steak salad

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My apartment is officially a sweat shop.

A freezing sweat shop, because I don’t want to pay for heat. But there is back-breaking work going on in there for sure.

One of my co-workers (whom I adore) commissioned me to make three quilts- one for each of her daughters- for Christmas. Her husband passed away in March, and she gave me bags and bags of his clothing to make a quilt for each of them. I am so happy to do it for her, but I got the materials about 10 days ago which means less than 3 weeks to bang out 3 quilts. That’s a big job. I’ll show you pictures when they’re all finished!

I’ve been spending all waking hours after work sewing, and I know I’ll have it done in time but I haven’t left myself much wiggle room for creative cooking. Last week I ate eggs for dinner 5 days in a row.

This weekend the GS visited and we went to Trata for dinner. I’ve been there twice before and love it- the food is good and it’s a really cool atmosphere. This time I ordered a steak salad and loved it so much that I decided to do a copycat version at home.

Steak Salad

(makes about 2 LARGE salads, 3 Erin-sized salads)

1 strip steak (or whatever is cheapest at your grocery store!)

4-5 cups arugula or mixed greens

1 onion

roasted red peppers, from a jar or make your own

6-7 asparagus spears

goat cheese

juice of one lemon

olive oil

2-3 cloves garlic

salt & pepper

First I seasoned the steak. I just used the McCormick Spicy Montreal Steak blend because I had it and was in a time crunch, but you could also try this. Or just the old standby of Italian dressing. Sear on both sides on a skillet, or grill it if you’re a lucky duck, until desired doneness. I like it medium rare. Let the steak rest for several minutes before slicing.

Caramelize your onions like this. Remove the woody ends of the asparagus and give it a rough chop- we want reasonable bite sized pieces- add to the onions. Chop your roasted reds and throw those in there too.

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Mix up your dressing. I essentially made this dressing, but you can use whatever you have on hand. I like the zing of the lemon with this combination, though.

Assemble the salad! Greens, topped with some heavenly cooked vegetables, topped with sliced steak, crumbled goat cheese, and a little drizzle of dressing.

My couch and chair are both covered in fabric so I parked myself right on the floor and scarfed this down. This is what high class dining looks like when you live alone.

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I know it looks like a high maintenance salad but it was pretty quick. This is what you should serve people if you’re having a dinner party over the holidays and you want to seem impressive but not serve something super decadent because maybe you have to squeeze into a bridesmaid dress two days after Christmas.

Oh, that’s just me? Okay. Well cheers to eating healthy anyway.

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body attack instructor training

HEY. I talk about Body Pump like, all the time, I know. I did my certification a little over 4 years ago and it was an awesome experience. Loved it. I think it’s probably like childbirth where you forget how painful it is because you’re so in love with the outcome, which is more Body Pump in your life.

No? Okay.

So I’ve been obsessed with Body Attack for almost as long (Pump = barbell workout, Attack = aerobic, sports training, strength). I’ve wanted to get certified in it for a while but have been super poor (still really poor, just slightly above the poverty line) so I FINALLY signed up and did it.

It pretty much hurts to type right now but, again, it was so worth it.

I did the training in Wilmington, DE which involved an absurd amount of driving. Approximately 14 hours in total. I stayed in Baltimore so I got to see the GS for a few hours of it, but training was essentially all day Saturday and Sunday. Both days were really intense physically, but you also learn a lot about being a good instructor and connecting with your participants. I thought a lot of it might be repetitive from Pump training, but it really wasn’t.

If you can’t tell, I have totally drunk the Les Mills Kool-Aid and I don’t plan on ever going back to the generic brand. It’s actually shocking to me that you can get certified to be an instructor through an online course because there is SO much feedback that you can get from having a professional watch you.

We had a small group which was nice because we worked together really well and got a lot of personalized tips. Plus our trainer, Adam, described us as a whole as being “stupid fit.” He was really awesome. I want us to be BFFs.

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I’m justifying this post on this here blog because I did have to be very strategic about the food I was packing. We were burning a crazy amount of calories, but I also didn’t want to scarf down a ton of food because then I’d be all crampy when I was running/bouncing/jumping-jacking around.

This is what I packed:

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Clif bars and frozen Gatorades galore. I also ended up grabbing a small bag of pretzels for Day 2. It doesn’t seem like a lot but they were pretty filling snacks so I was okay. Plus I drank a ton of water- probably 4-5 Camelbaks worth (3-4 liters) each day.

