Meatless Monday: Carrot, Spinach, Pepper and Chickpea Quinoa Salad

It’s just a few days before the holidays, and amidst all the heavy meals, treats, and so on, we’re all in need for a healthy, light, yet comforting and satisfying alternative. Enter: quinoa. I love quinoa. Quinoa in my granola, quinoa as a side dish, quinoa as a stuffing for zucchini or squash, quinoa in soup, quinoa on my salads, etc (seriously, see all the quinoa I enjoy). Quinoa is filling, healthy and is a great starting point for any vegetarian meal.

I’ve been back in NY for the holidays and my mom let me make this dish for her and my dad. She pretty much had all the ingredients on hand, and it was great to be able to help her with dinner, especially as she’s been busy cooking, cleaning, baking, shopping, and so on in preparing for the craziness of the holidays.

Looking for a simple, healthy dish to make in less than 30 minutes that’s sure to please your family (even your parents)? Here you go. You’re welcome 🙂

Carrot, Spinach, Pepper + Chickpea Quinoa Salad - i crashed the web

Carrot, Spinach, Pepper and Chickpea Quinoa Salad

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable (or chicken if you’re not a vegetarian) broth
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 pepper, finely diced
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup chickpeas

Here’s what you do:

  1. Warm up the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the chopped shallot and cook until softened and appears translucent. And smells delicious 🙂
  2. Turn down the heat to low and add in quinoa. Toast quinoa (continue to stir so it doesn’t burn) for about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add in vegetable broth and thyme and raise heat to high. Bring to a boil. Cover quinoa, turn down heat to low and let simmer for about 6 minutes.
  4. Add in the chopped carrots. Cover and simmer for about 10 more minutes, adding in finely chopped pepper after about 5 minutes so it softens. When all broth is absorbed, turn off the heat, add the tomatoes and spinach, and continue to stir until the spinach is wilted. Just before serving, add in chickpeas and give it a final stir some everything is evenly distributed.
  5. Enjoy! Makes 4-6 side dishes or 2-3 main meals for a vegetarian dish.
Carrot, Spinach, Pepper and Chickpea Quinoa Salad - ingredients

some of the ingredients – not pictured, chickpeas and spinach

Carrot, Spinach, Pepper + Chickpea Quinoa Salad - i crashed the web

look how colorful it is!

 

Happy Christmas Eve Eve! (yes, mom – that really is a thing)

Healthy Comfort Food: Beef, Lentil and Spinach Stew

We all have those days – especially this time of year. We work late or we’re out late doing errands (hello last minute holiday shopping!). It’s dark out when we get home. We’re cold. We are craving the warmth, and sunshine of summer. And we’re also craving some comfort food – and a warm blanket – to get us through the night.

That’s where this soup comes in. It may have taken about two hours to cook (but less than 30 min prep time really), but it was well worth the time. I’m not a huge fan of beef, and B’s not a huge fan of lentil soup or spinach – but we both loved this stew! Hearty, healthy, filling and comforting – what more could you ask for on a wintry night? (Besides ice cream and a glass of red wine that is … yes, I love ice cream in the winter with red wine. Try it.) And as a bonus, the leftovers froze well – B enjoyed them even 2 weeks later out of the freezer!

beef, lentil and spinach stew - i crashed the web

Beef, Lentil and Spinach Stew

inspired by Aggie’s Kitchen (vegetarian recipe) and Food.com (uses ground beef, which I am definitely not a fan of, thus the substitution here)

Here’s what you need:

  • 2-3 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 lb grass-fed, organic beef chuck – cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1/2 c. dry red wine
  • 1 c. chopped celery
  • 1 c. leeks, finely diced
  • 1/2 c. thinly slice onion (I used about 1/2 whole red onion)
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 3 c. beef broth
  • 3 c. water
  • 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomtoes
  • 1 c. dry lentils (I used the brown kind)
  • 4 c. fresh baby spinach

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat 2 Tbs olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add beef and cook until browned on all sides.
  • If skillet dries up, add another tablespoon of olive oil. Add celery, leeks, onion and carrot and cook, stirring often. Cook vegetables until soft, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Add broth, water, tomatoes, lentils and wine to pot. Cover and cook for 1-2 hours or until lentils are softened.
  • Just before serving, add spinach and stir until wilted. Enjoy!
beef, lentil, and spinach stew - i crashed the web

Yum! Can’t you just see the comforting-ness?

