Monday, May 31, 2010


I had a really enjoyable Memorial Day Weekend. When I got home on Friday, my darling fiance surprised me with tulips, prosecco, and key lime cupcakes. (This made for an *interesting* 5K race later that evening at Greekfest, but I couldn't resist!) Actually it wasn't too bad because I ran with my friend Steph, who generally doesn't race, so I had a good reason to take it easy and just enjoy the run. Afterward, I pigged out on (free) beer, fried calamari with feta, and a gyro.
My darling fiance also brought home a watermelon on Friday, which he proceeded to fill with vodka. On Saturday, we went to Steph's and had a pool party. The watermelon needs further improvement- parts of it were completely bereft of vodka, and parts were eye-wateringly soaked. Eating it was a total guessing game! After the pool party we returned to my house for pizza and movies.
On Sunday, there was a toga contest at Greekfest (and everyone wearing a toga got in free!) Six of us (3 muses thought the weather was too rainy) dressed up like muses (complete with New Orleans street tile name tags) and won the contest! I also ate half a pound of lamb and a baklava sundae. Yum!
Today was spent getting groceries, tidying the house, and grilling fish. Of course now that my long weekend is over I'm actually feeling really exhausted. I'm sure it's nothing that few days of eating healthier food, going to the gym, and getting enough sleep won't fix. But I think all in all I had a little too much fun. :)

Blueberry Braided Bread

Last week, I was having a stressful day and decided to let off some steam in a completely normal way- I decided to embark on a 4 hour baking project after work. And of course, I decided that the best thing to do would be to combine two recipes I'd never tried before. I mean, isn't that what everyone does on a weekday? So clearly not, but baking bread on a weeknight can be done without cramping one's schedule too greatly because there are big spaces of free time built into the process. And, amazingly enough, this project turned out to be a fantastic success.
I wanted to make a braided blueberry cream cheese bread, but most of the recipes I found called for an overnight rise. Finally, I found a recipe for a braided lemon curd and cream cheese bread on Smitten Kitchen that could be accomplished in one night. Ultimately, I chose to combine the bread from the Smitten Kitchen recipe with the filling from a recipe I found on Fresh Loaf, but I ended up making a few changes to both recipes. The bread recipe needed more liquid and a longer baking time for me, and I simplified the cream cheese filling recipe a bit.


6 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Sponge (above)
6 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, 1 for the dough, 1 beaten with 1 teaspoon milk and set aside for brushing the bread
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour


2 cups frozen blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice

8 oz. softened cream cheese

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

First, combine the ingredients to make the sponge. Then set it aside and allow it to rise for 15 minutes. (During this time, I walked the dogs and got ready to go to the gym.)

Next, whisk together the yogurt, egg, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Mix in the sponge, then slowly add the flour. The original recipe called for 2.5 cups of flour, but I only used 2 and 1/3 cups and added a little milk at the end so that all of the flour would incorporate. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, place it in a lightly greased bowl, cover it with saran wrap and allow it to rise for 60-90 minutes. (During this time I went to the gym, and stopped by the grocery store to get some cream cheese. I also made my fillings.)

While the bread is rising, heat the blueberries, sugar and lemon juice on the stove until the blueberries are thawed and boiling. Add the cornstarch and allow the berry mixture to thicken while it simmers.

Soften the cream cheese, then combine it with the sugar and vanilla.

Once the bread has risen and the fillings have been made, roll the bread out into a big rectangle on a piece of aluminum foil (this is crucial). Spread the cream cheese in a long strip down the middle of the rectangle, leaving plenty of dough on either side. Carefully spread the blueberries on top of the cream cheese. (I had some leftover blueberry sauce- I saved it and had it on my yogurt the next day- Yum!)
To make the braid, cut inch wide strips down the sides of the dough on either side. Make sure to cut the same number of strips on each side. Then fold the strips over each other over the filling to form the braid. (Please excuse my blurry camera- I'm not sure what happened...maybe some cream cheese on the lens?)Transfer the braided bread to a baking sheet (just carefully pick up the foil by holding either end, and then lift it onto the sheet. Allow the bread to rise for about an hour. (During this time, I made and ate my dinner, and cleaned up the kitchen.)

