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Archive for February, 2012

I told you I never renege on my commitments… two posts in 24 hours… you bet!

If this opening is making no sense then backtrack a bit and read yesterday’s post Scramblin’.

"the sweet to my tea"... nick and i on our wedding day

So now that we’re all caught up I promise this stream of consciousness is leading somewhere. As a matter of fact it is leading directly to a gem of a recipe… it’s just taking the scenic route. You see, in the balancing act that is my life, Nick is my equilibrium. He complements me in such a way that allows me to draw upon the positives of my aforementioned personality traits while squandering the negative. I’ll spare you the sappy tirade of how he is the “ying to my yang,” “the peanut butter to my jelly”… (you get it)… and skip ahead to how we literally fill in the gaps for one another. Since the day we moved in together we each assumed “jobs” based on our individual skill sets (and tolerance for certain household tasks!) We both work long hours, commute long hours, and fill our remaining hours with bonus self-enhancing hobbies such as training, continuing education, and blogging (stop by Core Sports when you’re done here!) So in order for our home to not look like the respective Greek houses we lived in during college and for our lives to not be equally as shambled as our lives when we lived there we needed a plan. Nearly two years later and I’d say our pre-cohabitational agreement has worked out for the best. I prepare the meals and he cleans them up, I do the tidying and he does the cleaning, I write the cards he writes the checks, etc. It’s a harmonious accord… only occasionally marked by a snide “That’s not MY job!” remark (bet you can’t guess whose lips that line slips out of most?)

By proxy, my role as grocery shopper and chef gives me ultimate control over what ends up on our plates. But, every so often I relinquish that control so that Nick has some say in our meals…to “balance” it out (orrrrrr because no recipes are appealing to me that day). And the situation inevitably plays out the exact same way each time. I casually inquire “Any requests for dinner this week?” and Nick replies “Paninis?!” to which I not so subtly sigh and roll my eyes and type “paninis” into the search bar of my favorite recipe sites (cue Albert Einstein quote… “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.)” It’s not that I have anything against paninis per se. As a matter of fact I find it just short of a miracle how you can place any ordinary sandwich between those hot griddle plates and in just a few short moments it has transformed from cold, lifeless sandwich to warm, gooey panini whose score on the taste-o-meter has improved exponentially. My gripe actually lies directly within that momentary transformation. They are simply too easy. I love cooking because it is a challenge. I love the adrenaline rush that comes as a result of trying to perfectly synchronize what is simmering with what is sautéing while simultaneously trying to chop and chiffonade the final stir-ins and then delicately adjusting the seasonings to perfection just in time to serve the dish at an ideal temperature. I can feel my heartbeat quickening just thinking about it! A panini on the other hand involves some minimal spreading and layering before the doldrum and toe tapping of waiting for the grill’s light to switch from red to green. My father, the man whose culinary talents start and stop with scrambled eggs, considers himself a panini chef extraordinaire. To me, that says it all (I love you Dad… and you’re a man of many other talents!). But, again it all comes back to balance and for balance’s sake I will occasionally put aside my culinary satisfaction in order to (literally) feed Nick’s desires.

caramelizing onions

My panini woes took a new twist when the vegan diet began. Just a couple weeks in, Nick challenged me to create a panini that not only appeased his craving, but accommodated my dietary restrictions as well. Now that aroused the culinary artist in me! So, I perused the usual blogs, photo galleries, and sites, but the ole’ reliables did not come through for me. It was not until I stumbled upon a menu for Busboys and Poets (a DC restaurant that prides itself on feeding the “mind, body, and soul”) did I find my inspiration. With nothing but an enticing menu description I set out to achieve synergy between my culinary cravings and Nick’s panini predilections.

ready for the transformation to panini

And so was born this tempeh-ting panini! The preparation of the tempeh and caramelized onions satisfied the adrenaline junkie in me while the hearty, grilled layers appeased Nick’s fetish. The warm, gooey flavor medley sandwiched between the perfectly toasted slices of bread placated both of our appetites and landed us in a state of perfect equilibrium… at least until clean up time!

the finished product with a side of sweet potato puffs (not homemade... shhh!!)

