Category Archives: Travel

Sitzpinkler

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Sitzpinkler: noun; German

1. Literal translation: someone who sits to pee

2. Wimp

I recently finished rereading one of my favorite books: An Abundance of Katherines. It’s about a washed-up child prodigy (Colin) who has just gotten dumped by his 19th straight Katherine. To cope, he goes on a road-trip with his overweight slacker best friend; they spend the whole summer in Gutshot, Tennessee while Colin tries to get over his heartbreak and prove his mathematical formula of Underlying Katherine Predictability. The book is a fun and silly YA fiction and the author (John Green) is fantastic; the third-person perspective is very witty and readers learn fun facts that Colin knows (like the definition of sitzpinkler and what a pupillary sphincter is). I first read it several years ago; I loved it and loaned my copy out and never saw it again, until I ran across one for $1 at a book sale last week.

Ok, now for the food.

You have seen pictures of my “kitchen” at our hotel so you know what I am cooking and prepping on but I wanted you to know what I have to cook with: one pot, one pan, spatula, slotted spoon, ladle, and 2 each sharp knives, large plates, small plates, and bowls. Everything that I make in this hotel will be made within the confines of the kitchen space and equipment (or lack therof).

Alrighty. Since I am dealing with these restrictions, for our first meal in our new home at the hotel I decided make something that I am familiar with. Dorm-dwellers and those with small kitchens rejoice in the chicken souvlaki gyro.

Chicken souvlaki gyros and tzaziki

Adapted from a recipe at The Novice Chef Blog

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, in bite size pieces (or, to minimize work, 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken strips)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons Greek Seasoning (or garlic/herb seasoning)
  • Paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • Whole-wheat pita bread
  • Optional: Lettuce, tomato, red onion, feta cheese

Directions:

1) Combine all ingredients except chicken, and mix well; place in a Ziploc bag, and add chicken. Shake to ensure the marinade is covering chicken and massage into chicken. Allow to marinate in refrigerator 1 hour to overnight.

2) Remove chicken from marinade and toss leftover marinade.

3) Add 2 tbsp olive oil to skillet over medium high heat; cook chicken 7-8 minutes or until cooked through.

4) To assemble the gyro: heat up one whole-wheat pita bread in either a skillet or the microwave. Add chicken, lettuce, tomato, sliced red onion and feta cheese and top with Tzatziki. To serve as a salad, omit pita bread and serve chicken over vegetables with feta and Tzatziki on top.

***To make this meal vegetarian friendly, use seitan, tofu, or other source of protein in place of chicken.***

Tzatziki

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz Greek yogurt
  • juice of  ½ of a lemon
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • Garlic salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste

My cutting board: a small, plastic lid.

Directions:
1) Slice cucumber in half, length wise. Using a spoon, scrape out seeds.

Or ignore the directions and spend twice as long cutting the seeds out. Doh!

2) Finely chop cucumber and place in paper towels and squeeze out extra moisture.

3) Combine Greek yogurt, lemon juice, shredded cucumber, garlic, garlic salt, and pepper; refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

 This is meal is easy to make while still being fairly healthy; I didn’t have any real problems even working with limited tools and counter space. The chicken reheats well and the leftovers don’t take up much space in our little fridge. The whole-wheat pita bread has more fiber and less sugar than white pita bread so it keeps you full for longer. The chicken is lean and all of the vegetables add nutrients without adding many calories; and don’t feel bad about piling on the tzaziki: real Greek yogurt is naturally fat-free and chock full of heart-healthy garlic!


Speaking of healthy, have you ever seen the MTV show I Used to Be Fat? It’s a reality show with real high school graduates who are overweight and want to go into college being a different person. MTV sends them a personal trainer/nutritionist and a camera crew captures the entire summer while these teens learn how to be healthier individuals (think MADE without the lame drama). At the end of the show, there’s a “reveal” with before and after pictures and clips from the summer. I’ve seen a few episodes here and there and didn’t think much of it until a marathon came on this weekend. I watched one episode where a girl lost 45 pounds in 80 days which was pretty impressive; even more impressive was that MTV had a follow-up with her a year later and she was keeping up her healthy lifestyle. I think MTV might have actually done something kind of good with this show; college is a pretty pivotal time in your life especially because it is the first time that most people live on their own. You become an adult as you do your own laundry, clean your own house or dorm, and cook your own meals. I think it is really kind of cool that MTV is stepping in and teaching these soon-to-be adults about nutrition and fitness; yeah, it would be better if their parents were the ones teaching them but I do think it’s cool that MTV has made a show about transformation and health and it is relatable to teens. There was one particular episode that got me thinking about it, a boy who lost 117 pounds in 110 days; he went from 315 lbs down to 198. And he did it by working out and eating better, in a way that is sustainable for him (surfing as a form of exercise, swapping chicken sandwiches for chicken salad, etc). If you’re looking to make a transformation in your life (and you’re tired of seeing those “I lost 30 lbs without sweating!” ads) then check out I Used to Be Fat: their journey is tough and pretty inspiring.