Looking Back at 2013: A Year in Running

How was your year in running? A few blogs I read have started posting their 2013 running recaps to look back at how their year went, with regard to running. In fact, Miss Zippy is doing a Year In Running Linkup, and after reading her post, as well as a few others, I decided to participate as well.

My Year In Running

2013 was certainly an interesting year for running for me. 2012 was the year I trained for a marathon, and two days before had to drop out of the race from injuries. I’m still not really over that pain yet and am not ready to spend all that time training again, only to be let down again. But in 2013 I regained my sense of running, got my running groove back (somewhat), and found that I really kind of like running half marathons.

Anyway, here are a few other highlights from 2013:

Best race experience? As far as overall race experiences, I really enjoyed the Rock and Roll Cleveland Half Marathon. I loved the bands on the course, the excitement of all the spectators throughout the city, the people I ran with (B and his sister), AND my parents were even there to cheer me on! Really I loved the run in general – everything but the hills!

Best run? Definitely the Women Who Run race. I somehow ran the 4 mi race much faster than I typically run AND since I came in 3rd in my age group for this women-only race, I got a picture with firefighters at the end of the run (see the bottom right photo in the collage above). Can you beat that?

Best new piece of gear? My best gear for 2013 hasn’t been super high tech. I’d say it’s either my running headband (I love the headbands from owl be sweating!) my hot pink PROCompression socks,  or my armband. Not high tech, I know, but having an armband for my phone so I can listen to music or record my runs on Nike+ while I run has been incredible!

Best piece of running advice you received? “Push yourself.” Simple advice? Yes. But it works. B is always telling me that I need to push myself when I run – he somehow thinks that I am actually faster than I think I am – and sometimes it helps to hear him saying this as I’m doing speedwork or doing a race.

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? Learning that running for me is whatever I want it to be. If it’s about number of miles, so be it. If it’s for speed, that’s fine. If it’s just for fun and stress relief – that’s fine too. It really is whatever I want it to be!

Here are some of this year’s races (and posts about them):

  1. Turkey Trot 5k in West Virginia (November)
  2. St. Luke Pilgrim Run 5k (November) – came in first overall female somehow … I swear it was a small race
  3. St Martin Cristo Rey 5k (November) – came in first in my age group – another small race 🙂
  4. MidTown Cleveland HealthLine Classic 10K (October) – ran my first official 10K!
  5. Rock N Roll Cleveland Half Marathon (October) – didn’t make our goal of a sub-2 hour half … oh well, there’s always next year 🙂
  6. Women Who Run (June) – came in 3rd in my age group and had my fastest split times (for me)
  7. Notre Dame Holy Half (March)
  8. Inaugural Bockfest 5K (March)

AND my goal for the year, you may recall, was to run 1,000 miles. I passed that in August but kept going. A few weeks ago (nothing like a last minute goal, right?) I decided I’d try to get to 1,500. I’m hoping that if all goes well and I can fit in a few runs over the holiday break (hard without my gym!), I can meet that goal.
2013 year in running

A few questions for you:

  • How was your year in running? (You can read all my running-related posts here) Set any goals?
  • What was your favorite piece of running gear?
  • Any advice that you’ve learned this year?
  • How do you stay running during the holidays with travel, friends, families, etc.?

Thumbprint Cookies with Jam

Let the countdown begin – Christmas Eve will be here in just a week! If you’re looking for a great cookie to add to your holiday cookie collection, look no further – here is a keeper.

