Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fettuccine with Turkey and Brandied Mushrooms

I saw this dish online and just knew that I needed to make it right away. And let me tell you - this dish is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!!! We make pasta dishes a lot, combining chicken, beef or sausage with a diverse array of vegetables and we really love experimenting with different flavors and sauces as well. I must say, when I saw this dish, it seemed like a few of the dishes I'd done before, just with ingredients we had around the kitchen. But I just had a feeling it would be incredible with brandied mushrooms and turkey. To be completely honest, I was blown away. This dish was totally awesome! I absolutely love turkey, all year round! This dish would really be an excellent option for that leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. Bookmark this post for that week :) I know I will!!!

If I had to do this dish over, we'd probably grill the turkey to give it a little more of an intense flavor, but as it was, it was still delicious. I usually doubt recipes and add a few spices and alterations, but I followed this recipe and changed it only by adding minced garlic to the mushrooms and it was PERFECT! If you like anything pasta, definitely make this dish and you will not regret it! The website said to pair the pasta with a rich, oaky, Chardonnay, but we did not. We wanted a red Zinfandel instead, and it went incredibly well with the turkey.

Fettuccine with Turkey and Brandied Mushrooms


1 tbsp cooking oil
1 pound turkey cutlets (about 3) – we used turkey breast
1 ¼ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp butter
2 scallions, white bulbs and green tops chopped separately
1 pound mushrooms, cut into thin slices
1/3 cup brandy
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
½ pound fettuccine
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley 

  1. In a large nonstick frying pan, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Season the turkey cutlets with 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Cook the cutlets until they are almost done, about 1 minute per side. Remove the cutlets from the pan, let cool, and then cut them into thin strips.
  2. Melt the butter in the same pan over moderate heat. Add the white part of the scallions, the mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms let off their liquid and it evaporates, about 5 minutes. Add the brandy and cook until almost no liquid remains in the pan, about 2 minutes more. Add 1/2 cup of broth and simmer until almost completely evaporated, about 4 minutes.
  3. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the fettuccine until almost done, about 7 minutes. Drain the pasta and then add it to the mushrooms. Add the remaining 1/2 cup broth, the cream, the scallion tops, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the turkey strips. Simmer until the turkey is just done, about 1 minute longer. Top with the parsley.


**My apologies for accidentally having my commenting system turned off. It's back on! If you wanted to comment on The Best Tuna Melt Ever or Samoas Cookie Bars please do. I would love to have a comment conversation with the new comment system!

Like I mentioned earlier, I've been trying to run a lot more lately and it's been fun to keep things interesting on the treadmill. Here are a couple of recent workouts:

Thursday's run:
My goal for Thursday's run was to go for distance while continually increasing the speed as I went through the miles. At mile 4, I alternated with the speeds to keep it interesting. The sequence I did for mile 5 is what I sometimes like to use for mile 1, but the last stretch was much harder when my legs were already tired. It worked well!
Distance (Miles)
Speed (MPH)
0.0 – 1.0
6.5 (9:13 min mile)

1.0 – 2.0
7.0 (8:30 min mile)

2.0 – 3.0
7.5 (8:00 min mile)

3.0 – 3.2
8.0 (7:30 min mile)
3.2 – 3.4
6.5 (9:13 min mile)
3.4 – 3.6
8.0 (7:30 min mile)
3.6 – 3.8
6.5 (9:13 min mile)
3.8 – 4.0
8.0 (7:30 min mile)
4.0 – 4.25
6.5 (9:13 min mile)
4.25 – 4.5
7.0 (8:30 min mile)
4.5 – 4.75
7.5 (8:00 min mile)
4.75 – 5.0
8.0 (7:30 min mile)

Saturday's run:
My goal for Saturday's run was to not run very far, and to have an intense workout. I really wanted to work on speed, keeping speed, and continually increasing it. Let me tell you, this workout was hard! The first mile felt really really good. By the end, my legs felt like rubber. It felt so good! As you can see, for each mile, I would run a constant pace for the first half. For the second half, I would bump it up for each 0.1 of a mile. Then, at the next mile, I'd bring it back down, but a notch higher from where I started. I'd run that for a half mile, and then bump it up for each 0.1 mile again. That way, I was continually increasing speed, but was able to give myself a chance to catch my breath while still working hard. This was the first time I've ever done this workout - I just made it up on the spot. I think I'll probably do it once or twice a week to increase my speed! It was great!