And now that I’m talking about TV shows, it’s about that time for all those fall premiers! Are you excited for the premier of new TV shows and return of old ones? Or are you not really a TV person? I’m looking forward to the start of Grimms and Once Upon a Time next week; both of them look a little dark and fantastical. Some of my old favorites have just started up again too and having cable in the hotel means I can actually watch them when they come on rather than having to wait 24-hours and catch them on the internet. I just got my mom hooked on Pretty Little Liars—she watched all 22 episodes in the first season this weekend as she was recovering from her surgery. Oh, right! My mom got her port put in on Friday. The surgery went well and she’s fine, just sore. After we get the chemo-sensitivity test back sometime in the next few weeks, we should be ready to start IPT. The chemo-sensitivity test is a test that they can do in Europe; basically they see what type of chemo (because there are a lot of them) is most effective on my mom’s type of cancer. That way, when we start IPT we know that the chemo is going to be as effective as possible.

One more recipe and then we’re done for the day. There is a fantastic Thai restaurant across the street from my mom’s clinic; I’ve eaten lunch there a few times and I’m especially gaga for their coconut curry soup. Since I can’t justify paying $3.50 for a bowl every day, I decided to whip up a batch of my own.

Thai Coconut Curry Soup

Adapted from a recipe at Pink Bites

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 3 cups of chicken stock
  • 2 14 oz can coconut milk
  • 1 piece of ginger, peeled, about 2 inches
  • 8 oz boneless, skinless chicken
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • Juice of one lime
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 ½ tbsp fish sauce
  • 8 oz mushrooms
  • 3-4 green onions
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and pepper

 Directions:

1) Prep all of the ingredients: cut the chicken meat into bite-sized pieces; finely chop ginger, slice mushrooms and chop green onions.

2) Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat; add curry paste and cook for about 30 seconds stirring constantly.

3) Add the stock, coconut milk (1 full can + the cream portion from the second can) and ginger and bring it to a boil.

4) Add the sugar, lime juice, lemon juice, and fish sauce; reduce by 1/4 to 1/3, about 30 minutes,

5) Add the chicken, cover and reduce heat to medium-low; cook until chicken is almost cooked through, 8-10 minutes.

6) Add vegetables; turn heat up to medium-high and cook until vegetables are just cooked, about 5 minutes.

7) Ladle into bowls over rice (optional); top each soup bowl with cilantro.

I wish my camera was cool enough to catch the steam rising from the surface. Mmm…

***For the non-meat eaters, this one is practically vegetarian as is! Swap vegetable stock for the chicken stock, omit the fish sauce and use salt or soy sauce (or vegetarian fish sauce, if you can find it), and add your choice of vegetables or tofu to the broth.***

Ok, that’s it for today. Tune in again in a few days for:

  • Pictures and stories from Alchemy, the GA burn
  • Cool things to do in Atlanta (Korean tacos, pretentious hot dogs, and Rocky Horror). Will you be shivering in  antici…pation tonight?
  • Bangin’ BBQ chicken wraps and crab-stuffed salmon!

Until next time…






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Necesito mas cervezas

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My mom and I are learning Spanish courtesy of her boyfriend (although this phrase I learned from my good friend Cristina). But the title really has nothing to do with the post, beyond the fact that I like to cook and I like beer.

Once again it has been busy around here and, once again, I’ve been neglecting my blog. I am sorry readers and I wish that my blog didn’t suffer form my busy-ness. To make it up to you I am going to give you a nice long blog to catch you up on everything:

1) I think I mentioned a while back that my mom fell and broke her back the week after she helped me and The Boyfriend move into our apartment in New York. Well, her doctor did bone scans and they found lesions and the lesions are cancer. So we are in Atlanta where my mom’s doctors are and she is going to be starting IPT chemo later this week or early next week. She is going to be all right but we appreciate all healing thought and positivity sent towards her!

2) We were staying with a friend of my mom’s but things weren’t working out (apparently we are too loud and messy) so we moved into an extended-stay hotel. It’s a bit small but it’s closer to the clinic and less stressful than being at my mom’s friend’s place.

3) For the next few weeks my recipes might be fewer than usual and…simpler than usual since our kitchen looks like this:

 That’s our kitchen: just 2 burners, a microwave and a mini-fridge. There is no oven, very little counter space, and no kitchen appliances, fancy or otherwise.

Nope. It doesn’t look any bigger from a different angle.

For the next few weeks, everything I make will be made with 1 pot and/or 1 pan. And since our fridge is the size of a postage stamp:

I will be cooking less than usual. For instance, I am only cooking 1 or 2 dinners a week because we have to completely finish all leftovers before there is enough fridge space to house something else.  Did I mention that my mom has dietary restrictions? This means little to no sugar, wheat, gluten, dairy, pork, and red meat in my recipes for the next few weeks as I do my best to cook around her dietary restrictions.

