After a pretty indulgent weekend (Mark and I attended Savor CT this weekend – blog recaps to come), I knew dinner tonight needed to be on the simple side. I did not want anything too heavy so I decided to prepare one of my “go to” recipes – a light but hearty Asian Kale Salad with Grilled Steak.
I don’t know about you, but there is nothing worse then waking up on Monday morning – knowing you have to run and having that “too full” feeling before you head out the door. This dinner would be a good way to “get back on track” for the week ahead.
What’s great about this salad is that I can prep (aka massage) the salad in the early afternoon and let it “marinate” for a couple of hours. Then all that needs to be done is to have Mark fire up and grill the steak.
What I also love about this salad is that it makes both Mark and I happy – I get a large and in-charge salad and Mark gets steak – it’s a great compromise and really isn’t that what marriage is all about
The version of the kale salad I made tonight is one that I have made numerous times and my methodology has gotten to the point where I can add “a little bit of this” and a “little bit of that” and it still comes out great. I really love recipes like that.
Asian Kale Salad With Grilled Steak
This easy and healthy salad can be eaten all by itself or with some protein added to it.
As this weekend comes to a close – many of us (myself included) have spent time with family and friends – making (if not preparing) some delicious meals. However, on the eve of another work week I want to share with you a quick, easy, and light recipe put in your meal rotation – Ground Turkey Lettuce Wraps.
Having had company over this past Friday – I was looking for a recipe that would not have me slaving in the kitchen for hours on end.
I love tacos but was looking for something a bit lighter knowing that this was a holiday weekend and also that Mark and I were going to do some heavy home renovation the next day. Heading to Pinterest, I came across this recipe for Ground Chicken Lettuce Wraps – a copycat recipe of a certain famous Chinese Restaurant Chain.
Not having Ground Chicken and looking for a less hot version – I modified the one that I found and viola – Ground Turkey Lettuce wraps were created.
When all was said and done (and served with a side of long grain rice and roasted green beans – it was deemed a success. I did not take a picture BUT there might have been some discussion on who got the last bit of ground turkey.
I will warn you (as Mark found out) – make sure you don’t overfill your lettuce wraps or you will have to make quick work of shoving the entire wrap into your mouth.
I know – most of prior Thirsty Thursday posts have revolved around beer BUT here’s the thing – I drink coffee every day.
I survived college and graduate school without taking a sip – really! As an undergrad, I remember going with a friend to an independent coffee shop and not knowing what to order. I saw the word “mocha” on the menu, and thinking it would taste like chocolate, ordered the largest size available. Needless to say I was severely disappointed and could not understand what was in this drink that was so magical and coveted by so many.
Fast forward about *cough* 20 years and I could not imagine starting my day without a delicious cup of coffee. Now I am not sure if it is psychological (part of my morning routine) or if it really does get me going BUT my Keurig is always filled and ready to deliver me a single cup of coffee to bring with me to work.
But how good is the coffee that comes out of my K-cup really – I mean it’s passable (once I add sweetener) and it’s easy to “brew” it during the week when I am rushing out the door.
In all honestly – I would prefer to go to Starbucks everyday, but for me, it’s not economical.
BUT recently my husband purchased me a french press as a Christmas gift and it was life changing. It really brews the best tasting coffee but my supply of Starbucks Christmas Blend is dwindling and I don’t want to buy a random new bag of coffee only to brew an inadequate cup.
What’s a coffee loving girl to do?
Well – as luck would have, over the weekend I was able to meet Jeff and Emily Brooks, owners of Giv COFFEE, whom in my opinion roast and brew some of the best coffee I have EVER had.
Don’t believe me – I will give a bit of a spoiler here – Giv COFFEE is the first and only coffee I have ever tasted where I did not have to add any additional accompaniments. Yup – nary a sweetener or liquid (other than the coffee) was in the glasses that I tasted.
Sitting down with some wonderful pastries (thank you Hartford Baking Company)
Jeff gave a brief history of how Giv COFFEE came to existence – he has been roasting beans for about 5 years after traveling to Carabello Coffee, a philanthropic coffee roasting company in Newport, KY. Back in Connecticut he started roasting coffee and Giv COFFEE was born. The vision behind Giv COFFEE is that they work to put as much into the roasting of the beans as the farmers put into producing the beans.
Jeff and Emily work with growers from several countries, many of whom produce beans in micro lot quantities, to obtain the highest quality beans, and then make sure these farmers receive a fair price for their crop. And if that was not enough – Giv COFFEE donates $2 for every bag of coffee they sell in their retail store to a variety of organizations close to Jeff and Emily.
Brewing The Perfect Cup Of Giv COFFEE
In addition to just showing and allowing us to taste their products – I had the opportunity to compare two different brewing methods (French Press and Cemex) for two of their varieties of coffee. What Jeff wanted to impress on us was that these two methods actually put the control of brewing a cup of coffee in the hand of the homebrew – something that a cup of drip coffee most times lacks.
The first one was Celso Garcia Organic from Mexico.
