Tag Archives: healthy

Playing catch-up!

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I have gotten quite behind on posting and a lot of my recipes fell to the wayside, so today is catch-up day. There are a lot of recipes, so bear with me. For my vegetarian readers, I am trying to make this blog more vegetarian friendly so look for the stars (***) under each recipe for my recommended alterations to make the recipe veg-friendly. I have to admit, I haven’t cooked a ton of vegetarian food so please comment and add your suggestions for veg-friendly swaps.

And now…away we go!

During the last week, The Boyfriend and I bought ingredients to make Thai basil chicken. This recipe was great for a couple of reasons: The Boyfriend and I are notorious for not eating leftovers so the fact that this recipe made just enough for 2 was great. The only problem with that was that it was so delicious! We enjoyed it so much that we wound up making it three times in a week! This recipe was easy and quick and I could eat it again this week in a heartbeat.

Thai Basil Chicken Recipe
Adapted from a recipe at Gimme Some Oven

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 10 oz boneless skinless chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 ½ tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 big bunch basil leaves, stems removed and leaves chopped
  • 1-2 tsp dried mint
  • 2 dashes ground white pepper

Directions:

1) Heat a wok or a heavy skillet over medium high heat until very hot.

2) Add the oil and garlic and stir fry until the garlic is very fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3) Add the onion and Sriracha and continue stir-frying until the onions have wilted, about 5 minutes.

4) Add the chopped chicken and fry until the chicken is cooked, about 5-7 minutes.

5) Stir in the fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar and white pepper; continue cooking until most of the liquid is gone.

6) Add the basil and toss a couple of time until the leaves are wilted and bright green. Serve immediately.

We used regular basil and dried mint instead of Thai basil, partially because we found beautiful basil at the farmers’ market and partially because The Boyfriend and I both find Thai basil a bit too strong in flavor for our tastes.

Lovely green basil from the farmers’ market!

***I’m not sure what you could sub the chicken for here to make it tasty but still vegetarian friendly; maybe extra-firm tofu that’s been marinating in a teriyaki sauce? Or perhaps portobello cap that has been sliced?***

We served it with jasmine rice. We have been without a rice cooker for a few months now and because of that, we’ve been laying off of the rice.

Chicken over rice

But since I discovered a (nearly) foolproof way to make jasmine rice on the stove, we have been eating a ton of it.

Jasmine Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 1 ½ cup water

Directions:

1) Rinse rice in a colander until water runs clear; drain.

2) Add rice and water to a pot; cover.

3) Cook on high until water starts to boil; turn down to simmer and cook covered and undisturbed for 15 minutes.

4) Move pot off of hot burner; let rest for 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff with fork.

After repeated rice-making-fails, this one is a winner. I think we have made it successfully 5 times in the last 10 days. Yay!

Ok, another recipe from last week: chili rellenos. Since our deep-fryer is currently empty, we decided to take the opportunity to healthify the recipe by grilling the peppers. I sort of hodge-podged together two different recipes and the result was a success. Let’s start with ranchero sauce:

Ranchero Sauce

Adapted from a recipe at Closet Cooking

Ingredients:

  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • ½ small onion (diced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • ½ jalapeno (seeded and diced)
  • 1small handful cilantro (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Puree the tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeno and cilantro in a food processor.
2. Heat the oil in a pan.
3. Add the tomato mixture, chicken broth and cumin and season with salt and pepper.
4. Bring to a boil and simmer until it thickens, about 10 minutes.

Healthier Grilled Chili Rellenos

Adapted from a recipe at Once Upon a Plate

Ingredients:

  • 4 good-sized poblano pepper
  • 4 oz good quality mozzarella cheese + a small handful shredded cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Toothpicks

Directions:

1) Wash poblanos.

2) Optional: roast poblano peppers in the oven at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes or until lightly blackened. Place peppers in Ziploc bag and let sweat for 5 minutes; after sweating, carefully peel peppers.

3) Slice stem/cap almost all of the way off of the pepper; flip back stem/cap to remove seeds and membrane.

4) Cut mozzarella into 1 oz chunks that are the size of pepper and stuff cheese into pepper.

5) Secure stem/cap with toothpicks, 2-3 toothpicks per pepper.

