laurenlikestocook

Archive for the ‘Bread’ Category

Ate Days a Week

In Beans, Bread, Breakfast, Brunch, Challenge, Fruit, Healthy Lifestyle, Holiday, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Nuts, Oats, Party, Pasta, Pizza, Quick Meal, Rice, Salad, Saving Money, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian on February 24, 2015 at 7:04 pm

When it comes to healthy eating, I find there is a fine line between two philosophies: 1)Variety is the spice of life and 2)Consistency is key.  How does one stay in balance without getting bored of the same 10 meal repertoire?  When it comes to diversification, I’m always looking for inspiration.  I often look at healthy eating blogs/sites, fitness magazines, and even get sucked into the articles on the latest celebrity eating crazes.  There are definitely common trends (who else is sick of seeing kale everywhere?), but there is also a lot of differing and conflicting information.  Some people eat the same exact breakfast and lunch every day because it helps them stay on track, while others will cave into candy if they have another egg white fritata.

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Could you eat THIS every day?

Where do my habits fall on this spectrum?  It’s kind of hard to say.  There have been weeks where I definitely fall into the same lunch rut, and others where I order take out every night.  It really depends on what else is going on that hour/meal/day/week/etc.  In an effort to better answer this question, I decided a couple of weeks ago to keep a log of my food/water/alcohol intake every day for 7 days.  This practice helped me to reflect more accurately on my habits and identify trends, which is something I hadn’t done in several years.  Back in my days of working with a personal trainer, I had been required to turn in a nutrition log at the beginning of each session, which gave me so much anxiety.  If I was honest about every morsel, I’d get ripped apart for having even one cookie, even if the other 98% of my intake was perfect.   I would end up omitting anything that I knew was “inconstant” and veering away from my “goals”, just to avoid the wrath of someone who subsisted on protein shakes, whey, and hardly any fresh fruits or vegetables.

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Homework…

It’s been a long time since I’ve followed any sort of “diet” or meal plan, so this time I took a different approach to the journaling process.  I didn’t focus exclusively on calories, macronutrients, or obsessively counting and measuring.  While I did note approximate amounts (I have a very good sense of portions and volumes, so that’s how I was able to quantify all the ingredients), I didn’t use any measuring devices (scale/cup/calculator), except when required by a recipe (baking).    I just wanted to get a sense of 1)the main components of my meals, 2)some idea of ratio (is the meal 1/2 veggies, 1/4 each protein/carb), 3)how often/frequently I eat, 4)what kind and how often I was having alcohol and “treats”, and how 5)much water I was consuming.  For water, I used the same size glass throughout the day (usually a 17 oz size, which I’d note as 2 cups), and I didn’t include cooking water.  I also noted times I ate/drank to understand the frequency better.

Here’s a high level overview, which I’ll follow with more details and pics.  This particular week had a busy weekend (Valentine’s Day, birthday parties, 2 big family dinners), so it’s an example of more splurging than usual.

  • Breakfast is the most consistent, usually some combination of protein (eggs or yogurt) with whole grain (oats) and lots of veggies
  • Lunch is usually leftovers or a simple salad
  • Dinner is the most varied, usually freshly cooked, and has carb heavy options for the other members of my family
  • I’ll have 1-3 in between meal snacks or bites
  • I drink a minimum 12 cups of water a day, but usually 16+ (especially on days I exercise).  This equates to about a cup/hour.
  • 1-2 glasses of wine 4 times a week; 1 night of cocktails.  None of that bothers me. 🙂
  • A piece or two of chocolate 3x; ice cream 1x
  • During the week, frequency is 2-3 hours; Weekend eating frequency is less, but more indulgent

That’s the basic gist of the week’s trends.  Some of you may want more information, the same way I look at other blogs as I mentioned earlier.  For those who want more details, here they are, along with some photos when I remembered to take them.

  • Monday
    • Water total: 16 cups
      • 530: 2 cups water before/during barre workout
    • 7 am grande coffee w 1 oz milk
    • 7:45 am: 2 cups water; porridge – 1/2 cup oats, 2 cups water, 1.5 cups kale, 1 tsp miso, 2 eggs, 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
      • 2 more cups water btwn meals
    • 11:15 Carob spirulina energy bite (1)
    • 12:30 pm: 2 cups water; salad of 3 celery stalks, 1 small gala apple, 1/3 cup chickpeas, lemon juice; 1 brown rice cake with 1/3 avocado and 1/2 oz sharp cheddar
      • 2:30 2 cups water
    • 3:15 whole wheat banana nut bread
      • 4:30 2 cups water
    • 6:00 low fat string cheese 1 cup water
    • 7:15 2 cups water; whole wheat pasta with honeynut squash olives capers and almonds (1 cup)
      • 1 cup water after dinner
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Porridge

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Lunch

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Whole Wheat Banana Bread

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Pasta.

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My itty portion.

  • Tuesday
    • Water total: 16 cups
      • 8:30 am: 2 cups water
    • 9:00 – pancake (1.5 eggs, 6 tbsp oats, 3 tbsp nonfat Greek yogurt, 1.5 cups flower sprouts [like kale]). 2 cups water
      • 10: stroller strides (interval full body workout) 2 cups water during workout
    • 11: 3/4 cup Greek yogurt with 1 tsp pb 3/4 apple and cinnamon
    • 11:30 – grande coffee w 1 oz milk
    • 1:00 pm – 2 cups water; 1 whole wheat pizza slice with broccoli and spinach topping
      • 2:45 – 2 cups water
      • 4:15 – 2 cups water
    • 5:15 – 1.5 clementine 10 raw almonds
    • 6:15 : 2 cups water, 3 bell pepper slices
    • 7:30 2 cups water. 2 (really big) glass red wine. 1/3 cup sprouted brown rice, 1/3 cup mushroom stroganoff, 1/2 cup roasted sugar snap peas in 1 tsp Evoo, 1 small bell pepper stuffed w 1/2 cup chickpeas w lemon zest and juice; 2 choc truffle
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Pancake with a hot sauce smile.

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Yogurt parfait.

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  • Wednesday
    • Water total: 16 cups
      • 9:15 am 2 cups water
    • 9:30 – smoothie (3/4 cup Greek yogurt, 1/2 banana, 1/2 cup blueberries, 1.5 cups broccoli, 1/4 cup oats, 1 tbsp pb, 1/2 cup water, vanilla and cinnamon)
      • 10:30 2 cups water
    • 11:15 cup of coffee w splash of milk
      • 11:40 2 cups water
    • 12:15 pm 1 cup coffee
      • 1:00 2 cups water
    • 1:15 leftover snap peas stroganoff and rice, kidney beans 1/2 cup each
    • 2:45 2 cups water. 1 oz sharp cheddar
    • 5:15 thin slice whole wheat banana bread
      • 6:30 2 cups water
    • 7:00 carrot ginger coconut soup (1 cup), sesame noodles (1/2 cup brown rice quinoa pasta with pb and sesame sauce (pb, molasses, sesame oil, ginger, garlic,etc), 2 cups water, 1 piece dark chocolate w raisins and pecans
      • 10:30 2 cups water
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Finished smoothie.

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Sautéing veggies for the soup.

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Soups on!

