Sunday, April 24, 2011

Chicken Slouvaki

In October, I am running the Chicago Marathon. That is to say, if all things go well and my new (still non-existant) job permits me to. That is to say that my body can deal with all the miles of pounding. That is to say that I work hard all summer in a new city even when I may want a day off.

So in October. I may/may not be running the Chicago Marathon depending on the aforementioned reasons. Pray for me -- I'm dying to run it!

I've mentioned before that I'm running with my college friend/roommate the running machine. She hasn't been informed of this, but one major reason I'm super excited to run in Chicago is for the post-race meal after. Is that bad? So, she also doesn't know that once she (and then I) cross the finish line, we're getting a beer (she will drink wine) and I'm having one of two things: Chicago Deep Dish, or Greek Food.
We all know Chicago is famed for it's deep dish 'za, but did you know about Greektown? My parents are both from Wisconsin; my mom from Racine/Milwaukee (a "big city" gal) and dad from Kenosha/Richland Center.

When they first started dating back in the early 1970's, they would escape down to Chi-town almost every weekend. My mom, who isn't a big eater, told me every trip back home to Wisco, she had to unbutton her pants to let it all hang out. Classy, isn't she?
Well what, I wondered, could possibly make my waif-like mom gorge to no end? Greek food. My closest rendition yet? Chicken Slouvaki. If you're sick of standard barbecue chicken, give this a try... now!

Chicken Slouvaki
3/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette (recipe follows)
3 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

1 lb chicken breast
4 pieces pita bread
1/4 - 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
3/4 cup prepared Tzatziki sauce
1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 medium red onion, sliced
2 cups Romaine Lettuce
Olives (not for me!)

1. In a small bowl, mix the balsamic vinaigrette, lemon juice, oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Place chicken in a large resealable plastic bag. Pour marinade over the chicken, seal, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
2. When ready, prepare an outdoor grill for high heat. Remove chicken from bag and discard marinade. Place chicken on the grill until done and no longer pink in the center (7-8 minutes per side)
3. When chicken is done, place on a plate to sit and lightly grill pitas for a minute per side. Remove from grill and assemble.
4. To assemble, place pita flat on plate and divide the romaine lettuce, feta cheese, Tzatziki, tomatoes, onion and olives evenly half of each pita. Fold in half and serve with extra Tzatziki, if desired.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil

1. Beat the vinegar in a bowl with the garlic, salt and pepper until salt dissolves. Then beat in the oil by droplets, whisking constantly.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tarta de Chocolate y Cafe

I've changed the first sentence to this blog post six seven times. I've tried writing it in a coffee shop. I've tried writing it in my bed. I try again and again but yet each time I sit down at my laptop, I feel n-o-t-h-i-n-g. I feel uninspired, and that is not me.
I like to write; no, I love to write. I put my fingers on to the keyboard and just flow. It is how I live my life; I like to live in a constant flow.
I despise roadblocks. When I see what I want, tunnel vision kicks in and I begin to obsess. Though I usually feel somewhat patient, I become ravenous for what is yet to come. Whatever is standing in my way is the one thing separating me and the rest of my life. It's like I keep waiting for it to begin.
Right now, I am three weeks away from a master's. Once I have my master's, I think, it will all come together. Right now, I am itching to move out of my parents house and into my independence. Once I am on my own, I imagine, I can be free. Right now, I am at a job where I am loved, but I am intellectually bored out of my mind and searching for more. Once I find my job in Boston, I avow, I can begin my life.
But what is that? Why am I always waiting for the roadblocks to move and then start? Why not now? Why can't I understand that life, as my dad always says, is about the journey, and not the destination?
When I come to these roadblocks, I forget about the things I love because I am plagued by the things I want. I forget to spend time with friends because I don't think I have time. I forget to blog because I'm writing a final manuscript. I forget to live because I'm so busy trying to figure out my life. And it's got to stop.
This recipe for is one I made for a tapas birthday party for my friend Rachel. I remember when I first tried it, I was disappointed. It is not sweet enough, I protested. I almost didn't bring it to the party. I felt shameful because I'm the food blogger. I was expected to at least bring something tasty! How could my dessert not be perfect?!
But then a few people reminded me that Mexican chocolate isn't necessarily sweet. And that sometimes dessert isn't a one-size-fits-all type of thing. I gave it another chance. Subtle, I thought. I dove into it more. A hint of strong coffee, a crunch of an espresso bean, the silky richness of the cake. I liked it.
I'm reading this over again and I see how silly it was. How stupid that something as small (literally) as mini cheesecake would get to me. I'm almost embarrassed to tell you all. I hope that this post maybe hits home to some of you. Maybe you get too caught up in the roadblocks like I do. Trust me, it's probably not as big a deal as you think... if only I could listen to my own advice. 