6) Brush poblano peppers lightly with olive oil and cook on hot grill; cook 2-3 minutes per side for roasted pepper or 5-8 minutes per side for raw peppers.

7) Optional: Put peppers in a casserole dish; cover with ranchero sauce and shredded cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

This was really tasty. We cut a few corners on our recipe (we didn’t roast the peppers or bake them with the sauce and cheese) but we thought that the recipe would have been even tastier had we not cut any corners; I put both options in the recipe so you can choose your route.

Empty plate = happy tummy!

We served it with a redo of the corn and black bean salad from a few weeks ago and our beer margaritas.

For my lunch last week, I decided to make dumplings. Again, I cobbled together a few recipes and they came out pretty good.

Chicken Dumplings

Adapted from a recipe at Weekend Food Projects

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 package dumpling wrappers

Directions:

1) Mix all the ingredients in medium bowl and refrigerate for one hour.

2) Use a teaspoon to measure the amount of mixture. Place the filling into the center of the dumpling wrapper and wrap or just seal.

To cook:

1) Place a non-stick pan on medium-high heat with two tablespoons of vegetable oil.

2) Place the dumplings in the pan in a single layer; cook dumplings until the bottoms are brown. Flip dumplings so that all sides get brown.

3) Add about 1/4 cup of water to the pan and cover the pan with a lid and let it cook for three to four minutes. Once the water has evaporated, your dumplings are done.

OR:

1) Steam dumplings in well-greased steamer for 5-6 minutes.

I found a great technique for folding dumplings on Fuss Free Cooking: there are step-by-step instructions with pictures! I still had to have The Boyfriend demonstrate the folding technique; he was really good at it! Mine all came out a little lumpy but his were really nice looking.

I folded one just intuitively

and then one where I used a fork to seal the edges

before I succumbed to the “normal” technique.

That’s mine in the front and The Boyfriend’s in the background. His is much more symmetrical than mine. Luckily they all cook up the same 🙂

Eventually we figured out where I was going wrong so my last two dumplings came out okay, haha.

We made so many!

I made a batch of about 50 of them and froze them in bags of five. If you steam them from frozen, add an extra minute or two to make sure that they are done.

***If you wanted to make these vegetarian, I bet you could sub crumbled TVP or chopped tofu (or even sweet potatoes, if you wanted to get creative) for the chicken; and if you added extra veggies and herbs to the filling (chopped carrots, fresh ginger, etc) they would be quite tasty. Hmm, maybe I’ll have to try that now…***

I also made some summer rolls and while they were good, the recipe wasn’t good enough to brag out. I do think that I rolled them nicely so I am going to photo-brag about that! Haha.

Bam! Pretty summer rolls.

They had cucumber, avocado, and crab-stick in them, in case you were curious.

***Replacing the crab stick with marinated tofu, sweet potaotes, or any number of veggies makes it veg-friendly!***

More recipes! The Boyfriend’s birthday was a while back so we had a small get-together at our house. I made some great party dips for the revelers and even though I don’t have any pictures (it was so hectic, sorry!) I wanted to post the recipes because they were really delicious.

Best fresh salsa

Adapted from a recipe at Kayotic

Ingredients:

  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 1 medium roma tomato
  • About 10 slices of pickled jalapenos
  • 2 garlic clove
  • Handful of cilantro
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • Ground cumin
  • Salt
  • Pinch of sugar

Directions:

1) Coarsely chop shallot, garlic, and tomato; add to a food processor or mini chopper.
2) Add the salt, a pinch of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes and the ground cumin.
3) Pour in the diced tomatoes; squeeze in the fresh lime juice and add the cilantro.
4) Blend until it reaches desired consistency.

The Boyfriend and I have made a lot of salsa but we have never found a recipe that stuck…until now! We are in LOVE with this recipe! The color was beautiful and the flavor was outstanding: spicy and fresh. The pinch of sugar did cut the acidity which was wonderful. I blended it until it had the consistency of restaurant salsa and it tasted as good as anything I’ve had in a restaurant (and better than some that I have had!).

