lose weight, or buy new clothes.  I had been in total denial about how big I had gotten, and it was pretty embarassing when I stepped on the scale.  My hubsand and I decided to join Weight Watchers.  Since then I have lost almost 30 pounds (I am sooooo close!). 

Of course, all of this weight loss has been struggle, because one of my favorite things in life is food.  Eating it, cooking it, shopping for it, trying new restaurants.  This, combined with two of my other favorite things in life (wine and beer) made for an expanding waistline. 

I sort of have a love-hate relationship with exercise, which doesn't help matters. When I am into it, I am really into it, but when I am not, it is almost impossible to make myself do it.  Right now I am taking a yoga class once a week, which I love. I also bought a Groupon for Bikram yoga, which I hope to start using soon.

I hope to use this blog to review restaurants, post about great meals or recipes, and talk about weight loss.