Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tuna Cakes

My inspiration for tonight's dinner was recent sales on crab cakes at both Earth Fare and Fresh Market.  I considered making a quick grocery stop on my way home from work last night, but out of habit I found myself taking my usual route home and pulling into the driveway without a stop for the crab cakes.  These tuna cakes are a quick recipe that can be thrown together on a weeknight with simple pantry ingredients.  I served a pair of the tuna cakes with mashed rutabaga and asparagus (roasted at 400 degrees for 25 minutes).

Tuna Cakes
5oz can tuna, drained (Trader Joe's no-salt added solid white tuna in water)
1/3 cup black beans
1/3 cup chopped green pepper and onion (I used frozen)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 oz plain greek yogurt (0% Fage)
2 tbsp coarse grain mustard
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
Few dashes of hot sauce

1. Roughly mash black beans with a fork.  Combine with tuna, pepper/onion, and garlic.
2. In a separate container mix together the remaining ingredients (yogurt, mustard, nutritional yeast, old bay seasoning, and hot sauce).
3.  Add this yogurt sauce to the tuna and mix until well combined.
4.  Heat pan over medium heat.  Drizzle with EVOO.
5.  Form four palm-sized patties with the tuna and place in well heated pan.
6.  Cook 4 minutes, flip, and cook an additional 3 minutes.
7.  Serve warm either plain or with your favorite tartar sauce.

These are well seasoned and fulfilled my crab cake craving without the expense of visiting the prepared foods section.  I always hesitate to purchase crab cakes because so many are loaded with breading or other "fillers."  These are sans-breading, which lets the seafood stand as the featured ingredient.  You could also easily substitute salmon, trout, muscles, or shrimp for the tuna.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

First Spring Weekend

Ahhh . . . 70 degree temperatures and sunshine have never felt so good.  The combination of spring-like weather, a call-free weekend, and no major agenda combined for a perfect first weekend of spring.  Technically, spring begins Wednesday, but the forecast for the upcoming week sounds as though we still have winter temperatures that aren't quite ready to disappear.

It was delightful to roll over Saturday morning and see a clock that read 8am.  That's four extra hours of sleep than I get on a weekday.  After 45 minutes of lifting, I had worked up an appetite.  Let pancake Saturday commence!  This morning they were topped with a mix of warmed banana + almond butter + cinnamon + molasses, and then sprinkled with trail mix.

A perfect spring weekend in Charlotte requires a trip to the farmer's market.  Check out this HUGE bunch of collards - and with a price tag of only $2.  The local farmer told me he carefully maintained these all winter while they grew to peak size.  I loaded up my bag with great produce - radishes, cucumbers, yellow mango, avocado, kombucha squash, eggplant, and snap peas.

My second workout of the day was a 6 mile progression run.  Sadly it was not one of my finer workouts.  I'm struggling with a mysterious knee injury - tendonitis of some kind - and it's really putting a hamper on my running.  And of course, I have no patience for a pestering injury, especially since tri season is upon us.

Saturday night I created a veggie filled dish and topped it with my tofu meatballs.  The base was roasted broccoli slaw, the middle layer was arugula and quinoa mixed with marinara sauce, and then the meatballs were sprinkled with mozzarella cheese.  If you missed the recipe for the tofu meatballs - go check it out.  I'm pretty proud of that recipe.

Sunday's agenda was reading in the sunshine and tackling my first brick workout of the season.  After lounging on the deck for several hours, I guilted myself onto the bike.  I contemplated taking my bike out on the road, but after two separate cycling fatalities this weekend - one in Georgia and another just outside Charlotte - I decided that the trainer was the much safer route.  90 minutes with a heavy emphasis on power intervals and steady state work left a giant puddle of sweat on the mat and my legs screaming for mercy.  Not so lucky for them, there was a four mile run to follow.  Aside from my knee - no surprise, didn't heal overnight - it was a decent run.  I'll never understand why I run so much better off the bike than a stand-alone run.

Sticking with a green theme for St. Patrick's day, I made a salad for dinner.  Arugula, quinoa, black beans, broccoli slaw, radish, cucumber, avocado, and balsamic dressing.  It was a great salad, but I can already tell the night will not be complete without a sweet treat.  I consider it my reward for tackling a tough workout.

What did you do to enjoy the beautiful spring weather?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Italian Tofu Meatballs

Are you vegetarian and looking for a suitable substitute for a mouth-watering bowl of spaghetti and meatballs?  If so, try this twist on the traditional dish.  It could make for a perfect Meatless Monday dinner.  It's super quick to throw together, yet impressively delicious.