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Sesame noodles, with some modifications on this recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/cold-sesame-noodles-recipe2.html

  • Thursday
    • Water total: 14
      • 9:30 am 2 cups water
    • 10:00 1/2 cup oats, 6 oz baby spinach sautéd in 1 tsp Evoo and garlic, 2 scrambled eggs, 2 cups water
    • 10:45 2 cup coffee w splash milk
      • 12:30 pm 2 cups water
      • 1:30 2 cups water
    • 2:00 leftover carrot soup (1.5 cups) rice beans and mushroom (1/2 cup each;) 1 cup water
      • 3:00 1 cup water
      • 5:15 2 cups water
    • 6:15 2 cups water. 1 small sweet potato with skin and sprinkle cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup white beans cooked in sriracha sauce, 1 cup slaw (napa cabbage carrots onion pepper apple celery lemon juice avocado), 1 glass red wine
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Breakfast.

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Leftovers. Again.

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Slaw.

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BBQ(ish) Dinner.

  • Friday
    • Water total: 17 cups
      • 5:30-7am 3 cups water before/ during barre
    • 7:00 grande coffee with splash milk
    • 8:30 2 cups water. Miso soup (1 tbsp miso w 2 cups water) with 1/2 cup leftover sprouted brown rice, 3 cups flower sprouts, 2 poached eggs, 1 tsp toasted sesame oil and hot sauce
      • 9:30 2 cups water
      • 11:15 2 cups water
    • 12:15 2 cups water. 2 cups leftover slaw w 1/2 cup kidney beans, 1 small sweet potato w sprinkle cheddar
      • 4:00 2 cups water
    • 4:30 2 clementines 15 raw almonds
      • 530 1 cup water
    • 7:00 pm – FAMILY DINNER. 1 cup water. 1/4 cup guac w 10 scoops, 2-3 oz white fish, 1/2 cup black bean, 1/2 cup cabbage, 2 margaritas. 1 piece salted caramel dark chocolate, 1 scoop vanilla ice cream
      • 10:00 2 cups water
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Another take on Breakfast.

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  • Saturday
    • Water total: 16 cups
      • 9:45 am 2 cups water
    • 10:15 2 cups water. 1/2 cup oats cooked in water, 3 oz baby spinach in 1 tsp Evoo, 1/3 avocado, 1 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
      • 11:00 am – 1:00 pm 4 cups water before/during/after barre
    • 1:00 pm grande coffee splash of milk
    • 2:30 pm salad w romain eggplant roasted red pepper cucumber tomato chick peas fresh mozzarella 1 tbsp vinaigrette, 10 French fries, 5 bites broccoli cheddar omelet, 1 cup water
      • 7:00 pm 4 cups water
    • 8:30 VALENTINES. 2 glasses red wine, 5 slices baguette 1/2 inch thick,  5 crackers, cheese (3ish oz), cherry jam, 10 olives, 2 cups water
      • 1 cup water before bed
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More savory oats.

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VDay with my love.

  • Sunday (Busy day, no photos)
    • Water total: 12
      • 9:30 am 2 cups water
    • 10:30 am 16 oz americano w steamed milk (1/2 cup?), 1 slice whole wheat banana bread, 1 cup water
    • 12:30 pm BIRTHDAY BRUNCH PART 1. 3 cups water, 1/2 cup brown rice 1 cup sauted Chinese broccoli,  2 bites tapioca custard, 2 bites dessert bun
    • 3:30 BIRTHDAY BRUNCH PART 2.  1 cup water, 2 poached eggs, 1/2 biscuit, 1/2 cup sauted kale, 1 cup mixed green side salad, 1/2 Bloody Mary
    • 6:30. BIG FAMILY DINNER.  3 cups water, 2 glasses red wine, 1/2 cup mixed greens, 1/2 slice fresh mozzarella, 1 bite bread w butter, 1 cup whole wheat pasta w arabiata sauce, 1/2 cup green beans, 1/4 cup sauted spinach, small piece eggplant parm (3 bites), 3 bites sole oreganata
      • 9:00 pm. 2 cups water

To answer my initial question, what does all of this mean? After this experiment, I think I can say that I am consistent with adhering to the healthy habits I’ve developed over the years, all while spicing things up with twists and changes.  And even if I do indulge a smidge, I don’t have to worry about hiding it from anyone, because I don’t consider it something off limits.  How else do you expect me to muster up the energy to cook (or chase a toddler) without a glass or two of wine?

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And if you’d like to see any of the recipes from this week, comment and let me know.  They could be included in a future post.

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I’m Over It(?)

In American, Bread, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Lentils, Nuts, Pasta, Quick Meal, Quinoa, Seitan, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian on February 20, 2013 at 1:04 pm

A little less light-hearted than usual, but here’s a bit of what’s been going on.  Don’t worry, I’ll still have some photos to make you drool :).

I’ve always loved food.  Throughout my adolescent and adult years, there has been a constant battle between enjoying food and being mindful of nutrition and health.  Although it became easier as I grew older and more knowledgeable, that inner struggle was always there.  Sometimes to the point of obsession and compulsion.

Being the over analytical nut that I am, I’ve gone through different phases of nutritional “rightness”, ensuring my due diligence by checking labels, measuring, logging, etc.  I’ve even developed predictive models in Excel.  My analyses have gone so far that I can piece together meals and daily meal plans to get the most bang (filling/satiating) for my caloric buck.   These endeavors, however, are extremely masochistic.  No matter how hard I try to just relax about my diet, I will drive myself crazy with some new form of food obsession.

Everyone thinks that being pregnant is a great excuse to let yourself go and eat what you want.  Yeah, right.  Not according to every piece of pregnancy literature.  Experts recommend only adding 300 extra calories a day to your diet, along with making sure you get 4 calcium servings, tons of protein, and various vegetables as sources of necessary vitamins – just to name a few of the “dos.”  The don’ts are even longer.  So I stopped the caffeine, really committed to excluding chemicals, hydrogenated oils, HFCS, GMOs, etc.  I’ve turned down so many offers of candies, cookies, and packaged products because they don’t fit my new “diet.”  I forced myself to drink milk, and stuff my face with a variety of veggies, lest I endure my self-inflicted guilt.

All of this “dedication” (read: obsession) had helped me in the first 5 months to first drop 5 lbs and then only gain 6 back.  Compared to the average gain of 13 lbs by that point (and what woman doesn’t compare herself to others?), I became worried.  Even with the occasional ice cream or cookies, I was not gaining weight.  While this is a goal most women strive for, it’s not super when you have a living being growing inside of you.  So now, I have to try to eat more.  If you thought it was difficult counting calories, measuring foods, or leaving food on your plate, try purposefully eating a lot of healthy food.  My mind is so conditioned to abide by that bang for your buck mentality, I find it exhausting to think of more things to eat.  Almost every day, I think to myself or say to Nick “I’m so over it [thinking about food],”  and I am about 95% committed to that statement.  Because really, who am I kidding?

I’ve been eating a lot of avocado, nuts, and cheeses to aid in my healthy weight gain.  I also eat whole eggs instead of whites.  And sometimes I eat french fries.

Whole Wheat with avocado, mixed greens, and provolone.  Newest sandwich obsession. Also great with fried egg.

