Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chicken Lasagna with White Sauce

Last weekend Bryan and I made homemade pasta again! We got a pasta maker attachment for our Kitchen Aid for our one year anniversary in January and have loved learning how to make the best pasta with it. Each time we make pasta, we learn something new that works better than the last time. We decided to try the spinach pasta this time around. The dough was harder to work with though. It didn't go through the press as easily as the regular and whole wheat pasta, but we got it to work after a few tries. I also needed to mess with the flour and water amounts to get the dough to the right consistency.

The recipe makes a large amount of dough, so we had planned to cut some of the spinach pasta dough into long noodles for our dinner that night and save the rest in flat sheets for lasagna noodles. The problem we had though is that in the middle of the night our cat, Dimitri, decided to walk across the dried noodles that were covered on the table. The next day, they were no longer flat noodles, but were pieces of dried noodle. Big sad face. Oh well, at least we got to eat the spinach noodles when we made them for our dish the night we made them. We sauteed some onions, baby bellas, garlic and chives and tossed them with the pasta. The spinach noodles were so incredibly delicious! They were thick and chewy and the light sauce really let us taste the wonderful flavor of the noodles! I was really bummed that I didn't get any photos of that dish to share with you!! I had only planned on taking photos of the lasagna dish. Oh well - you win some and you lose some.

However, we did make some incredible lasagna! Since I had planned on using spinach noodles, I thought it would be a nice twist to do a chicken lasagna with white sauce. I had never had a dish like this before, so I did a simple Google search, and it turns out, it's pretty common! I looked over a few recipes and just made this one up to suit what we had on hand and what I thought would taste the best.

We layered whole wheat lasagna noodles with diced cooked chicken, spinach that was sauteed with garlic, sliced baby bellas, and sauteed red and yellow bell peppers. We topped each layer with ricotta and shredded mozzarella and parmesan. We also used a traditional creamy white sauce in each layer. It was a little time intensive, but made a large pan of lasagna that we can eat from on our really busy nights this week so it was totally worth the work!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Trottole with Marinara Sauce

After our super lazy afternoon, I felt a little better once I got to the gym. I completed a 4 mile workout on the treadmill alternating speeds and inclines each mile. I could really feel it in my legs!! I also did an arm and abs workout after the run. It felt amazing to get a really great workout in.

For dinner, we decided that it was time to break out these trottole noodles that are absolutely incredible. I mean, they do taste like any other noodle, but the shape is awesome! It's super curly and holds the sauce inside the spiral part. We used Rao's homemade marinara sauce with some lean ground beef, red and green bell pepper, baby bella mushrooms, onion, garlic and Italian seasonings. It was a delicious meal that we put together in no time at all!

I mean, check out the curl on those noodles!!! Each one is a ginormous bite and satisfied my appetite after my intense workout. We topped it with grated parmesan and served the dish with some red wine. Delicious!

Breakfast Sandwich

Yesterday was a lazy day. Like realllllly lazy. But every now and then, we have to have those around here due to our busy schedules. Bryan worked an overnight at the hospital, so he got home around 7am, and was ready for bed. After my exhausting Friday at work, I was planning a low key night on Friday, and thought I'd be going to bed by 8pm - no joke. Some impromptu plans came up and I went to a friend's place who lives in our building. I thought I'd stay for an hour because I was soooo tired. But I stayed past 2am hanging out with great friends! Needless to say, we slept in like no other on Saturday. Once we finally got around to waking up, we needed a hearty breakfast but hadn't planned anything in particular. Once we got our coffee in us and took a quick look in our fridge, these babies just made themselves! We did 2 eggs over easy, topped with melted cheddar and muenster cheese and some breakfast sausage on top of an everything flavored bagel thin. We also had some grapes on the side. Can I just say, this was the perfect start to our day.

We spent the rest of the afternoon watching endless episodes of Lost on Netflix instant play. We started the series from the beginning a week ago - neither of us had seen an episode before and thought we should start from the beginning. We are totally addicted!!! Has anyone else been addicted to Lost?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Good Reads

I’m going to get my Masters in Nutrition, and I’ve been reading some interesting food and health related books lately and thought I’d share them with you. This post is not nerdy to me at all, but for those of you who are not into that – look out – nerd alert. Oh, and these are all Google images.

