The Mason's - Julie, Shaun, Coaly & Hailey
I think Christmas 2011 goes down in history as one of the best yet. It was a beautiful celebration of the birth of our Lord with family and friends near and dear to us. It was a time of reflection, fun, laughter and love...as seen below :)
The Mason's - Julie, Shaun, Coaly & Hailey
Alternate Post Title: I want to go to culinary school.
Earlier this week, my BFF Erin and I attended a cooking class at Crate. The class was led by Chef Bill Fuller, big Burrito executive chef, and an expert on Mexican food. Considering we seem to frequent MadMex at least once every two weeks or so, this was exactly what we needed on a (not so?) cold Monday night in December.
This was a demo class, so we were not actually doing the cooking. (Although Crate does offer some hands-on classes so check our their website to learn more!) When we arrived, we found our name tags and aisle seats (a must for goof pictures) and got settled in. The class was capped at 40 people, just enough for the room.
The layout of the room worked really well and I loved the mirror so that you could watch everything happening. I'm sure this is nothing new to you cooking class frequents, but I found it pretty legit. (Bonus points if you can guess what's in the pan in the picture below without looking ahead...)
First up on the menu was Kaya’s Yucca Chips with Guacamole-Two Ways and Fire Roasted Salsa. From L-R we have your standard guacamole made simply with avocados, lime, salt cilantro and some salsa, then guacamole featuring mango salsa, tomatillos (my fave!) and jalapenos, then a fire-roasted tomato salsa. We learned that the secret for any good dip is as follows: acid + heat + flavor. Amen!
Next up was Rare Tuna Tosadites with Avocado and Spicy Aioli and Grapefruit Basil Margaritas. First off, the awesome 'problem' with these margaritas is that you don't taste the tequila or triple sec. Seriously, it's like drinking fresh juice. We were in heaven. Also - the tuna. My favorite! If it was OK/safe, I would live on rare tuna. We learned Chef Bill's favorite place to buy fish in Pittsburgh (Penn Avenue Fish Company) and the 'anatomy of a tuna filet' that you'd find at Whole Foods, etc.
This dish was delicious and not as difficult to make as you'd think. Chef Bill asked us all who stays away from frying food at home, and I immediately raised my hand. (For me, fried food = a night spent leaning over the toilet due to my stomach...ugh!) Chef Bill commented that if fried food is done correctly, it shouldn't taste heavy or fried, and should be thought of as using olive oil or butter (which I don't use) when sauteing food. I think I'll leave that to the pros and keep up my routine at home :)
Last up was Tacos Cocinita Pibil. Yum. That's all that needs to be said. Again, another dish that can cook throughout the day and easily be prepared for a large party or get together. They had quite a kick to them, and unfortunately I tasted that after my margarita was gone and when the water pitcher was empty. But I loved the spice, and how easy they were to eat. Look at Erin's plate below and all of the juices!
Since we never remember to take photos together WHILE we are doing something, we snapped an end-of-night-full-belly photo in the parking lot. Better late than never, right?
We can't wait to head back to Crate for another cooking class. This class was $55 for three-hours, a super fun instructor, plenty of food and some great new insight (and recipes) into Mexican food. In my book, totally worth the spend.
PS - you should follow Chef Bill on Twitter - he'd love that!
Have you ever taken a cooking class before? What have been some of your favorites? Can anyone recommend others in the 'burgh that we should try?
I know you've all been counting down the minutes until I posted my cookie recipe!
Without further ado, I give you Nutty Chocolate Pumpkin Bites! A few notes:
*This recipe was developed entirely from scratch. I know, I'm still impressed. (OK, they probably could have been better, so I'll continue working on them!)
*This recipe was developed specifically for a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan & corn-free audience.
*I aimed for a cookie that would travel well, knowing it would be mailed to NY & IL.
Nutty Chocolate Pumpkin Bites
Recipe By: Julie Mason
1 3/4 cup FG AP Flour
3/4 cup Quinoa Flour*
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/2 cup All-Natural Peanut Butter**
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 15-oz can of Pumpkin
1 teaspoon All-Natural Vanilla
2 teaspoons Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Chocolate Chips (soy-free, dairy-free, corn-free)
*Quinoa Flour is extremely nutty and to some, an acquired taste. You can always sub in almond flour or use all AP flour if you'd like to play down the nuttiness.
**I make my peanut butter from scratch buy simply blending some peanuts in the Vitamix. No need for added oils, salt, sugar, etc.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients. Mix wet and dry ingredients together in a standing mixer bowl. (I use my KitchenAid!) With the paddle attachment, mix on low and gradually increase the speed until mixed well. Dropped onto cookie sheets in small balls. Bake for 10 minutes and then press down with a fork. (I would skip this part if I wasn't sending them; it made them more compact and easily shippable!) Bake for an additional 10 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!
So, remember when I was all excited to sign up for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap? Well let me tell you, I was even more excited to receive my cookies!
The first package to arrive was from Becca who blogs at How The Day Sounds. The cookies were Gluten-Free Chocolate Puddle Drop Cookies. They were delicious - nice & crunchy and super chocolately! And yes, I said were ... Shaun and I took them to the house in one night. They were that good :)
The next two packages came on the same day, so I was overwhelmed with excitement to rip them open. And rip them open I did!
The first batch was from Chelsey who blogs at Clean Eating Chelsey. Chelsey maintains a dairy-free, gluten-free and corn-free diet due to intolerance of those ingredients, and she is a girl after my own heart. Basically, she eats all natural, unprocessed, REAL food. Something I am constantly striving to do. And because of that, her health has skyrocketed. Seriously, check out her story on her site. Her cookies were Gluten-Free and Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies! They are SO moist and filling. I am loving them as a quick snack or post-dinner dessert!
