Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tales of a Weary Traveler and Minestrone Soup

Five weekends down, two more to go. After a month of traveling, Ryan and I are "hitting the wall," as they say in the running world. We are in the middle of a traveling marathon visiting friends, family and running in races. 

This past long weekend was fantastic. We were beach-bound for a Hegele Thanksgiving Extravaganza (Hegele is my maiden name). Most of my crazy family gathered for food, fun and several drinks! We then traveled to Charlotte for my high school reunion, which was more food, fun and several drinks! 

Minestrone Soup | www.kettlercuisine.com

After this type of weekend, Ryan and I seriously crave vegetables. Since we only have a few nights until we jet off again (this time to NYC), I thought a vegetable soup was in order and would last us a few nights without filling up our fridge with a million items.

A hearty winter minestrone soup sounded like the perfect thing for me! To make things easier, I started from an established recipe so I could just chop and drop in the large soup pot. We both thoroughly enjoyed this recipe from Ina Garten's (also known as The Barefoot Contessa) Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust. I did make some changes (of course) to the recipe, so here are my notes:
  • I usually always increase the garlic in recipes because we love garlic in our house. If you are not too keen on garlic, reduce the amount or leave it out entirely.
  • If you can find fresh bay leaves, use those! Same for the other dried herbs. However, I don't like spending a lot of money on fresh herbs in the winter.
  • Chop the onion, celery, carrot and butternut squash into even size pieces. This ensures even cooking!
  • If you are like me and save your Parmesan rinds, this is a perfect soup to throw one into.
Minestrone Soup

The recipe falls somewhere between a soup and a stew, filling your bowl with hearty vegetables.

Winter Minestrone Soup

Recipe Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust by Ina Garten
Serves: 6-8
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes

Good olive oil
4 oz. pancetta, diced
2 cups yellow onion, chopped
2 cups carrots, chopped 
2 cups celery, chopped
2 cups butternut squash, peeled, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried sage
26 oz. can diced tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
Salt and Pepper
1 (15oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked small pasta (which is about 1 cup dried pasta)
4 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 T pesto
Parmesan, rind and freshly grated

Heat 2 T olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the pancetta and cook over medium-low heat for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom. When the pancetta is lightly browned, pour in 2 T of white wine to deglaze the pan. Be sure to scrap up the bits on the bottom well with a wooden spoon. When the wine has reduced down a bit, add in the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, butternut squash, thyme, oregano and sage. Cook this over medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally for about 8-10 minutes until the vegetables start to soften.
Minestrone Soup

Add in the tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaves, salt and pepper to the pot. Bring this to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. While the soup simmers, boil the pasta and set aside.

Minestrone Soup

Stir in the drained beans and cooked pasta, heat through. The soup should be quite thick but if it is too thick, add more chicken stock. If making the soup ahead, stop here and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, reheat the soup, add the spinach and cook until wilted. Stir in the white wine and pesto. Serve with shredded Parmesan

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup

I have to thank my friends Erin, Nicole and Nancy for this post! Ryan and I are in the middle of a 6 weekend-in-a-row traveling frenzy, which has not left much time for cooking and blogging! However, I have received a lot of requests for Thanksgiving sides, desserts and snacks. First of all, I am extremely flattered that people come to me!! I am the first to admit I am not an expert, but I do love to cook. 

I responded to each with a long list of ideas and recipe recommendations, some from Kettler Cuisine and some from other sites. I thought it might be helpful to combine all of these into a Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup! Especially for those last minute planners that are in need of ideas.

I may not be cooking, but I never stop thinking about it!

Turkey Day Starters (Appetizers)

First up, the appetizers. The quintessential beginning of a food-filled day! There is usually one rock-star appy that appears at the Hegele Thanksgiving Extravaganza (and yes, we literally call it that) - Trash! No, I am not talking about the waste-filled bin that stinks up your kitchen, I am talking about the most delicious, addictive, buttery, herby, chex-mix you can imagine. Luckily for you, I have already posted the recipe.

Easy Appetizers
Fillo cups with Caramelized Fennel and Pancetta

Other appetizer ideas from Kettler Cuisine past:
Grilled Jalapeno Poppers with Bacon
Grilled Jalapeno Poppers with Bacon

Since I don't only cook from my blog, I wanted to also share some of my favorite recipes from fellow food bloggers:

The Side Show (Sides)

The side dishes that accompany the big bird on the Thanksgiving table are just as important as the turkey itself (especially for Vegetarians). I recognize that everyone has their traditions and I will be the first to tell you that we won't be doing anything different this year, but for those looking for a change of pace, here are some of Ryan and I's favorites:

Balsamic Red Cabbage with Bacon
Balsamic Red Cabbage with Bacon
Roasted Garlic
Roasted Garlic

And of course, there has to be stuffing! My family does oyster stuffing, but oysters tend to be an acquired taste. Here are some other options that I have tried or want to try from the blogosphere:

Give me the Sweet Stuff (Desserts)