The difference in the color of the coffee when brewed in the Cemex and the French Press where stark.
Whereas the Cemex brewed coffee looked and tasted tea like (a bit more bitter) the coffee brewed in the French Press had a more muddy appearance but it had more body because this method allows the fats of the coffee to seep through. The filter in the Cemex stops those oils, which in my opinion gave it a lighter flavoring.
Second up was Dos Montoyga. These beans were grown on a micro lot (think very very small quantities)
Again – the comparison of the two brewing methods was stark and surprising different. I was drawn to the fuller flavored French Press method but really both of the varieties we tried were beyond anything I have ever tasted. So much so – that I my fear that I would need to add sweetener became a distant memory as the tasting went on.
We were almost done with the tasting and demonstration when Jeff brought out a Ball jar, a coffee filter, some hot water and 25g of coffee. Don’t have a fancy Cemex or French Press – no problem. Jeff showed us that with even the most rudimentary utensils- good coffee can be brewed, you just have to have the right beans.
Giv COFFEE has had an online store for several years but within this past year Jeff and Emily have opened up a storefront at 194 Albany TUrnpike/Rt44, Canton CT 06019 ( Cafe Hours: M-F; 6am-6pm, Sat; 8am-6pm, Closed Sunday) where they not only roast and sell their beans but a variety of light breakfast and lunch items. And if that is too far away from you – Giv COFFEE is sold at Hartford Baking Company in West Hartford.
I learned a lot about brewing a perfect cup of coffee at this event. Giv COFFEE is a great Connecticut Company that is roasting and selling fair trade coffee. I can honestly say it is the only coffee that I know I will take “straight, no chaser” and that high praise from a sweetener adder like myself.
Disclaimer: I was asked to attend this event free of charge in exchange for writing a review on the blog. Although this post is sponsored, the opinions are completely my own, based on my experience.
Even though I have been away recently for a little R&R (more on that in another post), 2 weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend an event at Cookshops Plus at 977 Farmington Avenue in West Hartford.
Before I go any further – special shout out to Mark (aka running czar and my plus one at a lot of these events). The event was on the 21st of February, which was his birthday, but he was so sweet and accompanied me. It was a good thing as he (and I) were greeted by a bountiful tray of pastries from Hartford Baking Company.
And lest we have nothing to wash it down with, he was able to order a hot chocolate AT THE STORE. I know, crazy, but Cookshop Plus has a coffee bar located in the middle of the store. Genius if you ask me – coffee and cooking – what a perfect combination.
I on the other hand opted for a perfectly made latte, made from beans sourced and roasted at Neat Coffee, a Connecticut based artisan coffee bar (in Avon). I have been to some other “local” coffee roasters but these beans (being single origin) made an exceptional latte. I enjoyed it so much that before I left I “lost” my latte and had to get another. Thanks to the baristas for taking such good care of the attendees.
Coffee and pastry in hand, I had the opportunity to meet the co-owners of Cookshop Plus, Samantha and James Hines. Super affable and welcoming, I was surprised to find out that this is the second location, the first being in Australia. I have to say after hearing this I am happy that they decided to open their second location in West Hartford.
The interior of the store is clean and airy, with a variety of American and International products for the cook, wannabe cook or baker in your life.
And what’s great (in addition to the Kitchen in the basement which they want to utilize for cooking classes in the future) was the huge demo table located behind the coffee bar. It was there that James did a quick knife demo, to highlight his knife skills (which were pretty sweet) but to also emphasize that Cookshop Plus is looking to get locals involved, whether it be through demonstrations or highlighting local artisians.
I also learned (or re-learned) that my knives should never go in the dishwasher (whoops) but that if they do – Cookshop Plus offers Global, Savannah, Messermeister and Wustof knives to replace any of my damages knives. I am in love with my Santuko knife but James reminded me that my bread knife is usually the most underutilized knife as it can be used from everything from cutting bread (duh) to carving meat. Good to know!
Pretzel Making Demonstration
And just when I thought we were done (and my shopping could begin), Scott Kluger, owner of Hartford Baking Company came demonstrate how they form their (wonderfully addictive) brioche pretzels. I had thought that Hartford Baking Company was just going to be providing the delicious cheese danishes, morning glory muffins and cranberry scones, I got to learn how he makes them.
It’s not as easy as it looks (as you can tell from the pictures below).
Long story short, I am glad that I was blessed with long arms as you have to roll the pretzels dough out 6 feet, cross the ends of the dough, twist the end one time (bringing the twist up toward the inside middle, and then press the end of the dough lightly on the sides creating the pretzel shape.
Phew – it’s hard work, so I think I will stick to purchasing them for the time being.
That is until the upcoming cooking class that Hartford Baking Company is putting on called Brioche, Brioche, Brioche which is going to take place on April 3, 2016. I know tickets just went on sale and are sure to sell quickly.
What better way to spend a Sunday morning then seeing a working, local baking facility, having breakfast and making brioche (some of which I hope we can take home).
