Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pasta Primavera and OK Go

With my head hung low, I confess that I did not go to Zumba last night :( Instead I cooked and ate to my heart’s content. Some days I get bit by the hungry bug and can’t fight it. Having had leftovers the past two days, I was itching for something new. In the battle between food versus exercise, food wins!

And even better, Stewart made burgers on the grill! I contributed roasted potatoes and spinach salad as the two side dishes. It’s always nice when you have a friend/spouse/roommate to cook meals with. And it’s even better if they clean the kitchen afterwards ; ) To me that’s the worst part about cooking. You spend all this time preparing a meal, dirtying up dishes and counter tops, only to turn around and clean it all. This explains why every now and again, there are dirty dishes sitting in my sink from the night before.

Last week I made Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe for pasta primavera. YUM. I love pasta salads, so this recipe was right up my alley. Pasta primavera has all these wonderful baked vegetables which create the seasoning for the pasta – plus a little salt and pepper. All the bright colors from the carrots, zucchini, squash, and bell peppers make a great presentation and taste delicious. I’ll definitely make this dish again.

Today’s beat is brought to you by OK Go! I like this video, and the splashes of paint color mirror the different colored veggies in the pasta primavera. Apart from the blue; there’s no blue in this pasta. Stay with me people…

Friday is less than 24 hours away! What are your plans for the weekend? With rave reviews surrounding the movie Inception, it’s on my to do list. Back in the day Leonardo DiCaprio (or as I liked to call him, Leo) was my teenage crush. Some may call it an obsession, but I prefer the term crush. Dinner for Shmucks also comes out tomorrow, and I want to see that. Which movie should I see first? I need some help making a decision.

Giada’s Pasta Primavera:


• 3 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips

• 2 medium zucchini or 1 large zucchini, cut into thin strips

• 2 yellow squash, cut into thin strips

• 1 onion, thinly sliced

• 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips

• 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

• 1/4 cup olive oil

• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs or herbes de Provence

• 1 pound farfalle (bowtie pasta)

• 15 cherry tomatoes, halved

• 1/2 cup grated Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

On a large heavy baking sheet, toss all of the vegetables with the oil, salt, pepper, and dried herbs to coat. Transfer half of the vegetable mixture to another heavy large baking sheet and arrange evenly over the baking sheets. Bake until the carrots are tender and the vegetables begin to brown, stirring after the first 10 minutes, about 20 minutes total.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Toss the pasta with the vegetable mixtures in a large bowl to combine. Toss with the cherry tomatoes and enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve immediately.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Turkey Enchilada Casserole and Johnny Cash

There's a thunderstorm occurring outside of my living room window tonight, and I find it most soothing. Something about the roll of thunder and rain drops against the window pane that make me want to curl up in bed with a cup of hot tea and a good book. Or in this case, writing a new post for My Eats and Beats!

After work today, I went to a zumba class recommended by a co-worker of mine. And it was AWESOME! I love Latin music and dance. And I usually don't work up a sweat during workouts, but I was reaching for my water bottle and towel after every song. Edgar is our zumba leader. He is this ball of little Latino energy. Seriously, he can't be more than 5'4'', but he keeps you energized and moving the entire 60 minutes. I'll definitely take this class again. Edgar alternates locations of his zumba class a few days out of the week, depending on gym availability. At $5 a class, I suggest you get your hips moving and come join me! I'll be there again on Wednesday.

We had a late dinner this evening as I did not get home until 8 p.m., after stopping by the grocery store on the way home. In the Latin spirit, I decided to go with turkey enchilada casserole. This particular recipe is low in calories and relatively low in cholesterol...which is a double bonus for me. The casserole also has great authentic Mexican flavor. And there is plenty of leftovers to last you a few days.

The Man in Black, Mr. Johnny Cash, and "Ring of Fire" is the beat of the day. It's a fun song pair with this dish.

Have a good week!

Turkey Enchilada Casserole:
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey breast
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cans (10 oz.) red enchilada sauce: 1 hot and 2 mild
12 corn tortillas (6 in. wide)
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend (8 oz.)

In a 5- to 6-quart pan over high heat, stir turkey, onion, garlic, oregano, and cumin in oil until turkey is crumbly and no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Stir in 1 cup enchilada sauce. Add salt to taste.

Meanwhile, cut tortillas in half. Arrange a fourth of the halves evenly over the bottom of a shallow 3-quart casserole, overlapping to fit. Sprinkle a fourth of the cheese evenly over the tortillas, then top with a third of the turkey mixture and a fourth of the remaining enchilada sauce, spreading each level. Repeat to make two more layers of tortillas, cheese, turkey mixture, and sauce; top with another layer of tortillas and sauce, then cheese.