For my birthday, one of the gifts Bryan got me was The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. I really enjoyed sitting down and reading this book. It literally just lists the 150 healthiest foods, what nutrients they pack and why they are good for us. It is organized by type of food, and then alphabetically, so it’s easy to reference later also. I found some interesting tidbits about foods I love too! For instance, I love kale and it is loaded with nutrients. Other top foods include, some predictable items like spinach and pomegranates, as well as some unexpected items like coffee and dandelion. I loved this book by the end of it, and I really want to read its brother The 150 Healthiest 15-Minute Recipes on Earth!

Upon recommendation from a great friend, I’ve also recently read In Defense of Food. It was a very interesting read, and similar to Food, Inc. Michael Pollan basically discusses how food has turned into something that is totally unfamiliar that what it used to be. Today, people eat food that is so processed that it’s not even food anymore; it’s a food product. The manner in which food is eaten has also moved from the dinner table to in front of the TV or in the car, usually alone. While food has become cheaper over the years in the form of mass produced processed food, it has also become much less healthy. Consequently, the healthcare system is taking a major hit in trying to battle obesity related illnesses. He supports spending money on good and healthy food in order to not need to spend the exponential amount of healthcare costs that would result from not taking care of oneself. He urges us to eat food, not too much, mostly plants. I urge all of you to read this book for a healthier you!

I recently purchased the recipe book Power Foods. It’s full of recipes loaded with nutrients. I like that it is categorized by meal type and that each recipe has a picture of the dish. I haven’t tried any recipes yet, but I tagged a load of them, so expect some to pop up on the blog soon!

Currently, I’m reading On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Harold McGee discusses “where our foods come from, what they are and what they're made of, and how cooking transforms them.” I’m not that far into it yet, but I really like it. Any food lover should probably read this book!

Do you have any food/nutrition/health related books that you’ve liked reading recently?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad with Avocado Fries

We just couldn't stop grilling and enjoying the great weather this week! After burger night, we decided to ease off the red meat and grill some chicken and lighten it up a bit and eat a salad! That's when we turned to one of our favorites - grilled chicken caesar salad!

This is super easy to put together. Bryan seasoned the chicken breasts with chicken seasoning and cracked pepper. While the chicken was on the grill, I got the mixed greens ready and tossed them lightly in the caesar dressing (we use Marzetti Caesar Dressing). Top the greens with the sliced chicken, grated parmesan and more cracked pepper.

So incredibly delicious and pretty healthy. We served the salad with some red wine! I've been dying to make this recipe some friends recommended to me: avocado fries! I thought it would be the perfect side for our salad, and it definitely was!!!

The avocado fries take a little bit of work to prepare, and they are a little messy, but they are SO worth it! The outside layer offers a light crunch into the gooey and delicious avocado inside! They were so delicious and Bryan was super surprised at how amazing they were!

I read the recipe and immediately thought they needed a dipping sauce, but the recipe didn't suggest one. So, after about 5 seconds of thinking, I knew that a mayonnaise based garlic sauce would be perfection. I sliced up one chive and pressed out a few garlic cloves and placed them in a small serving bowl. I added a couple large dollops of mayo and drizzled a little extra virgin olive oil on top. I gave it a good stir and tasted it - MMM was all that came out! It was incredible and went just perfectly with the avocado fries!!! I would highly recommend this side recipe for any night of the week, or if you want to have a tasty appetizer for friends! It will definitely be a crowd-pleaser!!!

Avocado Fries
Adapted from My Recipes


For the avocados:

Canola oil for frying
1/4  cup  flour
About 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2  large eggs, beaten to blend
1 1/4  cups  panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2  firm-ripe medium avocados, pitted, peeled, and sliced into 1/2-in. wedges

For the sauce:

One chive
3 cloves of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil 


1. Preheat oven to 200°. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 1/2 in. oil until it registers 375° on a deep-fry thermometer.
2. Meanwhile, mix flour with 1/4 tsp. salt in a shallow plate. Put eggs and panko in separate shallow plates. Dip avocado in flour, shaking off excess. Dip in egg, then panko to coat. Set on 2 plates in a single layer.
3. Fry a quarter of avocado slices at a time until deep golden, 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer slices to a plate lined with paper towels. Keep warm in oven while cooking remaining avocados.
4. Prepare dipping sauce: slice up the chive and mince or press the garlic cloves and add to a small serving bowl. Add a couple large dollops of mayonnaise and drizzle a little bit of extra virgin olive oil on top. Stir and serve with avocado fries!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Happy Match Day to all the 4th year med students!!! Happy St. Patty's Day!!!

