Thursday, September 30, 2010

St. Louis gooey butter cake

What a wet and dreary Thursday morning!  Yuck!  But what a deep incredible sleep I got last night... isn't that always the case?  Rain is just the perfect white noise, drowning out traffic and other night noises in the city.  So, I woke up super rested, happy, and, naturally, starving.  It would've been a good morning for French toast but I was simply too lazy for that.  :)  Really, though, I longed for a piece of this cake, except I finished it off for dessert last night.  Dessert for breakfast?  Heck yes.  Especially one that involves the words gooey, butter, and cake.  Think coffee cake but so much better.  So so so much better, friends.  Instead, I ate my fill of warm oatmeal and trudged to work in my rain boots, dreaming of this cake and when I will see it again.

This cake had probably served the longest sentence in the black hole of recipes to make... and what an undeserved punishment that turned out to be.  For months, every time I saw it, my heart began to race and my mouth watered at the very thought of a cake meant to showcase butter and sugar.  Tales of its deliciousness could be found all over the interwebs, and yet it remained unbaked.  Why?  For some unfortunate reason, my brain kept getting the better of me.  "Katy, you need a good reason to bake a full cake.  Wait for a party or occasion."  My heart would argue, "No!  Halve the recipe!  Then it's appropriate for everyday consumption."  And, still, my brain would barge in like a bull in a china shop and dismiss all romantic notions of baking a cake just for the sake of pleasure.  Stupid brain.  You should know that it's since been relegated to a corner in my apartment for an indefinite period of time.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Moroccan-spiced chicken with dates & apples

I've discovered that being a grown-up has its perks -- shocking, no? :)  The first that comes to mind is that you can have cake (and only cake) for dinner.  Been there, done that, recipe coming this week.  You can also stay up until 2AM watching a hockey game on the West Coast when you need to wake up five hours later for work.  You can even buy whatever groceries you want without having to worry about someone telling you that your sister/father/mother doesn't like that food so please, Katy, try to pick something that everyone likes.  One drawback?  When you're buying the groceries, you will do anything in your power to avoid wasting food because it's directly your money that's going into the trash.  I shudder at the thought.

Though it's not as glamorous as dishes taken from the pages of Gourmet or created from a craving, meals are occasionally thrown together in an attempt to use up an ingredient or two that has been lingering in the pantry for weeks that I refuse to waste.   That ingredient happened to be dried dates.  I know.  "What on earth possessed you to buy dried dates?" 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pepperoni, broccoli & spinach stromboli

Happy Friday from the comforts of my apartment!  Especially happy since I'm making up for working last Saturday by enjoying a day off today :)   The weatherman predicted a gorgeous "summer" day here in western PA, which is the perfect backdrop for the day I have planned.  I managed a quick run this morning, the last in preparation for the Great Race on Sunday.  After some eggs and errands, Matt and I are going to head over to Bloomfield for Little Italy Days.  Cannoli, ravioli, proscuitto, sausage... yes to all of the above!  I'm going to take my camera, so pictures to come on Monday hopefully!

I've been working through the back log of recipes, and this seemed like a perfect fit for today -- a classic Italian stromboli.  I have yet to meet an Italian specialty I don't like, but I must shamefully admit that I still don't know the difference between some of the terms.  The hundreds of shapes of pasta, whew, I'll never know all of those.  But how about stromboli and calzone?  Until recently I considered them both delicious disguised forms of pizza.  After the jump, the mystery is solved...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How to plan meals & grocery shop

Though it's a skill that's taken some time to hone, planning meals for the week is something that I couldn't imagine not doing now.  With or without a busy schedule, I'd recommend this to anyone -- it saves time, money, and gets food into my stomach much faster than the panicked scavenger hunt that would take place if I didn't have a game plan  After a long day at work and the gym, I'm usually starving when I get home.  I can't tell you how great it is to know that within 30-45 minutes of minimal work, I'll be sitting down to enjoy a delicious dinner.  You see, I'm pretty impatient and, if there isn't a hearty meal on the horizon, before I realize it, I'm shoveling eating spoonfuls of Nutella or handfuls of Kashi cereal... hey, gotta feed those tired muscles ASAP :)  I have a feeling I'm not alone in my frantic hunger-driven snacking attacks.