Whew! Now that that’s covered I though that I’d catch you up on some old recipes (i.e. from 2-3 weeks ago) today and introduce more recent ones in the next post. These first three recipes are ones that I lost in the shuffle of everything that’s been going on lately, starting with

Tostadas. I love tostadas; honestly, I think it has more to do with the queso fresco and salsa than anything else. And maybe too it’s because of memories: the last 2 years in school a couple (Jessica and Carlos) came into one of the school’s lounge spaces on the weekends to make and sell food. Jessica is (I think) Columbian and Mexican and Carlos is Dominican and Mexican and they shared their life and their background through the food that they made: tacos, tostadas, rice and beans, empanadas, quesadillas, and arepas with guava and cheese. Jessica and Carlos have 3 kids and like a lot of people in this economy were looking for an extra source to supplement their income. I don’t know exactly how they happened upon the college kitchen but I am sure glad they did! Besides the fact that their food was always fresh, affordable, and available on the weekends, Jessica and Carlos are really nice, very intelligent people. They were always friendly and tolerant of the college environment and they took the time to get to know people. I have missed them since graduating, especially since I didn’t get a chance to say good-bye and get contact info from them. So I guess that’s what I think of when I eat tostadas: I think of college on the weekends (fun!) and the wonderful Jessica and Carlos. I do miss it all. Anyway, enough nostalgia—here’s the recipe:

Shrimp Tostadas

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 tbsp olive oil divided
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • ½ tsp or so each paprika, cayenne, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, pinch brown sugar, salt and pepper
  • Corn tortillas and Pam or other baking spray OR bag of tostadas

To top tostadas:

  • Chopped avocado
  • Best salsa ever
  • Queso fresco
  • Lettuce
  • Chopped tomato
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Greek yogurt

 Directions:

1) Mix 2 tbsp olive oil, vinegar, and all spices; add to a Ziploc bag with shrimp, onion, and chopped garlic. Let marinate for 1-2 hours in fridge.

2) When you’re ready to cook the shrimp, heat 2 tsp oil in pan over medium high heat.

3) Dump contents of bag into pan; cook 5-6 minute or until shrimp is cooked through.

4) While the shrimp is cooking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with tinfoil.

5) Spray corn tortillas with Pam; cook for 5-10 minutes or until corn tortillas are crispy (skip this step if you bought a bag of tostadas).

6) To serve, put all toppings on the table. Assemble tostadas: spread Greek yogurt or sour cream on the crispy corn tortilla. Top with lettuce, shrimp, chopped tomato, cilantro, and avocado. Finish with crumbled queso fresco and salsa.

Good cheese is pretty crucial here. I recommend hitting up your local Mexican super market to find the authentic stuff: it tastes better and is less expensive than you’ll find at the grocery store. If you can’t find good queso fresco, mozzarella will work. I also recommend the Best Salsa or another spicy, restaurant-style salsa; Pace or Tostitos won’t do this recipe any favors.

Because I am such a creature  of habit (and because I don’t know another healthy side dish that compliments Mexican/Tex-Mex food) I made the corn and bean salad again. I am starting to think that my lack of side dish creativity is the reason we don’t eat Mexican/Tex-Mex as often as we’d like. The only other side dish I have run across that would complement a Mexican/Tex-Mex meal is Spanish rice and I just hate making another starch when there is already a starch element to the meal (tortillas). Anyone have a suggestion for a healthy side with moar veggies?

And we usually just bring all of the toppings to the table and build our tostadas there; it winds up being less messy in the long run.

***To vegitize this meal, replace the shrimp with whatever protein you’d rather be eating: tofu, tempeh, chick’n, etc.***

Next!

40 Clove Chicken is one that I have been jonesing to make for a while now. The allure of 40 cloves of garlic in a single recipe is pretty hard to pass up, too hard apparently because I decided to use up all of my garlic in one evening to make it. Was it worth it? You betcha! Surprisingly it wasn’t as intensely garlicky as I thought (and would have liked) it to be. But it was creamy and mildly spicy and very tender and we wound up eating all of the leftovers, which usually indicates a well-liked recipe in my house.

40 clove chicken

Adapted from a recipe at For the Love of Cooking

Ingredients:

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of any fat
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or duck and/or bacon fat)
  • Italian seasoning, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste
  • 40 cloves of garlic
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 2/3 cups of chicken broth
  • ¼ cup milk

Directions:

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees; then start separating the cloves of garlic and peeling them.

2) Place trimmed and halved chicken breast in a large zip lock bag. If necessary, pound the chicken breasts flat with a mallet until ½ inch thick.

3) Season with salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, and Italian seasoning to taste.

4) Heat the olive oil (or bacon/duck fat) in a large skillet over medium high heat. In batches, sauté the chicken smooth side down first, until nicely browned, about 3 minutes; flip the breasts and cook for 45 seconds then remove to a baking dish.

5) Once all the chicken has been removed, add the garlic and the onions to the pot. Lower the heat and sauté for 3-4 minutes, turning often; add the chicken stock, making sure to scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.

6) Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, and Italian seasonings if needed. Pour sauce over the chicken in the baking dish; cover with a lid or tinfoil and bake for 20 minutes. Reserve pan—do not wash!

7) Once the chicken has baked, carefully remove the chicken, onion, and garlic cloves to a platter and cover with lid or aluminum foil to stay warm.

8) Place the sauce in the large skillet that you cooked the meat in. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and milk with a little bit of the sauce.