Today was my day off, so I got to enjoy the beautiful 59 degree weather by a nice long run outside! I decided to run my route of going over to Lake Michigan and then south on the lake front path down to Soldier Field and back, for a total of 8 miles. I felt great throughout the entire run, except for when the wind was blowing my hair in my face! I was glad I opted for a thin long sleeve shirt because the wind coming off the lake was a bit chilly! The run was totally awesome! My total running time was around 1 hour and 10 minutes, which puts me at about 8 1/2 minute miles. I'll have to train harder for speed, but for now I'm happy with that time. After running on the treadmill all winter and not doing long runs, I think that is the best I can expect at this point. I'm excited to do more long runs outside now that the weather is getting nicer! Another 10 minutes was added to my run by stopping to take all these photos! Please excuse the grainy photos, my iPhone camera was all I had with me! We're going to take a little tour of one of my running routes! Here we go!

I started my run out on Upper Wacker Drive, and saw that one of the bridges was up, which I don't see that often!

Hopping onto the river front path out to Lake Michigan

This is the Trump Tower with the bridge in the foreground

Just to the west are the corn cob buildings - actually named Marina City

View of the river and the direction I came from

View of Navy Pier, once I got out to the lake

Lake Point Tower, on Navy Pier - I bet all the views from that building are awesome!

Empty docks - the seagulls were so loud around this area, and the breeze felt good coming off the lake!

Looking north along the lake shore, about 2.5 miles into the run
Then I made it down to Roosevelt, south Loop area, where there are some cool buildings

The Field Museum - looks like they have a horse exhibit going on right now

The Shedd Aquarium - I am about to run around the backside

View #1 of downtown from the south

View #2

View #3

The backside of Soldier Field, almost done! I had about 0.2 miles to run, and then turned around to head the same route back to downtown

Navy Pier looks so far away from behind the Shedd Aquarium!

View of downtown, and it's getting cloudy!

Made it back up to downtown! This is Lake Shore Drive with some of the smaller residential buildings on the river

The tour boats are up and going for the spring season!

Here is the river front path that I run on to get back home! Quite a nice run today!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Grilled Burger

Today's high in downtown Chicago was 59!!! I haven't felt the warmth of the sun or felt a breeze that didn't chill my spine in MONTHS!!! I really wanted to run outside after work, but it was already getting dark out - yes, even with daylight savings time. Boo. Instead, I ran inside on the treadmill in our building's gym. I plugged out 4 miles as fast as I could - about 8 minute miles.

In order to celebrate the wonderful weather, Bryan suggested we grill up some burgers! Perfect idea! We use our grill regularly throughout the year, even in the winter and storms because it is right outside our door on our balcony. Plus, grilling meats always makes them better!

This burger recipe is made up, based upon what I used to eat growing up. My dad was the grill master and he was always tweaking around with meat recipes. This one stuck with me I guess!

We used very lean ground beef (90/10) and added some diced onions, garlic powder, fresh ground pepper and a little salt. We melted a little cheese on top of the burgers when they were finishing up and toasted the buns on the top rack of the grill. We topped our burgers with some sauteed onions, thinly sliced tomato and mixed greens, served on top of a whole wheat bun. I don't know if you can tell in the picture, but the meat part is about 1.5 inches thick - they only way burgers should be. I had to practically unhinge my jaw to take a bite. They turned out totally awesome! We paired the dish with a delicious glass of red wine - Toasted Head, Untamed Red. It's a perfect everyday dinner wine that isn't too expensive but has a great flavor.

Wednesday = Top Chef at our place! Anyone else see the penultimate episode? Can I just say... finally!

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Jon and Kelly have a tradition of making pizza on the weekends, so we were excited to go all out on the pizza! I found a recipe for asparagus pizza to keep in tradition with St. Patrick's Day and we also had a meat pizza, well because we were really hungry!!!

We made this meat pizza recipe up, and it turned out incredibly well! We tossed in some Italian sausage, portobello mushrooms, onions, green pepper, and a cheese mixture on top of a red pizza sauce.

It was so incredibly delicious! I forgot how easy it is to make pizza! You just throw on whatever toppings you want, and it's bound to taste good!!!

Here's the second pizza. Check out all those greens! It was literally piled with asparagus! I used the skinny asparagus, and they did not shred well with a peeler, so I put them sideways through the food processor using the slicing blade, and it worked perfectly and took only about a minute!