Anyway, last week, a friend/recent graduate/new professional asked me about planning meals.  She said that she and her boyfriend will get inspired to do it but lose motivation when they try to put pen to paper.  They become frustrated with a lack of ideas and doubts as to how they can possibly predict what they'll want to eat days from then.  I promised her that we'd have a nice long chat and I'd spill all of my secrets.  Since we haven't yet been able to have that conversation, here's hoping that she doesn't read this before then and I can use my "notes" when necessary :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Apple crisp (for two)

Happy Monday!  What a weekend, huh?  Guess that Indian summer heard me and decided to show its face around these parts.  But that won't stop me from talking about all things fall, no sir.  Especially when the mornings are showing the season's true colors, even if the days are doing a semi-decent job of covering up for them.  I was in for a shock on my run early on Saturday morning -- stepped outside to total darkness, heavy fog, and, as I discovered when I returned home, a mercury reading of 48 degrees!  What the what?

The rest of the weekend was nice, albeit a little shorter since I worked on Saturday.  But that's rare and I'll make up for it with this Friday off, so I can't complain.  The weather was nice enough for one last cookout with the family (dear barbequed ribs and potato salad, you will be missed until next summer!).  And there was Oktoberfest to be had.  The cherry on top had to be attending Phantom of the Opera with the family on Sunday evening :)  I've seen other shows before, but this blew them out of the water.  Phenomenal!  Did any of you catch it here in Pittsburgh or have you seen it elsewhere?  If so, what did you think?!

Wait, where was I?  Oh yes!  Fall flavors! ...goodness, maybe I could have benefited from another day of rest...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Turkey meatloaf with fontina and mushrooms

Count me in -- I am ready for fall!  That's not to say that I won't enjoy the Indian summer days whenever they arrive.  But, you should know that my stash of jackets and scarves and tights (oh my!) are practically crying out to me, asking when it will it will be their turn to show off.  This, of course, has me incessantly checking the weather forecast for cooler temperatures.  What an absolute tease it has been that the morning air registers in the mid-50s but the days are still creeping into the upper 70s.  So, one must decide between shivering early on her walk to work or getting a bit toasty in the afternoon :)

I've settled for dealing with goosebumps on my walk to work, and it's not so bad if I prep before I leave the apartment.  You'll find me hovering over a big steaming bowls of oatmeal, spiced with vanilla and cinnamon and topped with a sliced banana to serve as a kick-start to my body's heating system.  It's amazing how warm and cozy oatmeal for breakfast can make me feel -- it's like I'm wrapped up in a giant blanket.  The only drawback?  It makes me want to get back into bed, work clothes and all, never to let that feeling go away.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Abs-olutely effective!

Ridiculous corny jokes and it's only Thursday!  Aren't you glad you showed up?  :)

I had to share this with everyone, since I am constantly searching for the "best of" moves when it comes to working out and lifting.  Last week, I tried a routine from a popular women's magazine that promised to shake up my core workout.  Pffff.  Two of the moves were totally impractical to do in a gym with other people around since they required multiple pieces of equipment (I hate being an equipment hoarder) and at least a 6-foot square area.  Not happening.  Another move named after The Matrix, had me clutching my knees in pain and realizing my core felt nothing.  Ultimate fail, Schmomen's Fealth, ahem.  So, what to do?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Honey, apple & peanut butter tart

[how on earth I forgot this I'll never know]

How many of you use a planner or calendar to keep track of events?  [raises hand, pointing to both her planner and Google calendar]

And how many of you, despite having said organizational tool(s), manage to overbook your days and nights, leaving you occasionally frazzled and running around like a chicken with its head cut off?  [raises hand emphatically, a la the lovable know-it-all, Hermione Granger]

So last week, I had on my calendar "have Laura and Matt over for dinner."  When I have dinner guests on a weeknight, I try to plan and have most or all of the dishes made ahead of time.  Vegetables can be cooked the night before, and dessert is most certainly complete and waiting to be devoured.  For the main dish, I do fresh that evening, but try to have shortcuts in place.  For example, since I was going to be cooking golden baked pork chops, I had the seasonings mixed, an assembly line of bowls ready, and even the baking sheet lined.

