Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Elvis Granola

Happy Easter! If you can believe it, I am actually finished with classes for the semester (and forever). With Holy Week and Easter being so late this year, it has been stress and anxiety central at the Divinity School. Fortunately, I think I have everything generally under control, and being able to participate in Holy Week services actually calmed me. Graduation and my ordination are coming up quickly, which is surreal. Just a few more weeks!

With all of the craziness of Holy Week and Easter and the end of the semester, there hasn’t been much cooking or blogging. I have a take on a beloved local restaurant salad that I want to show you, but every time I make it, it’s too dark to take a picture! So I made granola instead.

Granola, unfortunately, is one of those foods that seems really healthy but is usually a calorie-bomb. I do love it though, and I can’t believe that I hadn’t made my own before. I made this on Good Friday in between writing papers and going to church. After it cooled, Joe and I couldn’t resist eating some of it. We almost ruined our dinner! Even though I messed up by putting the chocolate in too soon, the peanut butter and chocolate flavor still came through. I adapted the recipe based on what I had around the house. The fortunate thing about granola is that it is extremely adaptable! I’ve enjoyed nibbling on the granola by itself or eating it with some Greek yogurt to add some crunch.


Elvis Granola
source: Eat, Live, Run

1/4 cup canola oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
4 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup chia seeds (or ground flaxseeds)
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts
1/2 cup slivered almonds (or sunflower seeds)
2/3 cup chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate


Preheat oven to 275.

Bring the canola oil, maple syrup, peanut butter, salt and cinnamon to a simmer on the stove. Cook for three to five minutes.

While that’s cooking, mix together the oats, chia seeds, peanuts and almonds. Pour hot syrup mixture over the oats and toss well to coat. Spread out granola onto two lined sheet trays and bake for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally and turning trays midway through.

Let granola cool completely before adding the chopped chocolate.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Quinoa Tabbouleh

While trying to decide what to instantly stream on Netflix one night last week, Joe and I discovered that the first season of Glee was available. Like most of the television shows I enjoy, I usually get into something about the same time everyone else has grown tired of it. But people, how had I not watched Glee before now? I went to an arts boarding school. I was in show choir and musicals in high school and college. Joe played piano in the show choir band in high school. Why didn’t someone take me hostage and force me to watch it? I absolutely love this show because it reminds me of my musical glory days and all of the awkwardness of high school. It’s also light and comic, perfect for unwinding to at the end of a long day.


Like watching Glee, I know I should be eating more quinoa. It’s a great vegetarian protein source and surprisingly filling, but even though I have a big Costco-sized bag in my pantry, I always feel like quinoa is a little overrated. But when quinoa replaces another grain in a hearty salad like this one, I am tempted to sing its praises. And after a toasty weekend like we just had, something that doesn’t heat up the kitchen is a nice change too.

The red onion, even after soaking, can be a little powerful, so omit it or decrease it if you’re allium-averse. I also added the mint back in since I had some laying around. This is a refreshing dish and can be served cold or at room temperature making it perfect for upcoming picnics, cook-outs, or other outdoor get-togethers.


Quinoa Tabbouleh
source: The Way the Cookie Crumbles


1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
½ red onion, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced ⅛-inch thick
1 bunch parsley (about 2 cups), minced
2 tablespoons mint, chopped
8 ounces feta, crumbled
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


1. Rinse the quinoa well under cold water. Put it in a medium saucepan with 2 cups of water and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Transfer the cooked quinoa to a large bowl to cool slightly.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, cover the diced onion and a pinch of salt with water. Let the onion soak while you prepare the other ingredients.

3. Drain the onions; add them to the bowl along with the garlic, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, and feta; stir to combine. Add the lemon juice and toss to coat. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spaghetti with Anchovy Carbonara

We just so happen to live a stone’s throw from our favorite “everyday” restaurant in Nashville, which can be dangerous but is also extremely convenient. However, their pizzas are so good that I rarely order anything else off of the menu. My pizza-ordering spree was broken one day over lunch when I tried their lunch special and also found it superb, so when Joe and I were looking to carbo-load for our half marathon, it was only natural to return to our neighborhood restaurant.

