Trouble With Toast

Recipe: Marinated Grilled Apples with Mint

July 7, 2011
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This dessert was absolutely fabulous, and a great end to our vegetarian grilling adventure.  I used my new juicer and some really delicious fresh oranges, and I think it made all the difference (so shy away from the ol’ Tropicana if you can).  We served this with some vanilla frozen yogurt, and it was heavenly!

  • 2/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 Granny Smith apples, cored and each cut crosswise into 4 (1/2-inch) slices
  • Cooking spray

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add apple slices; seal and marinate in refrigerator 1 to 2 hours, turning bag occasionally.

Prepare grill.

Remove apple from bag, reserving marinade. Place apple slices on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 3 minutes on each side, turning and basting frequently with reserved marinade. Arrange apple slices on a platter; drizzle with any remaining marinade.


Recipe: Grilled Eggplant with Caramelized Onions and Fennel

July 7, 2011
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One of our favorite couples to go out with has a big problem – the Mrs. is a vegetarian.  I know what you’re thinking – they must be VERY cool for us to hang out with them in spite of such a glaring personality flaw.  ;-)

I kid, of course.  We wanted to have this dynamic duo over, so I took on not one but TWO culinary challenges.  First, I would make sure the meal was both vegetarian AND delicious.  And second, since the weather was warming up nicely, I would make sure that every course – including dessert – had some sort of grilled component.

This was the appetizer I served, and it was very light and refreshing.  For those of you who are not fennel fans, have no fear – caramelizing it with the onions mellows it out significantly.  Plus, there is so much good stuff going on in this salad, you won’t taste any licorice-esque flavors at all.

  • 1 (1 1/4-pound) eggplant (about 4-inch diameter), peeled
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 3/4 cups chopped fennel bulb (about 1 large bulb)
  • 2 cups finely chopped yellow onion
  • 2 cups trimmed arugula
  • 1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon extravirgin olive oil
  • 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Prepare grill to medium heat.

Cut eggplant crosswise into 8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices. Lightly coat both sides of eggplant slices with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Place on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 7 minutes on each side or until browned. Set eggplant slices aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add fennel and onion; sauté 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender and lightly browned.

Combine remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, arugula, vinegar, and oil in a medium bowl; toss gently to coat. Divide arugula mixture evenly among 8 appetizer plates; top each serving with 1 eggplant slice. Arrange about 1/3 cup fennel mixture on each eggplant slice; top with 2 tablespoons tomatoes and 1 tablespoon cheese. Sprinkle the chopped basil and thyme evenly over cheese.


Recipe: Mixed vegetable and farro soup

November 29, 2010
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Even though the temperatures in Atlanta have only just recently started to dip down to seasonal levels, I was eyeing this recipe in F&W magazine (it’s from Mario Batali’s NYC market/restaurant Eataly).  The photograph of the dish alone looked like it could comfort and warm my tummy on a chilly day.  Unfortunately, the end result didn’t quite live up to expectations.

The soup is easy enough to make, and most of the ingredients could easily be hanging around your house.  However, even after sitting for a day (I never eat soups on the day I cook them), the flavors were just…meh.  My husband joked that the problem was that the soup was vegan, and that a smidge of pork fat would surely solve the problem.  But doesn’t there have to be a way to spruce up a bland vegetarian dish?  I mean, I’ve eaten plenty of meatless meals that had more pizazz than this one.  I refuse to believe that lack of meat necessarily equals lack of flavor.

Take a look at the recipe and let me know what YOU would do to kick it up a notch.  I’d love to move this into the regular rotation, but it’s gonna need some work.

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup farro or wheat berries
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts water
  • One 15-ounce can borlotti or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil

In an enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Add the celery, onion and leek and cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until softened, 5 minutes. Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated and shiny, 30 seconds. Add 1 quart of the water and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the carrots and the remaining 1 quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender, 30 minutes. Add the peas, cover and cook until tender, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, top with the basil.


Recipe: Blueberry-Peach Cobbler

September 7, 2010
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With the rest of the lovely Georgia peaches from Whole Foods, I made this fabulous, summery dessert (with a recipe found in Cooking Light).  This cobbler is different from many others I’ve tried, as the topping is more cake-like.  I guess it’s somewhere between a crumble/crisp topping and a biscuit topping?  Who knows – whatever it was, it was tasty.

The biggest hassle in terms of this dish is the peeling of the peaches.  When I thought about peeling five pounds of the fruit with a paring knife, I almost gave up on the idea entirely.  However, a quick internet search instructed me to quickly blanch and shock the peaches in order to remove the skins more easily.  Voila!  It worked beautifully.