We are pie people, and we don't joke around with our pies! I am working on a pie crust post, since I use it in several recipes on my blog. Until then, you will have to get by with non-pie desserts for the holidays from KettlerCusine. But don't worry, I have listed some killer pumpkin pie options from other blogs a little bit further down.
Cherry Galette
Cherry Galette
  • Pumpkin Bars are a great substitute for the non-pie eaters. They NEVER disappoint!
  • Chocolate Cherry Brownies for the chocoholics out there. Warning, chocolate coma ahead! Don't worry, I sneak in some whole wheat.
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble, for those not on the East Coast and actually have access to good produce outside the summer months.
  • Cherry Galette can easily be made with apples or pears instead.
  • Raw Brownies are my personal favorite, not to mention gluten free, dairy free, and good for you.
Raw Chocolate Brownies
Raw Chocolate Brownies

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie is the standard dessert for Thanksgiving, so I had to represent! I have used a recipe from a local bakery called Fosters Market for as long as I can remember. It is my go to pumpkin pie recipe for the holidays, except that I always double the spices and use freshly grated nutmeg instead of already ground. Ironically, pumpkin pie is not the family favorite in the Hegele crew, so I usually end up making my own to bring. I CAN NOT, I repeat, CAN NOT have Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. This year, I am making two pumpkin pies! My standard and then a dairy free version from 101 Cookbooks. 
Pumpkin Bars
Pumpkin Bars

More recipe ideas

I completely understand if you don't like my suggestions, in which case I hope you can find something from the below links. These are other recipe roundups from various blogs and sites I follow. 
Most importantly, plan ahead as much as possible so you can enjoy time with your family. Thanksgiving is a time to be with loved ones and be thankful for what you have. I certainly am!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Avocado and Fried Egg Sandwich

Marathon training was very time consuming, and often took away from my passion of cooking. I am glad to say that training is over and the Holidays are among us! I can't wait to dive back into the kitchen and share new recipes with you. 

Until then, I thought I would share a sandwich I made on one of those long training nights. Towards the end of the training schedule, the runs got further and longer, meaning dinner options had to be quick. Eggs were often my solution for this. They are quick, healthy and very filling. Not to mention, they provide the protein needed to recover muscles after a long run.

Avocado and Fried Egg Sandwich | www.kettlercuisine.com
I dove right in, then remembered I needed to take a picture!

This sandwich was quite enjoyable and inspired by one I recently had in Austin. Toast your favorite bread (gluten or sans gluten), slice ripe avocado, fry two eggs, schmear pepper jelly or favorite condiment on the bread and assemble. I didn't include cheese because I was doing no dairy the weeks before the race, but I bet a slice of Swiss would be delightful on this bad boy!

Avocado and Fried Egg Sandwich

Yields: 1 serving
Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 2-4 min

2 slices bread, toasted
1/2 ripe avocado, sliced
2 eggs
pepper jelly or onion jam (or caramelized onions)
lettuce or fresh spinach
mayonnaise, mustard, cheese (optional toppings)

Toast 2 slices of bread and prep all of the condiments and sandwich components for assembly.

Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, melt a little bit of butter in the pan. Crack two eggs into the pan, being careful not to burst the yolk.

After about a minute, flip the eggs over gently to fry the other side, again being careful not to disturb the yolk. Cook the egg to desired firmness. I like a runny yolk since I don't use mayo or cheese on my sandwich.

Place the fried eggs, avocado and other sandwich components onto the toasted bread, slice in half and devour!

Avocado and Fried Egg Sandwich | www.kettlercuisine.com

Go crazy and try a new condiment, like Stonewall's Kitchen Roasted Garlic Onion Jam or a Seven Pepper Jelly. Or even, a pesto or olive tapenade.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

26.2, Despite the Odds

I did it. I ran a marathon! 26.2 miles. The most difficult thing I have done, mentally and physically.

26.2, Despite the Odds | www.kettlercuisine.com

How did I do this? I trained very hard, kept a positive attitude and lived by Jimmy V's mentality, "don't give up, don't ever give up." Despite several odds against me, I did it.

The biggest "odd" against me...Crohn's

About three and half years ago, I was diagnosed with Ileitis Crohn's Disease. Crohn's is a form of IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) that is described as a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract). It is considered an autoimmune disease - meaning my immune system attacks the good bacteria in my body causing inflammation, which leads to many symptoms. Symptoms that I suffered through for a better part of a year.

Take Action

I was forced to make a decision, either sit and feel sorry for myself or take action and prove to myself that this disease didn't need to control my life. There was certainly a period where I did feel sorry for myself. I was constantly tired and sick, not wanting to go anywhere, afraid that I would get out and not feel well. It affected the relationships around me. My friends, my family and most significantly, my relationship with Ryan. Don't get me wrong, he was extremely supportive of everything, but there were months where I had no energy after work, couldn't eat anything without feeling sick and I never wanted to go anywhere. I let Crohn's take over my life.

