Dad’s Birthday Dinner: Lasagna and Chocolate Tiramisu

Yesterday Giulia, the eight-year old I watch, and I were having a conversation about wearing a helmet while riding horses. Soon, our conversation turned into something like this:

Me: “…. I wore a riding helmet when I was a kid, but I don’t now that I’m an adult”

Giulia: “Well, you’re sort of a kid still”

Me: “I’m 24”

Giulia: “Yes…”

Me: “Technically, I’m an adult”

Giulia: “Well, I think you’re half a kid, half an adult”

 

That kid kills me.

Although I am OK with never really growing up… Where’s the fun in that??

It is also pretty fitting to share this story when I planned on talking about what I made for my dad’s birthday dinner last week. This year he turned the big 5-8, but if anyone’s still a kid at heart, it’s my pops. This guy rides his bike to work, plays video games, and KILLS at beer pong! My parents recently took a trip to Italy and ever since they returned my dad has been all about Italian food and culture, so naturally I had to make him an Italian feast for his special day!

 

Giada de Laurentiis' Classic Italian Lasagna

I picked this lasagna recipe because I’ve always had good luck with Giada recipes, and because the idea of making a bechamel sauce for a lasagna intrigued me. Man-oh-man this thing could have fed an army (see in the picture how it’s exploding out of the baking dish… and my dad’s face is in the upper right corner!) and it was goooood. Super rich and very flavorful, although I did cheat and use my favorite bottled marinara sauce (Kirkland brand!) because I didn’t have time to make a sauce. Just make sure to follow the directions and season every step where it calls for it!

We served the lasagna with a simple green salad and a bottle of Chianti my parents brought back from Italy.

The real star of the night though was the chocolate tiramisu I made for dessert. In the past I’ve made some good tiramisu, but if there’s one thing in this world my dad goes crazy for, it’s chocolate. I knew on his birthday I would need to make this classic dessert extra chocolatey to get a five-star approval.

 

Jamie Oliver's Chocolate Tiramisu

AND ZOMG YOU GUYS, THIS THING WAS SO GOOD. It made me feel kind of like this:

 

(Sidenote: if you haven’t read The God of Cake you should do that right now, and then make this tiramisu. I found the story waaaay too familiar…)

But seriously, I wish I could put into better words how delicious this dessert was. however, I think the fact that the five of us ate the whole thing that night speaks for itself.

I followed Jamie Oliver’s recipe, although I did have to make a few modifications; baking the sponge in a 10×15″ jelly roll pan and reducing the baking time to 8 minutes, using Kahlua rather than Tia Maria and more espresso rather than the Marsala/ dessert wine, and placing the whole thing in a 9″ pie pan rather than a baking dish.

Just thinking about this tiramisu makes my sweet tooth start craving it like crazy! Seriously, make this tiramisu and eat as much as you want, because life’s more fun when you still act like a kid! (And I won’t judge! 😉 )

(Green) Oatmeal Cookie Smoothie

True to form, it’s been a very wet spring here in the northwest. Running along a large creek near my house forms the backbone of a lot of my runs, so unfortunately when we have multiple days of heavy rain, I have to start getting creative.

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I was really proud of myself for finding this fallen log to help me get across a particularly flooded spot, but as soon as a rounded the next bend I found this:

 

Where did my trail go?

Where did my trail go?

 

P.S. Aren’t my new running shoes so happy looking?!? They’re the Mizuno Wave Inspire 10 and I love them!

Aside from needing to build an arc soon, I also need to talk about my current smoothie obsession. I’ll admit it, I was really late to join the smoothie-making train, but now that I’m on it I’m not looking back! I got a Vitamix last December, which is what is fueling this current obsession because of it’s ability to liquify any vegetable. This baby is seriously powerful!

I love experimenting with different fruit and veggie combinations, but this smoothie recipe has turned into my go-to breakfast before my Saturday long run. It does a great job of keeping me full without weighing me down, and also feels like an extra-special treat at the same time. If I can’t have pancakes for breakfast, then I’ll substitute with a smoothie that tastes like a cookie! 😉

Ingredients:

Slightly adapted from Gimme Some Oven

1/4 cup old-fashioned oats

3/4 cup milk (or any kind of milk substitute)

1 medium banana

1-2 pitted medjool dates, depending on your level of desired sweetness (I like to add 2… Dates are one of my favorite running snacks!)

1/2 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 1/2 cups baby spinach

ice

optional additions/ modifications:

use half milk, half Greek yogurt for additional protein

add a tablespoon of peanut butter or your favorite nut butter

use half baby spinach and half kale, or 1 c spinach and 1/2 cup broccoli florets

 

Directions:

Add all of the ingredients to a blender and pulse until smooth.

This recipe yields 2 smoothies that are on the small side for my liking, or one giant smoothie, that I happily finish on my own 🙂

 

greensmoothie

 

Pumpkin Cornbread

Well my October blogging started off so well, and then quickly deteriorated…

To make up for it here’s a super easy and super delicious pumpkin cornbread! Please forgive me!

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Corner pieces are always my favorite in breads, cakes, brownies… Pretty much everything

While I should also apologize for this picture, instead I’ll just provide you the link to the recipe, since those pictures are much nicer and I did very little to adapt the recipe at all!

Adaptations:

1. I used whole wheat flour instead of all purpose

2. I reduced the amount of brown sugar down to 1/4 cup

3. I used vegetable oil instead of olive oil

I’ve already eaten about 1/4 of the pan, so you should probably make this cornbread soon…

Spaghetti with Sausage and Arugula

…Also known as “clean out the refrigerator and throw everything into pasta!”