Thumbprint Cookies with Raspberry Jam are a staple in my household and one of the cookies we have nearly every year during the holidays. When my friend Melgar, who typically joins us for dessert during the holidays (but sadly won’t be there this year), asked me to share the recipe, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t already posted it here! So here you go – enjoy!

Thumbprint Cookies with Jam - i crashed the web

Thumbprint Cookies with Jam

Here’s what you need:

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • about 1/4 c jam of your choice – I love raspberry!

Here’s what you do:

  1. Cream butter with sugar in large bowl of electric mixer until fluffy.
  2. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla, stopping machine as necessary to scrape down sides of bowl.
  3. Add flour and continue beating just until mixed through; do not overbeat or cookies will be tough.
  4. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes for firmer cookies that will not spread very much.
  5. Shape dough into 2 tbs. size balls* and flatten with your palms. Transfer to cookie sheet.
  6. Smooth and round cookies using knife (or your finger) dipped in cool water. To make a simple filled cookie, press thumb into formed cookie to make an indentation. Fill with jam.
  7. Transfer to greased baking sheets.
  8. Position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake cookies one sheet at a time until edges are brown and centers are just firm to touch, about 8-10 minutes. Cool on racks.

Makes about 2 dozen or so cookies.

Thumbprint Cookies w Jam - i crashed the web

*Feeling crafty and have extra time? Feel free to roll out dough and cut into cute, festive shapes instead of shaping dough into balls, before putting thumbprint onto dough.

Plus, as always, some questions for you:

  • Have you made these before? What do you do that’s different?
  • What’s your favorite type of jam?
  • What’s your favorite holiday cookie?  I love these! And Buckeyes, do they count? 

And here are two more of my favorite holiday cookies:

Super Easy Peasy Tuxedo Cookies - i crashed the web

Cherry Almond Chocolate Kiss Cookies - i crashed the web

 

Dulce De Leche Oatmeal Pear Pie

I hope you enjoyed the pie-turned-bar recipes I shared with you a few weeks ago. The pecan pie bars were my favorite – who knows, maybe I’ll make them again for Christmas?

Anyway – I wanted you to know that I DID make a pie for Thanksgiving. And in case you aren’t too full of desserts, sugar or carbs – here’s just the recipe for you – perhaps for your next holiday get together!

Have you ever had REAL dulce de leche? I’m talking homemade super sweet and creamy dulce de leche. Oh my goodness. My mouth is watering just thinking about it – when I lived in Ecuador, the family I lived with used to make a jar of it nearly every week. I’d eat it with everything, but mostly on their amazing baked goods. Rolls with dulce de leche? Bagel and dulce de leche for a mid-morning snack? Don’t mind if I do!

How good does that look:

(photo from The Intrepid Explorers)

Anyway, I’m no longer in Ecuador, but was able to find a bottle of real dulce de leche (sorry, I didn’t make it myself) at a local grocery store in the Goya section – which was PERFECT because I have been dying to make this pie recipe from my favorite new cookbook, Recipe Girl’s book! If you aren’t reading Recipe Girl’s blog or getting her blog emailed to you daily (as I am), then I suggest you start right away.

dulce de leche oatmeal pear pie

Dulce De Leche Oatmeal Pear Pie (slightly modified from the Recipe Girl Cookbook)

Here’s what you need:

for the crust

  • 3 1/3 cups oats
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, melted
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla

for the filling

  • 6 cups peeled and sliced ripe green pears – we only needed about 5 large pears
  • 2 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup dulce de leche