Whole Wheat with avocado, mixed greens, and provolone. Newest sandwich obsession. Also great with fried egg.

It’s been 3 weeks of these practices, and 4 lbs have been added to my total gain.  Unless you catch me from the side, I still don’t look pregnant, but I’ve finally succumbed to wearing maternity jeans.

As for “liking to cook”, I still do!  When I have the energy :).  I may be using more fats, but I guarantee everything is wholesome real food.  There are some new recipes to report!   However, by the time I’ve finished cooking and cleaning, my energy levels are usually maxed out with no reserves for blogging.  I’ve been getting a lot of advice, mostly to let others help out more.  That’s where you, my lovely readers come in handy.  I’m posting some photos below of a few recipes, and I’ll let you vote which to write about next.  And remember, with great power comes great responsibility.

Eggplant, Peppers, and Onions Hero

Eggplant, Peppers, and Onions Hero

 

3 Lentil and Quinoa Stew

3 Lentil and Quinoa Stew

 

Marinated Beet Salad with Arugula, Sunflower Seeds, and Homemade Paneer (Indian Cheese)

Marinated Beet Salad with Arugula, Sunflower Seeds, and Homemade Paneer (Indian Cheese)

 

Truffle Mac 'N Cheese (Warning: not healthy AT ALL, but will win you friends and get you laid)

Truffle Mac ‘N Cheese (Warning: not healthy AT ALL, but will win you friends and get you laid)

 

Whole Wheat Peanut Sesame Noodles (Served with Gingered Chicken and Garlic Broccoli)

Whole Wheat Peanut Sesame Noodles (Served with Gingered Chicken and Garlic Broccoli)

 

Twist on an American Classic:  Seitan or Chicken Noodle Casserole

Twist on an American Classic: Seitan or Chicken Noodle Casserole

 

Cast your votes, and I’ll post the most popular recipe next week.

Pseudo Sufganiyot

In Bread, Breakfast, Fruit, Holiday, Jewish, Quick Meal, Vegetarian on December 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Happy Chanukah everyone!  For those who don’t know, it’s a big tradition to eat foods fried in oil.  This custom serves to commemorate the miracle of 1 day’s worth of oil burning for 8 nights in the Temple.  Last year, I spun this tradition by baking a commonly fried falafel ball, although falafel isn’t really thought of as a Chanukah food.  The two most common fried foods for this holiday are potato latkas (pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts).  Both are delicious, but definitely not figure or digestion friendly.

Last week, I wasn’t in the mood for my usual oatmeal breakfast, so I decided to make some healthy french toast using sprouted grain bread, a mixture of whole egg and whites, and a schmear of pb&j.

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As I ate it, I thought “this kinda (barely) reminds me of jelly donuts.”  Then it occurred to me to try it again for Chanukah, only as a stuffed french toast instead.  This is by no means a dessert substitute, but it still gives you that hint of jelly donut flavor.

PB&J Stuffed French Toast

1 whole egg + 2 whites, beaten (you could cut the fat even more by using 4 whites instead)
1 capful vanilla extract (about 1/2 tsp)
Ground cinnamon to taste
Orange zest, optional
2 slices whole grain bread (I used Ezekial 4:09 Sprouted Grain)
2 tsp natural peanut butter
1 tbsp fruit preserves (I used strawberry)
Nonstick cooking spray

The first step is to prepare the egg batter.  My general rule of thumb is 1 egg (or whites equivalent) per slice of bread.  However, for this stuffed version there was a smidge left over.  To the beaten eggs add vanilla, cinnamon, and orange zest if you have it.

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Then you prepare the sandwich part.  If you wanted to make it more jelly donut-like, just use jelly/preserves.  I really dig the pb&j combo.  If you wanted to be even healthier, you could use fresh sliced strawberries instead.

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After sandwiching the two pieces together, I let the bread soak in the egg batter for at least one minute each side.  You really want to wait as long as possible so that all the egg is absorbed.

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Then comes the “frying” part.  Usually french toast is fried in tons of butter, but I just use non-stick spray.

You can see some of the extra egg batter.

You can see some of the extra egg batter.

I just scrambled the excess and ate it plain.

I just scrambled the excess and ate it plain.

After 3 or 4 minutes, it was time to flip.

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2 or 3 minutes more, and the stuffed toast was done.  I cut a little bit of the corners to make a rounded donut shape (don’t worry, I ate the corners, too).

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Here’s how the stuffing looks.  Not too shabby, huh?

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This breakfast treat is really filling, and doesn’t give you the traditional sugar headache of either donuts or syrup doused french toast.

A typical jelly donut (such as one from DD) can run you high in bad nutrition:

Calories: 290
Calories from fat: 130 (almost 45% of the calories!)
Total fat: 14 grams
Saturated fat: 7 grams
Total carbohydrates: 36 grams (~50%)
Fiber: 1 gram
Sugar: 6 grams
Protein: 3 grams (~5%)

Basically super high in fat, barely any protein.  There is some sugar, but not awful.  And that is just for a snack or non-filling breakfast.  Here’s how my recipe stacks up:

Calories: 354
Calories from fat: 90 (~25%)
Total Fat: 10 grams
Saturated fat: 2 grams
Carbohydrates: 39.5 (~45%)
Fiber: 7 grams
Sugar: 8 grams
Protein: 25 grams (~30%)

Seems pretty well balanced, don’t you think?  Healthy fat mostly from peanut butter (instead of hydrogenated oils), tons of fiber from whole grain bread, and the same amount of protein you’d find in a 4 oz piece of chicken breast.  It may be 65 calories more, but you’ll feel satiated for hours without the sugar crash of processed refined grains.

Don’t get me wrong, I love me a fried donut or latka.  But with this recipe, I don’t feel like I’m missing much, other than the fat deposits on my ass and thighs.   Freilachin Chanukah!

Why I’m the Worst Photographer. Ever.

In American, Beans, Bread, Breakfast, Brunch, Chinese, CSA, Dessert, Fish, Greek, Italian, Meat and Pultry, Oats, Pasta, Quick Meal, Rice, Salad, Shopping, Vegetables, Vegetarian on July 24, 2012 at 12:34 pm

I’m a pretty awful photographer, both in skill and frequency.  Until I started this blog, my camera was used maybe 1-2 times a year on a vacation or for a grandparent’s birthday.  Even when I do take some photos of my food, I never edit them, nor organize them, because I just get too frustrated trying to learn the programs on my Mac Book.  I just don’t have it in me to constantly snap photos, which is really such a shame.    There have been plenty of missed opportunities to capture both amazing and ordinary moments in my life.  I’m not talking about kissy faces, popping bottles, or a circle of friends’ shoes.  Just the simple pleasures, like walking around my neighborhood or documenting my restaurant experiences.  A whole fun-filled weekend will pass, and I’ll have nothing to show for it.  That’s how I feel about this past weekend.  A picture is worth a thousand words, so looks like I have a lot of writing ahead of me….

Filling in the gaps with some CSA goodies.