This pizza was incredibly delicious!! It was crunchy, full of flavor yet light at the same time! I will definitely be making it again this spring and summer! I altered the original recipe a little bit and added red pepper flakes and some garlic powder, which gave it a great kick!

Shaved Asparagus Pizza
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 1 thin crust 12-inch pizza

Your favorite pizza dough
1/2 pound asparagus
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 pound mozzarella, shredded or cut into small cubes
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Several grinds black pepper
4 scallions, thinly sliced

Preheat your oven to the hottest temperature it goes, or about 500 in most cases. If you use a pizza stone, have it in there.

Prepare asparagus: No need to snap off ends; they can be your “handles” as you peel the asparagus. Holding a single asparagus spear by its tough end, lay it flat on a cutting board and using a vegetable peeler and create long shavings of asparagus by drawing the peeler from the base to the top of the stalk. Repeat with remaining stalks and don’t fret some pieces are unevenly thick (such as the end of the stalk, which might be too thin to peel); the mixed textures give a great character to the pizza. Discard tough ends. Toss peelings with olive oil, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes and garlic powder.

Assemble and bake pizza: Roll or stretch out your pizza dough to a 12-inch round. Either transfer to a floured or cornmeal-dusted pizza peel (if using a pizza stone in the oven) or to a floured or cornmeal-dusted tray to bake it on. Sprinkle pizza dough with Parmesan, then mozzarella. Pile asparagus on top. Bake pizza for 10 to 15 minutes, or until edges are browned, the cheese is bubbly and the asparagus might be lightly charred. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with scallions, then slice and eat.

St. Patrick's Day

Every year, the weekend before St. Patrick's Day, the city of Chicago dyes the river green! Last year it was pouring rain, so we were hoping to get some good pics! However, none of my pictures turned out very well, but here's one that Google has to show:

We wandered around near the river front path and stopped in an Irish bar to get some green beer too! Downtown Chicago was like a giant party all day long! We were lucky enough to hang out with some great friends, Jon and Kelly, who we don't get to see as often as we'd like due to everyone's crazy schedules. Thanks Kelly, for an awesome photo!!!

Bryan and I were hoping for a chill evening, hopefully in sweatpants, and luckily, so were they! We started out by making our own drinks! I made a traditional cosmo, with white cranberry juice instead of red cranberry juice, and turned it green using food coloring!

How cool and ELECTRIC GREEN is that cosmo?! It tasted delicious too!

Green Cosmo
1 oz vodka
1/2 oz triple sec
1/2 oz white cranberry juice
1/2 oz lime juice
1 or 2 drops of food coloring

Add all ingredients to ice in a shaker. Shake and serve.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Molten Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Filling

What better to follow up a wonderful evening with Lucy, than a decadent chocolaty peanut buttery dessert? This dessert caught my eye and I knew that I wouldn't find anything better to end the evening! The only downside is that I wanted to make it ahead of time to have it ready for dessert, but that was quite impossible since the oven was occupied with gnocchi. It turned out just fine because after dinner, Lucy and I mixed these suckers up and got them in the oven in no time! They are actually pretty easy to make! I also like that the recipe only makes 4, so that I don't have to continue my unhealthy week too much longer!

They actually looked like ginormous fancy cupcakes in ramekins!

The directions call to invert them onto a plate, but I think that if you can get them out of the ramekins without inverting them, it might make a better presentation. But who cares about presentation when everyone is in sweatpants? We definitely know how to relax around here!

Once I cut into my cake, I was in awe! The peanut butter filling came oozing out so fast I couldn't catch it all in my bite! It was sinfully delicious!

I love you Lucy!

Molten Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Filling


1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus melted butter for brushing
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
6 ounces dark chocolate (70 percent cacao), chopped
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
Pinch of salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Brush four 6-ounce ramekins with melted butter. In a small bowl, whisk the cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon of the flour; dust the ramekins with the cocoa mixture, tapping out the excess. Transfer the ramekins to a sturdy baking sheet.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt 1 stick of butter with the chocolate over very low heat, stirring occasionally. Let cool slightly.
  3. In a bowl, blend the peanut butter with the 1 tablespoon of confectioners’ sugar and the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.
  4. In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the granulated sugar with the eggs and salt at medium-high speed until thick and pale yellow, 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the melted chocolate until no streaks remain. Fold in the 1/4 cup of flour.
  5. Spoon two-thirds of the batter into the prepared ramekins, then spoon the peanut butter mixture on top. Cover with the remaining chocolate batter. Bake in the center of the oven for 16 minutes, until the tops are cracked but the centers are still slightly jiggly. Transfer the ramekins to a rack and let cool for 5 to 8 minutes.
  6. Run the tip of a small knife around each cake to loosen. Invert a small plate over each cake and, using pot holders, invert again. Carefully lift off the ramekins. Dust the warm cakes with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately.

