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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Grainy Mustard & Thyme Beef Kebabs

Getting ready for grill.

Mmmm grilled to perfection!

With the nice weather lately, I have been indulging in BBQ frequently. Last night I could not decide between lamb or steak kebabs. In the end the steak looked more appealing. I found a yummy sounding marinade for the beef at Martha Stewart's website. It called for two of my favorite flavors grainy mustard and fresh thyme. The beef was marinated for about 3-4 hours making it extremely tender and flavorful. I wanted the kebabs to have a nice colorful presentation and therefore choose bright colored vegetables like yellow pepper, red grape tomatoes, and green zuchinni. This is nice served over a bed of couscous or with a side of mixed greens.

1 pounds top sirloin steak
grape tomatoes
yellow bell pepper.
2 T olive oil
2 T grainy mustard
1 T red-wine vinegar
1 T fresh thyme leaves
salt and ground pepper

Slice the steak into 1" or larger cubes.

In a small bowl, whisk together oil, mustard, vinegar, and thyme. Pour marinade over the beef (and vegetables if desired, however I prefer just the beef marinated). Let marinade in the fridge for at leat 2 hours in the refrigerator, turning periodically.

Assemble the skewers about 4 long ones, alternating beef with vegetables (4-5 beef per skewer is what I like).

Heat grill to high and place the skewers on a greased grill. Grill 1-2 mins per side for medium rare. Serve with side of salad or on a bed of couscous.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Banana Pecan Coffee Cake & The Half Marathon

Yesterday was race day. In the morning I relaxed with a cup of coffee and warm bowl of oatmeal. At 6:22am the weather was already sunny & warm and I knew it was going to be a hot run. The previous night I watched my husband finish his 10km in a great time (Congratulations!). Seeing him cross the finish line at his goal time and being around all the other athletes pumped me up for Sunday.

After coming back from 2 years of injuries, my goal time was to break 2hrs. As my training progressed, I felt that I was a stronger runner and figured if I had the best race I could have I could complete the half marathon in 1:50 hrs or even break that time by seconds.

The first 14km of the race went much energy and spring in my step (had to stop for 30 secs to tie my shoe though). By km 15 the heat from the hot sun was starting to taking a toll on me... with no hat... I could feel the sun beaming down on me. The sun can be your worst enemy out there if you are not well covered up and do not get plenty of water. Unfortunately there were a few runners who literally dropped to the side lines with heat exhaustion/stroke.

Kilometers 15 to 20 were good and I was still pumped, looking at my watch I knew I could not slow down now, in fact I would have to speed up slightly to reach my best goal. However, the legs were begining to get stiff by 18km and it was difficult to push any harder... but I dug deep and pushed on. The last kilometer was as expected - the most hard... I kept my pace and struggled for each breath. I tried to sprint to the finish line, but my legs felt like cement blocks and it was too hard to pick up any faster of a pace. I did hold onto an already good pace of 5:23 per km.

When I crossed the finish line I was more than elated with my performance and time of 1:50:38.

The anticipation of having to race can be overwhelming - you get this nervous, anxious, excited takes a lot to calm the nerves. For me the best way to relax and keep my mind off the race is to cook or bake.

So on Saturday to keep distracted and busy I made a coffee cake. If you are like me you always have tons of bananas in the freezer and sometimes get to the point where they begin to take over. So I decided to make a banana coffee cake. I found this recipe at the Bob's Red Mill website. I have used some of this company's product's such as their flax seed and find them of good quality. They also offer a lot of gluten free and organic products. Unfortunately in my anxious state I missed a step of the recipe and rather than pour 1/2 the cinnamon mixture in the center I put it all on top. Regardless it turned out moist and tasty.

1/2 cup chopped Pecan Halves
1/4 cup Sugar
2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 cup Butter
1 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 cup Banana, mashed
1 Tb Vanilla
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1 cup White Flour, Unbleached
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a tunnel or bundt form pan and set aside.

Combine the chopped pecans, ¼ cup sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, bananas and vanilla. Add the sour cream and mix until blended.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add this to the batter and beat until just blended.