Italian Tofu Meatballs
15 oz extra-firm tofu
4 tbsp reduced-fat cream cheese
2 tbsp Italian herbs
2 tbsp minced dried onions
4 cloves minced garlic
2 tbsp marinara sauce
1 cup chopped kale or spinach (I used frozen)
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Combine all ingredients into a bowl and roughly mash until well blended.
3. Form into tablespoon-sized balls and place on a greased baking sheet
4. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes
5. Remove from baking sheet and serve with marinara sauce for dipping.  You could also serve the "meatballs" over spaghetti for a hearty meal.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Salmon Dinner + Odds and Ends

I've had a hankering for salmon for about a week now.  Evidently the food gods were looking out for me this week, as I received a text that Earth Fare had bourbon marinated salmon filets on sale.  After an incredibly perfect post-call day, complete with hours outside under the beautiful blue skies and 68 degree temperatures, I concluded the evening with a little time in the kitchen.  I prepared the salmon by placing it in a cold oven set to 400 degrees and pulled it out in exactly 23 minutes.  The end result - perfectly cooked salmon!  In addition I prepared quinoa and pan-seared rainbow chard and sweet onions.  SO GOOD!  

Between conference in Park City and then my trip to Atlanta, I noticed that my camera was accumulating many "odds and ends" pictures.  So, while I'm kicked back enjoying the satisfaction of a delicious dinner, I'll share with you some other eats of recent weeks.

I spotted this recipe for Whole Food's Tempeh Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Green Beans, and knew immediately that it was a combination of flavors that I would love.  So simple to prepare, yet impressively complex flavors.  Definitely add this to your dinner rotation.

I'm loving my waffle maker that I received as a Christmas gift.  I believe this was a whole wheat pumpkin waffle topped with bananas, blackberries, and maple syrup.

I discovered a special surprise hidden in my own house on Valentine's Day.  Someone had placed a bag of treats in the guest bedroom closet and waited until v-day to lead me toward it.  My valentine knows me well - chocolate covered figs, raisin crisps, a gourmet granola bar, and scented bath salts.

I haven't made a formal trip to the grocery store in several weeks, and instead, have been working my way through an abundant supply of freezer leftovers.  One of last weeks random meals was english muffin pizzas with arugula, scrambled eggs, and grapefruit.

About a month ago, I picked up these gems at the farmer's market.  Now, for the life of me, I cannot remember their name.  Any ideas?  I cooked the root vegetable by slicing it and then roasting.  It had a slightly spicy taste, perhaps most similar to a turnip. I'll definitely be seeking it out again.  The greens were simply pan sauteed in a bit of coconut.  Lentil loaf was the third component on the plate for added protein.

How do you feel about "springing forward" tonight?  Considering that I have to work tomorrow, I'm not too happy about losing an hour of sleep.  However, I love when it stays light later at night, so I'll gladly suffer the painful morning alarm clock in exchange for more light.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Showering the Bride

On May 3rd, my little brother will be getting married to the girl of his dreams - Erin.  It seems that only a short time ago they he proposed on a cruise ship in the middle of the Caribbean Ocean, and yet we are now less than 60 days from their big day.  I threw Erin a bridal shower to celebrate her upcoming marriage and provide an opportunity for the girls to gather and have some fun.

A beautiful bride-to-be and very generous gifts from loving family and friends.
Hard to believe so few days remain.

The sign was a creative find on Etsy, personalized with the wedding theme colors.  Also on the mantle were several pictures of Royce and Erin dating from their first high school prom to engagement pictures.

Me and my soon-to-be Sister-In-Law.
After a lifetime with only a brother, it sounds so funny to say that!

The food spread:
Mini Sandwiches - Hummus/Tomato/Basil and Avocado/Corn/Paprika
Fruit Skewers - Grapes, Pineapple, Strawberries
Desserts - Lemon bars and Brownie bites

Mom spent an incredible amount of time preparing a cookbook full of our favorite family recipes.
What a fantastic gift that will be sure to receive lots of use over the years.

Erin with her cousin and matron-of-honor, Joy.
Mom, Erin, Me, and Grandma

We played several fun games - two truths and a lie, 20 questions about the bride, and celebrity hubby.  I might have even learned that my Grandma has multiple dream boyfriends!  It was a wonderful afternoon filled with lots of laughs, showering Erin with gifts, munching on tasty treats, and looking forward to a very near wedding.  I can't wait to celebrate with an even larger group in two months on their wedding day!