I won’t give too many details about what we actually did because I think part of the fun of the training is not knowing exactly what to expect. I read a few blogs before I went because I wanted to know what food other people had packed, and there were some spoilers. Still, it was unforgettable.

Next step is to memorize the entire release (I only had to present 1 track) and film a video teaching it to a group, and then submit it to Les Mills for review.

Who wants to come to Rochester and practice with me?!

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turkey florentine soup

Your leftover turkey is already gone, isn’t it? Damn. Again, my timing is the worst.

We typically have 8 million people for Thanksgiving (okay, like 50), but this year was a much smaller affair with a meager 24 joining us for dinner.

We did a 21 pound turkey (which I slathered with a homemade compound butter) and a 10 lb turkey breast. My mom had also bought a second turkey breast that we didn’t end up cooking on the day of because of our smaller numbers.

 

photo 1 The second turkey breast was baked off after Thanksgiving, and I was sent back to Rochester with a hefty chunk of it. My initial plan was to re-create the Ross Gellar Thanksgiving sandwich, moist-maker and all. Even though my ideal Thanksgiving sandwich is just like this:

Wheat bread, turkey, the slightest schmear of mayo, lettuce, and salt. Nothing else.

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I came back with too much turkey for sandwiches alone, though.

Then I thought I would make some sort of absurd Thanksgiving chowder with potatoes and corn and green beans and maybe even incorporate gravy somehow?!

But when I reflected on the fact that I just ate my face off at home for four days (not just Thanksgiving food- I put a sizeable dent into a 5 lb bag of peanut M&Ms…) I decided to go with a healthier option.

Turkey Florentine Soup

2-3 tbs olive oil

1/2 sweet onion, diced

1 cup carrots, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups turkey, shredded (you can also use chicken for this)

5 cups baby spinach

1 quart chicken stock

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp Italian seasoning (or just a pinch of parsley and basil)

1 cup whole wheat orzo, or pasta of your choice

Saute the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add the shredded turkey, and pour in the chicken stock. Add the seasonings and stir. Add the spinach and bring the stock to a simmer, until the spinach is fully wilted. You can add it in batches if necessary.

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I like to cook the orzo separately and add it to the soup so that it doesn’t get mushy. I still recommend under-cooking it slightly so that it can soak up some of the stock.

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Serve!

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I didn’t even buy a loaf of bread to go with this. I think this is what self control looks like.

on make-ahead meals

I bet you’re thrilled that I’ve decided to discuss make-ahead meals during the biggest leftover food week of the year. The time of the year when you would be least likely to stock your fridge and freezer with backup meals. My timing is impeccable, I know.

This weekend I went down to Baltimore, mainly to visit the GS but also to go back to Towson and share some words of wisdom (HA!) with the current AuD students about being a 4th year extern. I also got to have breakfast with my BFF Henry, and he chose green eggs and ham. It was adorable.

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On Saturday the GS picked out three meals and we went to the grocery store and got all the ingredients. His choices were buffalo chicken mac & cheese, vegan lentil and sweet potato chili (no longer vegan when he requested that I “add some beef to it”), and farro and vegetable stew, which turned into couscous and vegetable stew when the farro was 8 dollars for a tiny bag.

I made a list of everything we needed, and we broke into our friend Ian’s house to use his kitchen because the GS’s kitchen was occupied with Friendsgiving prep. And by “broke into,” I mean we got Ian’s permission and used the Kevo to get in.

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It probably took two hours in total, and could have been done more quickly if Ian had more than 2 burners (how does he LIVE?!) to make all three meals. The mac & cheese probably wouldn’t freeze very well so I recommended that he eat that this week. In total, I ended up making him 18 meals (6 servings of each) for a total grocery cost of $39.64.

FullSizeRender1This brings us in at a total cost per meal of…

(Drumroll please)

$2.20.

The GS guesses that he spends about $12 when he eats out for lunch or dinner, and therefore calculated that I saved him about $180 by making the meals ahead.

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The moral of the story is, if you have some time and a love to chop and stir like I do, it’s worth it to make things like soup, chili, and sauce ahead of time and stick them in the freezer.

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And if you’re a kind human and do this for someone else, you might also be lucky enough to receive a Snapchat video of that person enjoying their re-heated chili at lunchtime.

I’ll probably do this again the next time I visit, and here are some ideas for other meals that I think would freeze and re-heat really well!