When we were choosing dips to make, we wanted to keep costs low so we chose dips that could all be eaten with tortilla chips and that would complement each other. I wanted to make something with avocados that would keep longer than guacamole and when I stumbled upon this recipe, I decided to give it a try. It was pretty good: creamy and spiced and different. Mmm…

Hank’s Tomatillo-Avocado Dip

Adapted from a recipe by Hungry Texan

Ingredients:

  • 1 poblano pepper
  • ½ white onion
  • 1 large can tomatillos, drained
  • 1 Serrano pepper
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 4 Hess avocados
  • Juice from 2 limes

Directions:
1) Roast the poblano, onion, Serrano, and jalapeño in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

2) Peel the poblano, stem and de-seed the Serrano and jalapenos.

3) Add all of the ingredients to the food processor and run until smooth and creamy.

4) Season to taste with salt and a bit of garlic salt.

The last dip was the crowd-favorite for the day. Since this was the first year in a few that we didn’t do a seafood boil for The Boyfriend’s birthday, I decided to incorporate seafood in a dip. As is the theme for this post it seems, I combined a recipe for crab dip that I found online with an artichoke dip recipe that my college advisor used to bring into class. The result was a hit!

Creamy Stovetop Crab Dip

Adapted from a recipe at Annies Eats
Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ white onion, minced
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 12 oz. canned lump crab meat
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ cup light mayonnaise
  • 8 oz can water chestnuts, drained
  • 14 oz canned artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp Sriracha
  • Paprika
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the onion and sauté until tender, about 7 minutes.

2) Add the crab meat to the pan, including the juices in the can. Stir in the cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, green onions, mayonnaise, Sriracha, water chestnuts and artichoke hearts; cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until all the ingredients are warmed through Season with salt and pepper.

3) Spoon mixture into a casserole dish and sprinkle paprika on top. Top mixture with breadcrumbs and pop in the oven for 7 minutes or until breadcrumbs are browned. Serve with warm bread or tortilla chips.

***You could just omit the crab here to make a vegetarian-friendly artichoke dip, if you like. Adding mushrooms to it would give it another nice texture, to replace the texture lost when the crab is removed.***

Ok, I think that wraps up this recipe roundup. I have more recipes from this week that I am going to try to get out in a timely manner so keep an eye here for that. I’m also joining our local grocery co-op tomorrow so I’ll have an update on that and what it is like to shop there!

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Working on my mussels

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Working on my mussels

For the past few days, I have kind of been on an eating “vacation.” I had a friend visiting who was on vacation and it was easier to eat out than to cook; it was more fun to eat burgers and pizza than it was to watch my diet. But my friend left yesterday and although I will miss her, my diet is much improved now that I am cooking again. Today has been a pretty healthy day! I had Greek yogurt and blueberries for breakfast; a turkey wrap for lunch; and mussels for dinner. I am pretty proud of myself 🙂

Onto the healthy recipes!

Chipotle Turkey Wrap

Adapted from a recipe by College Girl Cooking

Ingredients:

  • 1 wrap

  • 1 wedge Laughing Cow Light Queso Fresco & Chipotle spreadable cheese

  • 4 pieces turkey
  • 1 handful green-leaf lettuce
  • 1 small handful matchstick carrots
  • ½ tbsp fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • Optional: drizzle of olive oil vinaigrette

Directions:

1)  Heat wrap in microwave for 15-30 seconds.

2) Spread Laughing Cow cheese on warmed wrap.

Add hot sauce on top of cheese.

3) Lay 4 pieces of turkey on wrap, overlapping; leave about ½” space between end of turkey and edge of wrap

.

4) Top with cilantro,

lettuce,

carrots, and drizzle with olive oil vinaigrette.

5) Fold the wrap like a burrito: start by rolling the edge closest to you over the filling (make sure this is tight!)

Fold in the right side

and then the left.

Cut in half and serve.

