Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tea Time

Many of you are aware of my infatuation with tea - there is nothing like a warm cup to put you at peace and calm your mind for just a few minutes. Admittedly I have been drinking a lot more coffee lately than I usually do due to sheer necessity, but tea is still my favorite. So this morning, I decided to indulge and, despite the warm weather, turn on the stove.

I brewed some green tea (even though Earl Grey is my favorite, hands down), drizzled in a thin stream of honey, and garnished with a lemon slice and fresh thyme. The essential oils in the lemon all danced across my tongue as the thyme added fresh herby freshness to what can be a monotonous mug. Heavenly.

Tea enthusiasts everywhere, feel free to share your favorite tea time combinations.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Guy Food

I love to eat healthy, really. It makes me feel good, keeps my girly figure intact, and helps me power through my (sometimes very long) days. That being said, I still have cravings for bad-for-me food just like everyone else, and recently it was a meatball sub. Usually I don't like meatballs (I push them off my spaghetti, avoid them at appetizer buffets, and the Swedish cannot tempt me at Ikea) but I think it was the combination of crispy toasted bread, melty bubbly cheese, and chunky tomato sauce that had be craving a meatball sub.

So I made one - healthy Katelyn style!

Ladies, your guys would be pleased to eat this, it's total guy food. You don't need to tell them it's good for them.

Turkey Meatballs 

1 pound ground white meat turkey
1/2 cup minced parsley
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fat free/low fat mozzarella
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg
1/2 (homemade) bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all these ingredients together and form into one inch balls. Heat some oil in the bottom of a medium pan over medium high heat. Brown all sides of the meatballs, remove to a sheet pan and bake 10 or so minutes, or until cooked through. Be sure not to overcook - turkey dries out quickly! 

Sandwich meatballs inside a toasted hoagy bun, topped with chunky tomato sauce and some more fat free mozzarella cheese, then broil in the oven to melt the cheese. 

1 egg

Monday, May 21, 2012

Graduation Photos at Last!

I am a college graduate!

I'll let the shock and awe of that statement sink in for a minute.

Here are some photos from graduation day! 

Of course, the food comes first...

Celebration dinner! Feta, kalamata olive, and sun dried tomato risotto, topped with roasted  pork tenderloin and fennel  and apple slaw.

With my Grandma Banks...

And my family, before the ceremony.

With my roommate right before we became alumni!

And here I am, after the ceremony, an official  UK Alumni.

With Mommaw and Boppaw after there ceremony - their Tater Bug is growing up!
Here I am with Shelby after the ceremony - doesn't she look beautiful?!

Shelby and I in my favorite park in Lexington!

Poor Shelby always gets stuck carrying the stuff...
Curious how graduates keep their belongings together without a purse? Fanny packs all the way! Hidden under a Bachelor's robe no one was the wiser.
It is strange that these few pictures contain one of the first "before and after" moments of my life. All contained in just a few pictures... I am still grappling with the sheer magnitude of what it means to walk across that stage and receive that diploma, let alone the fact that I earned it in three years. As I have said before, I am anxious to start culinary school and begin my career as a personal chef and caterer, but I am hesitant to end this chapter of my life. All good things must come to an end in order to make room for better things - I suppose I should take my own advice and go with the flow.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Spring Time Salads

I know what you're thinking - Katelyn, why are you devoting an ENTIRE blog post to salads, they are SO BORING. I am writing this post to, well, prove all you haters out there wrong. I am a huge fan of salads, but admit that they can be kind of boring sometimes, which is why I have made it my goal to make exciting, tasty, healthy, and intriguing salads this summer. First, let's answer the question: why salad?

With my summertime work schedule, I don't get to eat much of a lunch and tend to work right through from breakfast to around 4:30 when I get home, which means I arrive home ravenous at not-the-most opportune time. My solution? Have a substantial snack, something like a piece of peanut butter toast and an apple, cottage cheese and strawberries, or hummus and carrot sticks, and then go on with the rest of my day until dinner time, which is usually a few hours later. Since I just ate, my dinners have consisted of a lot of hearty salads, as they are light and filling, quick and easy, they make me feel healthy, are customizable, I get my vegetables in, and they are great ways to clean out the fridge. What's not to love?

So the key is to be excited about your salad. Buy some interesting ingredients to make the dressing, or try a new vegetable, fruit, nut, or leafy green to switch things up a bit. Here are some tips that I have been using to build the best spring time salad possible.