One more note: definitely make the effort to find and use turbinado sugar.  It really makes a difference in the topping!  This cobbler isn’t exactly health food, but it’s a trimmed-down version of a classic that will definitely help you get your daily servings of delicious summer fruit.  Let me know what you think!

  • 5  pounds  peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
  • 2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
  • 1  cup  granulated sugar, divided
  • 3/8  teaspoon  salt, divided
  • 6.75  ounces  (about 1 1/2 cups) plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 1  teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1/2  cup  butter, softened
  • 2  large eggs
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 3/4  cup  buttermilk
  • 2  cups  fresh blueberries
  • 2  tablespoons  turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place peaches in a large bowl. Drizzle with juice; toss. Add 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons flour to peach mixture; toss to combine. Arrange peach mixture evenly in a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Weigh or lightly spoon 6.75 ounces flour (about 1 1/2 cups) into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 6.75 ounces flour, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and baking powder in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Place the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and butter in a medium bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla extract. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Stir in blueberries.

Spread batter evenly over peach mixture; sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Place baking dish on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375° for 1 hour or until topping is golden and filling is bubbly.


Recipe: The Best Blueberry Muffins Ever, Period, End of Story

January 26, 2010
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Last weekend was my last truly lazy one for a long time – my triathlon training starts this coming Saturday, so most of my mornings from here on out will involve getting up early to ride and run with the team.  So, taking full advantage of my lack of responsibilities, I spent the past Saturday morning lounging in my jammies and watching cooking shows on public television.

It just so happened that America’s Test Kitchen was focusing on breakfast items – specifically, French omelets and blueberry muffins.  I was particularly interested in their discussion of blueberry muffins, since they never seem to meet my lofty expectations.  They rarely have enough blueberry flavor, but the ATK pros asserted that simply adding more berries doesn’t solve the problem (since that just weighs the muffins down by adding too much moisture).  Texture-wise, most blueberry breakfast treats are either too dense or too crumbly; the ATK cooks talked a lot about overmixing, and how the formation of too much gluten can really muck up a muffin.  So what were the proposed solutions?  For mega-blueberry flavor without extra moisture or weight, they made a concentrated jam with half of the recipe’s berries and then swirled it into the batter at the end.  To avoid textural problems, the folks at ATK swore up and down that a) beating the egg/sugar mixture at a moderate pace for 80 strokes was the perfect amount of mixing, and b) that folding the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients JUST until the dry ingredients were moistened would avoid any excess gluten.  I was skeptical that these nitpicky suggestions would yield any tangible (or, tasteable) results, but I was determined to give it a go.

The end product?  The best. Blueberry. Muffin. EVER.

I know I can be prone to hyperbole, but that statement is no exaggeration.  The flavor was incredible – very berry-y, and not cloyingly sweet (the citrus kick from the topping was a really nice touch).  The texture was spot-on, with just the right amount of moistness and a perfect ratio of crusty top portion.  I don’t know what else to say, other than that these muffins were the BOMB DIGGITY, and they really only required one or two extra steps.  I guarantee that the minimal additional work will be WELL worth it when you bite into these delicious pastries.  Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Lemon Sugar Topping

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Zest from one lemon (about 1 ½ teaspoons)

Muffins

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 1/8 cups sugar, plus one teaspoon
  • 2 ½ cups AP flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Stir the sugar and zest together until combined; set aside.

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.  Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick spray.  Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 teaspoon sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, mashing berries with a spoon several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to ¼ cup, about 6-8 minutes.  Transfer to bowl and cool to room temperature, 10-15 minutes.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl.  Whisk remaining 1 1/8 cups sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds (remember, 80 strokes).  Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined.  Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined.  Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened.  The batter will be very lumpy with spots of dry flour; do not overmix!

Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to divide batter equally among muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly).  Spoon teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound, pushing it below the surface.  Using chopstick or skewer, gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure eight motion.  Sprinkle lemon sugar evenly over muffins.

Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, about 17-19 minutes, rotating muffin tin (front to back) halfway through cooking time.  Cool muffins in tin for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool 5 more minutes before serving.


Weekend bounty

May 26, 2009
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One of the highlights of the weekend was spending Saturday morning browsing through area farmers markets.  Here’s the take, from both Piedmont Park and Morningside:

Farmers market bounty

That’s right–the first of summer’s tomatoes are coming in from South Georgia!  I was a happy, happy girl when I saw those bright red spheres of goodness.  The BLTs I made with them were quite tasty, even if I did have to use turkey bacon.  There were also early-season cucumbers (which went straight into a container with some rice wine vinegar, pepper, and red onion bits), asparagus, squash, okra, red potatoes, and some carby goodies (all-natural granola and rosemary flatbreads).