Gnocchi Parisienne

Bryan is on his surgery rotation now, which means he has a crazy schedule. He started working at 5:30am this morning and will get home sometime around mid-morning tomorrow. So what does that mean for me? I wanted some "me" time and originally, I was hoping to get in a nice long workout followed by a movie and a light dinner accompanied with a glass of wine. But, since I haven't been feeling that great this week, my night has turned into a more lazy version of that. When I came home late from work tonight, I was excited to put my pj's on and play with Dimitri. He was a cuddle machine! Who couldn't get enough of this cute little guy?!

This photo was actually taken last summer, but he's still just as cute - and a LOT fluffier!!

Does anyone remember that scene from Despicable Me?

Anyway now, it's time to lay down and relax and work on my blog reflecting on a wonderful night last night with the Food Network on in the background. That sounds about as good as I could imagine :)

With the combination of being really busy this week, not feeling that great most of the days, and my Girl Scout Cookies arriving, I've been pretty lazy and unhealthy the past 5 days. Yep, that means zero work outs (ugh!) and eating probably too many cookies. Oh well. Sometimes, you just have to indulge, right?!

All week, I was looking forward to Thursday night's dinner. Why, you ask? My best friend LUCY was coming over for dinner (and to get her belated birthday presents)! Lucy and I grew up together in Rapid City, SD. We were involved in the same extra curricular activities like music, soccer, and track. After being away from each other for 4 years during college, we wound up living together in Chicago for a year! Lucy is currently getting her Master's in Violin Performance at Northwestern University. I'm incredibly lucky to have such a great friend nearby. She's super busy, so when Lucy comes over for dinner, I try to make the best food I can think of!

And that's when these gnocchi's came into my life - and they will never leave.

This dish was absolutely incredible! I have to admit, either the photo on the site was misleading, or I screwed up majorly because my gnocchi's did not appear large and puffy but appeared more like mini bread sticks. However, they did not taste like bread sticks. They were little pillows of cheesy, gooey goodness!

Let's get a close up on that!

MMM!!!! Can you see the ground nutmeg?? I was surprised to see that ingredient in the list, but it worked perfectly! These little babies are going to be appearing at our table again soon!

I served the gnocchi as a dish on its own, next to another dish of spicy Italian sausage sauteed with red and green bell peppers, onion and garlic in a arrabbiata red sauce. It was the perfect match for the thick and creamy gnocchi. We also enjoyed the dishes with some delicious red wine!

Gnocchi Parisienne
From Food and Wine


1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, Gruyère or Asiago cheese (I used Gruyere)

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the water, salt and nutmeg with 2 tablespoons of the butter and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water boils, add the flour all at once and beat the dough with a wooden spoon until it is thick and comes away from the side of the pan. Cook, stirring to dry out the dough, about 30 seconds. Transfer the dough to a medium bowl and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
  2. Beat 1 egg into the dough until incorporated. Beat in 1/4 cup of the cheese and another egg until blended, then beat in the last egg until the dough is very smooth.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Set a bowl of ice water near the stove. With a large spatula, transfer the dough to a resealable plastic bag, pressing it into one corner. Cut off the tip of the bag; the opening should be about 1/2 inch long.
  4. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Carefully hold the bag over the water and press out the dough, using a small sharp knife to cut it into 1 1/2-inch lengths before it drops into the pot (see Note). Simmer the gnocchi for 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the ice water bath to stop the cooking. Transfer the gnocchi to paper towels and pat dry.
  5. Grease a 9-by-12-inch baking dish with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Arrange the gnocchi in the dish and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of cheese. Bake until puffed, about 25 minutes. Preheat the broiler. Broil the gnocchi 6 inches from the heat for 1 to 2 minutes, or until browned. Serve right away. 
Note: The gnocchi can be prepared through Step 4 and refrigerated for a few hours or even overnight before baking and broiling.