Monday, December 12, 2011

Sunday Night Supper: Pumpkin Sausage Pasta

As I mentioned in my most recent post, I ran the Hot Chocolate 15K last weekend, and also volunteered as a running buddy at the DC Girls on the Run 5K.  So I had figured that I’d be all “runned out” by this weekend, right?  WRONG!

Soooo Jarrett and I went out to the bar with friends and had “party night” on Friday, so we then had “date night” on Saturday at Tsunami Sushi and Lounge in Logan Circle to use up one of my livingsocial deals (no blog post on Tsunami, I’d give it an “average”, nothing special).  We were very tame on Saturday night and I had been receiving peer pressure all week to do the Jingle All The Way 8K on Sunday morning.  It was only 5 miles and it was a beautiful, sunny morning (though cold) so I figured, “What the hell?” and registered on-site that morning.  And it was a quick, fun run:)
The Tulsa Hurry Canes! (yes, I'm aware I didn't go to Tulsa... but they all did... it's all good!)
Jenn and Me:)
I went to a fantastic brunch at Old Ebbitt Grill with the Hurry Canes afterwards (definitely get the Long Island Eggs if you go there, and the French Toast looked good if you want something sweet), then I headed home to shower and put on my sweats.

Anywho, the reason I’m telling you all this is because after a run, I usually just want to lounge around at home and cook.  So after we put up our sweet, gaudy Christmas tree, that is exactly what I did.

I love lights!  And ornaments!  And candy canes!  And yes, my wall and foam roller are both orange.
Pumpkin Sausage Pasta
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
4 to 6 sprigs sage leaves, cut into chiffonade, about 2 tablespoons
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Coarse salt and black pepper
1 pound penne rigate, cooked al dente
Romano or Parmigiano, for grating

1.      Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet or sauté pan over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and brown the sausage in it (if using sausage links, first remove sausage from casing). Transfer sausage to paper towel lined plate. Drain fat from skillet and return pan to the stove.

2.      Add the remaining tablespoon oil, and then the garlic and onion. Saute 3 to 5 minutes until the onions are tender.
3.      Add bay leaf, sage, and wine to the pan. Reduce wine by half, about 2 minutes.

4.      Add stock and pumpkin and stir to combine, stirring sauce until it comes to a bubble.

5.      Return sausage to pan, reduce heat, and stir in cream. Season the sauce with the cinnamon and nutmeg, and salt and pepper, to taste.

6.      Simmer mixture 5 to 10 minutes to thicken sauce.

7.      Remove the bay leaf from sauce.  Return drained pasta to the pan and toss with the pumpkin sausage sauce over low heat for 1 minute.

8.   Garnish the pasta with lots of grated cheese.

*Original recipe may be located here.

Best enjoyed in the fall or winter with a glass of wine (as always) and Love Actually!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Binge Post

Why did I title this entry, “A Binge Post”?  While I did not officially “binge” last weekend, there was much eating and cooking going on, and I felt a succinct title would be better than one that was a run-on sentence.  This is basically four posts mashed into one, and probably should have been four posts, but I had a busy week, so I’m taking the cluttered way out.  However, I’ve subtitled each one so you can pick and choose to read only the ones that interest you!

That said, on to the food…

Running for Chocolate
Saturday morning, I woke up bright and early… well, dark and early… 6am to be exact… earlier than I wake up for work… to run the Hot Chocolate 15K at National Harbor.  (That’s 9.3 miles for all you non-math/physics majors out there.)  I was super excited because what could be better than two things I love, running and chocolate, combined into one!

Since I don’t want this post to be a complaint of how poorly this race was organized, if you haven’t heard about it already, you can read about what a disaster the Washington, DC Hot Chocolate 5K/15K was here.  I’ll just say that after picking up two friends, Sarah and Tarcy, we were on our way out of the city on 295 by 6:55 am and we didn’t get to the start line until about 7:45 am due to the traffic and parking issues.  To find out that the 8 am start time was delayed.  Cut to 9:15 am… the race finally starts!  Again, I don’t want to complain about the course/corrals/walkers, so I’ll just say that I spent most of the race zigzagging around the thousands of people and still never achieved my optimal pace, so I was not super happy with my time.  At least I had the chocolate to look forward to!

Good news about the chocolate:  It was Ghirardelli, so it was great!  We got fondue in a little nacho-type tray with half a banana, half an apple, a few marshmallows, a few pretzel stick and a rice krispie treat.  And hot chocolate!  (Sorry for the lack of pictures… my brain usually only has food and sitting on its mind after a run.)

Bad news about the chocolate:  They rationed it:(

So basically, food is what saved the day.