Monday, March 4, 2013

CRR 10k and Atlanta Eats

I was Atlanta bound for the weekend for several fun events, including the Chattahoochee Road Runner's 10k and Erin's bridal shower.  After catching a short flight, Mom treated me to a Thai dinner at Tamarind Seed.  The restaurant is just across the street from the Atlanta Symphony Hall, and provided a pleasant escape from the rush-hour traffic.

We started with the steamed fresh basil rolls served with a "special" sauce that was tangy and creamy.  They were a cool and crisp way to start the meal - though the very small portion left me wishing for more.

Next, we shared the Somtum-Green Papaya Salad which is a traditional Thai salad mixed with ground peanuts and sweetened lemon juice.  I fondly remember the papaya salad I frequently ordered from a NYC Thai restaurant and was excited for the opportunity to enjoy it again.  Inside of the bamboo was a slightly sweetened sticky rice that paired well with the juicy shrimp and crunchy papaya.

For our entrees, we elected to share two different plates.  Although it is very rare for us to eat meat, we decided to be adventurous and try the duck and fish entrees rather than stick with a simple plate of vegetables.  The Roasted Duck Panang was served on a bed of green beans with a sweet spicy curry sauce, and proved to be an excellent selection.  Thai flavors have an incredible depth and this curry sauce was no exception.

The Pla-Kweh-Whan is described as " pan-grilled filet asian white fish in green curry and coconut milk with green beans, thai eggplant, bamboo shoots, and fresh basil."  The menu listed the spice level as three peppers, which they translated as a "tingling glow" that transforms to a "raging fire."  I was a bit nervous about the degree of spice in that the fish would pack, but fortunately it was powerful, yet not overwhelming.

After a great girls' dinner, we concluded our evening with a bowl of frozen yogurt and an assortment of toppings from Yogo Ono.  The cold and creamy treat was the perfect pairing with a spicy dinner.

The Chattahoochee Road Runner's 10k is a race that I try my best to run every year.  It's one of the latest Peachtree Road Race time qualifiers and touts a downhill finish.  This year's race was made more special by the fact that Dad, Royce, and Erin also ran.  I've been coaching Dad and his running has been gradually improving, so I was looking forward to seeing the results of his hard training.  My training, however, has been a mixed bag recently.  I've had a few solid track workouts, but a new knee injury has been curtailing my workouts over the past two weeks.

Race morning was ridiculously cold and featured sustained winds and snow flurries.  Perfect weather for a speedy run on a Saturday morning, right?!  I'll spare you the details and summarize my race as challenging.  I was determined to go out hard and hang on to the pace.  Despite the downhill finish, the course features rolling hills that will make you work hard before your sprint to the line.  Every year I seem to forget about those hills - especially the climbs from mile four to five.  I finished in 43:40, 7th female overall and 2nd in my age group.  Another corral "A" Peachtree time - I'll take it.

The most exciting moment of the morning was watching Dad come down the hill.  He's been working really hard to nail the speed workouts I've been assigning him, and I couldn't be more happy to see him destroy his previous PR by more than four minutes and finish with an average pace of 8:24!  Way to go Dad!  Royce and Erin finished together not too far behind.

We posed for a quick group picture before making a hike back to the car to warm our frozen bodies and find some food.

In typical fashion, I was treated to many great home cooked meals.  Saturday night featured black bean burgers served open faced, oriental slaw, and roasted sweet potato wedges.  Have I mentioned my love affair with sweet potatoes?

Sunday's lunch was simple, yet absolutely perfect.  It was a cold day and the hearty bowl of potato soup warmed my core.  A salad of fresh greens, corn, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, and homegrown sprouts filled the other half of the plate and was topped with a balsamic vinaigrette that I must replicate.

Visits home are always a special treat, and this weekend was no exception.  Life has a way of becoming far too busy and I frequently feel that I struggle finding the perfect balance.  Escaping the hustle and bustle of work and enjoying things that I am most passionate about, however, goes a long way towards refreshing my enthusiasm for life.

Next up - lots of pictures from the bridal shower I hosted for Erin!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sights from Park City

I am officially over this cold weather!  Before I absolutely refuse to look at one more picture of snow, here are a few more Park City pictures.  The snow-capped mountain views are breathtaking - although I imagine they are equally as impressive in the spring and summer.

View of the mountains from the hotel entrance

After much talk of an impending snowstorm, we finally received 7 inches on Saturday

View of Park City Mountain ski slopes on a walk towards Main Street

It looks like a road to nowhere

Impressive how quickly the sidewalks are cleared immediately after the snowfall

Lots of mountains on the drive to the airport

Last bit of mountain scenery from the Salt Lake City Airport