Here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Prepare the crust: Mix together all crust ingredients – oats, melted butter, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Mix well until sticky and well combined. Reserve about a cup of the crust mixture and set aside. Take remaining mixture and spread crust into a 9 1/2 inch round pie dish. Pat down well with your hands so it’s stuck to the bottom of the pie dish. Bake for 10 minutes.
  3. Make the filling: Combine peeled and sliced pears, lemon juice and vanilla. In a small bowl, combine sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg. When these dry ingredients are mixed well, add to pear mixture. Toss until pears are coated well. Add dulce de leche a little bit at a time and try not to drool because the pears covered in dulce de leche are just amazing. Add filling to the cooled crust. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup reserved crust mixture on top of pie.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes and check halfway through – if top browns too soon, place some foil lightly on top of pie. After 30 minutes, check pie. Cook for 10-15 minutes more, or until pear is caramelized, bubbly and top is browned.
  5. Enjoy!
oatmeal cookie crust

oatmeal cookie crust

20131124_134231

You will LOVE this pie. I dare you NOT to. And can I share 2 more things that are pretty great?

1. I made a little extra filling and topping – and made mini pear oatmeal crumbles for a separate dessert!

2. B’s not a fan of pears. He won’t eat pears, doesn’t drink or eat pear flavored things, etc. BUT he loved this dessert anyway — woohoo! If you’re not a pear lover, I dare you to try this. Or at least sub apples for pears, because Recipe Girl says you can.

dulce de leche oatmeal pear pie

leftover filling and topping makes great pear crumble!

Definitely In The Holiday Spirit

Spoiler alert: This post contains 1 dose of bird poop and 6 Christmas movies. In one weekend. You’ve been warned.

I don’t know what’s up with me this year, but I just can’t get enough of the holidays. Christmas may be more than 2 weeks away, but I’ve been feeling SO in the holiday spirit. Really – I’m like the anti-Grinch. From watching waaay too many holiday movies, to decorating my apartment, to seeing the Cleveland Orchestra holiday performance to attending not one, but two, holiday festivals – I had quite the holiday-themed weekend. And it was amazing. Here’s a little peek at some of the fun:

Friday night B and I made plans – to stay in and do our annual decorating/Love Actually night. It was awesome. This year, we added red wine and sushi to the mix – a combo that was pretty amazing.

another dinner thanks to Sushi 86

another dinner thanks to Sushi 86

Best holiday movie.

Best holiday movie.

Saturday we slept in for the first Saturday in a while – which was definitely needed. I deemed it was too cold and slippery for an outdoor run, so we headed to our apartment gym and I was able to get in 5 miles on the treadmill plus a kettlebell workout. Yes, my muscles are still sore.

After our workout, B and I decided it wasn’t too cold for a walk to Ohio City. Grocery bag in hand, and super bundled up, we walked over the bridge to get in some shopping at West Side Market, as well as check out the Ohio City Holiday Festival. There, we were introduced to mulled Christmas Ale, which made standing outside and drinking a little less cold and miserable. Oh, and I also got pooped on by a bird. Which I hear is good luck, right? I’m not making it up – MSN says, “if a bird lets loose on you, then good things are coming your way. One idea is that it’s a sign of major wealth coming from heaven, based on the belief that when you suffer an inconvenience (albeit a pretty gross one), you’ll have good fortune in return.” Can’t wait to see what luck I have in store!

20131207_135953

bundled up along the walk to Ohio City

mulled holiday Christmas Ale

watching them make the mulled Christmas Ale

After hanging out at Great Lakes for a little while, we walked back downtown and decided to hit Gallucci’s and pick up supplies to make pepperoni bread for dinner. When we got home, something amazing and hard-to-believe happened – B gave me the remote control and I promptly turned on the Nightmare Before Christmas and then a holiday movie I hadn’t yet seen – 12 Dates of Christmas, starring Mark Paul Gosselaar. It’s a pretty cute holiday movie, if you ask me (don’t ask B what he thought), and with that as the backdrop to our cooking pepperoni bread, I was pretty content.

PEPPERONI BREAD!

PEPPERONI BREAD!

