Virginia Wine Country

The weekend of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Dan and I went out of town to Virginia with some friends. They already live in Virginia, but it was still out of town for them too. We met up on Saturday morning at Jewell Hollow Overlook on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah and hiked north on the AT to Mary’s Rock. After paying $20 to enter the park, which was annoying because we had an annual pass that somehow we lost in Glacier and then didn’t get to use in the Grand Canyon and now didn’t get to use again. I was told it can’t be replaced. Ugh. I mean, I support my national parks, so paying more money, fine. But still, annoying.

Jewell Hollow to Marys Rock

We had some nice sun in Baltimore in the morning as we headed out for the drive, then entered dense fog in DC through Virginia, and finally it was very overcast and windy in Shenandoah. Pretty chilly, but still a nice hike. There and back, maybe 6-7 miles.

After the hike, we headed to the Inn on Poplar Hill in Orange, VA, about 30 miles north of Charlottesville. We chose it because they allowed dogs and had availability :-). It only got colder as the weekend went on (real cold, in fact), and we even got snow! The first snow I’d seen this season. But the Inn has 20+ some acres and lots of walking paths through trees, which was so nice. Clio had tons of fun.

The owner of the Inn also took us on a wine-tasting tour on Sunday to visit three different vineyards (Honah Lee, Keswick, and Barboursville) and stop for a delicious BBQ Exchange lunch. Eating-wise, I tried to maintain my #Whole30 commitment, but I’m sure I got some sugar, seed oils, and possibly even gluten in there over the weekend. Sigh. And I drank the wine. I chose to do that before even starting the Whole30. It’s too bad this trip occurred in that time, but it did, so that’s what it is. I felt kinda crappy after the meat-heavy weekend though (or rather, veggie-less) and was very glad to get back to veggies and some sweet potato :-).

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Salmon, Chicken, and… Snowzilla

Okay. I’ve gotten way behind, and I pretty much stopped doing the BA Food Lovers Cleanse recipes. I ended up with a lot of leftovers, then Dan and I went out of town last weekend, and things just sort of fell apart from there. But I’ll share a couple more.

First though – Snowzilla 2016 is upon us. Luckily, we have tons of food. We got a farm box delivery this morning on top of all the vegetables we already had. Tomorrow is going to involve roasting vegetables and soup-making, for sure. I’m defrosting some chicken, some fish, and I’m stocked on nut butters for the duration :-).

So, it feels like weeks ago now, but I made the Salmon with Cucumber Sauce and Carrot Salad with a side of Garlicky Bok Choy on a week night. IMG_8739Wait, it was weeks ago. Anyway, they both seemed like fairly simple recipes, but somehow, the meal ended up not being ready til 8:45 pm, and I am usually heading toward bed by 9. To be fair, I don’t usually get home until 7:30, and then I have to take the dog out, change my clothes, etc… so it probably didn’t take that long to make. I just remember feeling rushed when I finally sat down to eat it. I did get to use my new mandoline for the first time, though, to make that carrot salad. That was fun, and a little terrifying.

Instead of saucing the salmon with cucumber-yogurt sauce, I sauced it with cucumber-no-yogurt sauce (still doing that whole #Whole30 thing…). It was good! I think the carrot salad was the star, though. But everything was tasty.

Next up was the Turkey Breast with Roasted Broccolini… which I made with chicken breast instead. I went to Whole Foods to shop for the next several BA FLC meals and picked up bone in chicken breasts for the Oven-Roasted Chicken with Grapes (which I never made and don’t think I will, because I’m currently defrosting that chicken and intend to use it for soup tomorrow instead, and I ate all the grapes today! Oh, but now we’ve got those 6 shallots… hm). I looked for the requisite turkey breast, but all I could find were breasts that had been brined in a variety of flavors, all of which included sugar! There may have been some that were not brined but that were also not bone-in, but I particularly wanted the bones… so I opted for another pack of that bone-in chicken breast instead. Turned out great! The broccolini was so good. I love roasted vegetables.

Guided by the BA FLC meal guide, I also made a side of Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Garlic and Chili, which is basically my favorite food ever. This has been in the BA Cleanse before. Love. I eat a ton of sweet potato fries anyway, but going that extra step to add garlic and hot sauce (or cayenne pepper, or ancho chile pepper, or whatever pepper) – boom. Amazing.

And finally, I made the Bistro Salad with Roasted Vegetables, which is probably my second favorite food ever. Roasted vegetables and a runny, poached egg? Yes please. For about a week there, I basically made roasted vegetables every day and just added to the container of leftovers in the fridge. I did make some special for this meal though, including the carrots and celery root (couldn’t find parsnips, sadly – I’ve looked twice now in the past few weeks. Is there a parsnip shortage??). This was my first time cooking with celery root! Fascinating. And delicious. Anyway, super easy, yummy recipe. Time-consuming due to the vegetable chopping and roasting, but you can do that while watching Netflix. Worth it.