Tip #1: Make your own dressing.
I know, I know. That takes more time than pouring it out of a bottle. But here are some reasons why you should make your own:
  • Statistically, you use less dressing if you make your own.
  • There is less mystery stuff in homemade dressings.
  • You can control the taste, so if you like it spicy, sweeter, or creamier, you make make that happen.
  • Homemade dressings are better for you, hands down.

I started my going to a gourmet olive oil and balsamic vinegar shop here in Lexington, which turned into a very dangerous place for me to be - I luckily got out of there with minimal damage to my bank account, but have already planned a second trip back.

Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar, Basil Olive Oil, Roasted Garlic Sea Salt, and Lemon Twist Sea Salt. Perfect dressing makings!
Just a drizzle of balsamic and olive oil, and a sprinkling of garlic salt and I am well on my way to dinnertime bliss.

Tip #2: Remember texture.
Some people, falsely, think salads are boring because they miss out on all the great mouth-feels and textures that accompany all our favorite dishes. So add lots of texture to your salads - creamy avocado (I am still trying to learn how to like them,) crunchy nuts, tender spinach, crispy asparagus, hearty mushrooms, the possibilities are endless!
"Total" cereal chicken chunks, tender asparagus, spinach, romaine, tomato,  and bell pepper.

Tip #3: Use leftovers.
Salads really are a great way to clean out the fridge. I had some pesto potatoes left over from another dinner and decided to throw those in my salad one night, and voila! A completely different salad yet again. This can be done with shredded chicken, leftover beans or steamed veggies, grilled shrimp or steak, and fruit from breakfast - anything! Get creative and let you fridge do the work.
Pesto potatoes, tomato, asparagus, and romaine.

Just a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and some basil olive oil on top of some leftover roasted veggies and I was good to go!
Happy salad making!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Spinach (did I mention Vegan?) Pesto

Another early morning before heading to work - a perfect quiet time to get some blogging done.

This recipe is inspired by something we make at Woodford, a spinach pesto that offers a vegan alternative for our interested customers. I absolutely love it and made sure I memorized the recipe in a hurry, though admittedly it is more of a technique than a recipe, as I have made numerous variations to the original below. The biggest difference between this pesto and a store-bought one is this one lacks the traditional Parmesan cheese, thus also lacks the fatty and caloric punch that most pestos pack. No need for your diet to fear this recipe, it is completely waistline friendly.

Isn't this beautiful vibrant green striking?!

Spinach pesto chicken, sliced tomato, fresh mozzarella, and a little extra spinach sandwich.

Vegan Spinach Pesto

1 pound fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup garlic confit (recipe to follow)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
3/4 cup garlic oil (recipe to follow)
2 cups soft, fresh bread crumbs, soaked in vegetable stock (bonus points if they are whole wheat crumbs)

Blanch spinach in boiling water for one minute, remove to ice bath to stop to cooking process. Wring out all the water and add to the bowl of a blender or food processor. Add garlic cloves, red pepper, salt, and pepper. Pulse to incorporate. Drizzle in half the garlic oil while pulsing, then add bread crumbs, then add remaining oil. Continue to pulse until smooth and creamy. Adjust for seasoning.

Garlic Confit

2 cups garlic cloves, papers removed
2 cups olive or canola oil (or enough to cover cloves)

Place garlic cloves and oil in a deep baking dish, making sure garlic cloves are covered with the oil. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until garlic cloves are soft and fragrant. Store cloves in oil and vuala! You have garlic confit AND garlic oil.

** If you would like to double, triple, quad this recipe, go ahead! Garlic confit keeps in the fridge for weeks and can be added to soups and stews for a cooked-all-day flavor, smeared on toast points for an instant appetizer, and incorporated into marinades and salad dressings with ease.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Working Girl's Dinner

The question of the day is this: what do you make for dinner when you have spent all day cooking for other people?

"Total" chicken, roasted asparagus, green beans, and roasted new potatoes.

It isn't that I don't want to cook, it's just I have run out of creative juice by dinner time. And I'm kind of sick of doing dishes by then too (a huge thank you to whomever also became disgusted with doing dishes and invented the dishwasher - I suspect it was a cook of some sort, as there is an enormous amount of dishes to be done. All. The. Time!)

We made this incredible Greek Navy Bean soup at work with lots of fresh dill and garlic in a light vegetable broth, elevating a typical white bean soup to something uncharted and pleasantly different (and refreshingly palatable in 87 degree weather.) I was really pleased by these flavors, and obviously wanted more of them, so decided to season my potatoes with dried dill, fresh garlic, and coriander - a widely unknown and underutilized spice (I'm also a criminal offender when it comes to being limited in my spice use) but it added the most unusual and wholesome flavor to my ordinary and humble 'taters. 