Restaurant Review:  Cuba Libre
Saturday night, Jarrett’s old boss, Dave, was in town (old as in former), so I had made reservations at a place that I thought he would enjoy.  Cuba Libre!  Due to the fact that I didn’t take pictures (I didn’t want Dave to think I was weirder than he already thinks I am), this will be a super quickie review of what we got and whether or not you should ever get it:)  Though I have eaten here before, it was awhile back so I’ll only focus on what we got this time.  And since we decided to just do appetizers/tapas all family-style on our table, I can’t comment on any of the entrees.

Cuba Libre
801 9th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001

Tropical Red Sangria
Very average for sangria, but we got a pitcher so it definitely made sense if you know you’re all gonna want more than one drink.

Cuban bread and butter (on the house)
AMAZING!  I *may* have enjoyed this more than some of the dishes we ordered.  And since it’s their bread basket, you can eat as much as you want… for FREE! 

Tostones (Twice-fried crisp green plantains.  Garlic-mojo dipping sauce.)
Personally, I love tostones.  I have a Puerto-Rican Uncle Julio and growing up, my Auntie Sandy also made tostones for his birthday.  Maybe I only love hers…  I found Cuba Libre’s tostones to be too big (so they weren’t crispy enough) and the dipping sauce was not chock full of flavor.  I’d try something new next time.

Pato Ahumado (House-cured smoked duck, roasted corn salsa.  Huitlacoche vinaigrette.)
The boys wanted this to satisfy their meat cravings.  Personally, I could take it or leave it and I didn’t think the amount you got was worth the price.

El Chinito Cubano (Crispy “Cuban sandwich” spring rolls.  Pickled carrots, cabbage, and cilantro salad.  Chinese mustard sauce.)
Excluding the empanadas, this was my favorite item.  I like the concept as well as the execution.  We almost placed a second order; it tasted great!

Coctel de Camarones (Cuban style shrimp cocktail.  Latino coctel and avocado salsa.)
Also very tasty.  The accompaniments to the shrimpies were wonderful and you got 6 not-large-but-not-too-small shrimp.

Mama Amelia’s Empanadas (I got the Shrimp, creamy spinach, and pine nuts and the Hand-chopped chicken, corn, sweet peppers, and Jack cheese.)
These we all just ordered on our own, whatever we wanted.  Fantastic.  I ate my shrimp one first, so I only had a few bits of the chicken, but they were both great.  The dough was definitely what makes it.  The boys both also got the chicken, as well as the Pulled pork, roasted poblano, and charred tomatoes, and they raved about theirs, too:)

No dessert for us that night as the boys just finished my empanada and I was still on sugar-overload from all of the chocolate in the morning.

I’d eat here again… there’s still so much on the menu I need to try!

Sunday Night Supper:  Tomato and Roasted Garlic Soup and Gourmet Grilled Cheese
Finally, a section where I’ll have pictures because I planned ahead/didn’t have post-run brain/wasn’t self-conscious!

Jarrett loves this tomato soup and since it’s starting to get cold outside, I thought it was a great idea.  It’s definitely a simple dinner… the grilled cheese takes no time to make at all, but the soup takes awhile and makes 8 cups so there’s plenty to eat throughout the week.  And you can easily whip up some more grilled cheese as needed or pair the soup with something else!

Tomato and Roasted Garlic Soup
1 head garlic
½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling garlic
Salt and pepper
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
8 cups stewed tomatoes, including juice
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme

1.      Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove loose papery skins from garlic, leaving head intact.  Cut half an inch off the top of the garlic, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake on center rack for 40 minutes until garlic has softened.  Allow to cool.
2.      In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat ½ teaspoon olive oil.  Add onion and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

3.      Stir in tomatoes, water, and all seasonings.  Bring to a boil.

4.      Reduce heat and squeeze in roasted garlic.  Simmer for 30 minutes.

5.      Puree with a hand blender until mostly smooth.

*Original recipe may be found in The Eat-Clean Diet, by Tosca Reno.

Gourmet Grilled Cheese
Bread (for as many sandwiches as you want)
Shredded cheese (as much and whatever kind you like, my sous chef (Jarrett) and I used a mixture of Grafton Vermont Cheddar, Gruyere, and Emmenthaler)

1.      Over medium heat, prepare a grill pan placed over two burners (or just a skillet) with Pam.
2.      Butter both sides of all of the bread you intend to use and place in heated, prepared pan.
3.      When nice and brown and crispy, flip the half of the pieces of bread over, and put as much shredded cheese as you would like in each sandwich on each of the flipped pieces of bread.
4.      Take the unflipped pieces of bread and placed them, ungrilled side up, on the pieces of bread with cheese.
5.      When the bread touching the grill pan is nice and brown and crispy, flip the entire sandwich one last time, until the last side of bread is nice and brown and crispy.
6.      Serve with tomato soup:)
Note:  I like my sandwiches cut into triangles, but Jarrett did  the majority of the grilled cheese while I was making the soup... including the cutting...