Oh wait, I did make one more. Sea Scallops and Celery Root Lemon Salad. IMG_8781I got to use my mandoline and cook with celery root again (actually, no cooking involved, the celery root was raw). This one was quick and easy. The celery root salad was really great. I would make that again. I should make that again. Yeah! I’m going to make that again. Soon. After the snow melts.

And, okay guys, I’ve been reading a few tips about food photography. Enough to know that I am doing it all wrong, but not enough to convince me to change my ways quite yet. But wait for it. Maybe it’s coming.

New Year, New Eats – Mahi-mahi and Lamb

So, I’ve been busy cooking and prepping and cooking some more. The BA Food Lovers Cleanse seems to be a little easier this year. I mean, I’m not doing the whole thing by any stretch, so that makes it much easier. But the recipes (mostly dinners) that I am doing seem easier. Fewer ingredients, less chopping. Some of them still take a long time, but there’s less active time.

The first BACleanse meal I made was mahi-mahi without the beans (#Whole30 and all that), which I’d never cooked before, and a side of rainbow chard with mushrooms. The mahi was good. I’ve never loved chard, and I’m afraid I didn’t wash mine enough, so it tasted sort of grainy. But the mushrooms were delicious. It doesn’t look very appetizing in pictures, unfortunately :-(.

Next up was the Moroccon lamb with pomegranates. The recipe called for lamb shanks, but I could only find lamb shoulder. Google told me that they are both tougher meats that do best with long cooking, so I figured they were similar enough. I bought the shoulder.

Side note 1: I have only somewhat-recently begun eating significant amounts of meat, and apparently it hasn’t been long enough to learn the different types of meat and cuts and what’s good for what. But now, thanks to the Food Lovers Cleanse, I know this about lamb at least.

Side note 2: I learned several years ago that, according to the Environmental Working Group, lamb has the highest environmental impact of the meats Americans typically eat. So my husband and I generally avoid it. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve only had lamb a few other times in my life. I remember trying a ‘lamburger’ at… I think the state fair?… in second grade. And maybe one or two other times. However, the whole reason I like doing the BACleanse is  to try new things… and let’s be honest, I like having a schedule and sticking to it. To a fault.

So back to making the lamb. Shoulder instead of shanks. I really wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do to the meat. I trimmed off most the fat and cut the meat from the bone (which I don’t think would have been necessary for shanks, but seemed to be necessary for what I had), and saved the bones in the freezer for making bone broth sometime soon. And, instead of braising it in the oven, I used my brand new slow cooker that my sister gave me for Christmas. And then left the house to go to yoga.

The pomegranate juice and seeds in this made it really fruity and sweet – in a good way. I’m not sure if this is what was supposed to happen, but my dish resulted in more of a stew than anything else, and that’s how I’ve been eating it. I still have one serving frozen in the freezer. Yum.

I made both these dishes on a weekend (Saturday and Sunday nights). That was especially important for the lamb, which required several hours at least to braise/slow cook. I think I slow cooked it for about 3 or so.

I’ll write about the other dishes I’ve been making in a later post, which will probably be less exciting because I have been forgetting to photographically document my process for most of them.

New Year!, Curried Meatballs, #Whole30, and #BACleanse

2016 is officially underway! Celebrations are over, but it was fun!

Last weekend, right after making my Brussels sprouts salad, I moved right into making these curried meatballs from Bon Appetit, using my brand new blender and just totally getting a kick out of it. The meatballs were super tasty, and I still have a lot saved in the freezer for future enjoyment. I defrosted some yesterday and ate it last night with roasted vegetables!

Version 2

The sauce in my version is not as smooth as the version in BA’s photo. I probably could have blended it for longer and got a creamier consistency. Also, I used a full 28-oz can of Cento crushed tomatoes, rather than 14.5. I couldn’t find a quality brand that’s only 14.5 ounces. I did only use part of the can at first, but then I figured, whatever, just throw the whole thing in.

I tried the sauce after blending (so after it had simmered 25-30 minutes) but before adding the lemon, cayenne pepper, and salt near the end. It tasted a little bitter, and I was concerned. But after I added those last three ingredients, it was magically better. I think it was the lemon. It was amazing. So last night, when I reheated previously-frozen leftovers and there was a little bit of a bitter taste again (that’s the best way I can describe it), I put some fresh lemon juice on there, and voila. Better.

Oh, also, I used dried ancho chile instead of chile de arbol (which I couldn’t find), which might have contributed to that slightly bitter flavor – it’s deeper and more smoky.

My recipe made 22 meatballs, which I think will be about 10 servings for me. I’m about halfway through them, now. It’s true that some of the meatballs have broken apart in the sauce, but I wasn’t that careful in trying to avoid that when stirring, packaging, thawing, serving, etc.