B headed out to watch the OSU game, but I was pretty stuffed from our pepperoni bread and previous beers, so I decided to take on the daunting task of seeing how many other cheesy holiday movies I could get in before the game was over. How many holiday movies can I watch during an OSU game? The answer is nearly 2 whole movies: I’ll Be Home for Christmas (starring JTT and Jessica Biel) and Holiday Engagement (originally a Hallmark channel movie). So yes, that brings the total to 5 Christmas movies.

Sunday B and I had big plans – we were going to go to the east side for their holiday festival, Circlefest, before catching the Cleveland Orchestra’s holiday performance. I of course had to fit in another holiday movie – so I set my alarm so I could get up early, run on the treadmill, and watch my next made-for-tv holiday movie, Holiday in Handcuffs (starring Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez) at the same time. Don’t worry, I didn’t finish the movie so I never made it to 6 full movies.

Anyway, after my workout, we headed out east. We started out at the Cleveland Museum of Art for a holiday lunch with a few other members of the Cleveland Phi Beta Kappa board that I’m on.  The food in the cafe is pretty good – I had a great beet and butternut squash salad with some pork and barley soup and we enjoyed the view (and some live music) in the Atrium.

ice dog

After lunch, we walked around the holiday Circlefest and checked out the food trucks, live music, ice skaters and ice sculptures. Most of the institutions were letting people in for free, so we got to ride around Lolly the Trolley and check out the Botanical Gardens (and the Gingerbread House contest entries) AND MOCA! 

old stone church gingerbread house at botanical gardens

old stone church gingerbread house at botanical gardens

outside MOCA - it's all reflective!

outside MOCA – it’s all reflective!

After Circlefest, it was time for the Orchestra. Each year, B’s family gets together and gets dinner in Little Italy before seeing the Cleveland Orchestra perform their holiday repertoire in a private concert for St. Ignatius students, alumni and their families. I loved it! They even played a few songs from Home Alone – don’t worry I am not counting those songs in my tally of Christmas movies, but it was a fun and festive show!

orchestra

It was a great weekend – filled with tons of holiday fun. And I can’t wait to continue the holiday fun this week – I’m traveling to DC for work (I’m getting a major award!!), celebrating the holidays in our building holiday party AND seeing A Christmas Carol this week!

Some questions for you:

  • Do you like running outside in the winter or do you prefer the treadmill? I always prefer outside. Even though I had a cheesy holiday movie to keep me entertained on Sunday, I was still wishing the roads were cleared and I was outside.
  • What’s your favorite holiday movie?
  • Have you seen any of the holiday movies I mentioned above?
  • Any fun travel plans this week? DC on Tuesday – and then that’s the last travel until I go home for Christmas!

Friday Five: Five Things To Do In Cleveland for the Holidays

I LOVE THE HOLIDAYS. Yes caps lock is intended.

great holiday sweaters and sweater vests

Okay, I know I’ve said it enough. And the picture above probably says it all anyway. But seriously – it may have been 60 degrees yesterday (and it was amazing – I went for a run in shorts) – but don’t let the weather fool you – the holidays are here. So you missed the Holiday Flea, Winterfest and the Public Square tree lighting ceremony? Don’t worry, there’s still so much more to do in Cleveland to get you in the holiday spirit!  I know quite a few people have shared their favorite holiday activities – here are 5 things that I’m looking forward to:

1. Checking out the holiday decor and lights downtown

I LOVE living downtown – it seems like suddenly overnight the festive lights, trees, and even store windows popped up, all to get us in the holiday spirit. Want to feel the holiday spirit? Start in Playhouse Square (and see a show while you’re there! Spoiler alert – check out #3) at Euclid and 14thish and take the E line trolley until you arrive at Public Square. All along Euclid you’ll see various stores with lights, flower pots overflowing with wintry decor, and more. And when you get to Public Square, get ready to be in awe of all the lights – it’s gorgeous! And don’t forget to check out the big tree, as well as the Holidays at Higbee displays. Not had enough? Head into Tower City to check out Bruce the Talking Spruce, as well as the holiday shows in the food court featuring the Toy Soldier and Fairy Godmother (and more – the whole Tower City list of events is here).