Book Club Goodies:  White Chocolate Chip Dried Cherry Cookies

I am in two book clubs.  Yes, two.  If you combine both clubs’ books into one, I probably read them about 50% of the time.  Don’t get me wrong, I love reading… it mostly just depends on if my reading schedule lines up with the book clubs’ schedules.  I won’t read more than one book at a time, I won’t partially read a book, stop, read a second book, then go back to the first book, and when I finish a book, I need another one in queue to start reading right away.  I always purchase the book club books and there have been multiple occasions where I’ll read it like a year after we’ve discussed it.

But it’s all good because book club is about more than just reading books… it’s also about wine and female camaraderie and wine.  So this month, one of my book clubs had a cookie exchange!  It’s where you make/bring cookies, and so does everyone else and you take a few from everyone, so you all leave with multiple kinds of cookies!  The recipe below always makes me think of Christmas for some reason, and since this was December book club, it’s what I decided to make.

White Chocolate Chip Dried Cherry Cookies


1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon orange liqueur
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cherries


1.      Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
2.      In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and liqueur. Combine the flour and baking soda; stir into the sugar mixture. Mix in the white chocolate chips and cherries. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets.  (You should get about 24 cookies… I think this is the first time I actually correctly made the amount the original recipe called for!  But feel free to make them larger or smaller as you desire.)
Please excuse my messy kitchen:)

3.      Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. For best results, take them out while they are still doughy. Allow cookies to cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

*Original recipe can be located here.

I swear I'll try to make my next few posts shorter!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Weeknight Cooking Series: Curried Chicken Skewers with Yogurt-Mint Dipping Sauce

So I’m about a week late on this post, but here goes.

Like I said in my most recent post, on the Monday after Thanksgiving, I was working from home and Jarrett was in Texas for the week.  Which meant I had to revert to my “single girl” eating habits.  Which are pretty similar to my “married person” (I guess?) eating habits, since I plan 99% of mine and Jarrett’s meals, except that I’ll make things in servings sizes of 2 for leftovers, rather than serving sizes of 4 for leftovers.

So I pulled out my Cooking for Two 2010 cookbook that we received as a wedding present from friends Allison and Charles (shoutout, you two!).  (Side note:  I’ve made stuff out of this cookbook previously and just multiplied the quantities by 1.5 or 2 (depending on how correct I thought the quantities were for 2 servings) for leftovers.  Usually with positive results.  So don’t be afraid to play around with the quantities a bit.)  I wanted something with minimal fuss that I had most of the ingredients for.  Et voila, I stumbled upon this recipe in the “on the lighter side” section.

This recipe was perfect for weeknight cooking; with a little planning ahead, all the prep work can be done the night before, then it’s only 10 minutes of cooking time!  Or if you don’t plan ahead, but you’re working from home, it’s perfect (well, for me because I always have chicken in the freezer) because you have the capability to prep everything a bit earlier and give it time to marinate.  I only marinated the chicken for an hour, and in way extra “sauce” and the result was still fabulous!

Curried Chicken Skewers with Yogurt-Mint Dipping Sauce
Curried Chicken Skewers Ingredients
1 ½ tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon Hot Madras curry powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 chicken breast*
*The book actually calls for 2 chicken breasts, I just didn’t want that much meat:)

Yogurt-Mint Dipping Sauce Ingredients
½ cup Greek yogurt (I used non-fat, book says 2%)
2 tablespoons fresh mint
1 tablespoon water
1 garlic glove, minced
Salt and pepper

Curried Chicken Skewers Directions
1.      Combine the honey, curry powder, salt, paprika, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder.

2.      Slice the chicken on the bias into ½ inch thick strips.
3.      Add the chicken to the spice mixture and toss to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 24 hours.

4.      Position an oven rack 6 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with Pam.
5.      Weave the chicken strips onto skewers and lay the skewers on the prepared baking sheet.  (Either soak the skewers in water for at least 20 minutes, or cover the ends in foil.)

6.      Broil the skewers until the chicken is fully cooked and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes, flipping them halfway through.

Yogurt-Mint Dipping Sauce Directions
1.      Combine the yogurt, mint, water and garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste.

2.      Cover and refrigerate until needed then serve with the chicken skewers.
*Original recipe can be located in Cooking for Two 2010.

As I’ve mentioned, I love carbs:), and to me, no meal is complete without a starch.  So I served these bad boys up with some whole wheat naan and tamarind chutney for a semi-authentic Indian-American meal.  (With a salad beforehand for some veggies, not pictured.)

Happy Monday!