Today was my last day of New World Cuisine, and I think I did really well on my final exam and my grilling practical. Sorry for the lack of class pictures this week – it is practical exam time, which means I need to be focused on cooking for a grade, and not stopped to photograph each stage of cooking!
Of all the things I learned in this class, I think the most important has been my increased sense of self confidence. I am no longer recipe-obsessed and paranoid about screwing up – instead I am much more willing to experiment and throw flavors together and hope for the best! As evidenced in tonight’s dinner, but first another topic…
I headed out for a 3 mile (very cold) run with the doggies tonight – the first official training run for the Flying Pig Marathon!! Third time’s a charm, right? I did an adapted version of Hal Higdon’s 18-week marathon plan, but since I only have 16 weeks until May 2nd, I’m skipping ahead to week three. Having a training plan helps me stay focused and on track with my runs – skipping is not an option! I am planning to also incorporate weight lifting and weekly yoga into my training, so I will be a busy girl this spring!
After I got back from my run, I grabbed my new Cooking Light and walked on the treadmill for about 20 minutes, thinking of ideas for dinner. Casey had his night class tonight and I wanted to have something ready for him when he got home. I ended up being inspired by two recipes found here and here, and tweaked them to fit my own pantry and tastes. First up…
Barley Pilaf with Red Peppers and Spinach:
- 1.5 cups diced onion
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1.75 cups pearled barley
- 1 tsp fresh chopped thyme
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1 large red bell pepper, diced
- 4 cups fresh spinach
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat a Dutch oven or other heavy pan to medium high heat and add a small amount of olive oil. When hot, sauté the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, barley, and thyme, and sauté for 1 minute, stirring. Add vegetable stock and bring to a simmer – cover and cook 45 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté the red bell pepper for 5 minutes or until soft. Add raw spinach and cook 2-3 minutes, or until wilted. When barley has absorbed all liquid, stir in peppers, spinach, and vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
And for our second dish…
Kale, Carrot, and Kidney Bean Salad:
- 1 large bunch kale, washed and ripped off stalks
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 15 oz. can kidney beans
- 2 tbsp dried cherries
- 1 tbsp slivered almonds
Place steamer basket over pot of boiling water and add kale and carrots – steam for ten minutes or until soft. In a large sauté pan, add garlic and kidney beans and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often. Add dried cherries and almonds and cook an additional minute. Add steamed kale and carrots, and stir to combine. Serve hot!
Both of these were delicious, and it was fun to substitute my own ingredients and make changes that ended up tasting great. As I learn more at school, I am trying to be more conscious of building more nutritionally balanced plates. As a vegetarian, it is especially important to get good combinations of items that make up complete proteins – whole grains, beans, and nuts & seeds. Check, check, check!
I am off to cuddle with Casey and watch The Biggest Loser. I start my new class tomorrow – Intro to Baking & Pastry!! Sounds dangerous, but I’m actually really excited. I’m not a huge dessert person anyways, and I’m really looking forward to learning all about making breads, rolls, dough, and more. Plenty of pictures to come tomorrow!