Brush the egg wash over the bread and then bake it at 375 for about 40 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before you slice it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Crescent City Farmer's Market

For the past three weeks, I've made a point to go to the Crescent City Farmer's Market every Saturday and buy my veggies for the week. I love going there for so many reasons. There is usually a band playing, everyone is relaxed and happy to be there, there is a large selection of veggies, and the veggies themselves are gorgeous. There are other offerings besides veggies of course- like baked goods, fresh juice, cheese, flowers, potted plants, meat, eggs, seafood, milk, jams, and coffee. This time when I came home to put away my food for the week, I remembered to take pictures so I could blog about my haul!
Ironically enough, I've definitely been getting my 5 veggies a day without really trying lately because I don't want anything to go to waste. I've also been eating a lot of meatless meals (basically out of laziness- eggs and beans are so fast!) which has freed up room in my belly for more veggies.
So without further ado, here is my haul for the week!

First, I got some fresh farm eggs! I love the two little blue eggs that came in this dozen. (I totally ate them first!)

Up next is pattypan squash, sweet potatoes (I top them with chili for lunch), blueberries, and green beans. Some of the blueberries were used the next day in a mixed greens salad topped with blueberries, chopped hazelnuts, and goat cheese.
Rye bread! I get this for my darling fiance because he loves dark German bread. Also, Mr. Mueller, the little old German man who sells the bread is an absolute treat. The first time I bought the bread he suggested that I pair it with butter and tomatoes and maybe a little bit of onion. He then advised me not to kiss my fiance after eating onions!
You can read all about his breads on his website. I normally don't care for dark bread, but I think that this loaf is really amazing- so flavorful!
Beets! You can't tell, but the beets are longer than my forearm. I'll probably be having beets and beat greens (which are totally edible, in case you didn't know) with walnuts and goat cheese over some amaranth tomorrow for dinner.
Kale- my favorite. I eat a bunch of kale every week. I also bought some shrimp that I didn't take a picture of because I didn't want to take them out of their bag. I had them for dinner on Sunday, grilled on kebabs (along with some tomato chunks) and topped with pineapple salsa, along with the aforementioned salad. And finally, I picked up a couple tamales for lunch. One is cheese and jalapeno and one is tomato, black bean, and corn. So yummy!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wedding Dress Inspiration Board

I know it's been forever since I've blogged- everything is going really well and I've had a lot of fun lately, but I just haven't really felt like I can distill things into an interesting narrative right now. So, to tide you over, I'll show you an inspiration board I've made to cover the three looks I'm aiming for for the wedding. (Ceremony, afternoon BBQ, and Evening Reception). So far I have my wedding dress (the dress in the top left corner, but in white), the reception dress (which I own and is very similar to the one in the middle), the silver heels and the black cork wedges. I've also ordered the flower broach- I think I may put that on the knot of my wedding dress. The hairpiece I'm still deciding on. I would want it centered (and I'd still wear my hair pulled back) and probably on an ivory ribbon. The search for my reception dress continues but I still like the idea of a strapless A-line dress, big flower on the side of my head, and sassy blue shoes.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Deconstructed Guacamole

