Tuesday, May 20, 2014

cacio e pepe

We've been good with our green smoothies.
Lets eat some pasta, shall we?

Cacio e pepe, meaning "cheese and pepper" in Italian, is just that.
A simple pasta dish with the main ingredients of cheese and pepper.
It really doesn't get any easier.

This is a perfect meal for one of those I-don't-feel-like-cooking-tell-me-what-you-want-to-eat-I-give-up-lets-just-eat-popcorn nights {i.e. last night at our place}.
I was all set to oven-roast some BBQ chicken when I realized the fridge did not defrost my chicken as fast as I had expected.
After a few minutes of frantically pacing the kitchen looking at bag after bag of smoothie fruit, I remembered I had bought the ingredients for cacio e pepe!
Not the healthiest dinner, but I had put it on my grocery list for an occasion exactly like this.
You can't fight fate.

Also, when Joe and I can't agree on what we want for dinner, we have no problem agreeing on pasta.
Especially this one.

recipe adapted via Cup of Jo
Things you'll need:

1/2 box of linguine noodles {or spaghetti noodles; I personally prefer a thicker noodle, but either works fine!}
6 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp butter
3-4 tbsp ground black pepper {I go heavy on the pepper; again, personal preference}
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, and more for sprinkling

In a large pot, cook noodles according to package instructions.
Don't forget to salt the water!
Unsalted pasta water is total blasphemy.

While pasta is boiling, heat butter and oil on low-medium heat.
Add pepper and stir slowly, letting the pepper gently toast in the butter/oil mixture.
When you add the pepper, it will make the liquid bubble up and become a little noisy {pictured above}.
However, don't fret.
After a little stirring, it will calm down...

...and look more like this.
Brown and toasty and delicious.

When the pasta is done, drain it carefully, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water.
This step is crucial.
You need that delicious, starchy, salty pasta water to make the magic of the dish come together, trust me on this.
Turn the oil mixture to medium heat, and gently toss in the pasta to coat.
Add the Parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
Stir until cheese is melted.
At this point, you can add more pasta water to make it the consistency you like.
I think I ended up adding almost the full cup here {I went for a creamier texture}.

Scoop into a bowl, sprinkle with an extra pinch of pepper, and top it off with some more Parmesan cheese.
Stir and enjoy!

The great thing about this dish, besides its simplicity, is that you can totally make just one serving.
When Joe is traveling, I always have a hard time finding dishes to make for one {that don't include avocado toast or a bowl of cereal}.
I found this recipe on Cup of Jo back in October and have since tweaked it to make closer to 4 servings, but when I'm home alone that's still my go-to recipe {except I always end up adding more pasta water and cheese...I can't help it!}.

Do you have any good one-serving recipes?
Or easy go-to meals for weeknights?

I need some inspiration these days.

How was your weekend?

Joe and I watched some dear friends of ours get married on Saturday {congratulations, Brittany and Brian!} and then spent our Sunday watching Game of Thrones on the couch together.
I'm sorry, is it just me, or does Game of Thrones have a habit of killing off the best characters?
I'm still not fully recovered from Drogo!
I only just started season 3, so I'm trying to mentally prepare myself for all the craziness coming up.

We'll see how that goes.

Oh and also, I officially became that obnoxious bride that has a t-shirt so that everyone will know she's a bride...

...I'll consider myself judged.

Friday, May 16, 2014

a post on dieting + a very green smoothie

Dieting is my jam.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't love depriving myself of pizza and tacos and queso forever and ever amen, but if I had to choose between diet and exercise, I'm going diet 100% of the time.

Joe and I had this conversation the other day.
I've been forcing us to try this green smoothie cleanse I read about it, and after a couple of days it was evident that it was a lot harder for Joe than it was for me.
And he seemed to clear it up with one statement.
"I know that if I really want to, I can exercise for an hour and a half every single day, but I just don't think you have that in you."

He was so right.
I don't have that in me.
I've joined every gym and taken every class known to man, and I still only really love walking and yoga.  It's as simple as that.
If I had to choose a strenuous workout, I'd choose spin class - I do love spin.  However, I typically only do spin in one or two-month increments when I'm in crunch mode.
Long-term, walking and yoga have always been my thing.

And dieting.
I'm lucky enough to be one of those people that like and will eat almost anything - except tuna...keep your nasty can of tuna away from me - but I wasn't always this way.
There have been foods over the years that I would never go near that I finally decided I should really put some effort into trying to like.
For example, avocado.
Two years ago I wouldn't have been caught dead eating guacamole.
But after experimenting with different ways to make it and serve it, now I can't get enough!
Slather it on any and all sandwiches you give me, thanks.

My point is, even if you have the plainest of plain taste, it's worth getting out of your comfort zone every now and then and trying new foods.
You never know how much you might really enjoy them!

Last year, I really wanted to start trying more green smoothies.
I even posted about my very first one {which was good, but looking back now I can't believe I didn't liquify the greens first...#newbie}.
Ever since we did the green smoothie cleanse last week, I've started really experimenting and incorporating as many greens into my diet as possible.
And smoothies are the perfect way to do that!  I get more greens in the one batch of smoothie I drink per day than I would eating a salad by far.
Also, I find it incredibly interesting to mix and match the fruits and greens and see what combinations I like best.

This morning I mixed up a particularly good combination, so alas.