Moral of the story: give coriander (and tumeric, Chinese 5 spice powder, powdered mustard, saffron, and all those other obscure spices) a try.

Answer to the question of the day: go back to your childhood roots!

Above is my version of chicken nuggets, healthier and more wholesome than those you get in the freezer section of course! And I ate my greens and got to dip it all in ketchup, just like when I was a kid (I would have liked some mustard too, but alas, there was none to be had.)

"Total" Chicken Nuggets

1 chicken breast, cut into bit sized chunks
1 cup buttermilk (regular milk will also do)
1 cup Total cereal (or corn flakes, whatever floats your boat)
1 tsp cayenne pepper
salt to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Mix your cereal (which has been crushed to smitheriens) and red pepper in a shallow bowl. Pour buttermilk into another shallow bowl. Pat chicken dry with a paper towel, dunk into buttermilk, then toss to coat in the cereal crumbs. Place on a baking sheet, spray tops of chick pieces lightly with cooking spray, and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cooked through and crispy. Sprinkle with salt right after taking out of the oven.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Happy Cinco de Mayo y'all! (I know that sounds just so lovely with a southern accent.) We celebrated Cinco de Mayo with Sangria, chicken enchiladas, and corn and black bean salsa. What a wonderful way to celebrate Mexico's eradication of the French (NOT the Mexican Independence Day, common misconception - that is actually September 16th... more sangria then too!) And it was so nice to have guests to share our celebratory meal with!

Look how festive our apartment looks!

Getting up close and personal con mi comida!

Our festive bar, patiently awaiting our guests!

Spicy chicken and salsa filling - I had to keep myself from eating  all the filling before rolling it up in tortillas.

Chicken and spinach roasted red enchiladas

And what would a holiday celebration be without some festive libation? Cranberry and frozen grape sangria, ole!

Cranberry and Frozen Grape Sangria

1 bottle white wine (we used Pinot Grigio)
1/2 bottle of 100% cranberry juice
1 cup simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, simmered until the sugar is dissolved)
juice of two limes
Grapes and granny smith apples, frozen

Mix the liquid ingredients in a large pitcher. Refrigerate until chilled. To serve, add some fruit to the bottom of each white wine glass, then pour your perfect sangria over your frozen fruit.

** The frozen fruit will act as ice cubes to keep your drink cold without watering it down like ice cubes will. Fun tip of the day!**

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Conquering the Wish List-ish

Graduation is five days away. Just thought I would update you.

I know, I can't believe it either.

I kind of feel like I am living an out of body experience this week. I think things to myself like "this time next week, the University of Kentucky will no longer recognize me as a student" and I get kind of sentimental. I was so hesitant to hand over my keys to the Student Government Office, turn in my last payroll sheet, and lock up for good. I was on campus yesterday for what very well could be the last time. No more exams to study for, papers to write, classes to attend, group project to organize, or courses to schedule. How can this be possible?

Despite the fact that my world had been turned topsey turvey right now, there is still the ever faithful Farmers' Market here to comfort me in times of change. A few weeks ago UK brought a mini Farmers' Market to campus, which afforded students the luxury of perusing the booths without having to leave the comfort of campus. And of course, who was out there with gusto and fervor? Yours truly. Check out what I found!

Organic local honey, green garlic, fresh thyme, and a curious dried bag of "calypso" beans

I was so intrigued by the green garlic that I had to buy it and learn how to work with it. In all of my food related study I had never heard nor seen such a thing, but what a wonderful vegetable! It looks like a large green onion and tastes just like a garlicy onion at that, so they went perfectly with my intuitive style of cooking - lots of aromatics and building upon flavors. I decided to add it to my wish list and then mark it off immediately.

So what has both predominant onion and garlic flavor already? Stir fry!

Green Garlic and Pepper Stir Fried Rice

2 TB olive oil (use sesame oil if you have it, but only use 1 TB)
1/2 cup finely chopped bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped white button mushrooms
1/2 thinly sliced green garlic (green and whites)
1 cup thinly julienned spinach
red pepper flakes, to taste
2 TB soy sauce
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 egg, beaten

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add bell peppers and mushrooms; cook until crisp-tender. Add green garlic and cook an additional five or so minutes (you will want to cook off some of the bitter and biting qualities of the green garlic, so don't get worried if it gets a little crispy around the edges.) Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Season with red pepper flakes and soy sauce (add additional oil if necessary.) Stir in rice and heat through. Mix in the egg and turn off the heat immediately - allow the egg to cook by the residual heat in the pan (which prevents the egg from turning rubbery and tough.)