Bake in a 425° regular or convection oven until cheese is melted and casserole is hot in the center, 18 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Me and My Bulgur and Chickpeas Salad

I'm back in the game! After a few kitchen blunders last week, I was thrilled to make a tasty dish for Sunday night's dinner. I took a recipe for bulgur and chickpeas with preserved-lemon vinaigrette and tailored the ingredients to fit my taste. It was fantastic. With fresh squeezed lemon juice and paprika, this salad has great summer flavors with a kick and is the perfect side to any grilled meat or fish.

This past Saturday night, I had myself a fine time in downtown Memphis courteousy of Flying Fish, the Peabody Hotel, Bardog Tavern and good friends. Flying Fish is a fun place to go for fried seafood. They have THE BEST fish tacos. I salivate just thinking about that fresh pico de gallo, cole slaw and fried talapia. And I never fail to order a side of their red beans and rice. After dinner, Stewart and I headed to the Peabody Hotel for cocktails in the lobby. In my mid-twenties and at roughly $13 a drink, it's not a regular occurrence for me (but always fun on occasion). The lobby of the Peabody is a great place to sit, relax and people watch. From there we headed to Bardog Tavern. Bardog is one of my favorite places downtown to go for drinks, and their food is really good as well. Try the sliders next time you're there.

I've recently found myself borderline obsessed with Twitter and podcasts. My favorite podcasts at the moment are TedTalks, This American Life, HBR IdeaCast and CoffeeBreak French. I love having all of this information at my fingertips, and there are so many great resources online to learn from. I have a half an hour commute to and from work, so it's a good way for me to unwind.

For today's beat, I'm going with "Me and My Bobby McGee". One of the greatest female artists of the late 60s, Janis Joplin's voice is unmistakable and has a unique raw tone to it. There's a lot of texture and depth to her voice, just like the ingredients in this salad. Both are fun, original and sure to liven up your cooking experience.

Bon Appetit!

Bulgur and Chickpeas Salad:

1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup coarse grind bulgur wheat

1 1/2 cups canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 red onion, chopped

1 tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

In a small saucepan, bring the vegetable stock to a boil. Place the bulgar in a large, heatproof bowl and pour in the boiling stock. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes, until liquid is completely absorbed.

Add the chickpeas, onion, parsley, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, garlic, lemon zest, cumin, paprika and ground coriander. Whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.

Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss gently to mix; coat evenly. Serve immediately.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lemon-Ricotta Muffins and Dave Matthews

The weekend has arrived! Not much to report beforehand; the past two days have been low key. But I did try to go for a run after work and had to call it quits after 20 minutes because the heat here was absolutely stifling. Why did I think I could run outside when it's 100 degrees and humid?! During the work week, I have a really difficult time waking up early enough to run. I'm one of those people who hits the snooze button for an hour before I finally put two feet on the floor and stumble over to the shower; so naturally I opt to run after work.

Keeping this post short and sweet for Friday, I'll jump right in to the eats and beats portion. The other day I made these lemon-ricotta muffins. They are super delicious and have a great texture that tastes like pound cake. A good treat to have around on Saturday and Sunday mornings with coffee. The beat is Dave Matthew's song "So Damn Lucky". It has a beautiful melody, and he paints the lyrics with his voice. I like seeing him solo with just the guitar in this video.

Any one have big plans for the weekend? I'll meet ya'll back here on Monday for another week of eats and beats!


Lemon-Ricotta Muffins: Makes 12 muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup milk
6 tbsp butter, melted
2 large eggs
2 tsp freshly grated lemon peel

1 - Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease twelve 2 1/2 by 1 1/4 muffin-pan cups or line with paper baking liners. In large bowl, stir together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder and salt.
2 - In medium bowl, with wire whisk or fork, mix together ricotta, milk, melted butter, eggs and lemon peel. Make well in center of flour mixture and pour in ricotta mixture; stir just until flour is moistened.
3 - Spoon batter into prepared muffin-pan cups. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over muffins. Bake 20-22 minutes, until muffins are golden brown, tops spring back when lightly touched, and toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean. Immediately remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Memphis Minnie and Blackberry Cocktails

We've had a downpour of rain here the past two evenings, and my yard is thanking the man above for all this H2O. The flower bed in our front yard was knocking on death's door until Sunday night. You see, this is why I can't be responsible for another life - animal, mineral or vegetable. I have the best of intentions when it comes to gardening, but I was not blessed with a green thumb. Hopefully this is a skill I can (and will) improve upon as I get older. Until then my plants live to see another day! And this makes me happy. I even bought fresh flowers for the house this past weekend. It's a great way to add color and warmth to a home.

