30 September 2016

Four days and 1835 miles in Montana

I spent several days driving around Montana to teach little (and some not so little) fluties of all ages, and while I definitely spent more time in the car than I did eating and drinking, I can tell you about a coupla good places...

BOZEMAN seems nice, but I only stopped for coffee at Cold Smoke, and it was amazing. It was also very necessary at that point in the day.

The campus is sweet, and historic downtown is beyond charming.  Had an espresso and nabbed some free WiFi at ZooTown Brew and a super delish pear and bleu cheese monte cristo at Plonk.

Jakers had great waffle fries with gorgonzola sauce, and they bring pico and chopped bacon to pour over the whole mess. They're also open late(ish) and the bartenders will cater to your every need. 

OK, you're probably never going to go here, but there was a randomly amazing Southern-style BBQ place that I cannot stop thinking about. It's called Ray J's, it's beautiful inside, and it is the real deal. The service was also very fast, which is handy, because you might be trying to get out of Malta quickly (I'm teasing, you guys were great...) Here is my weird but perfect pulled pork salad:

I did not have nearly enough time in this quaint little city, but I did enjoy a caprese panini at Bistecca, authentic Hungarian goulash and a tasty Red Lodge Oktoberfest at, of all things, Oktoberfest, and HOMEMADE STROOPWAFELS and coffee at Caramel Cookie Waffle. OK, I needed a lot of coffee on this trip 

The best meals, of course, were spent with kind people and their snuggly dogs all across the state, including the juiciest burger I have ever had (stuffed with gorgonzola, mayo, and chives), and the last of the summer's corn on the cob right off the grill.  Thank you, Montana, for a great stay!


23 September 2016

Trying the Trends: Peanut Butter Powder

This stuff made a big splash a while back, but I was too cheap to buy it until I saw a marked-down jar at Ross.  Hey, you can't say I'm not honest with you. Why did I get it? a) I fucking love peanut butter b) I am ambivalent about smoothies with spinach in them and c) I FUCKING LOVE PEANUT BUTTER!!!!! Let's get to work.

Quick PB-banana smoothie for one
Place in your blender or Vitamix, in this order:
1 banana, broken up a bit
1 tablespoon PB powder
2 tablespoons yogurt, any flave (if unsweetened, throw in a teaspoon or so of honey, too)
handful spinach leaves
1/4 cup almond milk
dash cinnamon
3-4 ice cubes
This was not only totally delicious, but it kept me full until lunch time, all by itself.  If you want something heartier, you could throw in a couple tablespoons of rolled oats, too.

I also stirred some into plain, Greek yogurt (1 tablespoon powder in 1 cup yogurt) and added granola, nuts, and berries one morning for breakfast. Also delish, though a bit pasty and not very sweet.

I added it to some breakfast muffins to pump up the protein content, thereby helping me last until lunch when I'm eating breakfast on the road:

Peanut Butter-Pumpkin Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
15 oz. canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/3 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 cup brownsugar
2 tablespoons peanut butter powder
2 tablespoons flax seeds
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
Combine all wet ingredients in a mixing bowl: yogurt, eggs, pumpkin, and sugar. Add all remaining ingredients and combine thoroughly. Pour into muffin cups and bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Finally, some brownies, adapted from skinnytaste.com:

2 eggs
1 cup PB2
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp water
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray a nonstick 9 x 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, making sure there are no clumps. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and bake about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool, then cut into 12 bars.

I guess the bonus of using the powder for baking instead of the real thing is the lack of fat? The brownie recipe calls for enough PB2 that you might not want to use up that much of the jar on an unnecessary dessert item (then again, maybe it makes you feel less terrible about eating said dessert.  I never do, so I can't relate). But the bottom line for me is that this stuff is delish and I will buy it again when it's on sale.  Because I am very cheap.

16 September 2016

Recipe review: Smoky Pasta with Corn and Tomatoes

I tried this recipe, found in a Vegetarian Times issue this summer while waiting out a delayed flight (thanks, United) mainly because I had half a jar of chipotle peppers sitting in the fridge at home.  Also, it sounded wacky, and I love goat cheese. I discovered a new favorite dish, slightly modified from the original, below.

Smoky Pasta with Corn and Tomatoes

Serves 4

12 oz. rotini or other pasta shape
2-3 chiles from 4-oz. can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (keep some of the sauce in there, too)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 oz. goat cheese, plus more for crumbling on top if desired
⅓ cup chopped cilantro
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, finely chop chipotle chiles (remove seeds for less heat). Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add chile and garlic, and sauté 1 minute, or until fragrant. Stir in goat cheese and 1/4 cup water, and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until smooth sauce forms, stirring constantly. Add more water by tablespoons if the sauce is too thick. Simmer 2 minutes more, then remove from heat and add cilantro.

Drain pasta, and return to pot. Add tomatoes, corn and cheese sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss in extra goat cheese crumbles, if desired.

06 September 2016

Trying the Trends: Sweet Potato Toast

I am not on any special diet and I love carbs, so I'm not afraid of toast, either.  But I do know that sweet potatoes are good for you, and they're reasonably tasty, but I run out of ideas for them. So, when I saw this recipe on Pinterest, I thought it was worth a try with the sad, lonely sweet potato I have had in my cupboard for over a month (don't judge). Bonus: it involves cooking a food without heating up the entire kitchen by turning on the oven.

I simply cut the potato into slices by cutting off the pointy ends and cutting lengthwise. Any scraps you have from the ends all around can be steamed and frozen or cooked into any number of veggie dishes. I didn't peel mine.

Then you pop slices into the toaster just like it's bread, although it's going to take longer to cook.  My "toast" was firm-tender after two cycles on "8".  I buttered mine and sprinkled cinnamon and brown sugar on top.  It was OK.  I was reasonably full when I added a small dish of yogurt on the side. I'm not going to do it again, because I love bagels too much.  There they are at the bottom.

02 September 2016

Roasted gnocchi: variations on a theme

You know those non-refrigerated packages of gnocchi you see at the grocery store, the ones you think you're too good to buy? (I actually just wonder how they can last like that.)  They make a great "emergency" staple, as in: "I don't want to wait very long, but I do want a pasta dish", or "I just invited everyone from the bar back to my house and I have no snacks to put before them". For the meal, see below.  You could do it with any vegetables you have on hand. As an appetizer, simply toss the gnocchi by itself with some olive oil (don't be stingy) and coarse salt and broil; in about 10 minutes, you will have puffy, golden, greasy little baked potatoes to soak up all the wine in your tummy.  Buy a package or two when they're on sale, then keep them in the pantry until needed. Because it looks like they last almost indefinitely in their original wrapping (yikes).

Roasted Gnocchi

Serves 4

Olive oil
1 package gnocchi
1 small bell pepper, cut into thin strips and then chopped into 1” pieces
½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cups packed kale, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and red pepper flakes to taste

In a large bowl, toss the gnocchi, bell pepper, and onion with about a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon or so of the kosher salt (large flake is nice). Spread in an even layer onto a baking sheet or other broiler-proof pan and cook under the broiler on “high”, stirring once, until gnocchi is looking soft and puffy and the vegetables are soft.  This should take no more than 10 minutes.

While you wait, toss the kale in the bowl with the balsamic vinegar. When ready, add the kale to the gnocchi mixture and give it a stir. Broil for another 5 minutes or so, until the kale is getting crisp in some places and there are some brown spots on the gnocchi.  You can keep stirring and broiling if you want things to be more evenly crisp, but I like the variety.

Season with red pepper flakes and more salt, if necessary. Eat.