Cast Iron Skillet Pizza

When I went to Chicago for work a few weeks ago, Alex decided to make a deep dish cast iron skillet pizza here in New York. It turned out so well that he wanted to make another one this past weekend.

We started by making the dough. I’ll admit upfront that I had little to do with the prep work for this recipe. The dough is made up of flour, yeast, salt, olive oil, water and honey.IMG_6411

We let the dough sit all day while we were in Governor’s Island. When we came back, it was time to get started.IMG_6537

We baked the dough for a short time, then took the skillet out to add sauce, cheese, black olives, sun dried tomatoes and caramelized onions. Yum, yum, yum.IMG_6541 IMG_6553 IMG_6555

It turned out so well! I can’t wait to make more soon.

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Governor’s Island Picnic and Paris Festival

Last Saturday, I was determined to put the picnic basket I got for Christmas a few years ago to good use. I’ve carried that picnic basket from apartment to apartment, but  I’ve never actually packed food in it and taken it to the park. We decided to go to Governor’s Island, an island off the southern tip of Manhattan that used to be an army base. There are huge, beautiful old houses, tons of trees and lots of grass to roam around on. Governor’s Island is just a short ferry ride away, so we packed our picnic basket and set off. IMG_6429

It was raining when we got there, so we set up at a picnic table under a large tree, which shielded us from [most of] the rain. We had an impressive sandwich from Faicco’s Italian Specialties, which is right around the corner from our apartment. We also packed some Magnolia Bakery banana pudding [the absolute best] and some potato salad. Delicious. IMG_6435 IMG_6437 IMG_6438 IMG_6440 IMG_6445

Luckily, the skies cleared just as we were finishing lunch. We consulted a map and walked around the island to the Paris Festival that’s running on the Island all summer long. IMG_6450 IMG_6453

There were beautiful carousels and old time-y carnival games all around. It was the perfect thing to get us excited for our honeymoon trip to Prague and Paris next week.IMG_6457 IMG_6460 IMG_6463 IMG_6472 IMG_6482

We finished up the day with a few hours of reading books under a tree in a beautiful field. I didn’t even feel like I was in New York City anymore, which was just what I needed that afternoon.IMG_6502 IMG_6506 IMG_6514 IMG_6516

Pear, Havarti & Rosemary Honey Grilled Cheese

On Sunday, we made grilled cheese sandwiches.

But these weren’t just any old grilled cheese sandwiches.

These were grilled cheese sandwiches with strawberry jam, havarti cheese, pear slices, and rosemary honey. And they were so, so good.

I’ll start at the beginning. Alex used some heavy cream we had leftover from a different recipe to make rosemary butter. He added in honey, brown sugar, rosemary and shook it all in a jar for about ten minutes. He stashed it in the freezer for a bit, and ta-da! Rosemary butter was born. photo_7 photo_8

The sandwich recipe called for butter + rosemary, so we just used the pre-made combo instead. First, you melt the rosemary, butter and honey together in a saucepan.

Then, you spread some strawberry jam on bread. The recipe suggests challah bread or brioche buns. We used something else, but I’m not sure what it was called!photo

Next, add a slice of havarti cheese. Alex decided to get pretty fancy with the cheese arrangement.photo_1

Pear slices go on top of the cheese. photo_2

Then, drizzle on the rosemary honey, and add another layer of cheese.photo_3

We dipped the sandwiches in a mixture of milk and one egg, and cooked on them in a skillet.

They were amazing!photo_5

This picture is kind of gross but also illustrates the final product.photo_6

I want ten more of these.

Black Bean, Corn & Feta (almost) Tacos

Alex and I have really enjoyed cooking in our new apartment, despite the lack of counter space in the kitchen. He usually works on chopping veggies at the kitchen table, and I’ll do food prep on our tiny kitchen island. Tonight we set out to make these black bean, corn and feta tacos, but we hit a slight road block.