Saturday was CSA distribution.  It was also my volunteer week.  There are two options: man the stand from 9-12ish during distribution, or drive the leftovers to a local church.  Since I have a car, this was definitely the better option.  I had planned on getting there at 10 to pick up my share to bring home, clean up, etc. before the drive.  However, my morning run took longer than anticipated.  Turns out, I didn’t have enough time, so I quickly made an oatmeal pancake when I got home, showered, and shoved my produce in the fridge.

As somewhat of a reward for volunteering, you can take a few extra items.  I grabbed some extra zucchini, cucumbers, and berries.  The original share included:

  • 1 head lettuce
  • 1 head cabbage
  • 1 bunch beets
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 2 huge stalks dill
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 5 small or 1 large zucchini
  • 3 sweet corn
  • 2 pints blueberries
  • 1 quart sugar plums
  • 12 peaches

This is the first time all season I felt a real value in the fruit share.  Don’t get me wrong, I love 3 pints of blueberries, but it’s nice to have some variety.    Since I had a fun filled weekend, I neglected my “put everything right away” rule and got around to cleaning up on Monday.

From left: Lettuce packed and washed, beets and greens separated, fruit in a bowl to ripen, cucumbers sliced and “pickling”, zucchini and cucumber cleaned, onions sliced, leftover dill cleaned

I froze most of the blueberries for smoothies, and half the peaches and plums as well.

But this was on Monday.  All weekend I had so much fun, mostly with my husband.  It was nice to have a summer weekend without appointments, social obligations, trips, or chores.  Like I said, reflecting back in my head I wish I had more photos to show you.  Perhaps I can borrow some from restaurant and shopping sites to give you a better picture.   Pun intended.

Friday

A newish restaurant opened in Park Slope near my office.  I’ve passed by it a couple of times on the rare occasions I take the subway to/from work and never thought anything of it.  Whenever I’d catch a glimpse of food, it was usually noodles or dumplings, so I just assumed it was East Asian, although the name was Talde.  Turns out, it was opened by former Top Cheftestant Dale Talde and is super popular.  I mentioned the place to my husband and in-laws, and we decided to get there at 5 on Friday to give it a try.  We sat at the bar for a few minutes to have a drink; I shared an Obama Punch with my F-I-L, and it was super yummy.  Then 15 minutes later we sat to eat.  The vacancy gap between 5:15 and 5:30 PM is non-existent.

Photo of Hawaiian Bread Buns from http://taldebrooklyn.com/food-photos/

I had heard a lot about the Hawaiian bread buns, so I got an order of the market veggie version (it was marinated shitaki mushroom).  It was so flavorful, even my meat-eating companions loved it.  They shared a wonton soup.  For my main, I got some chilled soba noodles and a side of green beans.  Both really full of umami.  Everyone else got the fried chicken, ribs, and shrimp fried rice to share.

For dessert, we shared Halo Halo, which was a mixture of ice, bubble tea, fruit, coconut milk, and captain crunch.  It was good, but I think I prefer chocolate cake more :).

Overall, I really great dining experience.  It was a nice change from our typical repertoire of Mexican, Italian, or bar appetizers.

Saturday

When my husband suggests a day of shopping, I never turn it down.  Hence my household negligence this Saturday.  After dropping off the veggies to charity, I went with Nick to get bagels for lunch, and then we were off to SoHo.  Nick’s initial goal was to get some new casual sneakers.  What he ended up getting was 3 pairs of work pants, 2 pairs of jeans, and a partridge in a pear tree.  I got 2 new dresses to wear for weddings and special occasions, one of which is for an upcoming event this Saturday.  It is super bodycon and has cutouts, so I haven’t eaten since Sunday.  Just kidding.

The next thing we knew, it was 7:30 and we were starving.  I mentioned another restaurant I’d been meaning to try in Chinatown called The Fat Radish, and figured it may be plausable to get a seat on a Summer Saturday.  Luckily, we were able to sit at the bar, which was actually kind of nice and intimate.  I say that because the seating there is comprised of a few long communal tables, whereas the bar has 6 seats.  Also, our bartender made awesome drinks and was really friendly.  I got seared tuna and the fat radish plate, which is basically a bed of rice topped with whatever veggies are at the markets that week and prepared in super flavorful ways.  Way up my alley.  Nick got crab gratin and the burger with truffle duck fat fries.  Way up his alley.

The mirror “board” where specials and fat radish plate are listed. From their site: http://snapwidget.com/view/?id=220874731547124849_54018704#.UA7Ga6Ahgeo

From there, we walked over to Little Italy to get some gelato from this placed called La Cremeria.  It’s the closest, most authentic Italian style gelato I’ve had this side of the Atlantic.  Mind you, I live in a heavily Italian neighborhood.  I got pistacchio and delirium, which was butter cookie flavor with chocolate chunks.  Nick got his usual combo of cioccolato and nocciola (chocolate and hazelnut).  And then we waddled to the subway to head home.

Sunday

I rose bright and early to bike over to TriBeCa to support a newly certified yoga teacher married to a childhood friend of Nick.  It was an intimate class, and I felt great all day after.  I only had 2 anxiety attacks on the bike ride back over the Brooklyn Bridge.  Next time, I’ll go out of my way to take the Manhattan Bridge.  When I got back, I showered and got all purty looking to get brunch.  I went with Nick to one of our usual spots, Prime Meats.  This is comical for 2 reasons: 1) a vegetarian loving brunch at a place with “meats” in the title, and 2) it is owned by the same people as Frankies 457, a restaurant I despise.  I know I digress, but I will take this one small opportunity to vent.  I don’t know why Frankies gets so much hype.  There is always a wait, and the food is AWFUL.  All these Manhattanites swear by it, saying how it’s better than all the other authentic Italian joints in the hood.  BS.  And the people who work there are so rude and elitist.  Now, I generally have a 3-strikes-you’re-out rule with restaurants; Frankies definitely struck out looking.  Backwards K style.  The pasta and gnocchi are watery with little bits of low-flavor sauce, the drinks are overpriced and weak, and the waitstaff refuses to acknowledge any complaints.  It’s really such a shame, because they’d be getting a lot more of my business.

Anyway, back to Prime Meats.  When they first opened, I was skeptical about going, primarily because of my Frankies experiences.  I was also slightly turned off by the forced dress code of suspenders and mandatory mustachery for all male staff.  However, their brunch is excellent.  They make excellent coffee, never burn their eggs, and their bread products are to die for (that’s coming from someone who usually has oats for breakfast).  They used to be a little bit more flexible with their menu, but the chef has made some stricter rules for substitutions.  You’d think that would keep me away, but I’ve found my new love:  Their avocado sandwich.  Multigrain bread with avocado, lettuce, sprouts, shallots, and spicy mayo.  They will happily keep the mayo on the side for me, and I can also add an egg to the sandwich.  Perfect.  And again, another example of the missing shutterbug gene.

The rest of the day, we just relaxed.  I took a nap and watched Game Change on cable.  Nick got busy cleaning up his mancave.  Then I made a simple dinner of dill pasta salad and a garden salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, pepper, avocado, and chickpeas.  A simple end to a wonderfully eventful weekend.

Super long post.  Next time, I’ll save a few thousand words by using my camera.

One Huge Zucchini; 2 [Healthy] Ways to Use It

In American, Beans, Bread, Breakfast, Challenge, Dessert, Quick Meal, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables on June 28, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Zucchini next to a marker for size comparison.