Distance (Miles)
Speed (MPH)
0.0 – 0.5

6.5 (9:13 min mile)
0.5 – 0.6
7.0 (8:30 min mile)
0.6 – 0.7
7.5 (8:00 min mile)
0.7 – 0.8
8.0 (7:30 min mile)
0.8 – 0.9
8.5 (7:00 min mile)
0.9 – 1.0
9.0 (6:30 min mile)
1.0 – 1.5

7.0 (8:30 min mile)
1.5 – 1.6
7.5 (8:00 min mile)
1.6 – 1.7
8.0 (7:30 min mile)
1.7 – 1.8
8.5 (7:00 min mile)
1.8 – 1.9
9.0 (6:30 min mile)
1.9 – 2.0
9.5 (6:15 min mile)
2.0 – 2.5

7.5 (8:00 min mile)
2.5 – 2.6
8.0 (7:30 min mile)
2.6 – 2.7
8.5 (7:00 min mile)
2.7 – 2.8
9.0 (6:30 min mile)
2.8 – 2.9
9.5 (6:15 min mile)
2.9 – 3.0
10.0 (6:00 min mile)

 Today, I'll probably go for distance again. Do you have any interesting treadmill workouts?

I'm considering running a MARATHON!!! It would be this October in Minneapolis! I'm about 80% sure right now, but I'm giving myself a couple of weeks to decide. What do you think?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Samoas Cookie Bars

Yep, that's right - the same as the Girl Scout Cookie! Did you buy Girl Scout Cookies this year? I did, for the first time since I was about 9 years old! When I grew up, these cookies were called Caramel Delights and now they're called Samoas. Apparently, it's not the time that has changed the name of the cookie, it's the region of the country you live in! When this topic comes up with friends, everyone has a loyalty to a different name, but it's the same cookie! Actually, after doing a quick 5 minute Google search, I guess the Girl Scouts use two different bakeries that distribute to certain areas of the country and the recipes are "slightly different".

Regardless, I couldn't wait to get my cookies this year, so to tide myself over I decided to make my own, in the form of BARS!!! These babies are so delicious you'll want to have them year-round. Plus, they're cheaper than $4 a box! The simple shortbread cookie is the base, topped with a coconut-caramel layer, and then it's dipped and drizzled in semisweet chocolate! Incredibly delightful.

Samoas Cookie Bars
From Sweet Pea's Kitchen

For the Cookie Base:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Topping:
  • 3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 12-oz chewy caramels
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 10 ounces dark or semisweet chocolate
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Put a long piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, letting the parchment extend up the two short sides of the pan and overhang slightly on both ends.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together sugar and butter, until fluffy. Scrape down the bowl and add the egg and vanilla extract, beating until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. On low speed, mix in the flour and salt until mixture is crumbly, like wet sand. Pour the dough into the prepared pan and use your hands or the back of a large wooden spoon to push the crust into an even layer at the bottom of the pan. Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  3. Reduce oven to 300 degrees F. Spread coconut on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and toast 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until coconut is golden brown. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
  4. In a large microwave safe bowl, combine caramels, salt and milk. Place in microwave and cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir. When the mixture is smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula.
  5. Pour mixture over the cooled cookie base. Using the spatula, spread topping into an even layer. Using a small piece of parchment paper, press mixture evenly into pan. Set aside to cool completely.
  6. When cooled, cut into 30 bars with a large knife or a pizza cutter. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Melt the chocolate in a metal bowl over a pan of lightly simmering water. Stir occasionally until smooth, and remove from heat. Dip the base of each bar into the chocolate and place on the prepared baking sheet. Transfer all remaining chocolate into a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle bars with chocolate to finish. Chill in refrigerator until chocolate is set.