Sprinkle half the sugar/nut mixture into the greased pan. Top with half of the cake batter. Follow with the second half of the sugar/nut mixture and end with the rest of the cake batter. Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then remove springform rim to finish cooling. Makes 18 Servings.

Me after 21km (1:50:38) enjoying water, bagel, yogurt and flip flops.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Balsamic Roasted Veggie Wrap & Goat Cheese

One of my favourite sandwich is a roasted vegetable panini or wrap. The Village Cafe in Ottawa has two delicious vegetables sandwiches served on your choice of sour dough bread, focaccia or in a flavored wrap. The Mediterranean which consists of sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese, roasted red peppers, lettuce, cucumber, basil pesto & black olive tapenade, and the Vege-lux with great flavors of balsamic fire roasted vegetables & creamy goat cheese. Mio's has a vegetable panini, which is similar tot he Vege-Lux toppped with mint leaves. My sister prepared some paninis for our ski weekend at Jay Peak back in March. She used homemade pesto, roasted vegetables and goat cheese on sour dough bread. These were pre-made and kept in the wrapped in the fridge. To serve they were heated in the oven until warm and crispy; however you could also use a panini press. Absolutely Delicious!

Inspired by these delicious sandwiches & wraps I thought about what I'd consider the ultimate vegetable panini/wrap. The flavors of this wrap are so incredible I assure you your mouth will be watering.

1 red pepper
1 eggplant
1 zuchinni
1 portabello mushrooms
red onion
1-2 T olive oil
3 T balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic minced
ground pepper
goat cheese
2 large whole wheat tortilla wraps or if you prefer use a loaf sour dough bread

Cut the vegetables about 1/4" thick lengthwise and place in a roasting dish. Add a couple T of olive oil, a few T of balsamic vinegar and 1 minced clove of garlic to the roasting dish and mix to coat the vegetables. Add freshly ground pepper.

In a preheated 350F oven roast the vegetables uncovered for 25 minutes. Once done remove from the oven and drain the excess liquid so vegetables do not make the wrap or bread soggy.

Spread pesto (or pesto mayonnaise) in the middle of the wrap and then layer the vegetables (leave more space near the bottom of the wrap for folding). Crumble goat cheese on the warm will melt in the wrap making a wonderful creamy texture and flavor.

Fold the bottom 2 inches of the tortilla over the filling and do the same with the top; now roll the wrap up from side to side and slice in half to serve. Serve with mixed greens salad.

My husband's race is Saturday night so last night he indulged in a large bowl of pasta. Myself, not running until Sunday, decided to eat a bit lighter and had a Roasted Vegetable Wrap.

Today's pre-race day meal was oatmeal for breakfast, yogurt, granola and blueberries for a snack, another roasted vegetable wrap for lunch and then for dinner I will be having delicious pasta - Mediterranean Chicken Pesto Pasta.

I am contending with a heel spur right now and it hurts to run. But I am determined to do this race, so I hope I will be able to pull it off. I have spent the last 4 days resting and icing, but not sure it has really helped that much....we'll see.

Friday, May 23, 2008

National Captial Race with PB & Banana

Well 4 months of training has come to an end and I am now at the end of my tapering week with only a 3km light run to keep limber before the big race - half marathon (21km). In fact there are only 2 days to go. I previous ran the National Capital 1/2 marathon in 2005, but contending with injuries and neglecting speed and hill training my time was not impressive for my personal goals.

This time with fewer injuries, my dedication to long runs, hill and speed training I feel pumped and ready for the race. If all goes well I might be able to achieve even lower than my initial goal.

Last night I picked up my race kit - a nice loot bag full of advertisements, chocolates, gum, toothpaste, mints... yes all those things that help with the race...apparently runners have bad breath. I also received my T-shirt, running chip and bib # 9887.

It is always fun to be at these events watching all the athletes, from those professional marathoners from Kenya that astonishingly run barefoot and more than not clench first place each year, allowing them to bring the $5000 prize money home to their families; to the family of 3 that are walking the 2km; or the family running or walking to raise money for a cure or for a loved one. There are runners from all ages and genders from all over the world. Overall the atmosphere is one that is energetic, motivational and inspirational.