I usually don’t complain about getting too much zucchini.  It’s one of those veggies my hubby will always eat, and that’s definitely a bonus.  For those who know me, I tend to enjoy my veggies as close to natural as possible.  I don’t usually fry/bread them, nor do I smother in butter or stuff them in puff pastry.  This week, however, I made a slight exception.  In our share this week, we got 2 kinds of zucchini: 2 smaller yellow kind (yes, there is a difference between yellow summer squash and yellow zucchini), and either 1 HUGE green zucchini or large patty cake squash.  Of course, I chose the zucchini.  This guy in front of me in line said his family is not really into zucchini, so he chose the patty cake squash.  We got into a bit of a conversion about how we were going to prepare each of our choices, and I said “this is going into a zucchini bread!”

For some magical reason, I thought you needed a lot of zucchini for a zucchini bread.  I also thought the larger and juicier, the better.  I didn’t have a recipe, so before searching the web I messaged my mother-in-law for hers, knowing that it was Nick-approved.  When she sent it over, she did warn me that it is basically a cake.  I made a few adjustments to lower both the sugar and fat, and also bumped up the fiber by using some whole wheat pastry flour.  Here’s my version.  P.S. this is also a vegan recipe!

Low-Fat [Mostly] Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread

Makes 2 loaves, or 24 muffins

1.5 ripe bananas, smashed or thinly sliced
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup oil (I used unrefined extra virgin coconut oil)
2 cups shredded unpeeled zucchini (less than half of my huge one!)
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup blackstrap molases (or just double the agave)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp fine sea salt
t tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
Zest and Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 350º.

Just as an FYI, the first 2 ingredients are swaps.  The original recipe calls for 1 cup oil and 3 eggs, but you can replace half the oil for apple sauce, and half a banana for every egg.

In a large bowl, I mixed the bananas, apple sauce and oil with a hand mixer.  For coconut oil, it needs to be warmed to liquify, so just heat on a stovetop or microwave for a few seconds.

Once everything is blended, it’s time to add all the other ingredients, and then you can just mix by hand with a spoon for a minute until everything is incorporated.

The batter! Since there are no eggs, very easy to lick the bowl :).

I divided the mixture as best as a cold between two loaf pans; they probably weren’t 100% even.  Then I set them in the oven to bake, up to 60 minutes.  I started checking at 45, and took mine out at 55 (although there was such a marginal difference in those 10 minutes).

These loaves didn’t rise as high as I expected; but then again, I admit I am not a baker.  They were, however, moist and delicious.  Not too sweet, and perfect for a snack or breakfast.

I had mine with a lil peanut butter; Nick liked his with chocolate peanut butter.

I took the liberty of calculating the nutrition for both the original and my low-fat version.

Original Zucchini Bread 
(Includes 1 cup oil, 2.5 cups sugar, eggs, and bleached flour)

Per slice (1/24th of recipe):

Calories: 231.61
Fat: 9.91
Carb: 33.86
Fiber: 1
Sugar: 21.22
Protein: 2.73

Not awful; but my version is a bit more figure-friendly.

Low-Fat [Mostly] Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread 
(Uses half the oil, subs banana and apple sauce, and uses only 2/3 cup sweetener)

Per slice (1/24th of recipe):

Calories: 132.92
Fat: 5.08
Carb:  21.12
Fiber: 2.34
Sugar: 7.66
Protein: 2.08

My version is 100 calories less, and has about half the fat.  It also skims off nearly 14 grams of sugar, and doubles the fiber!  Now I don’t feel so bad about having a second slice :).

I baked these loaves while making dinner one night (that recipe will follow in another post).  I still had more than half of that huge zucchini left!  I decided the next night I’d make a soup out of the remains.  It was also a great vessel for using up all that extra cilantro.  It’s a really simple recipe, and it packs a lot of flavor!  I haven’t tried yet, but I’d assume it would be great served chilled as well!

Pureed Zucchini and Cilantro Soup

Makes about 11-12 cups (just guestimating based on what was served and leftover)

1 quart low sodium vegetable broth
2 cups water
4 cups chopped zucchini (I’d say 3-4 normal sized ones)
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1.5 cups)
1 bunch cilantro leaves (about 1 cup packed tightly)
1 cup cooked chickpeas
Salt and Pepper to taste

Boil the broth and water over high heat until they boil.  While waiting to boil, chop up he zucchini and onion.

Add the veggies and chickpeas to the pot with salt and pepper, reduce the heat to a rolling boil, and cover slightly to cook for 15 minutes.  While that’s happening, remove all the stems from the cilantro; you just want to use the leaves.  If you’re making this recipe just to use up the cilantro you have from another recipe, don’t worry about needing the whole bunch.  If you use half or 3/4 I’m sure it will still taste great!  Make sure to reserve a couple of stems with leaves for garnish.

Super Green! That’s what happens when you wash and prep properly.

All the stems removed.  Took about 8-10 minutes to do, but well worth it!

After 15 minutes, add the cilantro.

 

Then, if you have it, whip out your emersion blender and get to work!  If you don’t, just ladle   the soup in batches into a regular blender.

 

Let the newly mixed soup cook for 5 minutes more, then it’s time to serve!
At first, I was nervous about using so much cilantro, but it was surprisingly really
complementary to the zucchini.  It gave the soup a fresh layer, as well as some zing and spice.  It also helped me to use up all my cilantro!  Hooray!
There you have it: two healthy ways to use zucchini.  Both required some innovation, but were certainly worth it.  I’m sure if you have a garden and your zucchini is overflowing, you’ll want to add these recipes to your repertoire.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

How About a Quickie…or Two

In Bread, CSA, Fruit, Italian, Nuts, Pasta, Quick Meal, Salad, Saving Money, Shopping, Vegetables on June 13, 2012 at 12:11 am

With the bounty of cleaned and prepped veggies from this week’s CSA share, I’ve had a lot of ideas for some new recipes.  Especially ones that are super quick.  Think half of a 30 Minute Meal.  Which reminds me , the inspiration for 2 recipes I’ve made thus far is the queen of quick meals, Rachael Ray.  Some people love her, others hate her.  I have to say I kind of hate that I kinda love her.  I must admit that her morning talk show is one of my guilty pleasures, and after I’ve managed to look past her kitschy jargon and painfully bright kitchenware items, I’ve learned a few things from the lady.  Although many of her recipes break my personal calorie/fat budget, and incorporate meat, meat-based stocks, and TONS of bacon, she does make whole and real foods accessible to the masses.  She also happens to love both Italian and Mexican foods, so that will always catch my attention.

A few weeks ago, I caught an episode of her morning show that featured a chef whose new book is all about cooking with super foods, or what he calls “Hero Foods”, as a means of healing his own personal health issues (RA in particular).  It was very interesting to see the correlation between diet and healing, but I’m sure this sentiment was lost on most of the audience.  Later on in the episode, Rachael used two super foods – kale and almonds – to create a caesar style kale pesto pasta.  I’m not a huge advocate of pestos in general, because they usually include a lot of oil, and more than the “in moderation” amount.  However, I liked the idea of pulsing leafy greens into a paste for pastas.  That way I can trick my hubby into eating more veggies, because all the volume is removed and each bite packs a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals.  And what better time than on a Sunday when he is busy doing housework and is starving for the first thing available for inhaling?