 Tempeh, Roasted Red Pepper, and Caramelized Onion Panini

inspired by Busboys and Poets Tempeh Panini

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf of rosemary focaccia bread (cut in quarters and sliced in half horizontally)
  • 1 package tempeh bacon (I used Lightlife Organic Smoky Tempeh Strips)
  • 1 small sweet onion (sliced thinly)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 jar of roasted red peppers
  • vegan mayonnaise
Directions
  1. To prepare the caramelized onions coat the bottom of a saute pan with olive oil. Heat the pan on medium high heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion slices and stir to coat the onions with the oil. Spread the onions out evenly over the pan and let cook, stirring occasionally. After 10 minutes, sprinkle some salt over the onions. Let the onions cook for 30 minutes to an hour more, stirring every few minutes. As soon as the onions start sticking to the pan, let them stick a little and brown, but then stir them before they burn. After the first 20 to 30 minutes you may want to lower the stove temperature a little, and add a little more oil, if you find the onions are starting to burn. Continue to cook, scrape, and stir until the onions are a rich, browned color. At the end of the cooking process you might want to add a little balsamic vinegar or wine to help deglaze the pan and bring some additional flavor to the onions. Set aside.
  2. Cook the tempeh according to the package directions.
  3. Preheat the panini grill. (If you do not have a panini press you can make the sandwiches on the stovetop. Place the sandwiches on a griddle pan then place another griddle or pan on top and weight it down with heavy soup cans. Cook for a couple of minutes then flip the sandwich and reposition the pan and cans. Cook until exterior is crispy and insides are warm.)
  4. Once the onions and tempeh are both ready spread the mayonnaise on the focaccia slices. Divide the tempeh slices evenly among the top halves. Layer the onions and peppers amongst the bottom halves using as much or as little of each as desired.
  5. Sandwich the halves and place two at a time on a heated panini press. Grill till desired level of warm, toasty goodness!

nick's oversized paninis took up all the focaccia bread so i had to settle for sprouted bread...it was delish none the less!

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Remember me?! No?! Don’t fret… after the whirlwind that was the past couple of weeks it took me almost a full week of vacation to get reacquainted with my self! Let me peel back a layer of the onion here and reveal a bit more about myself…

swiss chard

You see I have this innate tendency to overachieve in every aspect of my life. Whether it’s developing a new curriculum unit, training for a running event, or making a meal for friends and family if I can’t give 110% of myself to the process and produce an outcome that is better than the dreaded ‘g’ word (good) than I better not even try. Once I have committed myself to something, even if on the most informal level of a mental agreement with myself, I know that I will not renege in the least. While this character trait may seem desirable (and trust me… I know I owe many of my accomplishments and proudest moments to it) it is also one of my greatest flaws. My unwillingness to say “No,” to slow down, to settle for “good enough” every once in a while has pushed me over the line from tenacious and driven to stubborn and foolish more than once.

the reliable pepper and onion duo

And so, when faced with what seemed like an insurmountable workload coupled with the peak of my half marathon training I sensed that I had to put my Martha hat aside for a couple of weeks. I knew that the instant I opened that alluring WordPress page I would not back away until I had composed a post that met my standards. Though I would like to think that I could sit and spew out a “quickie” I know better than to believe that “quick” and “writing” will ever walk hand in hand in my world. So, I forged on, using the same self-talk strategies I force upon my first graders when teaching them how to avoid distractions (though their distractions fall more in the realm of nasal cavities and fraying shoelaces). Two weeks later I emerged on the other side with a bout of sinusitis and under eye bags that dwarfed some luggage at JFK, but no pitfalls into the blogging abyss. And after a week of recovery at the Mid-Winter Recess Center (a.ka. the confines of my cozy home)…. I’mmmm baaaaaack!

the other dynamic duo... black beans and cilantro

There is more to this story, but I’m saving it for tomorrow. That’s right… two post in two days…. mine as well let you reap the benefits of my overachieving gene!

put it all together and what do you got...

Until then I leave you with a souvenir from my sabbatical (although I wasn’t blogging, you can rest assured I was cooking!) What better recipe to epitomize a chaotic couple weeks than a “scramble!” But this mess is filled with only the good stuff…swiss chard, red peppers, sweet onions, black beans, cilantro, and tofu! A mishmash of yum!

tofu scramble!

Tofu Scramble 

adapted from Natural Noshing

Ingredients

  • 4 cups chopped swiss chard (could substitute spinach)
  • 2 medium red peppers, sliced
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1 block of extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 TBSP coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, finely chipped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional toppings (shredded or crumbled cheese, nutritional yeast, salsa, sour cream, guacamole)

Directions

  1. In a medium skillet, heat coconut oil over medium-high. Add onions and saute until transculent 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add chard, red pepper, and crumbled tofu and saute for 3-5 minutes until veggies begin to soften.
  3. Add beans, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to medium low and cook 5 more minutes, stirring frequently, until veggies are cooked and beans are heated through.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to dishes, garnish with cilantro, and top with desired additional toppings.

Serves 4

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