Notes/Review: I saw this recipe on College Girl Cooking (via Foodgawker) and I was attracted to it for a few reasons. The simplicity of it was, of course, very appealing but I was especially excited about trying it because I love the Laughing Cow spreadable cheeses. While my favorite is the original light cheese, I also liked the sundried tomato and I have been eying the queso fresco flavor. I’m also tired of salads for lunch so a salad wrap sounded tasty. And guess what? It was! I added the extra ingredients (hot sauce, cilantro, carrots) because I had them in the fridge and I wanted to add a little more spunk to the wrap. We chose Hot! Ocean Deck Rasta Sauce because it is smoky and garlicky and peppery. It went well with the chipotle cheese and the rest of the wrap. Avocado would have been an awesome addition (I might try that tomorrow!); red/green pepper or cucumber would also be nice. You really can customize the ingredients to your taste preferences; I recommend keeping the turkey/cheese/cilantro/hot sauce to keep the tasty flavor intact. Overall it was a really healthy lunch and very tasty! 4 stars

For dinner, The Boyfriend and I have been wanting to make mussels for a few days so we finally bought them and cooked them in a curry and lime broth.

Mussels with Coconut Curry Lime Sauce

Adapted from a recipe at Verses from my Kitchen

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tbsp green curry paste
  • 1 can (14 ounce) coconut milk
  • 1 cup beer
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • Juice of one lime
  • ½ Serrano pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger, grated
  • 2 pounds mussels, washed/scrubbed/debearded
  • Small handful chopped cilantro

Directions:

1) Melt the butter in a large wok over medium heat; add in the shallots and garlic and cook for one minute.

2) Add in the curry paste and the thickened top half of the coconut milk and stir for another minute.

3) Pour in the rest of the coconut milk along with the beer, vinegar, lime juice, green chili and ginger. Bring to simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.

4) Add the mussels and increase heat until a low boil starts. Cover the pot and boil softly for about 8 minutes, or until all the mussels have opened up.

5) Place mussels in bowls and pour sauce over top. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro.

Notes on the mussels: Since The Boyfriend and I usually keep beer in the house, we swapped the wine in the recipe for the beer that we already have. I recommend using a lighter-colored beer; we just used an inexpensive beer from our local grocery store. The flavor of the beer is very apparent in the recipe so make sure you pick a beer that you enjoy. The original recipe did not specify a type of curry paste or a type of pepper; we hit up our local Asian food store to buy the curry paste. Please don’t buy name-brand, mainstream curry paste: the flavor is always weak, diluted, and not even close to authentic. The brand we normally buy is MAESRI; they sell a variety of types of curry paste and we’ve been able to find them in several Asian supercenters. We picked green curry because the ingredients sounded the closest to the flavors in this recipe; we bought the Serrano pepper for the same reason.

Mussels review: We gave this recipe a solid 4 stars. The broth was tasty and nicely accented by the cilantro; the spice level was appropriate; and the mussels themselves were soft and tender. We are going to freeze all of the leftover broth and make shrimp curry with it in a few weeks. Yum!

Curried Grilled Squash

Ingredients:

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 large yellow squash

Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 1 tsp Badia curry powder
  • 1 tsp Spanish paprika
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional: ½ tsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Directions:

1) Whisk all of the sauce ingredients (except lemon juice) together in a bowl until combined; set aside.

2) Wash zucchini and squash; halve both vegetables and slice into thin (1/8”) pieces.

3) Using a pastry brush and liberally brush both sides of every slice of squash and zucchini.

4) Grill veggies about 4 minutes per side.

5) Add lemon juice to veggies and serve.

Notes: If you are like me and don’t have a pastry brush, you can use your hands to spread the sauce on the veggies; it’s a little messy but it gets the job done. We did not put any brown sugar in the sauce and it was still tasty; I just thought that a little sweetness would have been given the sauce some nice depth.

Review: The squash was solidly good but not terribly exciting; for that reason, I gave it 3 stars (out of 5). I enjoyed the squash (and The Boyfriend ate it, which is great because he isn’t a squash fan) but I have made other squash recipes that I like better (remember Cannibalistic Squash? Now that is a “Wow!” squash recipe).

The Boyfriend and I shared a side salad and some tasted and buttered sourdough bread, in addition to the mussels and squash. Overall, we both gave the meal a solid 4 stars; I was quite happy with the balance of flavors and textures that this meal presented.

Ok so end-of-blog question time: what’s your favorite indulgent, so-bad-it’s-bad food?