Whole Wheat Spaghetti; crushed red pepper; garlic scapes; parmesan cheese; broccoli rabe; raw almonds

Broccoli Rabe and Almond Pesto with Whole Wheat Spaghetti  Adapted from Rachael Ray

Serves 4

8 oz whole wheat spaghetti, or any pasta of your choice
1 bunch broccoli rabe, roughly chopped
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup raw almonds
2 garlic scapes, roughly chopped (or 2 cloves garlic)
1-2 teaspoons red chili flakes, depending on desired heat level
Juice of one lemon
1 cup reserved pasta water

I brought the water to a boil in a covered pot.  While waiting, I added all the other ingredients, except pasta, lemon juice and pasta water, to my food processor and let it run until it was all ground up.  I didn’t add any oil, figuring the fats from the nuts and cheese would suffice.

By the way, you could use any greens you have on hand for this recipe.  I picked broccoli rabe because it is the least “gross” green from the share that Nick will kind of eat.

Once the water is boiled, I added salt and the pasta, cooking for 7 minutes.  During that time, I transferred the ground green mixture to a skillet sans oil, and cooked over medium high heat.

A minute or so before the pasta was done, I squeezed some lemon juice to start deglazing the pan.

Once the pasta was ready, I turned off the flame, and added the pasta liquid to the pan to create a more saucy consistency.

After 30 seconds of mixing, I incorporated the pasta.

And then it was time to mangia!  Only 15 minutes after starting!

I thought it was freaking delicious.  Nick said it was prepared excellently, he just still couldn’t get over the actual taste of broccoli rabe.  He actually left some of it in his bowl, like the way a lady leaves something on the plate.  Probably because he was going to see Prometheus  and wanted to save room for butter laden popcorn.

The next day, I wanted to throw something quick together for dinner.  I was thinking of some sort of salad that incorporated the radishes from the share, but then couldn’t really figure out what to pair with it.  While brainstorming with Nick on the phone, I almost gave into buying a couple slices of pizza from the pizza shop!  However, I was a good girl and said I’d just make some pizza instead – only using really thin whole wheat pitas instead of dough.  Pitza is my new go-to for the hubby, being quick and delish!  Since I was going Italian again, I decided to grab an orange and red onion while at the store to add to the salad.  I actually got that idea from Ms. Ray, too.  Once episode she had the cheesemonger from Fairway on to pair cheeses with foods, and one such Italian cheese was added to an orange/red onion concoction.  Seriously, it’s a freaking amazing combo, and if I wasn’t eating cheese on pitza I’d have added cheese to this salad.  It’s also really easy to make and super refreshing.

Whole Wheat Pitza

Serves ones (just multiply for additional loaves – I eat one, and my hubby eats 2-3)

1 thin whole wheat pita (80-100 calorie size)
2 tbsp good marinara sauce
1 oz shredded fresh mozzarella
1.5 teaspoons grated parmesan cheese
veggies and/or meats of your choice (optional)

This is so simple, even a 10 year old could do it!  It’s kind of like english muffin pizzas, only better.  Turn the toaster oven on to 350° (or regular oven, but the toaster oven is way faster).

Spread sauce on pita.  I made 2 at a time.  Then sprinkle the cheeses on each one.

Bake 7-10 minutes, depending on your oven, until crispy brown on top.

Very simple and easy.  I made the salad while it was baking.

Radish, Red Onion, and Orange Salad with Lemon Dijon Dressing

Serves 2

Salad:

4 large or 8 small radishes, sliced thin
1/4 red onion, sliced in crescents
1 navel orange, peeled and sliced thin
1 garlic scape, thinly sliced (or 1 clove garlic, minced)
1 small bunch arugula
3-4 leaves red leafy lettuce

Dressing:

1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp agave nectar
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp EVOO
Salt and Pepper to taste

I sliced up all the salad ingredients.

Radishes.

Red Onion.

Orange.

Garlic Scapes.

Then I had to chop the greens.  My method of storing arugula wasn’t the best, as I forgot to actually store it in a bag or container, so I had to chop it up finely like an herb, and fill the rest of the bowl with some leafy lettuce.

Red Leafy Lettuce.

Spicy Arugula. Mmmmm.

In a separate bowl, I combined the dressing ingredients with a whisk, and then poured over the salad ingredients to be mixed.

Here’s everything plated up!

Doesn’t that look yummy?  A well balanced meal that only took 10 minutes!  I usually don’t have the pitza for dinner, but I splurged and had one.  They really aren’t so bad for you, only about 200 calories each, which is like half of a real slice of pizza.  As for the salad, super yummy and healthy!  Full of colors, textures, and with a light dressing that is only 35 calories a tbsp.  I swear, that is my last calorie calculation for this post!

There you have it!  Two recipes that take 15 minutes or less, both incorporating real foods like fresh veggies and whole grains.

Here’s a bonus recipe.  This one takes 2 minutes and 1 minute to cleanup.  I had this smoothie today as a pre-yoga snack to hold me over until dinner.

Protein-Packed Green Smoothie

6 oz nonfat Greek Yogurt
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen mango
1 tbsp natural peanut butter
2 large handfuls (about 3 cups) chopped kale

Add everything to a good blender (I have a Vitamix).  Blend it.  Pour it in a glass.  Drink it while you clean up.  Or shower. Or walk the dog.

Using white/yellow ingredients allows the greens to really show!

Now, I know that looks like split pea soup, but it’s freaking delicious.  You can’t even taste the kale, but it’s definitely in there.  I use any combo of fruit: blueberries, raspberries, peaches, apples, etc.  However, the more colorful the fruit, the less green/more brown it ends up looking.

Okay, I am finally done for this post!  It took me twice as long to write as it did to prepare everything AND clean up.  I guess that’s because I like to take my time to make everything looks so pretty.  So much for a quickie in the blogging department.

Curry in [a little more time than] a Hurry

In Bread, Indian, Lentils, Rice, Thai, Vegetables on February 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm

A couple of weeks ago, I made one of my go-to Indian dishes, chana masala (only with chawla – black-eyed peas).  Since then, I’ve ordered some Indian delivery, and have been relishing all of the leftovers.  Chana masala, mushroom saag, vegetable vindaloo.  I even went crazy and got a samosa (aka Indian egg roll).  Still on my curry kick, I wanted to create something that reminded me of all those flavors, only not having to shell out another 50 bux for take out.  I looked through my pantry and fridge, and decided to make a coconut curry lentil dish with a side of chard (similar to the one I made with the chawla masala).

Luckily, the one can of light coconut milk I found had 3 months left until expiration.  I guess I hadn’t cooked with it in a while!  I opened the can and poured the milk into a saucepan to bring to a boil.

I’m not 100% sure, but I’ve never really had coconut milk in Indian food.  I’ve actually only remembered using it and tasting it in Thai cuisine.  My first experience making a coconut curry was following the directions on a Thai Kitchen can of coconut milk.  The recipe included one of their products, a curry paste.  The paste is basically a mix of curry powder and chili paste, only they charge you 3 or 4 dollars to use their pre-made version.  I made my own this time :).  1.5 tsp yellow curry powder, 1/2 tsp chili paste, and 1/2 tsp tomato paste.