The last batch came from Jacqueline who blogs at The Dusty Baker. Check out her site for everything you've ever needed to know and more about gluten-free flours. She even blends her own mixes. Super cool, right? These cookies take the cake as the most festive! They are Gluten-Free Sugar Snowflakes and Gluten-Free Mesquite Gingerbread Men. The perfect crunch of the holiday season, these cookies are truly delicious and made me want to bake some myself! Don't they make you just smile?
Not only was this was fun reason to get into the kitchen to invent a new cookie recipe, it also was a great way to meet some new bloggers and spread holiday cheer!
Again, a huge thanks to the ladies behind Love & Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen for organizing this. I can't wait until next year! Until then, the cookies are calling...
And by that, I mean it's SNOWING! Here's my proof...and my neighbor's roof.
I want it to snow allll night long. Lots of snow, so I can take the pups on a snowy walk. Eh, that will never happen, it will probably be done by the time I cook dinner.
Speaking of food, I have the most delicious three-ingredient (ish) recipe to share.
Cook the quinoa in one pot, cook the chicken in another, add the sauce & combine!
It's seriously amazing. And simple. And healthy. There's not an ingredient in that sauce that I don't recognize, and that's why I like it. Try it & tell me what you think.
As if the snow wasn't making my day amazing enough, I received two dozen cookies from The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! Tomorrow's post will be dedicated to that, so check back for some delicious cookie pics and links to some new blogs!
It's time to make some salmon & steamed broccoli for dinner. Have a great night!
Ohhhh life - how quickly it catches up with you! Here's my weekend in a nutshell :)
*Rocked out a day in the Chicago office and flew back to Pittsburgh.
*Implemented "Treat Yo Self" (as seen below) at MDW.
*Plopped myself down at the bar @ Atria's for some delicious pork filet gorgonzola.
*Hit the bed by 10 pm. Exhausted!
*Slept until 12:30 pm. <Insert panic and thoughts of sickness!>
*Dedicated my day to prettying myself for the YMCA Season of Giving Gala.
*Sidenote: I must have done something right as our photo was taken for the "Seen" section of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - thanks so much for the dress, Meghan!
*Another sidenote: Doesn't Shaun look quite dapper?! I am loving his new tux! :)
*Lounged around and watched the Steelers dominate the Bengals.
*Baked cookies for the #fbcookieswap! More to come on December 12; stay tuned...
*Topped the night off with a few episodes of Mad Men. We are still catching up!
Here's to a great week full of health & happiness in this holiday season!
The past two days have flown by in a blur ... a great, busy work blur. Lots of meetings, calls and plans. I love being in the Chicago office and being busy!
Here's my breakfast of champions while in Chicago. A grande 'nonfat latte, a carrot-apple-(extra) ginger juice, oatmeal with brown sugar & nuts, and a banana.
Since I didn't feel like paying for the gym yesterday, I woke up a bit early and got this perfect travel workout in. I'm sure my hotel 'neighbors' loved me.
Had a super tasty turkey burger (topped with havarti horseradish cheese, yum!) with a friend yesterday at Epic Burger and went back to my standby today.
Dinner last night was room service. I left work at 8 pm and was totally indecisive so I ended up with the tuna salad and a glass of pinot grigio. The salad was delicious so I was happy...just wish it would have been a tad bit larger. No bread basket for me!
Tonight took me and some of my favorite colleagues to Flywheel, which just recently opened in Chicago. I'm not a newbie to spinning and I've been to Flywheel in NYC before, but it was a new experience for my colleagues so I was excited for them!
Class tonight was LEGIT. Seemingly much harder than my NYC experience but I held on and reached a total power level of 216, good enough for 4th place (of the females) in class. How did I know I was in 4th place, you ask? Well the cool thing about Flywheel is the TORQ board. You register and several times throughout the 45-minute class, your status is shown on the board. You can choose not to do it, but I think it's an awesome motivator and totally keeps me cranking! In addition to spinning for 45 minutes, some upper body exercises are also incorporated with body barres, so I have not doubt the body part that will hurt most on me tomorrow will be my shoulders. Not my legs, or my core, or my back ... my shoulders. Of course.
After class and sweaty-as-can-be, I walked around the corner to grab some Whole Foods hot bar for dinner. Exactly what my body was craving: a hot, healthy dinner. My meal consisted of some amazing salad concoction I threw together (ummm...spinach, sunflower seeds, carrots, quinoa, eggs, feta cheese, beets, tuna, artichokes?) paired with a thai coconut chili chicken soup. The soup = amazeballs. Washed it all down with some ArgoTea (yum!) and topped it off with a vegan and gluten-free red velvet cupcake from Swirlz. The PB cups are for travels tomorrow!
While I was eating (and not talking to Shaun about Piddles & Poodles, also known as Hailey & Coaly, respectively) I was reflecting on how hard class was, but how proud I was that I pushed myself really hard for 45 minutes. I (mostly) kept up with the teacher and didn't quit, even though at times I felt like I couldn't work any harder. I put work and life aside and focused of me, and did what I needed to do to feel good, refreshed and energized. Like they always say, you never regret a workout. And like the semi-famous Ashley once said "Guys - we're gonna be so skinny after this!"
Cheers to being skinny and pushing beyond your limitations :) Have a GREAT Friday!