Joe ordered the spaghetti carbonara, and it arrived with that tempting creamy texture and loaded with pancetta. I wondered if I could concoct a carbonara sauce without resorting to a pig product, but mushrooms, usually a decent meat substitute, wouldn’t quite pack the salty umami punch that I wanted.


Then I found Chris Cosentino’s recipe for anchovy carbonara from Food & Wine. While he usually makes it with cured tuna heart (um, what?!), the at-home version calls for anchovies, something I’m a little more comfortable with. Even still, Joe was nervous about anchovies. The anchovies themselves dissolve in the olive oil so you never get a big bite of anchovy, just a nice salty, meaty flavor that goes so well with the lemon zest and parsley. This was a very quick dinner to put together with such simple ingredients but big flavor. Despite his nervousness about the anchovies, Joe quickly snatched up the leftovers to take with him to the hospital.


Spaghetti with Anchovy Carbonara
source: Food & Wine April 2011
Yield 4 servings


12 ounces spaghetti
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
One 2-ounce can flat anchovies, drained and chopped
Pinch of Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon chopped oregano
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 large egg yolks
Salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
  2. In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil with the garlic and anchovies and cook over moderately high heat until the anchovies have dissolved, about 2 minutes. Add the red pepper, zest, oregano and parsley, then add the pasta and toss to coat. Remove from the heat.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the yolks with the reserved cooking water and add to the pasta. Cook over low heat, tossing until the pasta is coated in a creamy sauce, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Oak Barrel Half Marathon

Remember that time I accidentally ran a half marathon with my mom? Well, I did it again, except this time it was on purpose.


Shockingly, this is the picture where I look the least likely to barf.

Anyway, I decided that I wanted to run the Oak Barrel Half WAY back in October. Lynchburg, TN/Jack Daniel’s Distillery, a perfect-sized race, far enough away to make it an event but without having to worry about long-distance travel, plus a beautiful course with enough of a roll to keep it interesting. Sounds like my kind of run. I convinced Joe that he would like to run it too, and our training began in earnest in January.

I used a combination of Hal Higdon’s Novice Program and Cool Running.com’s Beginner Half Marathon Training Program but without the speed work. This put me at 20-25 miles per week, which was totally doable with my schedule. One reason I decided to follow Cool Running.com’s plan more closely was because it topped out at a 12 mile training run, whereas the Hal Higdon program tops out at 10 miles. I knew that both Joe and I would feel more confident with a training run closer to the actual half marathon distance.

2011-04-02 10.59.35

Due to his schedule, Joe was not as able to follow the training program as closely as I was, but he did get in quite a few of the long runs. Our first “real” long run was 8 miles, which we did with the Nashville Striders training group. Except that we got there late, the wind was blowing right into our faces, and we nearly gave up half a mile in. When we got to our turn-around point on Music Row, it started sleeting. It was not our most enjoyable running moment.

But then we had a great 12 mile training run two weeks before Oak Barrel. The weather was perfect, the route we took was relatively flat, and we ran through Radnor Lake, one of my favorite places in Nashville. We were ready!

My time at the Women’s Half Marathon was 2:32, and my first goal was to beat that time. After our 12 mile training run, I knew I was capable of beating 2:15, even with hills and aid stations. Joe’s main goal was to finish, and we were hoping to stay together as long as possible.


The morning dawned clear and chilly, but the weather forecast called for 60-degree temperatures later in the day. We placed ourselves between the 10:00 per mile and 11:00 per mile pace groups, and we were off. My race strategy was to stay relaxed until the infamous Whiskey Hill, which we would start climbing at 4 miles. After that, I would evaluate how I felt and figure it out from there. Joe had to stop a few times and stretch out his shin, and I was getting a little impatient. Whiskey Hill was tough and steep, and everyone stopped to walk at least a little bit. By 6.2, Joe was struggling, but we took some Gu and discussed me going ahead. Joe decided to hang with me, so we kept going. He finally fell into a rhythm about mile 8, and when we got to mile 10, I knew I could break 2:15. Having run the rest of the race so conservatively, I still had plenty of gas in my tank. I tried to pep-talk Joe, but he told me to go ahead, and I took off.