Using a fork, I mixed everything up until it created the paste.

When the milk came to a boil, I add the paste to the pan.

Then, to fully incorporate the paste, I whisked the milk and spices.

When everything was incorporated, the milk was a lovely saffron color.

Next, I washed and rinsed a cup of dry french lentils.  When they are dry, they are this wonderful greenish black color.  I added them to the pot, and let them get to a boil before covering and lowering the heat.

While the lentils began to cook, I chopped up some white onion, carrots, and a yellow bell pepper.  I would have liked to use a red one for color, but I didn’t have any on hand.

About 5 minutes had passed, and I added the veggies and some extra water (about a cup) to the pot, mixing everything together.

I raised the heat, and once it was back up to a boil, I lowered to medium low, covered, and let simmer for another 30 minutes.  I also stirred every 10ish minutes.

I washed and dried the bunch of chard.  There were 6 huge leaves, 2 each of yellow, pink, and red.

I chopped all the leaves up into bite size pieces.  When you look closer at the stem, you can really see the different varieties of the rainbow.

I started to saute the chard in a nonstick pan, just like last time.  Previously, I used lemon juice and whole lemon.  Since the curry was more of a creamy taste, I thought a sweeter citrus would better complement the lentils.  I had some leftover juicing oranges from when I attempted my fruit/vegetable cleanse, so I decided to use one of those.

This orange was definitely ripe!  I was able to squeeze out the juice with my bare hands right over the chard.

I used one half of the orange and cut up some pieces of the peel to add the the pan.

I gave it a quick toss, and then lowered the heat and covered for a couple more minutes.  By then, the lentils were tender and ready to be eaten.

I added the lentils and some chard to my plate.  It was a great combo!

For Nick, I created a bed for the curry with some leftover basmati rice from the take-out we ordered previously.  There was also half a piece of garlic naan left, so he had some of that, too!  I was super proud of him for using the elliptical after a long work day, so he got a nice treat for dinner :).

When I was ready to clean up after dinner, I noticed that there were A LOT of leftover lentils.  Either they expanded more than I expected, or we just didn’t eat as much as we usually do.  Or maybe the coconut milk made it that much more filling?  I ended up freezing about 3 portions worth, brought one for lunch today, and still have one more in the fridge.  I used up the last of my take-out veggies today, so will definitely need to bump up the produce portions in the next few dinners.  Maybe I will attempt to make Gomen this week?  I’ve really been obsessed with it, and I’m sure I could make it at home.  Plus, after 4 days of eating Indian food, I’m sure I’ll be sick of curry very shortly.

Another Soup – Hope You’ve Stocked-up on Stock!

In Beans, Bread, Quick Meal, Soup, Vegetables on January 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm

I had originally planned to make three separate dishes for this meal: a bean dish, a greens dish, and a veggie dish.  I had soaked some white beans earlier in the day and figured I’d experiment with them.  However, I came back from a really hard workout and was so exhausted that I could barely even conjure up the mental energy to try something brand-spanking new.  As a result, I opted to make a soup with the beans.  Genius.

After soaking, draining, and rinsing the white beans, I added them to a pot with enough water to cover and added some dried bay leaves.  I set the pot on a high flame until it boiled, producing A LOT of foam.  I always capitalize A LOT because my 9th Grade English teacher started her first day of class writing those words out – “A” on the far left black board and “LOT” on the far right blackboard.  Obviously, her job was well done.

After 5 minutes, I lowered the heat, covered, and let it simmer.  I had some butternut squash, so I decided to use half of one for this recipe.  Normally I’d peel and cube squash for a soup, but since I had to wait about 30ish minutes for the beans to cook, I figured I’d multitask and roast the veg.

I scooped out the seeds and placed the squash flesh side down on a cooking spray covered baking tray.  I let it roast for about 25 minutes.  It came out all caramelized and yummy looking.

Once it was cool enough to handle, I cut up the flesh into cubes and scooped out with a spoon.  (Actually, it wasn’t really cool enough, so I used an oven mitt, which in turn created more laundry).

When the beans were done and tender, they looked like this.

I had made more than needed for this soup, so I put aside all but 2 cups into individual freezer bags for another day.

I chopped up about 1/2 of a large white onion and sauteed in 2 tsp EVOO until translucent, then added a couple cloves of garlic.

Then I added the squash and beans, and stirred around for another minute.

I added a quart of vegetable stock, and then chopped up some purple kale to add to the pot.

I mixed everything up, and then added some sage, marjoram, salt, and pepper, and let the soup simmer for 5 minutes.

To accompany this dish, I made some garlic toast for Nick.  He had some leftover Italian bread from ordering in over the weekend, so I sliced the pieces in half and brushed with some EVOO and sprinkled with salt.

After toasting in the toaster over, I took a smashed clove or garlic and rubbed it on the hot bread.  It tastes just like garlic bread but without having all the nitty gritty pieces on your loaf.

At this point, the soup was thick, warm, and the kale was soft enough.

I served Nick his bowl with garlic toast.  Mmmmmmmm.

I poured myself a couple of ladles, and painfully sat down to eat.  Warning, doing squats and lunges after not doing any in 3 weeks will make it very difficult to sit and get up from your seat.

The next day, I was preparing my lunch and snacks for work.  I filled a container with this same soup, and I watched Rachael Ray for a bit.  Guess what?  You know what she made that day, nearly 15 hours after I made dinner?  A vegetable chowder that had white beans, butternut squash, onions, and kale.  I was like “oh no, she didn’t!”  But then I continued to watch, and see that she made a bechemel sauce to thicken hers up.  Okay, slightly different, but still.  I made practically the same thing with my own creative genius as Rachael Ray, who gets paid millions of dollars to be on daytime TV and look perky and cook food.  If you are reading this, and want to pay me millions to do the same, I am available.  Only I won’t say Yum-oh.

Happy (Very, Very, Very) Belated New Year!

In Beans, Bread, Dessert, Holiday, Italian, Pasta, Potato, Vegetables on January 13, 2012 at 2:08 pm

It’s still the first half of the month, so I suppose this post can still pass for a New Year’s edition.  I know you all are probably well into considering giving up those resolutions, but here is a reminder of the foods the drove you to go on your January diets.

We had our annual New Year’s Eve party, so the whole week before was super busy preparing the apartment, doing the food shopping, experimenting with drinks, etc.  Hence, the lack in posts the week before, and also the week after (I told myself I get a few days off after working 2 days non-stop cooking for the party).

Every year, we choose a different theme for the party.  This year was an Italian theme.  We got red, white, and green decorations/plates/napkins, made a delicious Italian meal, and served this amazing Italian fruit punch.  It is Giada’s recipe, and everyone loved it so much that I had to make 5 PITCHERS WORTH.  Here’s a snap of the first batch.

For those of you who want to make this recipe, I actually used half the amount of seltzer recommended and substituted with proseco.  I also added maraschino juice because the liqueur I got was clear, and not red.