I’ll backtrack a bit and admit that I am sometimes a bit overzealous when it comes to planning out my/our meals. I usually have all breakfasts, lunches and dinners planned out at least a week in advance. That might sound a little bit silly, but my intentions are good–I do all of this planning in attempts to save money and eat healthier foods, so we can avoid last minute pizza runs or spending too much going out to eat. Sometimes, though, my planning backfires. Most of my letdowns have come from produce going bad before I can use it (produce in NYC is not so fresh, it turns out). As we got ready to make the tacos tonight, I noticed that the red pepper I bought Saturday (not THAT far in advance!) had gone bad, and surprising, so had the corn tortillas we bought at Trader Joe’s last Thursday. Since when do corn tortillas go bad in less than a week? I can’t even explain how gross they were…they tasted bitter and disintegrated in my mouth. Ewww.photo

Alex decided to attempt to salvage the tortillas by baking them and turning them into tortilla chips. He sprinkled some oil and sea salt on top and baked them for ten minutes or so. They turned out to be just fine!photo-6

Since we couldn’t have tacos, we decided to use brown rice as a base for the taco ingredients. Alex chopped up the onions, and sautéed them with garlic and cumin. We added the black beans and corn and cooked for a few more minutes. photo-2

In my opinion, “taco bowls” are just as good as tacos! photo-3

Alex donated one of the tortillas he uses for his lunches for us to make a small burrito with the leftover toppings mixture. photo-5

Despite the slight set backs, this was still a delicious meal!

Cadbury Creme Egg Brownies

photoSo, I know Easter was a few weeks ago, but Helen found a recipe for Cadbury Creme Egg brownies before a while back and I anxiously awaited the end of my 30 Day Challenge so we could make them. They were as good as they look, and easy to make — we used brownie mix, and Creme Eggs that I stocked up on after the holiday. We baked the brownies in a muffin tin and took them out five minutes early. Then, we cut the Creme Eggs in half, mushed them down on top of each brownie and baked for about five more minutes. So quick, so delicious. I highly recommend keeping these in mind for next spring.

We made these Sunday while discussing wedding plans, because as of Saturday, I am engaged! Alex and I are getting married in June, so there is lots to do in a short amount of time. Helen made some beautiful invitations for us, already! Can’t wait for June to be here.

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Cauliflower Pizza Crust

ImageMy life as it relates to pizza consumption has been changed forever! I had seen recipes for cauliflower pizza crust when I was looking for ways to go carbless, and I was really curious how it would taste. First of all, I’m pretty sure I’ve never had cauliflower prior to this, and also I just wasn’t sure how a broccoli-like vegetable could become a tasty pizza crust. The verdict is that it totally can! We made ours using this recipe, and topped it with shredded mozzarella, roasted red peppers, and caramelized onions. The crust was sooo good! It didn’t taste like veggies. It was relatively light and fluffy, and it held together fairly well under the weight of the toppings. I can’t wait to make this pizza again! IMG_2254IMG_2255

That’s a Wrap: Completing a 30-Day Food Challenge

Today is the final day of a 30-day food challenge that Alex and I created and began on March 4, and I have mixed feelings about reaching its conclusion. It has been both difficult and rewarding.

While I consider myself to be a fairly healthy eater, especially throughout the work week, a few weekend-long pizza and french fry binges in early March left me feeling like I needed to make some changes to my diet. Also, I joined a gym in my neighborhood in January and started my first regular fitness routine in a few years, but I didn’t feel that my diet went hand-in-hand with my exercise goals. So, when I read this post by one of my favorite bloggers, What I Wore about the Whole 30 Challenge, I was really impressed and inspired by the health and fitness results she shared.

The Whole 30 Challenge requires you to cut a ton of foods from your diet for 30 days, without exceptions. While it’s possible I could have committed to and followed all of the Whole 30 Challenge’s rules, I decided I would test the waters of healthier eating by creating my own guidelines. Alex was on board, too, so we sat down and came up with a list of foods to eliminate. I’ve alluded to this before, but to sum it up, we cut out: white pasta and white rice, white bread, fried foods, white potatoes, and all desserts in the categories of cookies, cake, candy and ice cream. We planned to reduce our alcohol intake, but that rule…fell by the wayside (thanks, St. Patrick’s Day). We also allowed ourselves one “cheat meal” per week. Over the course of our Challenge, we had a friend visit for a weekend, and we traveled to D.C. with my parents. We decided not to be healthy eating sticklers during those weekends, and did our best to follow the rules within reason.