My Favorite Sauce & Meatballs

20 Minute Tomato Sauce

Asparagus Soup

Pork Ragu Sauce

Turkey Meatball and Kale Soup

Vodka Sauce

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Bolognese Sauce

Potato & Leek Soup

Butternut Squash and Couscous Stew

Buffalo Chicken Chili

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shrimp skillet with garlic & chive butter

This weekend I celebrated a baby and a birthday!

showerMy friend Stephanie (the one with the adorable bump of course) is having a baby in January. I went down to Long Island for her shower, and then Saturday night we celebrated my other college roommate Maura’s 25th birthday in the city.

My shower gift was a baby quilt! I did a rag quilt mostly using these instructions and I love how it turned out! It was a lot of cutting but I think it’s probably a good beginner quilt because you don’t have to be as precise when matching corners.

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Between making this and making a dress for the shower (God forbid I buy something when I can make one for less than $9), I needed a quick dinner last week.

Hence, this shrimp! Less than 20 minutes from start to finish.

Shrimp Skillet w/ Garlic & Chive Butter

inspired by Jo Cooks

1 lb uncooked shrimp, peeled and de-veined

1/2 stick unsalted butter

1 small bunch chives, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

salt & pepper, to taste

1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Make the compound butter- combine softened butter with the chopped chives, garlic, and salt and pepper. We want a pretty high chives to butter ratio- it should be green.

You could just stop here and slather this loveliness on some toast. Or get some shrimp!

Arrange the shrimp in a skillet or baking dish. Place small dollops (what a word) of the butter on  the shrimp, trying to get a little bit of the butter on each one.

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Stick it in the oven until pink and opaque.

Top with freshly squeezed lemon juice and serve. With bread, obviously. How else would we mop up the extra BUTTER?

photo 3I ate the leftovers of this for 2 or 3 nights after, but I don’t recommend doing it that way. It doesn’t re-heat very well and the butter takes on an odd texture once it’s refrigerated. I would only cook one serving at a time, or cook it all if you’re feeding 3-4 people.

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I whipped up a blanket and an outfit, but how many times did I touch the skillet handle while it was hot from the oven? Three. We all have our strengths.

 

what’s on my kindle

Let’s talk about something new. Or rather, I talk, you read. Or you decide- there’s no food in this post? Goodbye.

You can skip this one, I’ll never know.

But people ask me all the time what I’ve been reading lately or what my favorite books are. Partly because I’ve always been that nerdy bookworm kind of kid, and partly because all of my coworkers know that I don’t have a TV.

The GS got me a Kindle for my birthday last year, and it’s probably my most prized possession. I was originally opposed to the e-reader trend, thinking that I would never like to pay for books when I can get them free from a library. But with Overdrive- I can have the best of both worlds. Plus, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you get a free book each month. I’ve never paid for a book on my Kindle. I bring it everywhere, and even if I only have 5 minutes to read I’ll whip it out.

So basically what I’m telling you is that I constantly present myself as a really cool, social person.

So here’s what I’ve been reading lately! Plus some random photos to add a little color.

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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Same author as The Husband’s Secret which I LOVED and What Alice Forgot which I liked. Big Little Lies- couldn’t put it down.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Make sure you finish this one in the privacy of your own home, because if you have a heart you’ll cry. I really loved it. Kind of slow at first but such a good story. I’ve also read One Plus One and The Girl You Left Behind by the same author. Both were good, but Me Before You was the best. I recommended it to my mom and she texted me after reading to thank me for the “ugly cry.”

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. You know this one because they just turned it into a movie with Tina Fey and Jason Bateman. I started out LOVING it- made me laugh out loud a few times, but it slowed down toward the end. I don’t think it helped that I IMDB’d the actors that played each character in the movie because I kept trying to visualize them instead of paying attention to the author’s description. But still a quick fun read.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. This book has a sort of weird premise but I ended up really liking it. I know a lot of people love her books- I’ve also read Eleanor and Park, and I think I liked this one better.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. You know, the author of Gone Girl. If you thought Gone Girl was sick and twisted, wait until you get your hands on this one. Really bizarre and creepy but somehow I couldn’t put it down. A few summers ago I read her other book Dark Places and haaaaated it so I was discouraged, but this one was worth reading.

I wake up an hour before I have to leave so that I can read while I eat my cereal.

I wake up an hour before I have to leave so that I can read while I eat my cereal.