Nostalgia circle

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Nostalgia circle

I’ve been a little sentimental this week, thinking of all of my friends (whom I miss very much) that live elsewhere. When I got to making the grocery list for the week, I was still in nostalgia-land and so I decided to make chicken adobo. This is a Filipino recipe that reminds me of a great friend—and great chef!—Alberto, who is from the Philippines. Alberto made pork adobo and brought it to share at a recent burn and it was fantastic. Since I can’t have Alberto here right now (boo! He is a great person and gives the best hugs) then at least I can have a taste of his home.

Chicken Adobo

PigPig’s Corner

 Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken thighs, skin on
  • ½ white onion, sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed and quartered
  • 1/8 cup vinegar (apple cider or white)
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves, dried or fresh
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorn
  • 1 handful fresh basil, torn

Directions:

1. Heat up a bit of oil in a large pot. Brown chicken pieces on all sides. Leave aside for later use.

2. In the same pot, fry onions until softened and translucent, about 5-7 minutes.

3. Add garlic and fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

4. Add all the other ingredients (including chicken) to pot.

5. Bring to boil then reduce heat to simmer until sauce thickened, about 30-45 minutes.

6. Stir in basil and serve over rice.

The chicken was really tasty and beyond easy. It made enough for about 6 meals for us because The Boyfriend eats an entire thigh per meal and I eat about ½ a piece. When I told Alberto about making adobo, he gave some great advice for the leftovers:

“Shred the chicken while reducing the sauce (or add cornstarch + water) to thicken. Fry shredded chicken and top with thickened sauce. Great with rice and fried eggs or in a sandwich with slices of tomato.”

It sounds like a tasty way to eat up the leftover chicken; The Boyfriend and I will probably give it a try for lunch tomorrow.

I served the chicken with a great veggie stir-fry and jasmine rice.

For the stir-fry, I used carrots, broccoli, yellow cauliflower, green onion, and red pepper. It was a nice accompaniment to a yummy meal.

Yellow cauliflower: more nutritious regular cauliflower!  And our grocery store was out of the normal stuff. The Boyfriend said that he preferred the taste of the  yellow cauliflower actually, even though I thought they tasted the same.

I’m sorry that I have such random pictures lately. It’s just been difficult to coordinate prep work and cooking and cleaning with taking step-by-step photos. I’ll try to get better pictures in the coming weeks.

Yay Pepsi Throwback! Made with real sugar and tastes way better than regular canned Pepsi. Mmm!

I’m trying this new “end posts with a question” thing so tonight’s question: do you have any nostalgic food? Foods that you make or eat when you feel sentimental or food that makes you feel sentimental?

I’m trying this new “end posts with a question” thing so tonight’s question: do you have any nostalgic food? Foods that you make or eat when you feel sentimental or food that makes you feel sentimental?

DIY and a few left-over recipes

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DIY and a few left-over recipes

Sometime in the last week or two amidst all of the cooking and then posting, I forgot to post a recipe, a solid, healthy, easy recipe. Since tonight was a no-brainer meal not really worthy of posting the recipes for (spaghetti; roasted squash; salad; and yes ok, we had garlic bread), I figured that now would be a good time to catch up on what I missed.

Cilantro Lime Shrimp

Adapted from a recipe at Lana’s Cooking

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound shrimp, split and deveined 2 tbsp chopped cilantro

Directions:

1) Melt the butter and oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.

2) Add the garlic, onion and jalapeno. Cook, stirring until the onion begins to wilt, approximately 3 minutes.

3) Add the red pepper, chili powder, and cumin. Continue cooking until the onion becomes translucent, approximately 3 additional minutes.

4) Add the tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are soft.

5) Add the shrimp, zest and lime juice, salt and black pepper.

6) Cook until the shrimp are just opaque. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro

Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salad Recipe

Adapted from a recipe at Eclectic Recipes

Ingredients

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can corn, rinsed and drained
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • the juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1) Add all diced vegetables except avocado to a large bowl.

2) Add lime juice, olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper. Mix well to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Add avocado right before serving. Serve over salad greens.

I recommend NOT chopping all of the avocado at once unless you intend on the salad being eaten in one sitting. I just chopped and added the avocado to the salad on the days that I ate it so that I had unspoiled avocado for leftovers.