Tarta de Chocolate y Cafe 
(Chocolate and Coffee Mini Cheesecakes)
8 oz finely crushed chocolate cookies
½ cup melted butter
1 lb cream cheese
3 eggs
½ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup cold espresso
1 cup sifted flour
Chocolate-covered coffee beans
3 oz grated semisweet chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with 24 baking cups. Combine the butter and cookie crumbs and press a tbsp of this mixture over the base of the each baking cup.
2. Meanwhile, Beat the sugar with the vanilla extract and cream cheese. Add the eggs, beating well after each one. Add the espresso and flour and beat again. Transfer half of this mixture into the lined pans and sprinkle half the grated chocolate over it. Spoon the rest of the mixture on top.
3. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until tops of mini cakes are somewhat firm. Top with remaining chocolate and top with 3-4 chocolate covered coffee beans. Chill for at least 4 hours.

I seriously can't believe how petty I sound. Know that it's the sad sad truth. Happy Saturday, my loves!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Vegan Granola Bars (Chocolate and Peanut Butter!)

"I don't really do vegan," she scoffs.
"Okay?" I say, a bit on the defense. "Well there is chocolate and peanut butter in the recipe and you wouldn't have even known they were vegan if I didn't tell you."
"That's probably true," she shoots back. "They are pretty good."
Success! I am in no way shape or form a vegan. I'm all for gluten and lactose and dead animals! Too far? Sorry. That was inappropriate. But I do have a point -- I don't shun anything out of my diet.
I don't have an issue with those who do, because it's your boat that has got to float. Not mine. Mine can sink underneath all the good food!
Joking aside, I really don't think I could go vegan. There are too many things I love, but never say never, right?
I happen to intern underneath a sports dietitian in my grad program, and when she offered that I do some recipe tasting for her more particular athletes, I jumped at the opportunity. But vegan granola bars? Oh c'mon!
Well, I loved them. I keep picking them apart, one dried cranberry and chocolate chip at a time. Please, take them away! Or make them. They were super easy and trust me, if you're into chocolate or peanut butter, you can basically consider yourself a sucker for these bars.
They're more like candy bars than granola if you ask me. Like a big chocolate peanut butter cup granola bar. Maybe that should be the name... it would probably get more hits. I guess I'm a hippie-vegan now.

Without further ado...

Vegan Granola Bars
1 cup granola
2 cups old fashion oats
2 tbsp flax seed
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried fruit
2 cups chunky peanut butter
1/2 to 3/4 cup light corn syrup

1. Line a 13x9 baking dish with parchment paper and a THIN layer of vegetable oil. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (granola-fruit) and mix. Add the peanut butter next, follwed by the corn syrup. You may require a little more corn syrup to help combine everything. Place on the parchment paper and press (use plastic gloves!). Chill for several hours or overnight. Cut into bars and serve. Makes one 13x9 pan (10-20 bars depending on size).

Friday, April 8, 2011

Classic Tiramisu

For the past two years, I've taught a group exercise class called Jump and Pump. When I first started teaching, I was much like a timid child, unsure of what to do, how I should instruct and in what way I could make the class a must-go.
It began with about three consistent participants (maybe less), and week after week my ego was completely bruised because of the sorry turnout. Week after week, I showed up to this class uninspired, unmotivated and unsure that I wanted to continue teaching. Somewhere in there, however, my numbers started to creep up.
These ladies are now just a fraction of my ever-changing class. And not only do they take my class, but they recruit new unsuspecting participants. Shukri (third on one the left) is one of my best recruiters.
I remember the first time Shukri took my class. We were outside and she was dragged along by Lori (next to me in the middle). Upon her arrival she stared at the field I had set up and with a look of disgust. "Soccer?" she questioned with much ambivilance. "Trust me," I told her. "It will be good."
By the end of that class, Shukri was hooked and didn't miss Jump and Pump for much of anything. When her attendance started thinning however, it could only mean one thing... it's a girl...and she's a-coming in May!
So yesterday, with friends and coworkers around her, Shukri celebrated the upcoming birth of her baby girl, and of course I had to make something.
Even though I am the unforgiving instructor that makes them run the stairs, hit the weights and groan in pain (some call me Killer), yesterday I was passing out Tiger Fudge and Tiramisu like a domesticated housewife. I don't even like Tiramisu normally, but honest to God, this was the best I've ever had. So grab some ladyfingers and get cookin'.

Classic Tiramisu
6 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 1/4 cups mascarpone cheese
1 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream (chilled)
2 (3 ounce) packages SOFT ladyfingers
1/4 cup coffee flavored liqueur
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
1 (1 ounce) square semisweet chocolate

1. Combine egg yolks and sugar in the top of a double boiler, over boiling water. Reduce heat to low, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and whip yolks until thick and lemon colored.
2. Add mascarpone to whipped yolks. Beat until combined. In a separate (pre-chiled)bowl, whip cream to stiff peaks. Gently fold into yolk mixture and set aside.
3. Split the lady fingers in half, and line the bottom and sides of a springform pan. Lightly brush with coffee liqueur (You could definitely go a bit heavier on the liqeur than I did but I don't really love that super strong taste). Spoon half of the cream filling over the lady fingers. Repeat ladyfingers, coffee liqueur and cream filling layers. Sprinkle the top with cocoa powder and chocolate curls. Refrigerate overnight.
**To make the chocolate curls, use a vegetable peeler and run it down the edge of the chocolate bar.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tiger Fudge (In Honor of Expedition Week on National Geo)

