M&N Dinner: Charleston Classic!

Charleston's famous "Low Country Shrimp and Grits" - Wednesday Night Dinner Extravaganza with Milena

I almost didn't bother taking pictures of this meal because it was just THAT good! After almost an hour and a half, our grits were creamy and cooked to perfection (with just the right amount of "kick" using hot sauce) and our shrimp sauce was finally done leaving our mouths watering - Simply creme de la creme.

Baked apple (with blueberries and a cinnamon, orange, brown sugar sauce) with ice-cream and oatmeal cookies

Patience was KEY to this delicious dessert. I let the apple bake in tin foil for almost 45 minutes - it could have baked even longer but I enjoyed the occasional crunch in the apple :)

Oven-Roasted Ratatouille

Other culinary adventures this week included:
- Roasted vegetables (Ratatouille)

The vegetables tasted even better the next day! I used the leftover roasted veggies to make a flatbread pizza.

First, I made a spread using goat cheese (at room-temp) + scallions + lemon juice
Then, I layered the spread on a Naan flatbread
Lastly, I topped the flatbread with my leftover veggies
I baked the pizza in the oven for 10-12 minutes. The flavors truely married each other in this re-baking process and the naan bread was perfectly crisp. This recipe is a "keeper!"

Berry Busy Week ;)

I'd be lying if I said I haven't been enjoying good eats. I have however, been far too busy to sit down and update my blog. I wish I had a more exciting excuse, but school work has been the cause of my stress this week. Thankfully, I have a much-needed "break" from classes every Thursday. No class today :) You might be guessing that I qoke up early, explored the city, caught up on errands? Not quite. Slept in until around 10:30, called my mom, drank my coffee... then decided to make these delicious, health-full, muffins! I must have done SOMETHING right with these muffins, because I managed to have a fairly productive day after all. Deep-cleaned the apartment, did some laundry, completed my homework, visited with Milena, and went to the gym for a run and pi/yo fusion class (pilates + yoga). Good day.
Sadly, the madness begins again tomorrow - starting at 8 a.m.

*I am trying this out to see if it's more effective - let me know what you think?*

(CLICK ON PICTURE to enlarge the recipe)

Charleston Up-Close and Rosemary Tomato Flatbread

Everyone keeps assuring me that this dreary, cold weather is quite uncanny for Charleston weather. My optimism leads me to believe that the sun will begin to shine again and the clouds will disperse :)
But in the meantime... I am trying to enjoy every bit of Charleston, rain or shine. So today after a productive workout, Milena and I wandered the streets of downtown Charleston. Since both of us have only lived here a few weeks, we still consider ourselves tourists in this new city. Looking the part, we clutched our cameras and took some shots in this beautiful, historic town.

Friday Night - Rosemary, Goat Cheese, Tomato Flatbreads

First, we preheated the oven to 400 degrees and warmed the "flatbreads" for 5-7 minutes. Next, we sauteed onion, garlic, rosemary, lemon juice, salt and pepper in olive oil. After pulling the flatbreads out of the oven, we spread our sauteed aromatic mixture across the breads.

Lastly, we topped the pizzas with chopped cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, and extra rosemary.

These flatbread pizzas are so versatile, so we decided to use some tomato sauce, spinach, and mushrooms with Parmesan and mozzarella cheese on the other half of our pizzas.

Rain or Shine

This week started off beautiful. Perfect weather, sunny and cool! Today however, was rainy and cold. Not ideal, but I managed to get a mid-day yoga session in that helped me focus on my homework and squeeze in some study time. Oh I also took full advantage of my day off from classes and this rainy weather by eating leftovers and watching tv. I think we all deserve a few hours to "gel-out" at the end of a long week. :)
I am trying to be economical and use the ingredients and produce that I have until at least the middle of next week. Yes, I am a college student and cannot be spending ALL of my money on groceries - even though it is tempting with all the recipes I am dying to try! But I came up with some tasty meals this week starting with roasted eggplants and tomatoes, crunchy blue corn nachos with homemade salsa, and lastly an Asian plate of sauteed Bok Choy and chicken fried rice from scratch!