So on to my next two topics. I will continue to eat my remaining five servings of this dish (with relish) over the next week or so despite the fact that (as I recalled last night when eating some of it), some yogurt was used in the making of the meatballs. And yogurt is not compliant on the #Whole30 program, which I’m doing for the month of January! I decided that I think the amount is small enough per serving that I’m okay with it.

I began eating somewhat Whole30-compliantly last June (at least, compared to my previous diet), but I’ve never followed it completely. The holidays were fairly lax (remember those pumpkin lattes I mentioned in my last post?), so I’m using January to reset and really follow the whole program.

It’s funny. I didn’t realize that my diet had become generally paleo until the past few months (because I wasn’t that familiar with what a paleo diet was), even though that was generally the way I was mostly eating. (Luckily, since realizing this, I’ve discovered that there is a whole blogosphere out there [and Instagram, and podcasts, and all the other stuff] supportive of Whole30 and paleo eating. Reading all these blogs has made me question what I’m doing with my own, but whatever. My goals are not to be a famous blogger or recipe developer, just to document.) My plan, even after the #Whole30 is over, is to keep mostly eating that way. I’ve been very pleased with the effects its had on my eating habits, my body, my athletic performance. And those things have slid backwards over the holidays, which again, I’m fine with… but now I want to get back to it. So #Whole30 reset!

Which brings me to my final topic – the #BACleanse! I’m still excited for the Bon Appetit Food Lovers Cleanse, which I mentioned in my first post. And, contrary to what I’d feared, BA is not just relying on their new Food Lovers Cleanse cookbook – they’re still doing a 2016-specific program online. Hooray!

Since not all of the recipes are #Whole30-compliant, I printed out the PDF of all the recipes and marked which ones are (or could be). Since it’s very time-consuming to follow the #BACleanse entirely, on schedule (I think I’ve only done that once – 2014 maybe?), I’m not concerned that I won’t be able to make every meal. Tonight’s dinner will be mahi mahi. I’ll probably post for that. Below is a picture of yesterday’s shopping trip in support of #Whole30 and the #BACleanse. I think this should get me through… Wednesday. Ha.

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Embracing the Holidays, and Bacon and Brussels Sprouts Salad

It’s the new year! Happy new year. I have a few different posts to get through over the weekend. We’ll see what I actually accomplish. I have big plans for this weekend that include lots of reflecting, intention-setting, shopping, eating, planning, cooking, and relaxing. And one or two other blog posts I’ve been meaning to get to. For now, I’m enjoying sitting in my new chair from West Elm, listening to a Spotify playlist of 30th and Weldon’s top albums from 2015, and getting this one out.

I had a draft post started from several weeks ago about Embracing the Holidays, but I never got around to writing it. As I think I mentioned, I really tried to embrace and experience Fall this year, which often manifested in consuming all things pumpkin: puree (and things made with puree), lattes (two or three, before deciding again that they’re just too sweet), beer (which was new for me this year – I’ve never cared much for pumpkin beer, but I found several I liked this year), etc. I had similar intentions for the Christmas season… and I have enjoyed the past few weeks, but now that they’re over, it seems they kind of passed me by. Still, it was overall relaxing and enjoyable and filled with loved ones and (now that I’m going back through photos and remembering) fun events – like decorating the tree, the Baltimore Washington Monument lighting, Dan’s annual work holiday party at Rusty Scupper, the White House holiday tour, and Christmas dinner at Dan’s parents’ house.

My contribution to the holiday meal was to help with the roasted vegetables, which, if you haven’t realized already, I make a lot. I don’t have any photos of the food, but I do have a photo of cooking eggs the next morning with leftover roasted vegetables. Yum.

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For Christmas, from Dan’s family, we received a new blender/food processor. The La Machine food processor (renamed ‘The Love Machine’ by a grad school friend that borrowed it, because she thought that’s what it said) I inherited from my mother is missing pieces and not really very effective anymore, and the Cuisinart blender I bought right after college and use multiple mornings a week for smoothies just doesn’t blend very effectively. Despite generally being opposed to replacing anything that still works at all (however ineffectively), Dan witnessed the lack of adequate functioning of these things enough times to support a replacement. I am super excited.

The first thing I used it for was a bacon, brussels sprouts, mushroom, apple, and almond mixture that then became the main content of my jar salads for the week. I also used the excess that wouldn’t fit into the jars for dinner by sautéing it and adding a couple fried eggs. Yum.

I generally followed the recipe for the Apple, Almond, Bacon, and Brussels Sprouts salad from Iowa Girl Eats, adding mushrooms. I clearly chopped things up much more than in her pictures, mostly because I didn’t think to add the apple or mushrooms until after I’d already done most of my chopping, so I had to chop chop more. And then the bowl was too full, so I had to remove some stuff and do it in batches. Which I didn’t mind. Using my new toy was quite fun.

The end result was really delicious salads. I also baked some chicken breasts that I added the morning of the day I planned to eat them. I don’t have a photo of the mixture with the fried eggs I ate for dinner, but as I said, yum. Not bad stuff just to have around and add to things. Noted.

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