9) Once it’s thoroughly mixed, slowly whisk the flour mixture back into the rest of the sauce. Add the butter to the sauce, raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes or until it’s nice and thick. Taste and re-season if needed. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.

The dish had a mellow, roasted garlic flavor rather than the aggressive, spicy flavor that I was expecting of so many cloves. I think mushrooms, a bit of bacon, and some white wine could have really elevated even beyond what it was but as it stood, it was damn good.

***If you wanted to make this minus the animal product, I bet it would taste just as good over chick’n; adjust cooking times accordingly.***

I’m a big fan of trying new veggies, especially ever since a friend of mine gave me a good piece of advice regarding food that you didn’t like as a kid. He told me to never say you don’t like a food until you have cooked it yourself. I’ve discovered that a lot of food that I ruled out as a kid (fish, Brussel sprouts, cooked carrots) I actually really like when I cook it. This week I decided to see if I could reclaim asparagus! I added the lemon juice, feta, and vinegar last-minute because it turns out that I don’t much like asparagus. But feta and lemon juice can save just about any vegetable side dish: I’ve used it on bland green beans, wilted spinach, and overcooked Brussel sprouts and I’ve got to say that it works every time. If you like asparagus, feel free to leave out the feta and lemon juice; if you wish you liked asparagus, maybe you should add it…

Roasted asparagus

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch asparagus, washed and trimmed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, quartered
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp feta cheese
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Toss asparagus with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.

3) Add asparagus to cookie sheet; bake 15-30 minutes or until roasted (asparagus should be soft but not mushy).

4) Toss asparagus with lemon juice and feta; drizzle with balsamic vinegar and serve.

So that’s all the recipes from before upheaval, now for the ones since. Now, I only had time to make a couple of recipes while we had a full kitchen at our disposal. I made an old favorite, cod and mashed potatoes with Indian-spiced carrots; that one never gets old for me. I have been wanting to make this for my mom for a while now and this seemed like the perfect occasion: it fit all of her dietary needs and is such a warm, homey meal. This made a TON of food and since our temporary host can’t eat black pepper (oops!), my mom and I ate on this all week.

My mom and I are at her clinic here in Atlanta Monday thru Friday from about 9am until 5pm. For breakfasts I have been mostly eating yogurt or fruit and my mom gets fed lunch and snacks at the clinic. Since I’m not a patient, I don’t so I had to think of some easy portable lunches for me. As usual, my thoughts turned to lunch wraps…

Wraps are easy to make, ahead of time or on the spot; they taste pretty good and can be really nutritionally balanced. With this wrap, I really wanted something that could be a hot lunch if I chose (the clinic has a toaster oven) and would be filling but still healthy.

Warm turkey-avocado wrap

Ingredients (for 2):

  • 2 tortillas or wraps
  • 1 avocado
  • 4 pieces turkey breast
  • 2 pieces sharp cheddar
  • Handful lettuce
  • 6 tomato slices
  • 6 cucumber slices
  • Handful shredded carrots
  • Sliced sweet onion
  • Instant dressing
  • Black pepper

Directions:

1) Start by mashing the avocado; spread half of the mash on each tortilla and sprinkle with black pepper.

2) Put 2 pieces of turkey on each wrap, right in the center, with the edge of the turkey about ½ inch away from the edge of the wrap.

3) Lay tomato slices down the center of the wrap right on top of the turkey; add blacked pepper and then cheese.

4) Put wraps into a preheated oven or toasted oven on broil for 3-5 minutes or until cheese melts.

5) Remove wraps from toaster oven and top with tomato slices, lettuce, and shredded carrots.

6) Squeeze some instant dressing over the veggies and roll up wrap like a burrito; enjoy!

***This would be just as good (and probably as filling) without the turkey, so vegetarians/vegans, feel free to omit the meat.***

The wraps generally aren’t enough for me to stay full for 9 hours so I have been packing a small side salad that I can eat a couple of hours after my wrap. I found this super simple recipe on Foodgawker (of course) and made a couple of mods to it and it is delicious!

Very green salad

Adapted from a recipe at Salad Pride

Ingredients (for 3-4 salads):

  • Handful green-leaf lettuce
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 pear, chopped
  • 2 oz blue brie cheese, sliced
  • 4 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • Instant Dressing

Directions:

1) Wash and dry lettuce before putting it in a bowl.

2) Add chopped avocado, pear, cheese, and pumpkin seeds to lettuce; top with 1-2 tbsp salad dressing.

***Veg-friendly as is!!***

I accidentally added the pear—I misread the recipe and thought it was listed as an ingredient so I bought two at the grocery store. I only learned that it’s not in the original recipe when I started typing up this post! It is a nice addition, if I do say so myself. I also like how the salad looks: very green. Sorry that there are no pictures of this! I’ll try to get a pic the next time I make it and add it to the blog.So I am going to wrap this up for today but I’ll leave you with a sneak peek at what is going to be in my next post: pictures and stories of the last burn I went to (including costume pieces!) and plans for the next one in 5 weeks; TV gossip (remember when I used to do that?); tales of food in Atlanta; updates on my mom and Greek food constructed in our tiny “kitchen.”

Until next time!