Best Tuna Melt Ever

On Thursday, Bryan had the day off to study for his Internal Medicine shelf that he would take on Friday morning. I have every Thursday off, so it was nice to have a day together. However, I didn't see him practically all day because he was so studious, and I tried to keep myself busy and quiet so that I don't bother him. For the scheduled 20 minute lunch break, I made the best tuna sandwich ever served with a side of organic tomato soup. I make tuna sandwiches often, and have been tweaking the recipe a little bit each time. I think it's now perfect! As you'll be able to tell from my description, it's very... accurate... so I usually add a few ingredients at a time and taste it as I go. I start with a can of tuna and drain off the water and put it in a medium sized bowl. Add a small spoonful of mayo. Drizzle on some hot sauce and stir together. Add some diced onions. Add the following spices: Italian seasoning, Savory seasoning (got it at a spice shop), parsley, oregano, celery seed, garlic powder, a little red pepper flakes and ground black pepper. The celery seed is definitely the secret ingredient. If I have celery on hand, I'll dice and throw some in there and omit the celery seed. Grill up on a flat skillet with cheese and sliced tomato. It's always a very quick and DELICIOUS lunch!!

Oh, and Bryan survived his exam and felt pretty good about it and even got our taxes done in the afternoon!!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thai Peanut Chicken

I've sort of been in a bloggers rut lately. Not for lack of cooking or running, but because there hasn't been anything new or noteworthy to write about. Running inside on a treadmill everyday is not exactly exciting news to write about, although I've been trying a few new workouts. Maybe I'll work those into a post soon. We've been busy eating some already-blogged-about favorites lately including the best lasagna in the world, spaghetti with braised kale, and African chicken peanut soup. A few other favorites have been considered like french onion soup, creamy leek and potato soup, and sweet potato pasta but I just haven't had time yet. Coming up tonight is another favorite: falafel feast!!!

Today though, I finally have something new to post! Last week, I got to go to one of my favorite Asian markets in Chicago. I don't go that often because it's not near our place at all. I took the Red Line train about 45 minutes and got out at Argyle, right in the middle of the Asian neighborhoods. The second I got out of the train, I could smell delicious Asian food. There are so many cool little shops and family owned restaurants around this area that I could have wandered around them for hours! Tai Nam is my favorite market in this area and it's just around the corner from the train stop. It's large, clean and has tons of selection!! However, nothing is in English - I love it!! You can buy all sorts of ingredients in regular or bulk restaurant sizes and they are CHEAP!!! I bought huge containers of yellow and red curry paste for $3.75 and a huge container of red chili flakes for $3. They also have a ginormous selection of Asian noodles, most of which are less than $0.75 per package. They have isles filled with interesting candies, snacks and canned goods that I've never seen before. They also have live crab and lobster as well as a large selection of fresh fish. They even have chicken feet. I filled up my basket to the rim and could barely lift it by the end of my shopping, and it only cost about $20. WOW! I seriously love coming up here!

Finally, I had some time last night to create something new. It was a simple Thai Peanut Chicken dish.

Basically, I just sauteed chicken with broccoli, onion, red pepper and water chestnuts in Thai Peanut sauce until the chicken was done and served with the vermicelli rice noodles from the market. It was so simple and incredibly delicious!!

Sunday, February 13, 2011


My blog has been a bit heavy on the Foodie side. Here's a post dedicated to the Runner side :)

Even though it was a nice day in Chicago today, I decided to run inside on the treadmill. I've been using the dreadmill all winter, and in order to try to keep things interesting and not get too bored on that sucker, I've used interval training to change up my workouts. I run for distance, not time, but I'm sure you could alter my workouts to be timed instead.

Today's run:

Distance (miles)
Speed (MPH)
0.0 – 0.5
0.5 – 1.0
1.0 – 1.5
1.5 – 2.0
2.0 – 2.5
2.5 – 3.0
3.0 – 3.5
3.5 – 4.0
4.0 – 4.5
4.5 – 5.0

A lot of my treadmill workouts are variations on this one. A lot of times, I'll change it up after a couple of warm up miles and run intervals of 0.2 mile and start at 6.5mph and the next 0.2 mile, crank it up to 8.0mph and alternate for a mile or two. Sometimes I'll hold a speed for a whole mile too. I just depends on the mood I'm in!