So I got home a little later than usual... I just had to try that new upper body workout at the gym.  And I needed to shower and get cleaned up and head out again after dinner for another engagement.  All with my friends arriving in about 30 minutes.  Then it dawned on me... oh crap!  As for dessert, would you believe that it just slipped my mind?   Listen, I didn't forget about it entirely -- I had something in mind, but I had forgotten to set up properly and allot enough time to bake it.  I became distracted... from dessert... my favorite part of the meal.  May I plead temporary insanity?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Welcome back, fall (TV)!

It's the Monday morning after a fantastic weekend, filled with fun things like the Irish festival, shopping, book club, and great weather all-around... so why was I so sluggish getting out of bed this morning after a quality 8 hours of rest?  It's this thing going on with my head and nose, you see.  It could be a cold, but I'm thinking (read: praying) that it's merely allergies.  But let's be honest, regardless of the cause, I'm going to ignore it and go about my normal routine, hoping that denial is the best medicine :)

So, armed with a chipper self-imposed healthy disposition and a stomach full of a energy-packed breakfast sandwich, I ventured outside, only to be slapped with 50-degree air and drizzling rain!  No thank you!  (If I'm polite, does that mean it'll go away?)  May I go back inside, please?  And curl up in the papasan chair with a cup of hot chocolate?  Mmm... which reminds me, I must share the most amazing discovery of my weekend -- the salted caramel hot chocolate from Starbucks.  I'm not a coffee drinker and usually not a big fan of their regular hot chocolate (point me toward the peppermint and pumpkin flavors, thank you), but this drink was out of this world!  The salty sweet warm chocolate... you must try it!

Oh, so where was I?  Ah, yes, curling up with one of these on the couch.  And, wouldn't you know it, the season of absolutely nothing being on TV is finally behind us.  Bring on the autumn weather that rushed right in and the fall TV premieres...

I usually don't watch much TV during the summer months.  Primarily because, after months of being cooped up inside, I want nothing more than to be out in the fresh air until the sun goes down, getting my fill of Dave & Andy's and Razzy Fresh.  Oh, and it doesn't hurt that there is absolutely nothing worth watching.  Reruns are reruns, and I didn't really miss TV at all.  But this morning's walk to work had me thanking my lucky stars that the first of my shows returns tonight -- Gossip Girl!!!  I used to hang my head in shame when I'd publicly declare that I watched this, but I've learned that there are many closet GG watchers out there.  A guilty pleasure never hurt anyone :)

The rest of the fall premiere dates can be found here.  My other favorites include The Office, Community, Glee, and How I Met Your Mother.  Have you missed TV or do you watch in the summer as well?  What are you going to be watching in these coming weeks? 

Happy Monday!  I'm looking forward to some sitting and a tiny croissant that I have just to mark the Parisian premiere of GG :)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday musings

Happpppppppy Friday, friends!  Not just any Friday, but a surprise Friday!  I love my surprise Fridays, almost as much as I love planning events and trips.  Word to the wise -- I do not recommend reading the list of 1000 Places to Visit Before You Die after looking at pictures of one friend's cross-country road trip and another pal's vacation to Ireland.  It will make you stir crazy (at the beginning of September... isn't that more of a February thing?) and have you creating multiple Google documents with travel plans.  Where to go, where to go?  At least I can take comfort in the fact that, barring any big hiccups, I'll be seeing this sometime in spring of 2014 (gulp):

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Slow cooker beef roast with mushrooms & tomatoes

Look at that!  Is that not one of the most colorful, hearty bunch of ingredients you've ever seen?  And who would've thought that the most labor-intensive part of executing this recipe came when I had to photograph this in the wee hours of the morning?  Seriously, people.  There is more work involved in making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I'm certainly not knocking the classic duo of PB&J, but I'd venture to say that most people wouldn't think of serving them to company for dinner.  Not having any dinner guests?  Neither did I, but that didn't stop me from making myself a fancy Sunday night or company-worthy dinner.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Chocolate chip zucchini bread