Lights around the Theatre District

Lights around the Theatre District

higbee

storefront window in the Higbee building

2. Enjoying a holiday performance from the Cleveland Orchestra

Did you know that the world famous Cleveland Orchestra and their chorus perform a series of holiday concerts each year? The concerts feature a variety of holiday music in the beautifully decorated Severance Hall. I’m lucky to be married into an Ignatius High School family – the Orchestra performs a private show for Ignatius alums and their family and I look forward to the event each year!

Here’s a sneak peak – disclaimer, I found this video on YouTube, it’s not mine:

3. Seeing a show in the Theatre district

Seeing  A Christmas Carol at the Ohio Theater at Playhouse Square has become a tradition for B and me. This Great Lakes Theater production runs through December 22, and no matter how many times I watch it (or even A Muppet Christmas Carol), it never gets old. Interested in seeing the show? If you call 216-241-6000 or go to http://www.greatlakestheater.org/tickets/shows/a-christmas-carol to order tickets, enter GLT as your promo code for a discount!

Wine @ Gallucci's!

Wine @ Gallucci’s!

4. Feasting on local treats (going to Gallucci’s and the West Side Market)

OK, OK I know you can do this any time of year – but there’s just something SO magical about the West Side Market and Gallucci’s during the holidays. Stands are decorated in the Market, holiday food comes out, and the smell of the Italian food at Gallucci’s just seems more memorable (maybe it’s the fact that I grew up with an Italian mother and those cooking smells likely got stronger during the holidays?). Anyway, one of my favorite traditions that B and I have is going to the Market and Gallucci’s, buying supplies to make pepperoni bread and sauce, and then making the meal, decorating our apartment, and watching Love Actually. Try it. I dare you not to feel in the holiday spirit after doing that!

5. Local shopping

Let’s face it – the holidays wouldn’t be the same without shopping. This year, I’m buying a lot of stuff locally – if possible. The Holiday Flea was awesome, and there are so many other upcoming opportunities to get your holiday (or personal) shopping done:

Ohio City Festival (Dec. 7): Ohio City Festival is THIS weekend! So get your gift list ready and visit local shops like the Cleveland Bazaar and Made in the 216. If that doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit, there’s also photos with Santa, Christmas tree sales, horse-drawn carriage rides, holiday crafts for children, a photobooth, carolers, and mulled Christmas Ale from Great Lakes Brewing Company.

Holiday CircleFest (Dec. 8): Keep the festivities going all weekend long and stop by University Circle on Sunday the 8th for the Holiday CircleFest! In addition to shopping, the event in University Circle will feature horse-drawn carriage rides, ice sculpting, live music, a gingerbread house competition – and more!

Pop Up Shaker (Thurs/Sat/Sun through Dec. 15): Pop Up Shaker started last week along Chagrin Boulevard and I can’t wait to check it out! (Yes I do LEAVE downtown sometimes. See numbers 2 and 4 above) This festive winter pop up combines crafting, food, and shopping and will take place Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays through the 15th.

Tremont Holiday BrewHaHa (Dec. 13-15): In addition to stopping by the BrewHaHa weekend in Tremont for the famous Santa Shuffle (where the picture of  B and me at the beginning of this post is from), I can’t wait to check out the Pop Up Shop and Party on Dec. 13. AND there’s even a Tremont Holiday ArtWalk!


And now, some questions for you:

  • What holiday traditions do you have? Love Actually and holiday decorating. And pepperoni bread. And seeing A Christmas Carol. Use the discount code I shared and see it yourself!
  • Quick! What are five things you are looking forward to about the holidays?
  • What’s your favorite local shop?
  • Do you run in any holiday races?