Which is one of my favorite meals, by the way.

 

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Here’s our cast of leftover characters (minus the spaghetti… and the sausage… even though those are both in the title of the recipe…)

Ingredients:

12 oz dried spaghetti

olive oil

1/2 a yellow onion, diced

red pepper flakes

diced peppers, I used half of a bell pepper and one holy mole pepper (yes that’s actually what it’s called… I grew it in my garden!)

2 sausage links, diced- I used a precooked, mild pork sausage

1/2 cup red wine

1/2 jar of your favorite marinara sauce

3 cups baby arugula

parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions:

In a large stockpot, cook the spaghetti according to package directions, until al dente.

In a medium saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook the onion, peppers, and red pepper flakes until vegetables are soft. Add in sausage and brown. Pour in the red wine, making sure to scrape up any brown bits, then add in marinara sauce.

Let sauce simmer for five minutes, then stir in arugula and cook until wilted.

Serve sauce over spaghetti and top with plenty of parmesan cheese!

 

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P.S. Lately I’ve felt like my posts have lacked some, well, creativity… Between getting home from work around 7, watching the Red Sox in the ALCS (seriously guys, let’s wrap this thing up in two more games!), and taking an online class, I haven’t left myself a lot of time for cooking. But what is this online class you might ask?? I’m currently taking a Harvard class offered for free through a program called EdX (learn more about it here), called Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science. Ummm yeaahhh that is right up my alley. I’m hoping to start posting weekly about what the class is talking about, including what we’re doing in our at-home lab. Stay tuned!!!

Grilled Pear and Brie Sandwich with Arugula

Grilled cheese is something I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of, although as I’ve gotten older my grilled cheese has gotten… fancier?

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Brie is probably my favorite cheese (if I could pick a favorite child…), and it gets nice and melty in a grilled sandwich. The pear and apple butter are the perfect sweet to complement the spicy arugula, and the only complaint I have about this sandwiches that it was a bit too much for bread I used, and a thicker french-bread kind of roll would probably work better.

Ingredients and Directions:

Butter the two outsides of your bread slices, and spread a layer of apple butter on the insides. Add in thinly sliced pears (I used about 1/4 of a pear), sliced brie cheese (about 3/4 of an oz) and a large handful of arugula. Grill sandwich until cheese is melted and bread is a toasty golden brown.

Pumpkin Ginger Scones

Hello hello and happy 21-days-until-Halloween-day!! Well, on the west coast it’s still 21 days away- WordPress, why you gotta say that I published this post on the 11th?!?

I LOVE Halloween for reasons like carving pumpkins, roasting seeds, dressing up in costumes, the colors orange and black (obviously), and watching movies like Hocus Pocus and The Nightmare Before Christmas (no scary movies here!). Tonight, I decorated my house and made these scones, and this weekend I plan on getting my pumpkins to carve later- I can’t wait!

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Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

1/4 c brown sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1″ cubes

3/4 cup canned pumpkin

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs, beaten

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, mix together the first seven ingredients. Add in the butter cubes and mix until butter has broken up into pieces about the size of a dime.

Add in pumpkin, vanilla, and eggs, mixing until just combined. The dough should be pretty shaggy, with visible butter pieces, but should come out of the mixing bowl in one big chunk.

Separate the dough in half, and form each half into discs about 6″ across. Cut each disc into 6 wedges, and place wedges on a baking sheet.

Bake scones 20-25 minutes, until cooked through and golden brown on top.

P.S. I’m still mulling over ideas for what to carve into my pumpkins this year, anybody have a good idea??

Tomato and Blue Cheese Pasta with Steak

On Sunday my sister and her boyfriend came over for dinner and we grilled some steaks. They told me to keep the leftover meat, because they never knew what to do with it, since heating up the steak in the microwave would end up cooking it further and making it not as good to eat as the freshly cooked ones.

I love having leftover meat on hand because the easiest thing to do with it is to throw it into pasta, one of my favorite things to eat. It’s also a great way to stretch a portion of meat out further, which is a trick I lived by in college.

 

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When I take a picture I don’t really like, I tend to just slap a couple of Instagram filters on it… Totally makes it better.

 

While it’s hard to tell from the picture, the pasta ends up being coated in a creamy, cheesy, tomato-y sauce that just walks the line of being a satisfying comfort food without feeling like it’s weighing you down.

This recipe is very slightly adapted from one of my favorite Pioneer Woman recipes, and I love it because it’s so simple and easy to make. Seriously, I made it while watching the Red Sox beat the Rays in their last ALDS game, you know I wasn’t about to waste time making anything complicated or time consuming! American League Championship Series, here we come!!

Ingredients:

1/2 lb pasta, whatever shape you have on hand

olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

dash of red pepper flakes

1 16 oz can of diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

2 1/2 cups baby spinach

6-8 oz steak, cooked medium rare and sliced thinly

salt and pepper

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to directions for al dente.

In a large saute pan, heat roughly 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute 1-2 minutes. Add in diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken stock, and bring to a simmer. Mix in cheese crumbles and and cook until sauce is thick and creamy (literally around two minutes). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add in spinach and stir the sauce until the spinach starts to wilt. Then, stir in drained pasta and sliced steak, stirring until pasta is coated and steak is just warmed through.

Estimated cook time? Around 15 minutes!

As a side I threw some cauliflower florets into the oven to roast, and I ate them out of my pasta bowl after I was finished so they could soak up the leftover sauce- so good!