Overall, I’d say we followed the Challenge guidelines about 85% of the time, with a few small lapses on weekends. I lost a few pounds, and Alex lost several. The most rewarding aspects of the Challenge were:

  • Discovering new recipes. Before the challenge, most of the meals I cooked revolved around pasta or white rice. This month, I had to make an effort to find meals I could prepare that would meet our guidelines, and would be filling. I ate a TON of sweet potatoes and other vegetables (as you’ve seen!), and found several recipes that I would never have considered making before, but truly enjoyed.
  • Strengthened willpower: On the very first day of the Challenge, I attended a lunch meeting at work. When I walked into the room, I saw a box of 20 giant sugar cookies from Potbelly Sandwich Shop–my favorite cookies in the world. That was torture. I have no idea what we talked about in that meeting, because all I could do was think about those cookies. With time, it got easier to say no to sweets in the office, or french fries at the bar. Hopefully I can continue to exercise this new found self control, even when the Challenge “rules” are no longer in place.
  • More energy & less guilt. Living in NYC means dozens of delicious food options on every block. On weekends, we love to explore restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan for brunch, dinner, or snacks. At the end of weekends pre-Challenge, I always felt bloated, out of energy, and maybe a little bit broke. The Challenge forced us to cook nearly all of our meals each weekend, and my stomach and wallet both thanked me.

I can’t say I’m not thrilled by the idea of eating a giant pizza right now, but it is my hope that I can make some of these dietary changes permanent. I enjoyed the Challenge far more than I ever imagined I could enjoy cutting out some of my favorite foods for a month.

Pulled Pork Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

photo-3We’ve done so much cooking lately! Sunday we made about 3 lbs of pulled pork in the crockpot for these pulled pork stuffed sweet potatoes. This recipe takes about six hours from start to finish, but the actual work part of the recipe only takes about 30 minutes. We put the pork butt in the crock pot on low for 6 hours with a bottle of BBQ sauce. Alex did the pulling part when it was time, and we put it back in the crock pot for a bit longer. We decided to switch out some of the sauce that had cooked all day with fresh sauce toward the end.

I baked the sweet potatoes for about 45 minutes, and filled the middles with the BBQ. It was such a good combo! I actually mixed the pork in with bites of the potato, and it was delicious. This was one of my favorites of the recipes we’ve tried while trying to cut out white carbs. We will definitely be making this again soon!photo-2

Easter Sunday Brooklyn Brunch

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Happy (belated) Easter! For our first Easter in NYC, we decided to attend mass at the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown Manhattan. We went to the 8 a.m. service, and it was packed! I think they were having five or six services throughout the day. The cathedral is really pretty! After the service, we headed back to make some brunch. Alex had picked up some delicious sausage from The Meat Hook in Williamsburg. We had the Parmesan parsley and chicken and garlic sausages. I think the chicken and garlic was my favorite–it was so good! Then, we made tomato egg cups, found here. They are super simple to make–just hollow out your tomato, drop an egg in, and sprinkle with seasonings (we used paprika and basil flakes). We baked them for about 20 minutes and topped them with a bit of goat cheese.

The best part of my brunch was coffee in my new fox mug from A&G Merch, a cute home goods store right around the corner from my apartment. It was a surprise gift from Alex for my ever-growing fox collection. Overall, it was a very pleasant Easter.

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Sweet Potato & Apple Salad

photo (3)Holy wow, this was one of the best salads I’ve ever had! To be fair, I’m not much of a salad connoisseur–I mostly stick with salads that come pre made in a bag. But, I decided to branch out with this sweet potato and apple salad, inspired by this recipe. I used spring mix, plus apple slices, roasted sweet potato wedges, feta and walnuts. For the dressing, I used olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a little bit of honey. The salad was delicious and surprisingly filling! Maybe this will inspire me to get in the salad game more often.