I could see my mom up ahead, so I made it my goal to catch her, but when I got up to her, she told me to keep going. I was flying. I walked briefly through the last aid station and took off again. The last mile was a straight shot on a flat highway into town, and it was the longest mile I’ve ever run. Lots of people were walking, and I was passing them right and left. The crowds in town came into view and started cheering as I turned the last corner and sprinted to the finish in the town square. My Garmin read 2:11:50. I smashed my goal and PR’d by more than 20 minutes.

My mom was a few minutes behind me, and after I recovered, I went to go find Joe. As I made my way along the finish chute, I saw him turn the corner, and I cheered for him like crazy. He had a big smile on his face and crossed over to give me a high-five. We had done it! Now it was time to eat. After a few pictures and changing into dry clothes, we headed to the Jack Daniel’s Visitor Center to get our finishers’ medals signed by the Master Distiller.


And a few more pictures with Jack.


I found the Oak Barrel Half to be an exceedingly well-run and fun race that I would make an effort to run again. We came home with some nice swag: a drawstring bag, long-sleeve tech shirts, and running hats. Due to the irony of Jack Daniel’s being located in a dry county, no whiskey was served after the half marathon, but it certainly made the Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey taste that much better later on that night.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ricotta and Spinach Frittata

Oh April. You have arrived in all of your schizophrenic glory – beautiful sunny days followed by epic thunderstorms. April showers not only bring May flowers but also tornado sirens, downed power lines, and lengthy commutes while everyone figures out how do navigate four-way stops when the traffic lights are out.

Monday afternoon, as a dark, threatening cloud approached, everyone in the student recreation center was told to report to the women’s locker room, where we camped out for 30 minutes. I had little patience for the complaints of the undergraduates whose workouts had been interrupted since Twitter was reporting sightings of several funnel clouds. Fortunately, we were safe, and my house didn’t lose power. Joe said they had to move all of the patients on the OB floor out into the hallway, which must’ve been quite an experience.

Arriving home to find that I did indeed have power, a spring dinner in honor of the crazy spring weather seemed to be appropriate. Fresh greens, fluffy ricotta cheese, and citrusy mint affirm that spring is here to stay, though I could do without the tornado sirens. For the first time, I was successful at picking up the edges of the frittata to let the uncooked egg flow underneath. The key was a good amount of oil and letting the pan heat up. The fresh mint really flavors the dish, but any other flavorful fresh herb would fit as well.


Ricotta and Spinach Frittata
source: New York Times
Yields 4 dinner-sized servings

6 ounces fresh spinach, stemmed and washed, or 1/2 6-ounce bag baby spinach
6 eggs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup fresh ricotta
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil


1. Steam the spinach above 1 inch of boiling water just until it wilts, about two minutes. Rinse with cold water, squeeze out excess moisture and chop fine.
2. In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, salt, pepper, ricotta, garlic, spinach and mint.
3. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy 10-inch nonstick skillet. Drop a bit of egg into the pan; if it sizzles and cooks at once, the pan is ready. Pour in the egg mixture. Tilt the pan to distribute the eggs and filling evenly over the surface. Shake the pan gently, tilting it slightly with one hand while lifting up the edges of the frittata with the spatula in your other hand, to let the eggs run underneath during the first few minutes of cooking.
4. Turn the heat down to low, cover and cook 10 minutes, shaking the pan gently every once in a while. From time to time, remove the lid, tilt the pan and loosen the bottom of the frittata with a wooden spatula so that the bottom doesn’t burn. It should turn a golden color. The eggs should be just about set; cook a few minutes longer if they’re not.
5. Meanwhile, heat the broiler. Uncover the pan and place under the broiler, not too close to the heat, for one to three minutes, watching very carefully to make sure the top doesn’t burn (at most, it should brown very slightly and puff under the broiler). Remove from the heat, shake the pan to make sure the frittata isn’t sticking, and allow it to cool for at least five minutes and for as long as 15 minutes. Loosen the edges with a wooden or plastic spatula. Carefully slide from the pan onto a large round platter. Cut into wedges or into smaller bite-size diamonds. Serve hot, warm, at room temperature or cold.