26.2, Despite the Odds | www.kettlercuisine.com
My parents - part of my awesome support group!
I don't exactly remember the turning point, but at some point I decided there was a better way of living with Crohn's Disease. I started researching inspirational stories of IBD patients that battled their way back into remission. One such story was of a runner and then a friend convinced me to join a Running Start program to train for a 5K.

26.2, Despite the Odds | www.kettlercuisine.com
Good friend Dhruv! He got me into running. You can also see all the shadows of our families taking pictures of our accomplishment.

The small amounts of exercise slowly started to improve my health and energy levels. I then started playing around with different food combinations, keeping a food journal and cutting back on discovered "trigger" foods. 

The 5K came and went, then came the half marathon training program. I started a diligent routine, training not only my muscles and lungs, but my stomach as well. It was very important to watch my diet, especially around the longer runs. The half marathon came and went, several of them actually, but what was the next step? I was afraid to go on to a full marathon, scared that my body couldn't handle the intense, long workouts. Scared that I would be thrown back into a flare up from the exertion. 

The fear didn't last long, someone reminded me that life can be short. I wasn't going to let fear subside me again.

26.2, Despite the Odds | www.kettlercuisine.com
The Hubby figuratively and literally holds me up!
I signed up for the marathon! I signed up for 26.2 miles of running…what was I thinking?!?!?! It was tough, REALLY tough. There were moments where I wanted to give up, but I kept going knowing that my family was waiting for me at the end.

26.2, Despite the Odds | www.kettlercuisine.com
My training buddies, Shauna and Dhruv.
It took me a few years, but I went from a tired, pained, miserable Crohn's patient to a healthy, energetic, optimistic marathon runner! Who would have thought.

There are several people out there with conditions, even some in my family. I hope that these conditions don't stop you from doing the things you dream about. I am not telling you to go out and run a marathon, but certainly strive for your own greatness!

I leave you with Jim Valvano's inspirational speech from 1993, watch it!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Just Vote

Support our Troops

We often forget about all of the brave men and women overseas that are fighting for the freedom that we take for granted. Well, this day will certainly not be forgotten by many in my life. Saturday, we lost a great soldier, one that fought bravely for his country. One that was a wonderful man, loved by many. He was a brother, a son, a friend, a boyfriend, an uncle, but most significantly he was young, too young. He served for his country and paid the ultimate sacrifice.

My heart aches for his family. They are in my thoughts and prayers. 

This tragedy has made me think...a lot. There has been a lot of political banter back and forth about the election. And while I have kept myself out of the middle of it, I will say one thing, I voted today! Regardless of party affiliation or candidate following, just vote! It is important to take interest, no matter what amount, in the issues that affect us. Whether it be tax cuts, healthcare or foreign policy, everyone is affected and should have a stance. I feel this is my duty as an American citizen. This is the service I can give to my country.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fall Spinach Salad

Fall into Spinach

Leftover night! Our attempt to clean out the fridge before Sunday Fun Day! And yes, Sunday Fun Day is my favorite day of the week, because it usually means going to the Farmer's Market and grocery store, then cooking all day! Oh and not to mention, football!

Fall Spinach Salad | www.kettlercuisine.com

But, I digress. So, we were eating leftovers and I decided to use the remaining fresh spinach for a side salad to accompany the leftover soup (for me) and pasta (for him). I literally did not have any dressing in our fridge, so decided to make my own. A little homemade dressing, a little nuts and dried fruit and this became a "throw together" that turned into a delicious salad, especially for the Fall.

We devoured the salad so fast, that I didn't take a picture. So I woke up the next morning and remade it. 

Fall Spinach Salad | www.kettlercuisine.com

Ryan is a Ranch-lover, we all know this. I have been on a mission to create (or buy) other dressings that he will equally love. This was one such success. The key for Ryan is to create a creamy texture that mimics the thickness and richness of ranch. However, I am not a fan of the fat content that accompanies ranch dressing. So I improvised a bit. Yes, I do add a little bit of mayonnaise to this dressing, but only in moderation to get the texture. I have to face the fact that Ryan will never stop eating Ranch, but if I can get him to use it less, then I consider that an accomplishment!

This is a very easy and quick salad, especially in the fall, when apples are crisp and abundant in most kitchens.

Fall Spinach Salad | www.kettlercuisine.com

Fall Spinach Salad

Yields: 4 salads
Prep Time: 10 minutes 

2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup apple, julienne (we use Honeycrisp)
1/3 cup raisins (can use dried cranberries, cherries or currants as well)
1/2 cup raw walnuts, toasted, chopped (can use hazelnuts or pine nuts here too)
Sharp cheddar or Gruyere cheese, grated or chopped into small squares

2 tablespoon cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoon  honey
2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Fall Spinach Salad | www.kettlercuisine.com

For the salad, place spinach on a small plate and equally distribute the apple, walnuts, raisins and cheese among the plates. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, honey and salt and pepper. Slowly add in the olive oil, while whisking. 

Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve.