Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all of our friends, family, and the in-between!

We are celebrating in Houston today with some good friends, food, movies, games, and even better company.

I thought I'd leave you all with this holiday cheesecake I made for today.

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted

4 packages 8 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese
1 cup sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

2 cups (16 oz) sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
Red and Green M and Ms
Red and Green Sprinkles

1. Place an ungreased 9 inch springform pan on double thickness of heavy-duty foil. Securely wrap foil around the pan.
2. In a small bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, pecans (I did both in the food processor) and brown sugar, stir in butter.  Press onto bottom and 1 1/2 inches up the sides of prepared pan.  Place on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 for 5 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.
3. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs, beat on low speed just until combined.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Pour into crust.  Place in a larger baking pan; add 1-2 inches of boiled water to larger pan (puts the cheesecake in a water bath to prevent cracking, you can refill as needed).
4.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and twenty minutes, or until center is just set and top appears dull.  In a small bowl, combine sour cream and sugar until smooth; spoon over hot cheesecake and spread to cover.  Bake for 5 minutes longer or until topping is just set. After the cheesecake is done baking, leave it in the oven, turn the oven off, and crack open the oven door with a wooden spoon for one hour (also helps prevent cracking).
5. Remove springform pan from water bath.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen.  Refrigerate overnight.  Remove sides of can.  Garnish with candies and sprinkles.

Adapted from: Taste of Home

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Minestrone Soup

Since it is December, I figured you all might want some warm-you-up kind of recipes, perhaps a soup? I made this Minestrone, and I don't think it will disappoint.

Dave and I took a cooking class at Sur La Table to celebrate our anniversary. The chef mentioned he likes to prep and prepare all of his ingredients first so all he has to do is throw them in to whatever he's cooking.

I thought it sounded like a good idea, too...

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound Swiss chard, stems trimmed, leaves coarsely chopped
1 russet potato, peeled, cubed (I used a sweet potato)
1 (14 1/2) ounce can diced tomatoes
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini benas, drained, rinsed
2 (14 ounce) cans low-sodium beef broth
1 ounce piece Parmesan cheese rind
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery, pancetta, and garlic.  Saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add the Swiss chard and potato, saute for 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and rosemary sprig.  Simmer until the chard is wilted and the tomatoes break down, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, blend 3/4 cup of the beans with 1/4 cup of the broth in a processor until almost smooth (I skipped this part as I like my beans whole).  Add the pureed bean mixture, remaining broth, and Parmesan cheese rind to the vegetable mixture.  Simmer until the potato pieces are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.  Stir in the whole beans and parsley. Simmer until the beans are heated through and the soup is thick, about 2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Discard Parmesan rind and rosemary sprig (the leaves will have fallen off the stem).

Adapted from The Food Network

P.S. If you click on the individual link, scroll to the bottom, then you can choose to print the recipe as a PDF. You can also choose to delete the pictures, or whatever else you'd like to keep or discard for your recipe.


Friday, December 20, 2013

French Apple Tart

We are in full swing of the holiday season down here in Texas, and I imagine most of you are as well. I honestly have been so caught up in work lately I haven't baked any Christmas goodies. This shocks you as much as it does me considering the spread I made last year!

Anyways, we have met some new {wonderful} friends down here who we see on at least a weekly basis, and decided to have them over for dinner this past weekend. I made this delicious french apple tart. It was very simple to put together, and I thought it was pretty, too!

For the Pastry:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced

For the apples:
4 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, small diced
1/2 cup apricot jelly
2 tablespoons Calvados, rum, or water (I used water)

For the pastry, place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter and pulse 10 to 12 times, until the butter is in small bits the size of peas. With the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Roll the dough slightly larger than 10 by 14-inches. Using a ruler and a small knife, trim the edges. Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.

Peel the apples and cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baler. Slice the apples crosswise in 1/4-inch thick slices. Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with apple slices. (I tend not to use the apple ends in order to make the arrangement beautiful.) Sprinkle with the full 1/2 cup of sugar and dot with the butter.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. Rotate the pan once during cooking. If the pastry puffs up in one area, cut a little slit with a knife to let the air out. Don't worry! The apple juices will burn in the pan but the tart will be fine! When the tart's done, heat the apricot jelly together with the Calvados and brush the apples and the pastry completely with the jelly mixture. Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so it doesn't stick to the paper. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

Adapted from: Ina Garten The Food Network


Monday, December 2, 2013

Vegetarian Fajitas

I have recently been inspired to get back to a vegetarian lifestyle. The inspiration probably comes from here.  And, the other part probably comes from working at a cancer institute listening to the experts speak on nutrition and how it's related to disease. 

So, anyways, I've challenged myself to go vegetarian for the month of December, and with any luck maybe I can keep it up?

Tonight's meal was veggie fajitas. It actually worked out quite well. I got home from work, prepped the food, and marinated the beans with the seasoning and lime juice. Then we headed to the gym, and by the time we got back, dinner was practically ready to go.

My recipe is from The Fresh 20, a great resource for me as I am trying new recipes.

Recipe (Adapted)

1 (14.5 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed.
Juice of 1 Lime
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika (I skipped this because I was out)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Dash of Cayenne
1 Tablespoon Grapeseed Oil
1 Yellow Onion, thinly sliced
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
8 whole wheat tortillas
1/2 cup Monterey Jack shredded cheese

1. Marinate black beans in lime juice, garlic, Herbes, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, and cayenne for one hour.
2. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high to high heat and add in 1/2 Tablespoon of oil.
3. When oil is hot add in onions and bell peppers and cook for about 3 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.
4. Add the other 1/2 Tablesoon of oil and add the black beans.  Cook just until warm, about 2 minutes.  Add vegetables back to the pan and turn off the heat.
5. Serve in warmed tortillas, top with cheese, and salsa.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Catch up + December Challenge

I'm not even sure where I left off from the last blog post, but I know the time, it is a flying!
I'll give you a brief little update...
1. I have officially lived through the first three months of my fellowship. I have rotated through Stem Cell Transplant, Cardiology, Psych,  and Infectious Disease. They have all been really great experiences and unique in their own ways.
2. I am training for a half marathon with the other two fellows that we are running this coming weekend. It's my first half-marathon, and it's girls only! :)
3. We had a good friend come and visit this past month, Mr. Gabriel Domet. We had a lot of fun, and went to the Houston Aquarium and also to a bar where they were playing the Nebraska game.  We got to cheer them on to a WIN, with the other Nebraskan locals.
4. I went to the Oncology Nursing Society conference in Dallas through work.
5. We got to spend Thanksgiving in the Mountains with my family. 

Here are some pictures from the past few months..

I never knew about this stuff until my pregnant friend was drinking it one day. So delicious.

Houston isn't quite as pretty as Colorado..

Me and Poppa. 

Me and Hubby.

Dad participated in No Shave November. But it's December now...and it's still there?


I love the sun shining through.

He needed a haircut..

Jacket twins. 

I thought this picture was cool. They were making snow and then the sun was shining through it.

We got our Epic Picture taken. Dad asked the photographer for a "fun" pose. 

Homemade Snicker doodle cookies for an impromptu invitation to "Family Dinner" in Houston.
At the Aquarium.

Daddy and Puppy snuggles.

Starbucks has cute little Houston Mugs of the skyline. 

Coconut Cream Pie at the Dallas Conference. Amazing.

Now, for the CHALLENGE!!

I was reading the other day on Runner's World, and there was a challenge to do at least one mile everyday during the month of December since, you know, you'll probably be partaking in some holiday treats!  So, today is December 1st, and we were up at 3:00 AM to catch our flight back to Houston, but I did manage to get my one mile and a little more in this evening.

Cheers to all of my family and friends. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!