My mom's best friend, Doris, is one of my favorite people on the planet. She's an Italian New Yorker (with the temper to match!) who has found herself transplanted to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She wears tons of jewelry, curses like a sailor when she drives (to the amusement and shock of my mother) and is the sweetest, funniest, most devoted friend you could ever hope to have. I'm terribly fond of her- and happy that she doesn't mind that I tag along with her and mom when I'm on the coast.
Doris sends me recipes, and I've gotten a lot of mileage out of one recipe in particular. It began it's life as an avocado tomato salad, but over the past couple of years, I've slowly altered it. The version I make now, in my opinion, is perfect. I love it because it tastes wonderful, and is a great healthy option to bring to a barbecue or picnic.The first time I made this, I followed the recipe and intended for it to be a salad. I set it out on the table, alongside salad bowls and tongs, only to watch aghast as my friends dug into it with some chips that happened to be nearby. I haven't bothered with the salad bowls since.
The first change I made after that was to omit the bacon- I guessed, correctly, that serving this as a dip with blue corn chips would provide the same satisfying salt and crunch.
Next, I fiddled with the proportions. These days, when I make a big potluck sized batch, I use 2 large tomatoes, 2 avocados, and 1/2 a red onion. (The batch I made today used 1.5 Roma tomatoes, 1 avocado, and about 1/4 of a red onion- and will be enough for two people to munch on for a day or two.)
Finally, I noticed that while the dip tasted wonderful, it always looked a little brown. I solved this problem by switching from balsamic vinegar to brown rice vinegar. Be sure to add plenty of hot sauce to adjust for the milder taste.The last time I served this, my friend Katy dubbed it "deconstructed guacamole" which sounds better than my name for it: "tomato avocado dip that is supposed to be a salad."

Deconstructed Guacamole (serves a big group as an appetizer)

2 ripe avocados
2 ripe tomatoes
1/2 red onion
salt and pepper to taste

Chop the onion, tomatoes, and avocado. The onion should be chopped finely, but the avocado and tomato should be fairly chunky. The chunks are kind of the point of the recipe, but you want to avoid getting a big bite of nothing but onion on your chip-- that can be a little overwhelming.
Mix the chopped veggies together, then add salt and pepper to taste.

In a small bowl, mix together the following:

2 T olive oil
2 T brown rice vinegar (I found mine at whole foods- regular rice vinegar would work just as well)
hot sauce to taste (I use about 1/2 a teaspoon of Louisiana Hot Sauce)

These amounts are pretty approximate. I've never liked the classic 3:1 oil to vinegar ratio in most dressing, and to be honest, I tend to mix mine up, taste it, and add more vinegar and hot sauce as needed. As for spiciness- I add hot sauce until I can taste a little heat in the back of my mouth. You don't want the spiciness to overwhelm the dip, but you do want it to have a little kick.

Once the dressing is mixed up, add it to the veggies and let it rest in the fridge for at least half an hour. Serve with blue corn chips. I also think this would be great with grilled chicken or shrimp.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mushroom Casserole

Last night I made the mushroom casserole I mentioned in my previous post, using my left over mixed grains. (I also used thyme instead of Tarragon, and added a little leftover pizza sauce that I needed to use up.) The resulting casserole tastes amazing. However, it looks exactly like dog food. :) It doesn't bother me, but I don't think I would serve it to anyone else.
I think that using brown rice might reduce the dog food look because the rice would have more discreet particles whereas my grains look like more of a mash now that they've cooked into the casserole.
I also had an awesome breakfast this morning. Last night I simmered 1/2 cup of uncooked wheat berries in about 2 cups of water for about an hour. This morning, I paired 1/2 of the cooked wheat berries with 2% Greek Yogurt, slice strawberries, pecans, and maple syrup. It was a nice variation on my typical granola, blackberries, yogurt, and honey combo, and the wheat berries are definitely healthier than granola. They are also fun to eat because they have a nice chewiness to them.
I'm having a lot of fun experimenting with different grains lately. Up next? I'm thinking Amaranth! (As for where I find my grains, I've had good luck at the bulk bins in both Rouses and Whole Foods- and it hasn't been particularly expensive, which is always nice!)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Grainy Goodness