Farmers’ Market

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Farmers’ Market

I meant to post this on Saturday but I got behind so happy belated blog! On Saturday The Boyfriend and I checked out the renowned Troy Waterfront Farmers’ Market. Every Saturday, the farmers’ market takes over downtown Troy; Troy closes off a few streets and close to 80 local vendors set up shop for four hours. I was super excited to see (and shop!) locally: I have never had the opportunity to buy meat, dairy, and accoutrements from local farms. In south Florida, there was a gigantic flea market that I used to frequent to buy cheap produce and the best Mexican food around, so I was doubly excited to find a replacement for my previous favorite Saturday excursion.

The Boyfriend and I decided to try to get as much of our weekly shopping done at the market as possible so we withdrew $60 for shopping (leaving about $30 for things we could only get at the grocery store). We got some great stuff for $55 (we had $5 left over!); I listed it all out because you’ll be seeing it on recipes throughout the week:

-1 lb ground beef and 1.6 lb beef spare ribs (Bornt Family Farms)

-1.3 lb chicken wings (Homestead Farms; antibiotic and hormone free)

-1 (huge) bunch kale

-1 zucchini, 1 squash

-1 lb Yukon gold potatoes

-1 bunch garlic scape

-1 tub sundried tomato and chive schmear Argyle Cheese Farmer

-1 tub Gar-la-la (vegan, raw garlic spread) from Zorba’s Natural Food

-1 22oz Hefferveisen from Brown’s Brewing Company (local brewery)

-6 oz locally made pasta from Flour City Pasta (sweet potato shells, red pepper crested rigate, lime tubes, carrot thyme radiatori)

-1 quart chocolate milk from Battenkill Valley Creamery

-1 bagel (Our Daily Bread)

-12 jumbo eggs (Cornell Farm)

On the wish list for next week is pesto from Buddha Pesto, pickles, sauerkraut, or kimchee from The Pickle Club, and some local wine! But for this week, The Boyfriend and I have planned out:

*Creamy Chicken Pasta and Raw Kale Salad with Roasted Chickpeas

*Korean-Style Short Ribs with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and a salad

*Buffalo Wings with Cheese-Stuffed Zucchini/Squash and a salad

*Asian Ground Beef Lettuce Wraps with Sautéed Kale and salad

Now! The recipe. I had a cooked chicken breast left over from the week, as well as some mushrooms and orange pepper so I decided to combine leftovers with fresh goods to make an easy, healthy(ish), and fast dinner; for this recipe, I also used the schmear, garlic spread, and my local pasta.

Creamy Chicken Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz tri-color spiral pasta
  • 8 oz chicken breast; seasoned, cooked and chopped
  • 4 oz fresh sliced mushrooms
  • Half an orange pepper, diced
  • Half a white onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp schmear or cream cheese
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: 2 tbsp Gar-la-la

Directions:

1) Put a pot of water on the stove to boil; add dash of olive oil and salt to water.

2) While waiting for your water to boil, heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, onion, and garlic to pan; cook 3-4 minutes.

Freakishly large garlic clove!

3) Add mushroom and red pepper to pan; cook another 3-4 minutes.

4) Turn heat down to medium; add schmear, milk, and Gar-la-la (if using). Stir until schmear melts and milk and schmear is incorporated.

5) Add chopped chicken, salt and pepper, and dill.

6) Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all ingredients are incorporated. Turn off the burner and take the skillet off the heat; add lemon juice just before serving.

If I wasn’t going for healthy, bacon would be a great addition to this recipe; spinach would also be a tasty compliment to the pasta. Or sundried tomatoes! Or rosemary instead of dill, mmm. Or… I should probably stop before I get carried away. The point is, this recipe is pretty versatile and you really can add or omit ingredients at your discretion. I can’t recommend the garlic spread enough though—shit is baller. Tastes great on everything—bread, crackers, chips, pasta; you get the idea.

For the side dish, I decided to serve some of the giant bunch of kale that I bought. I didn’t want to serve it the way I normally do (sautéed with garlic and olive oil) since the pasta was already garlicky. Instead I decided to go out on a limb and make a raw kale salad. Kale can be a bit bitter (and, as The Boyfriend says, tastes “too plant-y”) but I read a few online recipes that recommended removing all of the stem to tackle the bitterness problem; the recipes also recommended soaking the kale in salad dressing  to soften it up and give it some flavor.

Kale Salad with Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients:

  • ¼ bunch kale
  • ¼ cup cup shredded carrots
  • 6 slices of cucumber, quartered
  • 1 roma tomato, chopped
  • ¼ cup roasted chickpeas
  • ½ cup salad dressing

Directions:

1) Wash kale; completely remove all stem pieces and chop kale into bite-sized pieces.

2) Add kale and salad dressing to Ziploc bag; squish bag to make sure kale is completely covered in dressing. Place kale bag in fridge and let chill for 15-20 minutes.

3) When kale is ready, put kale in bowl with other salad ingredients; toss.

Roasted Chickpeas  

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Seasoning of your choice (I used paprika, salt, pepper, red pepper, and garlic powder)

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400o; line a baking sheet with tinfoil.

2) Add chickpeas, olive oil, garlic, and seasonings to bowl. Mix well.