Speaking of home decor, the latest Restoration Hardware and Crate & Barrel catalogues found their way into my mailbox this week! I love flipping through the pages, eyeing each kitchen accessory and piece of furniture. In fact my latest want in life is a desk/work station at home. One of our guest bedrooms has a little nook that's the perfect amount of space for a work area: desk, chair, lamp, bulletin boards, etc. Then I could have my own reserved space to write and study. Particularly now that Crate & Barrel is advertising dorm room accessories for back to school, I'm all about my own work space.

Today, My Eats and Beats is going old school with Memphis Minnie and blackberry cocktails. Memphis Minnie's songs make me feel like I'm back in the South circa 1940. She is one the most influential female blues musicians and guitarists of all time. The eat to my beat is in fact a cocktail. Enter in blackberries, lime, cucumbers, mint and gin! This is a great mixed drink for summer. It's tart, a little sour and most refreshing.

Disclaimer: Too much of this blackberry cocktail may lead to "kissing in the dark".

Blackberry Cocktail from Southern Living:

Yield: Makes 5 cups
1 (0.75-oz.) package fresh mint sprigs
12 (1/4-inch-thick) cucumber slices
2 (6-oz.) packages fresh blackberries
3/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
8 to 12 tsp. turbinado sugar*
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. gin
1 cup cold club soda
Crushed ice
Garnishes: cucumber slices, fresh blackberries, lime wedges, lemon mint sprigs

Place first 5 ingredients in a large pitcher. Gently press mint leaves, cucumbers, and blackberries against side of pitcher with a wooden spoon to release flavors. Stir in gin and club soda. Serve over ice. Garnish, if desired.
*Superfine or powdered sugar may be substituted.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ain't too Proud to Beg for Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

At 11 p.m. Saturday night I wanted to bake cookies. By 11 a.m. the following morning, I still wanted to bake cookies. Could I resist the urge any longer after 12 hours? I think not.

For those of you who may not know me well, there is one sweet, and one sweet only, that makes me weak in the knees. It is the cookie. At the very sight of these tasty morsels, I abandon all self control and bite into them. I simply can't say no. Perhaps my self proclaimed nickname should be "cookie monster". It would be a most accurate parallel, aside from the blue fur and puppet thing.

And what is my favorite cookie might you ask? Oatmeal raisin is the king of cookies in my book. The great thing about oatmeal raisin is that you can do so many variations of this cookie; and they're all scrumptious. For instance, white chocolate chip and cherry oatmeal cookies are delish. Or add chocolate chips to your batch of oatmeal raisin for a change.

But today, I went with the original recipe. And my twelve hours of deliberation over making these cookies was worth the wait. Ever so crisp around the edges and chewy on the inside, this batch of cookies was exactly what a cookie should be. And not a single one of them was burnt. All 3 dozen were golden to perfection.

Aside from baking this weekend, I started training to run a 5k in October. I've made the commitment to run the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure in Memphis October 30th; and I'll need every week's worth of time to train these legs to run. I went to Fleet Feet Sports on Saturday morning and bought a pair of Asics. I love them! Then I proceeded to run/walk at noon. In Memphis. With the humidity. NOT SMART. But I did it! I'm excited to go through this process and run my first 5k. But I will admit that my quadriceps are on fi-ya! I can't remember the last time I had to brace myself before sitting in a chair because my legs are so sore. But "no pain no gain", right?

I went to see "Despicable Me" Sunday night. It was so cute! The characters were adorable and the movie was funny. Surprisingly the theatre was packed with people age 18-30. There were hardly any children!

I chose The Temptations "Ain't too Proud to Beg" to go with my oatmeal raisin cookies. And honey I AIN'T too proud to beg when it comes to cookies. Trust me; I've done it before, and I will do it again.  ; )

Can you believe we're almost half way through July? That's more than half way through the year! I'm shocked at how fast this year has gone by. Well, here's to another week of eats and beats!

Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies:

1/2 pound (2 sticks) of butter, softened
1 Cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 Cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Cups Quaker Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 Cup raisins

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Stir in oats and raisins; mix well.