I forgot that I also wanted to blog about the star ingredient in my lunches this week. I recently found the blog 101 Cookbooks and I am completely obsessed. All of the recipes are vegetarian, but I kind of love vegetarian recipes- you can always serve them with meat on the side.
First, early last week I made a delicious variation of her Tabasco and asparagus quinoa- I used fresh, blanched green beans instead of asparagus, omitted the creme fraiche, and topped it with almonds instead of pine nuts. (I served this along side turkey sausage.) The sauce- basically a combination of hot sauce, butter, mustard, and lemon juice, was excellent, and I can see it being great over brown rice or barley as well as quinoa.
On Sunday, I made a big pot of Grandma's Grains, another recipe I'd been drooling over. It makes a big pot of whole grains that is very adaptable. Yesterday, I topped it with canned white beans, pepper, fresh basil and lemon zest. It was great- simple, creamy, and comforting. My lunch today is very similar- but I've added some tomato sauce leftover from Saturday night's pizza.
I'm not sure how I'm going to use the grains next. I'm torn between mixing them with yogurt, maple syrup, and walnuts; adding them to a mushroom casserole; or topping them with tomato, avocado, and roasted poblano pepper. Yum!!

Run for Home

I didn't do very much this weekend. I planned to be productive on Friday afternoon until my darling fiance decided to make mint juleps at 4pm. Of course, he didn't have any mint, so we ended up sipping a combination of bourbon, simple syrup, and peppermint schnapps which was surprisingly tasty. We ended up having dinner at Ciro's Cote Sud- a little neighborhood french restaurant on Maple St. that I love. (And if you live in the area, they deliver!!) I almost always get their pate plate, but this time I had a bowl of french onion soup and the duck confit salad. I also split a tart tatin with my darling fiance for dessert.
On Saturday, we woke up prior to the crack of dawn because we were running the Run for Home 5K at Zephyr field in Metairie. Since I didn't pick up our race numbers on Friday evening (due to the "mint juleps" and the fact that I would have had to drive out there from my house at 5:30 pm), we got to the ball park around 6:45 because we thought there would be a line of people waiting to get their numbers. We were wrong. There were only about 50 runners in the race and we could have gotten there at 7:30 and been fine.
The run itself was nice- it mainly consisted of loops around a running trail that circled the ball park and Lafreniere park which is next to it. The weather, however, was pretty unpleasant. It was 80 degrees at 6am and incredibly humid- this did not change by the time the race started at 8. The only good thing was that it was really windy. Running into a headwind isn't great for time, but it did help to cool me off a little. We both did pretty well at the race and technically PR'd- my darling fiance's time was 27:10 and mine was 27:12. (I haven't run a 5 or 10 K race since last spring when I was just getting started, so it's not hard for me to PR this year. If I PR at any races next year, then I'll be excited- haha!)
The best thing about the race, though, was that it was an absolute bargain. For a $25 entry fee (proceeds going to Lighthouse for the Blind) you got a race T-shirt (which was actually pretty cute), 2 baseball tickets to a Zephyr's game, and entry into the raffle at the end of the race. They raffled off a ton of stuff and since it was a small race- the chances were really good. I won a gift certificate to Mr. Ed's Restaurant (And trust, me, I never win anything). I've never been there so I am excited to try them out! :)
I spent the rest of the weekend pretty much being lazy. I took a nap when I got home, then made pizza for dinner (I swear by the pizza dough you can pick up at Whole Foods- so good!). I did half spinach and goat cheese, half mozzarella, basil and prosciutto, and cracked an egg in the middle. I really prefer homemade pizza now because I love coming up with creative toppings. A few weeks ago I did tomato sauce, spinach, thinly sliced yellow squash and hunks of mozzarella and loved it!
After dinner, we remember that it was Free Comic Book Day and decided to take advantage of it by going to Crescent City Comics. We ended up getting some free comic books and buying a couple of other ones. The guys at the Crescent City Comics also gave us some free beer and had queso dip from Sarita's for people to try. It was excellent but extremely spicy. After that, we went home and sat on our porch and read comic books for the rest of the night.
On Sunday, we pretty much sat around the house all day and worked on our wedding website. It's almost done- thanks to my darling fiance who did *tons* of work on it! It has to be ready for when we send out our Save the Dates- but that still gives us some time because although we got them yesterday, I still have to address them all!
I actually really enjoyed the fact that I didn't really do that much this weekend. It's nice to stay home and I found myself on Monday wishing I had another day to hibernate.