Check out their Facebook Event page (link here) for more information and tickets
After the pretzel making demonstration (sadly we were unable to bake them at the store) we had the opportunity to browse around Cookshop Plus)
I might have bought a couple of items (both approved by my plus one), and had to hold myself back from all the fun (and useful) items that Cookshop Plus sells.
I have to say, that this store is a great addition to West Hartford Center. If you have not had a chance, check it out, they have something for everyone.
February is a crazy month. My birthday is on the 7th and his is on the 21st (Happy pre-birthday!!!) and smack dab in the middle is Valentine’s day (or Black “fill in the blank day” when I was in college).
Don’t get me wrong – we still celebrate Valentine’s Day but in order to keep our wallets in check, we usually keep it low key. That does not mean, however, that we don’t try and keep it special, so our tradition for years has been making a meal together.
Since the weather has been so, so cold the past couple of days, I thought making the ultimate comfort food (pasta) would be a great way to make dinner together while not losing too much time away from our marathon binge watch of Tyrant (YES – i that we had planned. So, I suggested purchasing fresh pasta from DiFiore Ravioli Shop in Rocky Hill, a good (read: not Wonder Bread texture) loaf of bread, and making our own sauce to go along with it. We had some garlic and broccoli rabe chicken sausage in the fridge and since Mark usually likes some meat with his pasta dish, our meal was set.
It was not until we were inDiFiore Ravioli Shop that my idea for what type of sauce to make came together. We usually get fresh ravioli but when I saw the fresh rigatoni in the refrigerator case, a lightbulb went off.
I had some roasted tomato sauce that I canned last summer (those who train for a marathon lead pretty boring lives) and a quick search of my “Pasta Pizazz” Pinterest board revealed I had pinned a recipethat was perfect for the pasta we purchased.
It also helped that DiFiore Ravioli Ship also carried the goat cheese and we were able to pick up a good loaf of Italian bread to round out the meal.
In between one of the episodes I was able to easily cook the chicken sausage in the skillet and boil the salted pasta water. I have not cooked fresh pasta in quite some time so I had forgotten how fast it cooks. Luckily – the sauce just needed to be warmed after the sausage was cooked.
Within 30 minutes we had a piping hot meal, a glass of red wine and we were comfortably back on the couch watching the remaining episodes of Tyrant – seriously a great show, can’t wait for Season #3.
This recipe was super easy (and customizable – I substituted goat cheese and a thick pasta sauce)and even if you did not have fresh pasta – the recipe could easily be made with your favorite boxed variety.
1. Take the chicken sausage and prick with a fork. Place in a skillet with water and cook until done. The pricked sausage will release the fat which can be drained with the water when the sausage is cooked.
NOTE: If your chicken sausage is pre-cooked, this step can be skipped.
Once the chicken sausage is done cooking, drain the water and slice the chicken sausage into small rounds. At the same time, boil a pot of salted water for the pasta to be added to.
Once the chicken sausage is cut, add back to the skillet and on medium high heat brown slightly.
Once the chicken sausage is browned, add the diced tomatoes, goat cheese, and pasta sauce. Stir to combine, lower the heat to medium, cover and let heat through.
Once the pasta water is boiling add your pasta and cook according to the directions.
NOTE - fresh pasta cooks very fast, so do not leave it unattended.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain, making sure to keep some of the pasta water to thin the sauce if necessary.
Serve in one of two ways.
1 - Add pasta to individual bowls and cover with the sauce.
2 - Add the pasta to the sauce, combine and serve in individual bowls.
The guacamole did not happen BUT it provided me with the ingredients for not one but two new recipes to try.
Normally I not very confident in attempting to create more than one recipe at a shot but this week I decided to bite the bullet. What came together was a simple weeknight meal that was done – start to finish in about 40 minutes (it took a bit of time to mince the garlic and cilantro)
The dinner consisted of Garlic Parmesan Chicken and a side of Cilantro Lime Rice. What I also liked about these two recipes are that they can be modified pretty easy depending on how many people you are cooking for (and whether or not you want you want enough for leftovers the next day)
I did cheat a little and used boxed Rice a Roni as I could not find our brown rice container, and the countdown to dinner had begun.
It turned out to be a quick weeknight meal that was full of flavor and made with the ingredients I had on hand.
This week’s two recipes also gave me a confidence boost – confirming that as long as I have all the ingredients ready to go – I can bang out more than one “new” recipe.
Enjoy and if you do try and make these dishes, let me know how they turn out!
I’m a 44year redheaded runner- living and working in Central Connecticut with my long time loving husband (and sometimes running czar) Mark and our dog Harley.
I have always enjoyed sports but it wasn't until 11 years ago that I decided to "take up" running. Since then, running has allowed me to have some awesome adventures as well as meet some pretty cool people.
Along with running, I am also passionate about food and drink, considering myself a bit of an amateur food geek.
So I decided to start my blog to combine both of these passions by documenting my journey to balance the two - one step at a time.
So thanks for stopping by and as always - Keep Calm. Eat Well. Run Strong.