Well considering this is a food blog... I suppose I should discuss food. It is no surprise that food and training for running go hand in hand. Some people run to eat while others eat to run. I would have to say I am a little bit of both. However this week I will be eating to run. It is going to be pertinent for me to get rest, water, zero to less alcohol and good long lasting high energy foods. I will likely post a few of the dishes I deem to be pertinent to a good RACE DAY.

Today's breakfast was a large cup of strong coffee and a whole wheat english muffin with light peanut butter and sliced banana. I would never eat peanut butter before a race, as it is hard to digest and heavy on the stomach....but on my off days or as a post run meal, PB and banana sandwiches are a great energy replenisher. Try grilling these!

I realized that my photos are blurry because the setting was not on close-up. I always have it on close up so did not bother to check it... and was wondering hey! why are these blurry. Oh well next time I will pay better attention.

For my pre-run meals I must eat at least 2+ hours before my run. The snack or meal must be light and easily digestable:

- A half of a bagel with 1 tablespoon of sugar-free jam
- small bowl of instant oatmeal
- 1 cup of cereal with 1/2 cup of skim milk
- 1/2 cup light yogurt with 1/2 cup of fresh fruit and 2T granola
- A banana and 20 mini-pretzels or wheat thin crackers
- An energy bar with less than 200 calories

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Raisin Bran Muffin

The past weekend was a long weekend which made me excited to make lots of delicious meals. Although it turned out to be more of a lazy weekend than anticipated, I think I needed the rest. I have been training hard for the half marathon, and with only a week left to go, I feel strong yet certainly feeling the toll of long runs and speed training.

Friday night I had company and made delicious ginger and lime chicken skewers & blackened chicken skewers. No pics taken so will that post will have to wait. Then Saturday was your typical long weekend bbq with yummy bbq sausages and Sunday a casual noon hour drop in at a friends place turned into beers on the deck and dinner out. So needless to say my weekend of cooking or baking was put on hold.

Monday night I managed to get the energy to bake some raisin bran muffins and tonight I made some delicious balsamic roasted vegetable and goat cheese wraps to be posted soon.

1 1/2 cup wheat bran
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup raisins
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg

Mix the wheat bran and the buttermilk in a small bowl.

In a medium bowl mix all the dry ingredients together and stir in the raisins.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the sugar, eggs and oil.

Now stir in the bran mixture and add the dry ingredients tot he sugar, egg and oil mixture. Mix until moist, as with all muffins do not over mix.
Bake muffins at 400 F for 15-18 minutes.

Makes a dozen.

I also wanted to announce that May 13th the results from the LIVEStrong Event hosted by winos and foodies have been posted. There are some wonderful pics and recipes presented in order to raise cancer awareness.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Superfood #4 - Avocado - Avocado & Shrimp Salad

This was suppose to be posted in April for Cancer Awareness month. I am not sure what happened but I guess I forgot to post it.....

Last night I was in the mood for a light healthy meal. I had defrosted shrimp to cook on the grill, but decided I wasn't in the mood to grill. In fact this week, although great, has been exhausting and as little prep as possible for dinner was what I desired. Regardless, of the time to prep, after training hard all week, I needed a dinner packed full of energy and nutrients - hmmmm avocados have energy and great nutrition. Salads can be a good way to get the foods you need as you can throw anything in them from vegetables, fruit, cheese, nuts, beans, chicken, eggs, tuna etc....

Superfood #4 Avocados which is a fruit are rich in glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that attacks free radicals in the body by blocking intestinal absorption of certain fats. Scientists also believe that avocados may also be useful in treating viral hepatitis (a cause of liver cancer), as well as other sources of liver damage (source: The Cancer Cure Foundation). Avocados also boost other essential nutrients like protein, potassium, beta-carotene, vitamin E, C and Bs., folic acid, iron, magnesium and provides an excellent source of monounsaturated fats.