Things you'll need:

2 handfuls fresh spinach leaves
1 handful baby spring mix
3 large kale leaves, destemmed
2 cups cold water {more if needed}
2 apples, diced
1 cup frozen peaches
1 cup frozen strawberries
handful of frozen mango chunks
1 stevia packet
2 tbsp ground flax seed

This step I have found to be crucial to keeping me on track.
Before I go to bed at night, I prep as much as possible.
I put all the greens for my smoothie in a gallon-sized Ziplock bag and keep it in the fridge.
I also chop and put any fruit for the smoothie in a bag to be kept in the freezer.
That way, in the morning, all I have to do is grab and blend {and the smoothie gets a great consistency from the frozen fruit, requiring no ice!}.

Add your greens to the blender with the water, and blend until smooth.
The more I make these, the more greens I tend to use, so lately I've had to add an extra splash or two of water to get things moving.

Add all the fruit, and blend until smooth.
If you have a powerful blender {like a Vitamix or something similar}, this will take no time.
My poor, old Black and Decker is on it's very last legs {it's cracked all the way down one side, so it's only a matter of time}, so it takes me a little longer.  More like 3 to 5 minutes.

Once smooth, add stevia and ground flax seed {which I found in the natural/organic section of Kroger} and blend for another 15-20 seconds or so.

This makes a lot of smoothie, so I drink a big cup for breakfast {my to-go cup is 24 oz} and then save the rest to be drank with a light lunch.

Another good thing about this method - because you're using frozen fruit instead of ice to thicken it up, it doesn't melt in the refrigerator!
I have found this to be key.
The other day I had a lunch date so I saved my extra smoothie for dinner, and it was still perfectly creamy and not the least bit watered down 9 hours after I made it.

Can't beat that!

Also, please don't feel like you have to stick with the ingredients I listed.  You can mix, match, and replace anything you want.
I made one with an apple, pear, banana, and peaches the other day that was just as good!
Not everyone likes the bitter taste of kale, so start out more mild if you're intimidated.
All spinach is just as healthy.
Make it your own!

Do you have any go-to smoothie combos?
Dieting tips?

I recently started the '28 to Great' Barre3 challenge online, and so far I'm loving it {although it's seriously kicking my butt}.

It's seven months until the wedding, and that dress is looking more and more elusive...
And speaking of the wedding, I'll leave you with our magnet save-the-date, which finally arrived last week!

Have a good weekend, friends!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

pesto pasta with asparagus

You guys.
I'm alive, I swear.
I've been having photo editing issues, but now that they are all taken care of I'm back in business!
{Thank you, VSCOcam customer service, for being so helpful!}

For awhile there, I felt like I was going through a cooking rut.
It's happened once or twice before here on this little space of mine, and you can always tell when because the new recipes dwindle.
It always takes me awhile to start feeling motivated and inspired again, but it never fails - something happens to bring me back to the kitchen.

This time, it was these guys.

Our first shipment of wine from lovely Napa Valley!
I'm going to dedicate a post to that soon because it was just too wonderful to condense into a couple of sentences, but while we were there, we joined the winery where our engagement wine came from!
Meaning, every couple months we get a shipment of amazing wines to save, share, or enjoy with our friends.

Wine shipped directly from Napa to my doorstep?
Sign me up!

When our first shipment came in, we decided it would be fun to have a nice dinner and open a bottle.

{We also got to play with some wedding gifts, so I didn't hate that part either!}

So, in lieu of the delicious wine at my doorstep, I felt like it was time to get back in the kitchen and make us something new.
I hadn't tried a new recipe in weeks, and what better a thing than wine to inspire a girl?

Something delicious ensued.

recipe adapted via
Things you'll need:

10 oz bow tie pasta {a little less than a whole box}
1 lb asparagus, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup basil pesto
1/3 cup Mozzarella, cubed
fried egg {optional}

For the pesto {recipe via}:

3/4 cup fresh basil leaves {one mini package from the grocery store}
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup olive oil

For the pesto, simply add the basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, salt and pepper into a food processor, and pulse a few times to roughly chop.
Add olive oil, and turn the processor on until emulsified.
My food processor doesn't allow me to drizzle the oil in while it's running, so I add the oil all at once.
If yours will allow you to slowly stream it in, go for it!
Set aside.

Cook pasta according to package instructions.
While pasta is boiling, chop asparagus into 1- to 2-inch pieces.
Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium.
Toss in asparagus, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sauté for 5-7 minutes, until asparagus is cooked through but still has a crunch.
{I loathe mushy asparagus, so I hardly ever roast or steam it - sautéing is totally my jam.}

Add the cooked pasta to a large bowl along with the asparagus, mozzarella cubes, and pesto.
The pesto recipe makes a bit more than 1/2 cup, but not enough to save, so I just use all of it.
Stir to combine, and watch the mozzarella cubes begin to melt.

Then, if you so choose, top with a fried egg.
Let the warm yolk run onto your serving, and enjoy!

The fried egg is totally optional.
We've had it both ways and loved it with and without.
In fact, Joe said he wouldn't mind this being our meal every Thursday {which is good, because it has been the past two Thursdays!}.

The first time, I didn't serve this with anything.
Just good wine and good company.
And it was very filling!

The second time, I added a baguette with some garlic oil for dipping {also from Napa, possibly my favorite purchase}, and it was just as amazing.

It sounds sort of strange to put asparagus in a pasta dish, but trust me, you want to do this.
Asparagus is one of those vegetables that I struggle finding new ways to use, and this is definitely my current favorite.

And lets just take a minute to talk about pesto.
I've been wanting to make it for years now, and I can't believe I waited this long!
I seriously can't stop.
I've made two batches of the basil pesto, plus a kale version, and I can't wait to see what other greens I like!
Maybe pea pesto next?

How have you been lately?
Tell me everything!
I may have been quiet via blog, but I've definitely been reading along.
Is it just me, or is every blogger and their sister pregnant these days?

I love it!