Drop by rounded tablespoon-fulls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to wire wrack. Makes about 3-4 dozen, depending on the size of cookie you want.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Brown Sugar Fruit Dip and Chester French

I'm convinced that I've been cursed in the kitchen this week. The past two nights I've made dinner, and the past two nights we've gone out to eat. Both meals were a flop! Why me, Lord? So to lift the weight of culinary frustration off my shoulders, I popped open a bottle of champagne. When in doubt, there's always cocktails.

I find it interesting that we, as a society, only associate champagne with celebrations. I happen to be a firm believer that champagne can be, and should be, enjoyed on any occasion. To accompany my glass of bubbly, I made a brown sugar fruit dip. I had quite the plethora of fruit in my refrigerator this week, so this dip was the perfect excuse to consume it. Otherwise it would go to waste within a few days.

I went to the wine market with every intention to purchase ONE bottle of champagne and walked away with TWO bottles! Who knows? Maybe I'll mess up dinner again tomorrow night, and then I'll be really glad I have that extra bottle of Domaine Ste Michelle to drown my sorrows.

But back to the brown sugar fruit dip. I found this recipe through Southern Living. Click here for the recipe. It's easy to whip together and is a great side to any fruit assortment. Just be aware that it needs to chill for 4 hours, so give yourself plenty of time before you're ready to serve it.

For today's post I'm featuring Chester French. They're a great American Indie Pop group who formed the band during their college years at Harvard University. I heard their song "She Loves Everybody" a few months ago and have been looking for an opportunity to play them on My Eats and Beats.


Monday, July 5, 2010

In the Mood for Strawberry Country Cake

Oh the pleasures of a three-day weekend. How I miss it already, and it's not yet even Tuesday morning. This year Stewart and I remained in Memphis for the 4th of July. Although it hurts me to say this, because it sounds disgustingly "adult" of me, I felt productive in the fact that we caught up on laundry, cleaned the house, went grocery shopping, took my car to be serviced, ran errands, watered the yard and enjoyed some R&R time at home. Ouch! That was painful to put into words. But, life in the fast lane these past 3 weeks needed to pull over for a much needed pit stop. 

I haven't even been spending quality time with my kitchen! I've been neglecting her and thus felt incomplete with no new adventures of cooking. The oven was rusty and the refrigerator was bare.

But what epicurean could resist cooking and baking on this our country's day of independence? With the dessert I made for our family gathering on Sunday, I was ready to sparkle and shine like a 4th of July firecracker!

Ya'll, I'm not kidding; this recipe takes the cake for best dessert. 100% home-made, and out of this world, Ina Garten's strawberry country cake made me proud to be an American...and proud to be a member of the happy plate club that afternoon (I added the blueberries for some blue with my red and white). Forget baking this cake, I was ready to devour the entire bowl of batter. Grated lemon and orange zest, made-from-scratch whipped cream, ripe strawberries and blueberries....YUM.

As I was baking this cake Sunday morning, I tuned into the "Frank Sinatra" radio station on Pandora. And within 20 minutes, I heard Glenn Miller's "In the Mood". I love the big band-era, and I'm pretty sure my Cuisinart electric mixer and I shared a moment during this song.

Like Thanksgiving and Christmas, 4th of July is one of those holidays best spent with family and friends. And of course, good food! Hope you enjoyed your Independence Day this year.

Enjoy these eats and beats! More the come this week.

Ina Gartnen's Strawberry Country Cake
This recipe makes two 8-inch cakes. Ina splits one cake into two layers, but I felt it was too thin. So I used each cake as a full layer and added blueberries to make it my own.

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups sugar
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

For the filling for each cake:

1 cup (1/2 pint) heavy cream, chilled
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom of two 8-inch cake pans. Then line them with parchment paper and butter and flour the lined pans. (I just used PAM baking spray; it works just as well)
Cream the butter and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, then the sour cream, zests, and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix well. Sift together the flour, cornstarch (Note: Whip this on high speed for a few minutes; it takes a while for it to become firm)ch, salt, and baking soda. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine just until smooth.

Pour the batter evenly into the pans, smooth the tops, and bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then remove to wire racks and let cool to room temperature. If using 1 cake, wrap the second well and freeze.

To make the filling for one cake, whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until firm. *Note: This takes a few minutes, and you want to whisk it with an electric mixer on high speed until firm.

Slice one of the cakes in half with a long, sharp knife (Or use one entire cake as the bottom layer). Place the bottom slice of the cake on a serving platter, spread with 1/2 the whipped cream and scatter with sliced strawberries. Cover with the top slice of the cake and spread with the remaining cream. Decorate with strawberries.