3) Spread chickpeas onto baking sheet and put baking sheet into oven; bake for 20-25 minutes stirring chickpeas occasionally.

Once roasted, the chickpeas can be eaten as a snack as well as a salad-topper; The Boyfriend really enjoyed them and compared their texture and taste to peanuts.

The salad was pretty good; The Boyfriend thought it was still too plant-y but I thought it tasted fine. I’m also a big fan of tomato, cucumber, and shredded carrots so it was an easy sell for me.

Movin’ on up

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Movin’ on up

To the east side! To a deluxe apartment in the sky-i!

My long hiatus is now over—we have moved into our house in New York! It’s a whole ‘nother world up here: a world of $0.05 deposits on all glass bottles bought, a world of no parking on certain sides of the street on different days, a world of no central AC*.

I really want to take advantage of this shake-up and make some changes to my lifestyle. I’ll let you in on a secret: I have always battled with my weight. I have a lazy thyroid which contributes some to this problem but most of the responsibility rests on me. I have tried too many diets and have gone on many an exercise binge. While I may lose some weight during each of these phases, these short fluxes are unsustainable and the weight finds me as soon as I go back to my “normal” life.

So new state, new state of mind. I think I have realized my past mistakes and I feel like I am ready and able to make some real life changes. I am focusing on changing my lifestyle gradually into a healthy routine that I can keep up for the rest of my life. I’m going to be accountable to myself but I am also going to be honest with you and be accountable to the blog.

I have a few simple goals for myself:

1)  Be active every day. This might mean walking for an hour with The Boyfriend, exploring our new neighborhood. Or it might mean working out to a Jillian Michael’s DVD**. I would like to try different workout classes (hot yoga, kickboxing, etc) at local places but that will have to wait for now, in the interest of finance.

2) Eat only when I get hungry and only until I am full. I want to stop overeating and I need to stop eating just because I’m bored or because The Boyfriend is eating or just because something tastes good.

3) Eat good-for-me food. This is what I thought would be the hardest since I am used to eating whatever I want to eat. This, unfortunately, usually amounts to several trips a week to McDonald’s or Taco Bell. But actually, after eating so much bad food all summer I am ready for a change. I’ve been eating breakfasts with protein, lunches with lots of veggies and good, lean dinners***.

*We bought our first window-box unit on our third day in NY. Being that I’m from Florida, I never thought I’d live in a place that I would need to BUY an AC unit. But I am happy to report that a 12,000 BTU unit (plus 2 fans) is enough to cool our 1100 ft2 apartment. Also, pro-tip: if you want to cool multiple rooms, you have to get a bigger unit; they may cost more but they cool a much larger area. I offer this advice in case anyone else is facing the dilemma of “What the hell is a BTU?” and “Isn’t it smarter to buy three 5000 BTU units rather than one 12,000 BTU unit?” The answer is no; two 5,000 BTU units is not equal to one 10,000 BTU unit. Rant completed!

**I bought Jillian’s 30 Day Shred DVD about a year ago and I got through 20 days before I let my hectic schedule get the best of me. The DVD was super tough and I loved the results I saw but I hated the monotony—doing the same workout everyday gets old fast. I decided to get a hold of the other Jillian DVDs (Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism; Ripped in 30; No More Trouble Zones; Yoga Meltdown). I have since tried the Ripped in 30 DVD and it is great! Definitely brutal though. The point of the asterisk is to pretty much impress upon you how awesome Jillian’s workouts are. They run you ragged and you curse at the screen and you hate your life; and you see results immediately. If you like quick workouts (24 minutes—including cool down and warm up!) that are high impact, you’ll love Jillian. Well, you’ll hate her but you’ll love how she whips your body into shape.

***Specifically I have been eating 1 egg and a slice of oatmeal toast for breakfast (an old standard: eggs-in-a-hat; look for the recipe in a future blog post, if you’d don’t already know it). For lunch, I have either a veggie wrap or a salad (salad recipe down below!) for lunch and a lean protein + veggie for dinner (ex: last night’s dinner was steamed cod with chipotle/garlic sour cream, roasted broccoli, and a salad. I would usually include a starch in with the dinner meal but as I am without a rice cooker, I have been foregoing the dinner starch and I think it’s working out for the best). I also eat 1-2 snacks per day; this week, the snacks have been half of an apple + a few slices of sharp cheddar cheese OR 1 wedge Baby Bell Light Swiss Cheese with 8 Roasted Garlic Triscuits and 4 slices tomato. Mmm… I also replaced soda with iced tea–iced black tea! I feel really posh when my tea and snack time happen at 4pm, haha.

But enough about me. You’re here for the food, aren’t you?

Iced Black Tea

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Twinnings tea bag (I recommend Lady Grey)
  • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp milk OR 1 tsp lemon juice (optional)

Directions:

1) Fill a coffee cup up with 1 cup water. Heat in the microwave about 1:15.

2) Seep tea bag in hot water about 8 minutes. Remove tea bag and add honey.

3) Pour hot tea over ice in another glass. Add lemon juice or milk if you’d like.

4) Drink with pinky extended.