The other foods in this meal are not too shabby either, but I will spare you from listing all the good things about each ingredient and rather let you know that it is just plain healthy, fresh and tasty.

1 T olive oil
6 shrimp, lightly coated with cayenne
1/2 cup fresh spinach
1/4 cup romaine lettuce
1/4 avocado, sliced
2 olives, sliced
4 slices of cucumber
1 green onion sliced
goat cheese, crumbled (optional)
1/8 cup walnuts

Season the shrimp with cayenne and leave it marinate for 10 mins. Then in a small skillet over med-high heat heat the oil. Add the shrimp and cook until pink.

In a bowl add the salad ingredients, spinach, lettuce, avocado, olives, green onion, cucumber. Sprinkle with goat cheese and walnuts. Now place the warm shrimp on top of the salad. Add the dressing you desire. Dig in!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Spicy Fingerling Fries

A nice compiment to a grilled steak were these baked fingerling potatoe wedges seasoned with spices. Fingerling potatoes on their own have a nutty buttery flavor. Their texture holds up to the heat therefore they make great crispy fries when baked in the oven.

Using about half the bag of the PC Golden Fingerling Potatoes I washed them and then sliced them into very thin slices, rather than chunky wedges.

I then placed them in a bowl and tossed them with olive oil. Then sprinkled them with some of (not all) the spice mixture.

Spice Mixture

tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp white pepper
1/2 tbsp thyme
1/2 tbsp ground black pepper
1/2 tbsp oregano

Makes about 1/2 cup.

Pre-heat the oven to 400F. Then on a pan spread out the fingerlings and bake for 25 mins. Flip the fries once or twice throughout the 25 mins. And for crispier fries broil them for the last 4 mins.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Greek Salad

Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there and especially to mine and my mother in law. I was able to spend the day with my mom the other day as the family enjoyed a casual bbq. Today I will be heading to Major Hills Park with the in laws to peruse the tulip festival and then head to the byward market to hit a patio for lunch and see what the fresh market is offering this May.

For the BBQ I made one of my favorite summer salads - greek salad. I just love the taste of feta & kalmata olives mixed with fresh vegetables. This particular picture unfortunately was taken the day after so the tomatoes are not as fresh looking as they were when first made. The salad should be eaten the same day as it does not keep that well. When making you can prepare the salad hours in advance and place in the fridge, but wait until 30 min before serving to add the dressing. This should be enough to let the dressing absorb into the tomatoes and cucumbers but not too long to let it get soggy.

6 tomatoes, cut into thin wedges
1 red onion, cut into thin rings
1 green pepper, chopped into large chunks
1 large cucumbers, sliced into half moon
1 cup kalmata olives
6 oz low sodium feta cheese, cut into small cubes
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper and oregano in a small jar with a screw-top lid and shake to combine. Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. POUR the dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine just before serving. Garnish with a little freshly ground black pepper. Again it keeps only for a day or two max in the fridge, so best prepared fresh.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Beau's All Natural Beer Lug Tread

While at the LCBO the other day, I noticed a large ceramic bottle of beer. What caught my eye other than the unique bottle was the tag which stated certified organic beer from a local family owned brewery, Beau's Natural Brewing, Vankleek Hill. In my obligation to the environment to be more green I decided to buy this local organic beer.

Beau’s All Natural's first beer is Lug Tread Lagered Ale. It has been described as a golden-hued, crisp, and finely balanced, being compared to Kölsch. Although I like the beer and would purchase it again, I think Kölsch has a more full flavor. Lug Tread is top fermented (like an ale) and then cold aged, or “lagered,” for a lengthy period—hence the term “lagered ale.” But the fact that Lug Tread it is made with certified organic malts and with Eastern Ontario spring water is alone a good enough reason to buy it.

The LCBO employee noted that the company cannot keep up with supply and demand, and that the beer is usually gone within the first day of stocking the shelf. So if you desire to try this and cannot find it you can also get it on tap at some local pubs/restaurants:

Clocktower Brew Pub
Ottawa Bourgetel
BourgetNational Press Club of Canada
The Black Tomato
Shannon's Pub, Hawkesbury
Windsor Tavern, Vankleek Hill
St. Eugene Tavern, St. Eugene
I also think the Manx serves it.