I’m sure all of this beautiful produce will appear in blog recipes soon, but due to the NON-highlight of the weekend (which involved my fiance falling off his bike and breaking his scapula), this is gonna have to be it for today.  Did you get anything special at YOUR weekend markets?  Did you make a killer recipe for Memorial Day weekend?  Share your long weekend trials and triumphs in the comments!


Recipe: Strawberry Lemon Muffins

May 19, 2009
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As many of you know (and those who don’t can educate themselves here), I am training for two triathlons this summer.  In addition to hard-core physical training, I’ve also been preparing for the events by focusing on proper nutrition.  It’s been even easier since my fiance decided to join a fitness boot camp and lose some of his extra poundage.  We’re concentrating on protein-to-carb ratios, good fats, fresh fruits and veggies, and eating 5-6 small meals per day instead of 2-3 big binges.

Any former or current “dieter” knows that eating healthy can sometimes be…well, BORING.  How many ways can you grill a chicken breast?  How exciting can a salad truly be when it’s the sixth day in a row you’ve eaten one?  Why do all protein shakes seem to taste like a mixture of sidewalk chalk and candy that you accidentally leave in your car on a hot summer day?  It is with these burning questions in mind that I present to you…

Eating for Athletes: A Trouble With Toast Special Event!!!

Over the next week or two, I will focus on healthy recipes that are–gasp–actually tasty!  They’ll also be relatively easy to prepare, since athletes, I’m finding (now that I technically am one), are always pressed for time.

To lead off the series, heeeeeeeeere’s breakfast!  It’s the most important meal of the day, kiddies, and these muffins will make it one of the yummiest, too.  I adapted this from a Cooking Light magazine recipe for strawberry-orange muffins, and I couldn’t be happier with my changes.  The strawberries, besides having great flavor, give the muffins a nice pinky hue and a punch of fiber.  The lemon brightens things up and cuts the sweetness.  As with most basic baked goods, you could certainly sub out Egg Beaters for the eggs and Splenda for Baking for the sugar.  Either way, these are good, good for you, and good with coffee!

  • 1 1/2  cups halved strawberries
  • 3  tablespoons butter or stick margarine, melted
  • 2  teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 2  large eggs
  • 1 1/2  cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4  cups sugar
  • 1  teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 2  teaspoons sugar

Preheat oven to 400.

Combine first 4 ingredients in a blender, and process just until blended. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add strawberry mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons sugar. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove from pan immediately.

Nutrition (per muffin): Calories 184 (20% from fat), Fat 4g (sat 2.1g,mono 1.2g,poly 0.3g), Protein 2.8g, Carbohydrate 34.8g, Fiber 0.8g, Cholesterol 45mg, Iron 1mg, Sodium 179mg, Calcium 33mg.

Strawberry muffins


A produce problem, solved

October 31, 2006
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As anyone who lives in the District (or any urban center, I’d imagine) knows, grocery shopping is the pits. Sure, it’s easy enough to go to the national chain to pick up cereal, salad dressing, and other non-perishable items. But what about fresh food? Safeway is a disgrace when it comes to produce, Whole Foods isn’t much better (yet still charges double), and the neighborhood markets are often prohibitively expensive and limited in both varietal scope and temporal availability.

Well, if you live in the DC metropolitan area, you no longer have to suffer with such mediocrity.  Washington’s Green Grocer is here!

I found WGG through a DC blog. Basically, it’s a family-run operation whose goal is to simultaneously deliver better produce than you can find in the local groceries AND support sustainable local agriculture. Each week, they publish a list of available items, and they bring a box chock full of ‘em right to your door. The boxes come in small or large (I’ve been very happy with the small size, which has about 12-15 pounds of goodies and costs $27.50), and you can choose the regular or organic mix (obviously, the latter is a bit more expensive). Don’t need a delivery every week? No problem. Don’t like one or more of the items on the list? Just ask for extra of something you WILL enjoy. For example, this week there’s broccoli, sweet potatoes, grape tomatoes, red cabbage, portobello mushrooms, acorn squash, celery, Granny Smith apples, D’Anjou pears, ruby red grapefruit, mangos, and bananas. I’ll be getting extra mushrooms, broccoli, and grapefruit instead of the cabbage, celery, and mangos. Yum!

I’ve been extremely pleased with the quality of the items, and it has forced me to eat more (and varied) fruits and vegetables. Originally, I was going to get a delivery every other week, but everything has been so lovely and delicious that I’ve caved and ordered every week. Hey, it’s good for me, right?

So, if you live in or around DC and you’re tired of settling for sorry produce, check out Washington’s Green Grocer. Tell them that a very satisfied customer sent you!


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