Super Salad

Makes 2 salads

Ingredients:

  • lettuce, whatever type you prefer (I used a mix of red leaf and green leaf lettuce)
  • 1/4 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 slices cucumber, diced
  • 1 small handful shredded carrots
  • 1 chicken breast; seasoned, cooked and chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp feta cheese, crumbled

Directions:

1) Add all ingredients to bowl; toss to mix. Top with 1 tbsp Instant Dressing.

Instant Dressing:

Ingredients:

  • Equal parts extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • Badia Complete Seasoning*, to taste
  • lemon juice (optional)

Directions:

1) Add all ingredients to squeeze bottle. Shake to combine.

*If you have never used Badia’s complete seasoning, you’re missing out. It is delicious! Badia is a self-described “ethnic” seasoning line. They make a ton of spices and they’re usually cheaper than McCormick’s and taste every bit as good; however, their complete seasoning is a cut above the rest. Unfortunately, it does have MSG in it but I still think that the flavor it imparts is worth it.

I ate one salad for lunch and split the remaining salad (minus chicken) between The Boyfriend and I for a side dish for dinner. Dinner tonight was steak with mushroom sauce, green beans, and leftover Super Salad. I know that steak doesn’t sound too healthy (or very cost-effective) but we bought shoulder steak! Shoulder steak is very inexpensive (about $3.50/lb at our local grocery store) and an 8oz piece only has 9 grams of fat (compared to 25 grams in a sirloin). My portion was only 4oz which cut the fat total in half. Red meat is still a sometimes food rather than an everyday food, but I urge you to “splurge” and eat steak sometimes. Onto the recipes!

Splurge-tastic Shoulder Steak

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb shoulder steak
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Bragg’s Amino Acids*
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, quartered
  • 1/4 cup onion, sliced
  • paprika, cayenne pepper, Italian seasoning**, salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1) 12-24 hours prior to making dinner, make the marinade. Combine lemon juice, Bragg’s, OJ, and garlic in a bowl. Mix salt and pepper, paprika, cayenne, and Italian seasoning together. Rub seasoning onto both sides of the steak. Put the steak in a large Ziploc bag with the marinade and onions. Place the whole bag inside of a bowl so that the marinade completely covers the steak and place the bowl in the fridge. Marinate (preferably) overnight***.

2) One hour before cooking, take bowl out of fridge and sit it on the counter to come to room temperature****.

3) Heat a skillet on medium heat; add ½ tbsp olive oil as well as about 1/3 cup marinade to hot pan and add steaks. Cook 4-5 minutes per side. Remove from pan immediately but let the steak rest for about 10 minutes before cutting into it. Top with mushroom sauce.

*Bragg’s is another product that I highly recommend purchasing. It is a “liquid protein concentrate” that can be used in sauces, marinades, etc. It has a savory taste similar to soy sauce but less salty; it also contains less sodium than soy sauce. Bragg’s is liquid amino acids: amino acids are essential for humans and are only found in food.

**I used one of those premixed Italian seasonings spices but you could make your won. It is typically thyme, oregano, garlic, and dried parsley.

***The reason you need to marinate the steak overnight—this is very important. Shoulder steak is a tougher cut of steak; it is meant to be marinated and/or braised rather than grilled. To render the steak as tender as possible, the steak must be marinated for a long time in an acid-based marinade. The acid helps break down the connective tissue and collagen making the steak tender. If you had a meat tenderizing tool, I would advise using that on the steak before putting it in the fridge. If (like me) you do not own a meat hammer, a regular hammer will do in a pinch. It won’t work quite as well but it’s better than nothing. Also remember that acidic (in this case, lemony) marinade = acidic (lemony) steak. Your steak will taste like whatever your marinade tastes like. I happen to like the light tang to this steak but if you have an aversion to lemon, use a different acid (like vinegar).

****Always cook meat from room temp. I’m not sure why it works but it does.

Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Adapted from Taste and Tell

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 4 ounces mixed mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup low-fat sour cream

Directions:

1) Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saute pan on med-high heat.

2) Add the onion and cook until soft, 3-5 minutes.

3) Add the mushrooms and cook until tender.

4) Stir in the water, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and Italian seasoning; cook for 2 minutes.

5) Turn off heat and stir in sour cream.

Groovy Green Beans

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb fresh green beans
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • garlic powder, paprika, Badia Complete Seasoning, salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1) Start by washing and trimming all of your green beans. For those that have never cooked fresh beans, “trimming” just means snapping the ends off of each bean; think Pollyanna.

2) Add beans to a pot; add enough water to cover beans. Add salt to the pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil beans 4-5 minutes.

3) While beans are cooking, prepare a large bowl with ice water. When beans are cooked, drain them and add them to the ice water. Let sit 5 minutes.

4) Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat.

5) When skillet is ready, add garlic and beans to it. Sauté beans 5 minutes, adding seasonings about 2 minutes in. Immediately remove beans from skillet when finished and add lemon juice.

I didn’t get any pictures of the cooking process—sorry! It’s hard enough to learn how to cook in a new kitchen and I didn’t want to have to stop and take pictures along the way. Expect more pictures (and recipes!) as I get unpacked and more comfortable in my new kitchen.