Oven-Roasted Eggplant and Campari Tomatoes:

- Pre-heat oven to 375
- cut half of the eggplant in 1/4" circles
- cut 2 campari tomatoes in half
- place in single layer on oven pan and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil
- sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked pepper
- roll and chop fresh basil and distribute over vegetables
- place in oven for 10 minutes
- remove from oven shortly - top the vegetables with leftover marinara sauce and cheeses: I used goat cheese on half and an Italian 3-cheese combo on the rest
- roast for another 5-10 minutes until the cheese has nicely melted. Enjoy!

Crunchy Blue Corn Nachos:

- The night before I used leftover ingredients to make a healthy salsa
Mix together:
- 1/3 cup drained and washed black beans
- 1 tomato diced
- 1/2 avocado diced
- 1 chopped green onion
- 1 tbsp. finely chopped red onion
- dash of salt/pepper/Tabasco or hot sauce
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice
- chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)

- pre-heat oven to 350
- arrange a layer or blue corn torilla chips in an iron skillet or pan
- layer with your choice of cheese
- layer with homemade salsa
- top with cheese
- bake for 10-15 minutes until melted and crunchy!
*Added salsa on side with a spinach salad and homemade orange balsamic dressing

Bok Choy and Chicken Fried Rice

Paella with Milena

Valencian Spanish Paella has been number one on my list of recipes for over a year now! I just couldn't find the right time to make one and had not met the right person to share it with. Fortunately for me, I met someone who shares my love for exotic cuisine here in Charleston. Milena was the first girl I met at CofC orientation this semester. We immediately clicked and shared the same excitement about starting our new lives here in Charleston. It didn't take long for us to realize we shared SO many of the same passions: love for the outdoors, traveling, cooking, music, food, culture... I don't think it was mere coincidence that we met that first day. We both became members of the same fitness and yoga club, we signed up for a kayak trip together in March, and stranger still, our birthdays are one day apart! After a few days of getting to know each other I didn't even hesitate to ask Milena if she wanted to cook paella with me. She is gluten-intolerant but was ecstatic at the idea of a rice-based Spanish dish. And so we topped off this holiday, in remembrance of the great Martin Luther King Jr., with an incredibly delicious paella. So good. I have no words :)

In celebration... of my first week at CofC!

My passion is cooking... my vice is baking. But let's be honest, who can resist warm, fresh, melt-in-your mouth cookies or bread? I can't! Also, for whatever reason, things seem to taste EVEN better when you make the batter and bake the goods yourself. And so I did it. I used the ingredients I had and came up with two delicious baked challenges. I say challenge, because baking is not my strength. I love to cook because I can glance at a recipe and simply use it as a guide. I'm constantly adapting recipes to my own taste and changing the ingredients to use up the ones I have. But baking... there is very little room for adaptation. Baking is a science; in the sense that each measurement is precise and adds to the perfection of the baked good. So I decided to make "Healthy Honey Oatmeal Cookies" (with chocolate chips AND dark chocolate M&Ms) and today I used the leftover half of my sweet potato (from my rosemary sweet potato and chicken dinner - previous post) to make "Maple Sweet Potato Bread."

Between the cinnamon and maple syrup used in these recipes, the aroma was irresistible in my apartment these last few days! My roommates and I have had a field day eating the oatmeal cookies (there is only one left) and we have made an impressive dent in the sweet potato bread. Mind you, it just came out of the oven 45 minutes ago. But we all know baked bread is best when its fresh out of the oven.

Long day + post-nap dinner

Coffee is the key to success for 8 am classes. But what is the energy fix for having 5 classes in one day? Two years ago, I committed to drinking 2 cups of coffee in the morning and that's it! So what can I do for an afternoon pick me up? Enlighten me if you have the answer... because today I subconsciously slipped into an evening nap. Not ideal, but luckily I had planned out my recipes for dinner the night before :)

So tonight I made rosemary sweet potatoes (chopped and roasted) and adapted a recipe from this month's Cooking Light Magazine (http://www.cookinglight.com/magazine/) for Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers. The potatoes complimented the chicken extremely well. It felt nice to sit down to hot meal with warm colors and flavors after a long day.

*Included in this post are pictures from yesterday: Buckwheat Crepes with fruit and maple syrup, crispy kale chips, and my healthy organic chocolate chip cookies (ingredients include: white and wheat flour, oat bran, flax seeds, soy nuts - in place of peanuts, 1 ripe banana, cinnamon, and chocolate chips). They seem daring and well they were daring, but my roommate Kendra who is also an aspiring cook/baker absolutely loved them. So I think I'll keep this concoction for the books as an "in the works" recipes.