Attached to their website I found this interesting page of recipes: Cooking with Beer. I might have to give some of these a try this summer.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Tomato & Feta Sandwich with Pesto Mayonnaise

I did not mearure the amount of mayonnaise vs pesto and think it is a personal choice on flavor anyways. I started with a few heaper Tablespoons of light helman's mayonnaise and kept adding a couple teaspoons to the mixture until I reached the desired taste.
It is great on panini or any type of sandwich.

This is a handcrafted dish from my travels to Peru.
Peruvian artwork, crafts and pottery are very impressive.

Tomato and Feta on Toasted Baguette with lettuce & pesto mayonnaise

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Parker's Mediterranean Pesto Pasta

I have made different pasta dishes over the years, which have been alright to amazing. This new dish was incredible. It could be because after 18 km of running I could literally eat about anything and think it tasted amazing. The next day as a cold salad it was just as delicious, so I will perhaps give myself more credit.

I wanted this dish to have great post long run nutrition with a balance of carbs, protein and fats, which I think I accomplished (whole wheat pasta, chicken, pesto and olives). I also desired fresh flavors with no added preservatives from canned sauces. For a change I used a mix of mediterranean flavors along with the basil pesto I had made recently. This recipe has been submitted to Ruth's Presto Pasta Night's roundup found at Once Upon a Feast.

1lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
lemon zest
1 T lemon juice
3-4 medium tomatoes, chopped into large chunks
1 zuchinni, chopped
1/2 cup black olives, whole or sliced
basil pesto
2 cups dried whole wheat rotini pasta

1. In a large non stick skillet heat 1 T olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chunks of chicken to the skillet. When cooked part way add some lemon zest and the lemon juice. When almost cooked add 1 T of the pesto and mix to coat the chicken.

2. Meanwhile, in a large pot bring water to a boil for the pasta. Once boiling add 2 cups of dried pasta. Remove from heat with lid on and let sit for 10 minutes.

3. In the chicken skillet, add the zuchinni, tomatoes and black olives. Add 1 T basil pesto. Cook over medium heat for 8 mins. Do not want the vegetables too soft.

4. Drain the pasta once it is cooked. Then add the rotini to the skillet. Warm up pasta and add a few more Tablespoons of pesto and some pepper to taste. I simply kept trying the dish to see if there was enough pesto you can add as little or as mich as you'd like.

5. Serve in a bowl or plate and sprinkle with feta cheese and an ACE multigrain baguette.

Serves: 4

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Coconut Curried Shrimp

Mmmmmmmmmmm..... that is basically how I would describe this dish. If you love hot curries you might like this one.

With all the pre-made curry pastes out there, curries are so easy to make. For this particular one I desired a tropical flavor to compliment the hot curry paste, so I added organic mangos, which gave it a nice fresh flavor. If you are not a shrimp lover, you can substitute for chicken which might even work better as green curries compliment chicken and beef the best, with organge curries complimenting shrimp more.

1 lbs large deshelled uncooked shrimp
1 T sesame oil
1 T fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red pepper chopped
1/2 zuchinni chopped
3/4 mango cubed
2 T green curry paste (red curry paste if you like it milder)
1 can low fat coconut milk
2 cups steamed brown rice or jasmine

In a large skillet over med-high heat add the sesame oil, ginger and garlic and cook for 2-3 mins. Add the shrimp and cook just until slightly pink, but not cooked right through. Remove shrimp from skillet and set aside.

In the same skillet add the zuchinni, pepper and curry paste. Cook for 3-4 mins. Add the coconut milk. Once coconut mild is heated through add the shrimp and cook until done, bout 5-7 min. Add the mangos just before the shrimp is done allowing it to cook for 2-3 min (do not want it over done and mushy).

Once heated through, remove from heat and serve over a bed of rice.

Makes 2-3 servings.