And they say money can’t buy you happiness

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And they say money can’t buy you happiness

I didn’t do much cooking last week as I was on Spring Break and in New York(!) but I still managed to eat some good stuff.

If you’re a foodie and you have never been to New York City, I highly recommend it. There are endless options and the only problem is that it is unlikely you have the amount of money or the tummy-space to try everything. They have food in carts on the streets, in chain stores, in hotel lobbies, and even in train stations. Case in point: Grand Central Station.  There are over 35 places to buy food in Grand Central alone. One of the first things I saw was this bakery:

This is one-half or so of the bakery; I couldn’t get the entire establishment in one shot. Whoa.

The Boyfriend and I tried our best to cross  off as many eateries as possible off of our “Places to Eat in NY” list, starting with the Shake Shack!

I have heard that the Shake Shack is one of the quintessential places to go for a burger while you’re in NYC. Had I known that the Shack was outside, I probably would have skipped it, seeing as it was in the upper 30s that day; but boy am I glad that we went! The Boyfriend and I got our first taste of NY by sharing a burger, a NY style dog, fries, and a chocolate shake. Talk about burger nirvana; so good that I forgot to take a picture! The burger was everything a cheeseburger should be: melty, chewy, soft bun, secret sauce. The hot dog was different than any one I’d ever had: it had texture, you had to chew it! It clearly wasn’t liquefied meat piped into casing. And topped with sauerkraut and mustard, it was just the way I like it. After tasting the shake, I understand why they are called Shake Shack. The chocolate shake was creamy but not too much so, and tasted like decadent slightly dark chocolate. It was perfectly balanced so that it was sweet enough that you wanted the whole shake, rather than the average fast food milkshake: so sickly-sweet that you only want a little.

We didn’t get to eat here but I really wanted to. We were on our way to Katz’s when we ran across this place. They serve pomme frites (or as us commoners call them, french fries) with a ton of different mayo-based sauces. This place is definitely on the check-list for next time.

We made a stop at the infamous Katz’s Deli.

We got the classic pastrami on rye. It was pricey but definitely worth it. Layers and layers and layers (do you see how tall that sandwich is?) of pastrami with just a little bit of mustard. It may not sound like much but Katz’s does simple perfectly; no bells and whistles needed. The two pickles served alongside it were great too; the light green pickle in front tasted more like cucumber than pickle (and yes, I am aware that pickles are pickled cucs). The Boyfriend wasn’t a fan but I found it interesting and refreshing.

On our second (and unfortunately last) day in the city, we hit up China Town.

China Town is a culinary dream! So many markets with seafood, spices, fruit; I wish I could have done some food shopping here, but unfortunately we were on our way to Albany that evening.

I have never seen so many dried (theoretically) edibles! What does one do with dried sea cucumber?

Our last stop was at Grimaldi’s Pizza in Brooklyn. We had been advised by a friend of ours that this was where to go for the best pizza in Brooklyn. On the way from Manhattan to Brooklyn, The Boyfriend and I got pretty lost; as we were bumbling around sniping at each other, hungry and worried about the train we had to catch at Penn Station is just a couple of hours, it started to hail. Never has anyplace looked so good as when we saw Grimaldi’s and got to go inside out of the cold and hail.

Unfortunately, the first sign we saw said “No slices.” The second sign read “Cash only.” Thankfully we had enough time (and enough cash) to grab a whole pie. And I think I know why those 2 signs exist: no one should ever have just 1 slice of Grimaldi’s, it is just too good. And if we didn’t have to pay cash, I’m pretty sure we would have bought a second pizza to take with us. As it was, we had to be content with a large pizza (with pepperoni and mushrooms).

We were halfway through the pizza before I remembered that I needed to get a photo.

And then of course we had to get dessert.

Easily the best cannoli I have ever had (and the only one that The Boyfriend has ever had! When he saw it arrive, he asked me if it was some kind of deep-fried tortilla with ice-cream filling).

We spent much longer in Albany than we did in the city and we found a few good eateries there as well, but nothing that really compared to the food in NYC (but really, what can?). Well, I will make an exception for Cheesecake Machismo. Apparently it is one of Albany’s highest rated restaurants and it exclusively serves cheesecake. The Boyfriend and our 2 friends and I decided to split half of a Frankencake: a cheesecake made up of any 6 slices of their flavors-of-the-day.

We chose (from left to right): Purple Nurple (black raspberry Chambord cheesecake with double chocolate ganache on top); Chocolate Chip Fasciana; Sponkey Monkey; Coconut Smores; Chocolate Buzz (rich chocolate coffee cheesecake, double chocolate ganache, oreo crumbles, and a dark chocolate covered espresso bean on each slice); and Hazelnut Black Cherry.

It was glorious. I don’t know that I have ever had such delicious cheesecake. Going into it, I was most suspicious of the hazelnut-black cherry slice; it just sounded like all of the bad fake flavors from a candy store rolled into one. I was happily mistaken and it wound up being my favorite slice!

We tore our way through those 6 slices like we were cross-country skiers tearing down a mountain. We immediately felt over-full and sleepy and kind of ill; symptoms of a cheesecake hangover.