Happy Monday Tuesday!  Can you believe Labor Day is behind us and we're entering the thick of September?  It may be the last days of summer, but when I look at that bread, I forget that I spent most of the weekend wearing a windbreaker and jeans.  Instead, I think of overflowing gardens and flip-flops and hesitating to turn on my oven for weeks.  It's that time of year when everyone is trying to unload the literal tons of zucchini that have come from their vegetable gardens this year.  Casual friends bring you a grocery bag full of it.  Coworkers leave piles of the green stuff on a community table for the picking.  Me?  I get mine from the local grocery store, on sale at least, since the city isn't exactly the best place to garden for my friends and me.  Attention any zucchini breeders -- if you are looking to find a good home for your veggies, look no further than this girl.

I love zucchini plain, but I've also introduced it to some other friends of mine in the kitchen.

Monday, September 6, 2010

No-labor day!

Hope everyone, professionals and students alike, gets to enjoy a long three-day weekend including today!  If you're heading to a picnic, try some of these dishes to wow your friends and family.  Maybe even try to catch a boy (or girl) with this fantastic dessert.

You know, honor labor today by not doing any at all :)  What are you doing to celebrate the holiday?  (Think about it -- the last one until Thanksgiving for most people!)

Me?  I'm phoning in this post (ha!) and spending the day indulging my id -- sleeping, sitting, and eating, thankyouverymuch.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Here you are, Friday!  You were hiding behind Thursday and Wednesday, which seemed to take their sweet old time this week.  A brisk run this morning (is it staying darker longer or is it just me?) and a big bowl of cereal with bananas for breakfast to treat myself.  Yum!  I have a decent list of things to do this weekend, but, thankfully, many of them fall under the heading "fun fun fun!"  After Matt's Saturday class (I know, it's ridiculous and I'm not joking... but at least it's in the afternoon), we are making a return trip to my aunt and uncle's place on the Potomac River!

So excited to see my family and enjoy a weekend of lounging on a boat, fishing off the dock, sharing more Kemp family tales while munching on chocolate chip zucchini bread (recipe coming next week) and chewy sugar cookies.  Have a great long weekend, everyone.  Catch ya on the flip side!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Walnut shortbread wedges

It's funny how recipes are chosen.  Maybe it's a matter of available ingredients.  Or perhaps it's a certain level of "fancy" needed for an occasion.  It could also be what I experienced yesterday -- a craving of the very serious kind.  It started sometime after lunch and continued for the duration of the work day.  I was even thinking about it during my workout, amidst calf raises and squats.  I wasn't kidding when I said that thinking about food gets me through workouts occasionally.

But seriously, this craving wouldn't budge, even after a delicious dinner: grape tomatoes and artichoke hearts tossed with a little garlic and butter and mixed with whole wheat pasta.  So.unbelievably.good, people.  Rifling through my pantry and fridge for snacks yielded popsicles, cookies from the Oakmont Bakery, Cheez-Its... and none of it seemed even remotely appealing to me.  Anyone who knows me knows that once I become fixated on something, there's no changing my mind.  I've gotta have it!  Still thinking about my craving, I got to wondering how the dictionary would describe this.  Per Merriam-Webster:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Your winter 2011 forecast

Nothing like starting the month off on the wrong (or neither) foot by skipping a morning run!  I'm not making excuses, but the gym finally reopened on Monday and let's just say it's/I've been kicking my butt so far this week and consequently feel wiped out and ready for bed by 8:30.  The run will happen on Friday, I'm making a public pledge so someone please hold me to it :)

So now that it's officially September, that can only mean one thing -- new pencil boxes?  Check.  Flipping a page on the calendar?  Obvs, check.  But how about the release of the 2011 Farmers' Almanac?  Check!  Bet you either a) didn't even know about that, or b) don't care one bit.  Well, I'll give you a reason to care, mister!

Oh goodness, Peanuts cartoons get me every time.  But seriously, the Farmers' Almanac is a nice little set of predictions for the 2011 calendar year, including a forecast of the winter to come.  Think it's total fluff?  An accuracy score of 80-85% says otherwise.  Follow the jump to find out whether we'll be having a paradise-like winter or a repeat of Snowpocalypse...