You know how in high school you have your jocks and your thespians and your debaters and your newspaper editors? And you have your nerds and the goths and the cheerleaders and the homecoming kings?
Back in high school, and even now for that matter, the people in these groups never really blurred the social hierarchy, but there is one short week these people unite together in exploration of all things miraculous. I think you know where I'm going with this one...(cue Jaws theme)...SHARK WEEK!
But no, no, Christmas hasn't come early and it's not Shark Week, because that was so last year. It is, however, Expedition Week on National Geographic, and that's basically cooler because shark week is the same every year. And in honor of these cute little kitties, I have made Tiger Fudge, which is maybe the easiest recipe I've ever made. It's almost not blogworthy, but then you taste it and it all makes sense.
Grab your kiddies or boyfriends and make this in about 10 minutes. No joke, and then sit down and watch mother nature do her thang.

Tiger Fudge
16 oz white chocolate
16 oz semi sweet chocolate
12 oz crunchy peanut butter

1. Combine white chocolate and peanut butter in top of a double boiler; bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and cook until chocolate and peanut butter melt, stirring constantly.
2. Spread half peanut butter chocolate mixture onto two wax-lined 8x8 pans. Pour semisweet chocolate over peanut butter mixture and then add the remaining peanut butter mixture. Swirl through with a knife and chill until firm.
3. Cut into 1 1/2- x 1-inch pieces and store in refrigerator.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sourdough Cinnamon Raisin Bread (Amish Friendship Bread)

"Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold." Everyone knows that song, right? Well, did you know the next line?
"A circle is round, it has no end. That's how long I will be your friend." How cute. Or terribly cheesy? But, let me tell you this. If you make this recipe, you will man never-ending circles of friends -- it's a promise!
In fact, I put this song to use and shared this bread with some my silvers and some of my golds. I went through the process twice. The first time, I shared it with longtime soccer friends, and more recently, I shared it with fellow blogger Kath, from!  Amish Friendship bread is not an difficult recipe, per se, but it does take up a decent amount of time.
The process is ten days. Yes, you read correctly. Ten days of mostly mushing the bag but ten days none-the-less. Your end product is four bags to pass to friends and two wonderful sweet loaves of cinnamon bread (raisins optional) to share... or maybe not.
But please, don't be intimidated by the ten days. Go through the process just once, and you will be able to tell with every bite that this bread was made with good intention and love.

Sourdough Cinnamon Raisin Bread (Amish Friendship Bread)
For the Starter Bread
1(1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup white sugar
1 cup warm milk

Baking Day Ingredients
3 eggs
1 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups plain flour
1 (5 1/8 ounce) box instant vanilla pudding
1 cup raisins

Coating Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water for about 10 minutes. Stir well. In a 2 quart glass or plastic container, combine 1 cup sifted flour and 1 cup sugar and mix thoroughly so flour will not lump.
2. Slowly stir in warm milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Loosely cover the mixture with a lid or plastic wrap. The mixture will begin to get bubbly. Consider this Day 1 of the cycle, or the day you receive the starter bag.
3. For the next 10 days handle starter according to the instructions below:

Day 1: Do nothing.
Day 2: Mush the bag.
Day 3: Mush the bag.
Day 4: Mush the bag.
Day 5: Mush the bag.
Day 6: Add to the bag- 1 cup each: plain flour, sugar, milk, and mush well.
Day 7: Mush the bag.
Day 8: Mush the bag.
Day 9: Mush the bag.
Day 10: (Baking Day) Follow instructions below:

4. Pour the entire contents of the bag into a large non-metal bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups plain flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 c milk and mix well.
5. Lable four large ziploc freezer bags with the date and Day 1. Fill each of the four bags with 1 cup of batter. These are the "starter bags" to give out to friends. Give friends a bag and a copy of this recipe. Remember, if you don't keep one for yourself you will have to wait until someone gives you a starter batter again, or repeat the yeast process.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and to the remaining batter, add the Baking Day Ingredients (above). Grease bottom and sides sides of 2 large loaf pans (you may use metal here)with cooking spray. Mix coating ingredients together and dust the insides of each pan with it, making sure to cover sides and bottom of each pan well. Pour batter evenly into the 2 loaf pans and sprinkle any remaining coating mix on the top of the batter.
7. Bake approximately 1 hour until toothpick comes out clean. Cool until bread loosens from the pan easily. Turn onto serving dish or wire rack.

The Messie Kitchen Important Notes:

  • Do not use ANY metal spoon bowl or pan throughout the process EXCEPT your loaf pans.
  • Do not refridgerate your starter bag.
  • If it gets full of air, let it out. The batter will rise, bubble and ferment almost every day so keep an eye on it.
  • You can go over by a day or two to feed your batter or bake your bread, but you cannot do it early.