Anything and everything by Elin Hilderbrand. Jessica always raves about her books, so they’ve been my go-to for quick Kindle reads, or audiobooks when I’m driving to Baltimore. I’ve read/listened to Beautiful Day, A Summer Affair, Barefoot, Summerland, and The Matchmaker. They’re all set in Nantucket and are easy beach reads. So appropriate for November, right? I think Beautiful Day was probably my favorite, and The Matchmaker my least favorite. She has several others that I’m sure I’ll get to.

An Available Man by Hilma Wolitzer. I don’t even remember how I found this book but I really liked it. A nice story of a widower looking for love. I have weird taste.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. This is the same author as The Secret Life of Bees. This book felt reeeeeeally long to me but I stuck it out because it’s so buzzed about. It’s a nice story and worth reading, but you’ll be able to put it down.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. OMG I loved this. Not at all what I expected, but I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommend. I’ve heard people say “This made me want to go hiking!” And I think.. really? She hated her life. But still read it.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub. I felt like this book was being advertised everywhere and I had it on hold forever and when I finally got it there was all this excitement and then… meh. Unimpressed.

The One & Only by Emily Giffin. I love love love her books- kind of similar to Elin Hilderbrand in terms of the beach read vibe, but they all take place in NYC. Until this one. And the plot was just.. weird. I really wish she had picked ANY name other than ‘Coach Carr’ for her male protagonist. Hasn’t she seen Mean Girls?! (“Don’t have sex. You will get chlamydia, and die.”)

The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Same author as The Goldfinch which I know has gotten all this praise but honestly? The most depressing thing I’ve ever read. And sooooo long. I couldn’t wait for it to be over even though her writing is amazing. I liked The Secret History much better.

photo 3That’s a decent list for now! Leave me any other book suggestions, I love recommendations!

 

flourless brownies

It seems like forever since I posted a dessert!

I’ve been slacking on the sweet tooth end lately. I didn’t even really indulge on Halloween candy, but that was mostly because Kevin neglected to bring home any Almond Joys in his trick-or-treating bag. I was home for the weekend and passed out candy  at my parents’ house, which earned me several weird looks from the neighborhood kids who have no idea who I am. I was also getting really annoyed by the majority of kids who said “Trick or Treat” but skipped the “thank you.”

Especially since my mom invested in full-size candy bars. Brats.

Being a crotchety old person is nothing new, though. This is my latest quilting achievement- this one for the Loyola Athletics department so basically I’m famous.

photo 1And now I’m working on a baby quilt for my friend Stephanie’s baby shower next weekend, but I’ll share photos and the tutorial I’m using once it’s finished. I’m obsessed with it. Start having babies, imaginary friends, and I will quilt for you.

Complaining about lack of manners, quilting, and baking. The old lady trifecta. I’ve made brownies several times and, to be honest, they’re better out of the box. I don’t know what it is, but if you’re going for conventional brownies just stick with Betty Crocker.

If you’re going for flourless brownies, stick with Ina Garten.

Flourless Brownies

adapted from Ina Garten

3/4 cup chocolate (I used half bittersweet and half semisweet)

1 stick unsalted butter

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp salt

Chop the chocolate. Melt it in the microwave or using a double boiler with the butter. You don’t have to be as worried about it seizing since you have the butter in there. Stir it together until smooth. It will be very liquid-y, even more than the chocolate river that Augustus Gloop fell into. Set it aside to cool.

photo 2Crack your eggs into a bowl. Start to whip them with a whisk attachment on your hand mixer or stand mixer (jealousy) for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time and continue to whip it until creamy and increased in volume. It should look almost like custard.

Pour in the cooled chocolate and butter mixture and combine. You want to make sure the chocolate is cooled, otherwise you might scramble your eggs! Add the vanilla, then the cocoa powder and salt. Continue to mix until smooth.

Prepare an 8×8 baking dish by greasing it with butter and then lightly coating it in cocoa powder (or flour, but that sort of defeats the purpose of flourless brownies). Pour the brownie mixture in and spread evenly. It’s a little thicker than traditional brownie batter.

photo 3Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool completely (you know I didn’t do this) then cut into small squares. These are much richer than regular brownies, so the servings can be smaller. They aren’t as sweet as regular brownies, either- better for dark chocolate fans like myself.

photo 4You could trash these up by throwing in your leftover Halloween candy. And if you’re looking for other trashed up recipes you should check out this virtual baby shower thrown by all the people I would love to be friends with.