For the appetizers, we of course had slices of Italian bread, bruschetta crackers, and bread sticks.  Italians love their bread.  We also had an antipasto platter that had prosciutto, salami, fresh mozarrella, parmeggiano reggiano, and pecorino romano.  The pecorino was soooooooo good, and VERY expensive.  But it was really worth it!  There was some roasted red peppers, marinated veggies, and crudités serve with a cannolini bean and roasted garlic dip.  I forgot to take pictures of each step, but here is a photo of the spread.

For those of you curious as to how I made the bean dip, here are the steps.  The night before, I soaked 2 cups of dry cannolini beans.  The next day, I drained and rinsed them, and cooked until tender.

At the same time the beans were cooking, I roasted a whole head of garlic in the oven for an hour.  To prepare the garlic, you stand it up, and slice off about 1/2 a centimeter on top.  Then you place it on a sheet of aluminum foil, and top with some EVOO, and wrap it up tightly.  When the garlic is ready, you have to unwrap the foil to let it cool to the touch.

The other element to the dip is sage.  Sage and cannolini beans are a perfect match!  I used about 6 big sage leaves, pulsing them in a large food processor.  Then, I added the beans and about 1/2 cup of the liquid.  Finally, I grabbed the garlic by the bottom and squeezed out all of the gloves, which had cooked to a paste consistency.   You could also use the roasted garlic as a spread on a sandwich or in mashed potatoes.  Adding some salt, I blended the ingredients in the food processor until smooth.  It was so yummy!

For the main course, we made the gnocchi and chicken dishes from our cooking class.  This time the gnocchi came out so soft and delicious, it was definitely restaurant quality.  We also baked it with some fresh mozzarella for an added special touch.

I also made some sauteed spinach with garlic.  It’s a typical contorno in Italy.  I used very little EVOO (maybe 2 tbsp for 2 lbs of spinach) in a pan with some crushed garlic cloves.  Then I added the spinach, which wilted down to a rich, green, delicious masterpiece.  Everyone was pretty full, so there was plenty leftover for me to use for the week.  I probably had a spinach omelet 4 days last week.  Here’s one of the first.


For dessert, there was tiramisu.  We made a double batch from the last time, only this time we layered the lady fingers and cream in a rectangular tin.  Unfortunately, people were really full and there was a good half of it left.  Looks like the resolution was going to be delayed a few days…

 

Having a Happy Chanukah (Falafel) Ball!

In Beans, Bread, Greek, Holiday, Jewish, Salad, Vegetables on December 21, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Don’t judge me.  I cannot find my menorah that my grandmother got me from Israel.  In fact, I think I go through this same panic every year after having moved back from college.  Yet, have I looked in my mother’s house?  Have I considered buying a new one?  Do I have time for either of those options?  I always seem to find the time to call my mother for her Latke recipe, but never remember to also ask about my missing menorah.  I guess you can can see where my priorities are.

In the spirit of this Holiday, I decided for the first night to cook something that can be found on both Jewish/Israeli and Greek menus: Falafel.  I think it fits the theme of the holiday very well!  I know it’s not traditionally served on Chanukah, but I suspect nobody would object to another deep-fried delicacy during this eight-day-miraculous-oil celebration.  Plus, there are only so many fried latkes and sufganiyot I can handle.

If you know me, and you read my blog, you might be surprised to find that falafel would warrant a wholesome, healthy blog post.  The key to enjoying this treat-in-a-pita-pocket is to make some slight modifications.  First, serving in whole wheat pita is a step in the right direction.  Second, filling it up with tons of fresh veggies adds bulk and nutrition.  However, saving the best for last, baking the falafel instead of deep frying will turn this drunken street food into a nutritiously delicious weeknight meal.  I actually found this recipe through Hunry Girl.  I’m not usually a fan of her recipes, because everything is substituted with chemical non-fat cheese, splenda, or other low-calorie/high chemical ingredients.  However, I really liked this recipe because it was all wholesome ingredients.  I really wish she would put out some more like it!

When I make this dish, I usually serve it with an Israeli salad – small diced tomato, cucumber, pepper, onion, parley, and lemon juice.  However, I decided to try something different this time.  At a lot of falafel joints, there is usually a salad bar, which will include the Israeli salad as well as pickled veggies, fried eggplant, and coleslaw.  I generally love to use the purple cabbage salad, because it is so bright, crunchy, and has the least amount of mayo or oil.  Here is my attempt to recreate that salad.

I cut the head of red cabbage into quarters, and then I cut out the core.

Then I shredded the cabbage, some carrots, and celery in a food processor using the grater blade.  The best invention ever.

I mixed the shreds in a bowl with some thinly sliced scallion.

Then, to make the salad more crispy/less soggy, I massaged in about 1 tsp salt.  Then I grabbed a handful at a time, squeezed out the liquid, and placed the dry cabbage in another bowl.  Look how much water came out!

To ensure no excess fluid was left behind, I topped the salad with a plate, and then pressed with a tea kettle.

After about an hour, I removed the pressing equipment, and there was no extra liquid.  I guess I did a diesel job squeezing with my hands.

Okay, so now on to the falafel.  The recipe called for 1 can (15.5 oz) of chickpeas.  I haven’t really been buying canned beans, so I had to actually soak and cook the chickpeas.

I added everything to the food processor, except the chickpeas.  This included a whole onion, about 1/4 cup each fresh cilantro and parsley, a squeeze of lemon, some cumin/parika/salt/pepper, baking powder (NOT SODA my friend MG – which is what most people have on hand, used in the fridge for freshness – powder is found in a tin can), and I subbed garbanzo/fava flour for whole wheat flour.

It turns into a paste (like pesto).

Then, I add the chickpeas, and just pulse a couple of times.  You want to be able to see some of the chick pea pieces still intact.

I transferred the batter into a bowl, and then divided the contents into 8 even sections.

Each section yields 2 balls.  Just a warning, you may want to take off your rings to roll the balls, as it can get pretty messy.  You basically grab a section, divide in half, and then press one of the halves between your hands until firm, and roll like you would a meatball.  Then you place the balls on a pre-sprayed nonstick baking tray.  Because it was so messy, I couldn’t take pictures of the process.  Here is what they all looked like before being cooked.



You top off the balls with another spray of olive oil spray.  Yes, it is still olive oil, but you don’t really use that much.  Much better than the deep fryer!  Baked at 375 for 15 minutes each side, they come out just a little bit browned, so don’t worry if you still see green when they’re finished.

What falafel dinner is complete with hummus and babaganouj?  I got this awesome hummus quartet from TJs, and each flavor is so good.

I had a lot of cabbage salad, some falafel, and a couple spoons of hummus and baba.

For Nick, I warmed a whole wheat pita, and cut it in half.  Each half I spread some roasted red pepper hummus and baba.

Then I added the falafel and cabbage.  So pretty.

I did the same for the second half, and served it on a plate to Nick.  He loved it, but also doused it with hot sauce and complained his mouth was on fire.

You can also see that this whole process makes your kitchen very messy!  All that batter falling all over the place.  Even though it’s messy, it’s really fun to make and even funner to eat.  Hopefully you cook this for someone on cleaning duty so you can have your falafel and eat it, too:)

What’s your favorite messy food to eat?