Does anyone else have any good treadmill workouts? It'll be a while before I'm able to run outside all the time!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Filling

Bryan and I don't usually do very much for Valentine's Day. It just seems like a hokey holiday. We don't ignore it all together, but won't spend a lot of time planning or worrying about it. We usually will make a special dinner and have a chill evening together - which is perfect for both of our busy schedules. 

But, if I know one thing, nothing says Valentine's Day more than red velvet. I had never made anything red velvet before last week, and had only eaten it once or twice. Needless to say, I'd been wanting to try it for quite a while. I must say, these cupcakes turned out especially well! They will even be making an appearance at a friends birthday party tomorrow night!

I made a batch of these cupcakes last weekend, and they were very good. But I thought that they needed a little oomph. I generally like cupcakes, but the ones that are insanely amazing are the ones that have filling on the inside! Since I had done that once with Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Muffins with Pecan Steusel, I thought the same idea would be perfect with these cupcakes! So, I made these from the original recipe, with a little ad-libbing. If you don't know by know, that's how I like to do things!

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Filling
Adapted from Epicurious
Makes 24 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:

2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp salt
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 oz water
2 oz red food coloring
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp baking soda

Cream Cheese Filling:

8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temp
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tsp vanilla extract


First, make the cream cheese filling. In a medium bowl, stir together the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Add the vanilla, and stir to combine. Form the mixture into a 12-inch log on a piece of plastic wrap, wrap it, and freeze it for at least two hours. I prepared the filling the night before and left it in the freezer all night.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake tins with paper liners.

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add eggs and blend well.

Make a paste of cocoa and food coloring and add to the butter mixture.

Sift flour and salt together into this mixture.

One at a time, add the following ingredients: buttermilk, vanilla, and water.

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and baking soda. Fold it into the cake batter. Make sure it's incorporated, but don't beat it.

Remove the cream cheese from the freezer, and cut it into 1-inch slices.

Scoop a small amount of batter into the muffin cups. Place 1 slice of the cream cheese log right in the center of each cup, then fill with the remaining batter.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cake springs back when touched.

Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes, then turn the cupcakes out of the tins and onto a rack to finish cooling completely.

Frost with cream cheese frosting and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Intense Debate

Go to IntenseDebate

For a while now I’ve been wanting to figure out a way to enhance my blog even more. I’ve been really wanting to be able comment on other people’s comments following each post. As it is now, I can comment, but my comments do not prompt an email to other commenters (like Facebook does). If people ask a question, I have to email them or post on their Facebook wall to answer. That’s not how technology should work! I want to encourage more comments and engage in conversations through my blog too!

(All of this information may not be "blog worthy," but I decided it include it for my fellow blogger friends who might want to add this feature to their blog too!)

After some research, I’ve found a couple of ways to accomplish this. The two most popular third party websites that have the capability to introduce a new comment feed are Disqus and Intense Debate. I couldn’t really choose between the two because they both offer comment threading, reply by email, comment moderation, and many ways for readers to comment (including Facebook, Twitter, Google, Open ID, even as a guest and more!) – all the things I wanted. I first tried Disqus because it looked cleaner, but then all of the existing comments from previous posts were removed from my blog. After doing a little more research on Disqus itself, I found that I can’t have those comments show up. They still exist in my blogger profile, but they don’t show up on each post. I also found that in general bloggers are more satisfied with Disqus and readers (and therefore commenters) are more satisfied with Intense Debate. To me it's all the same, so just for you guys, I switched to Intense Debate. I mean, it had all the things I was looking for, and got really good reviews when I researched more intensely. The new commenting system will only work with new posts starting today. The older posts will have the basic blogger comments listed, and will not prompt emails for additional comments.

A few aspects that I like about Intense Debate, are that the commenter (you!) can choose to get email notifications for your comments when I or other people comment on them, or on the post. You can also "like" the comments, similar to Facebook :)

*You must be in each post (not just viewing the blog site) in order to comment.

So, let’s give it a try, shall we? Let's see if it works! What do you think of the new commenting system? Let me know if there are any commenting issues and I'll try to troubleshoot them.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Girl & the Goat

On Tuesday, Chicago was facing what the broadcasters were calling the biggest snow storm since 1967. Bryan and I both got to leave work early due to the weather - AND we both got snow days on Wednesday. By about 3pm, I was just finishing up at work and the snow was coming down pretty hard, and I was extremely grateful that Bryan was already home and I only had to walk 5 blocks home.

I've survived many blizzards in multiple parts of the country, and I love getting to hunker down in my sweatpants, with hot drinks, comfort food and a movie. We were pretty excited to have a chill evening at home, not having to worry about the weather. Then, I realized that it is extremely rare to see downtown Chicago be completely deserted and I suggested to Bryan that we put our boots on and traipse around in the blizzard tonight! We are so lucky that the weather doesn't really affect us. We live in a condo building, so we don't have to shovel our sidewalks or driveway. We have underground parking, so we don't have to dig out our car. We just get to be kids and actually enjoy the snow! We decided that we had to take this opportunity to embrace the blizzard. 

While reading news articles online, learning about the storm that was hitting the city, I came across a news article that piqued my interest. Girl & the Goat, a restaurant near us that we've been trying to get reservations at for MONTHS, announced that it was going to stay open despite the weather. Additionally, they noted that a lot of their reservations were cancelling and they were welcoming walk-ins! I mentioned to Bryan that while we were traipsing about in the blizzard, maybe we could make our way over to Girl & the Goat. He was immediately convinced, and I was super pumped! Impromptu date night!!!

We got bundled up and put on our Sorels, and headed out into the storm. We saw some people in the hallway of our building, who thought we were crazy. The guy at our security desk also thought we were out of our minds. After surviving multiple winters in the winter tundra that is Minnesota, this just seemed like a normal snow storm. No big deal! 

Once we walked outside, we were in awe! There was already close to a foot of snow on the ground, and it was coming down like crazy! All the downtown streets were completely empty. There were only a few people out on the sidewalks, and they were shoveling. We did not see many people at all, and the ones we did see were not just walking around for fun like we were. WE LOVED IT!

This is overlooking 90/94W, zero traffic. I have never seen this before!

This is overlooking 90/94E, traffic barely moving. I see this all the time. However, we heard on the news later that people were stuck on the roads for 3-4+ hours. They actually closed Lake Shore Drive later in the evening after people hadn't moved in over 2 hours.

It was very windy.

The streets were practically deserted. 

We made it the 5 blocks to the restaurant, and were seated on the spot! It actually became pretty crowded while we were there! The way the restaurant is laid out is awesome. It is very open with exposed brick. The kitchen is along the back wall, and is open to the whole restaurant. It wasn't very loud, so that we were able to have a conversation at ease, and we even were sitting very near the kitchen. The dishes are small plates, made to share. You choose from vegetable, fish or meat dishes. Basically, you just eat and order, eat and order. They also have the most amazing breads, of which new flavors are made fresh daily. We tried a "soup" bread. It actually tasted like we were eating soup! The bread was broccoli and cheddar, and there was cream of mushroom butter and tomato basil olive oil for dipping. It was seriously so good!! We also ordered a chickpea fritter, which was basically chickpeas done three ways topped with romesco, hazelnut hummus and goat feta. MMM! We also ordered seared scallops with goat sausage, shrimp, shiitakes, and winter squash. Delicious!!! For our meat, we had goat, pork and veal sugo wrapped in Pappardelle pasta with rosemary and cape goose berries. The goose berries totally made this dish out of this world!!! I cannot wait to go back and try more delicious dishes! Thanks for staying open during the storm Girl & the Goat!!!

Photo from Girl & the Goat


Bryan and I created this recipe years ago, and it continues to be one of our fall back recipes every now and then. It's great to make a huge pan of enchiladas so that we have leftovers for later in the week. Another great aspect of enchiladas is that they freeze very well.

Since it is a made up recipe, I'll just describe the process. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute lean ground beef with some taco seasoning. Add chopped onion. Remove from heat when onions are translucent. Using large burrito tortillas, lay one out at a time. Layer with refried beans (we use La Preferida Zesty Salsa), beef and onion, a dollop of sour cream and top with shredded cheese. Wrap up the tortilla and place in a glass baking pan. Continue with the remaining tortillas. Top with red enchilada sauce (we use La Preferida hot and mild, mixed). Top with remaining shredded cheese. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling. Enjoy!