I haven’t done a ton of cooking in the past few days but I did do some DIY beauty stuff! After a pretty exhausting and frustrating day, I decided that I needed a bath to unwind. I really wanted a bubble bath and my friend, Mrs. H, was chatting to me about DIY-beauty products and one thing led to another and…

Foaming Vanilla-Honey Bath

From Pink of Perfection

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup light oil (almond, sunflower, or canola)
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup mild liquid hand or body soap 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.

Directions:

1) Mix ingredients together in a glass jar. To use, shake gently to remix and pour ¼ cup under running bath water.

Word to the wise: if you don’t have any of the light oil, you can use olive oil; that’s probably not recommended but that’s what I did and it didn’t smell weird or feel funky or anything. I also used Sweet Pea body wash from Bath and Body Works as my soap and that worked out alright. It smelled pretty good and felt nice on my skin.

I have dry skin and don’t have the money to fork over for special, intense moisturizers. However I did have all (really, both) ingredients for an at-home moisturizing mask!

Avocado Mask for Dry Skin

From Pink of Perfection

Ingredients:

  • ½ avocado
  • ¼ cup honey

Directions:

1) Mash the avocado in a bowl, then stir in honey.

2) Apply to skin and leave for 10 minutes, then rinse.

Pros and cons of the mask:

Pros:

  • It tastes good
  • Simple ingredients
  • It made my skin super soft and awesome afterwards

Cons:

  • It was a little (ok, quite) slimy
  • It is really hard to get off of your face.Be prepared for lots of washing
  • The recipe makes enough for 2 masks, so I felt bad about wasting half of it (you should just invite a friend over!)

Overall, I really liked the mask. It definitely made a difference in how my skin felt, for the day and in the week since.

Also, as promised, I am doing better in the exercise department! I did my 30-minute Jillian Michael’s Yoga Meltdown DVD yesterday and then tonight I went on a 30-minute brisk walk with The Boyfriend. I want to get to a place where I am able to do an intense workout EVERY day but right now things just seem to come up that prevent that. Maybe once I get a job (will I ever??) and get on a routine it will be easier.

Oh! If you like DIY home products, you should check out Mrs. H’s blog! She is a newly-married lady exploring her housewife side. She is insanely creative with her DIYs and a lot of them are also really doable. Check her out! Until next time…

A very green dinner

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My last entry for Farmers’ Market week! This time our local ground beef was the star, with the fresh kale in a supporting role.

Asian-Style Lettuce Wraps

Adapted from a recipe at The Cynical Chef

Ingredients:

  • 16 butter lettuce leaves
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • ½ cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar (or 2 tbsp white vinegar + 1 tsp lemon juice)
  • 1 (8 ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained and quartered
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 4 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • ½ red pepper, chopped
  • 2 tbsp Siracha hot sauce

Directions:

1) Rinse whole lettuce leaves and pat dry, being careful not tear them. Set aside.

2) In a medium skillet over high heat, brown the ground beef in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, stirring often and reducing the heat to medium, if necessary. Drain, and set aside to cool.

3) Cook the onion in the same pan, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar, and Siracha to the onions, and stir. Stir in chopped water chestnuts, green onions, and sesame oil, and continue cooking until the onions, mushrooms, and red pepper have cooked, about 7-10 minutes.

4) To serve, spoon a portion of the meat into a lettuce leaf. Wrap the lettuce around the meat like a burrito, and enjoy!

I loved this recipe. It kind of reminded me of sushi, in a weird way. Not the ingredients (obviously) but the wonderful feeling of protein inside a leafy, green wrap. Maybe this is a good time to explain that I love lettuce—the taste, the texture, the color. Lettuce wraps pretty much encapsulate (ha!) everything that I love about lettuce while still feeling different and exotic, mostly thanks to the Asian ingredients: sesame oil, water chestnuts, hoisin sauce. Anyway, 4.5 out of 5 for me on this: it was awesome. The Boyfriend said he liked it too but he would have rather eaten the beef mixture over rice than inside a lettuce leaf.

We were under a time crunch so we made a simple side dish: sautéed kale. And when I say we, I really mean him: The Boyfriend graciously took care of the kale so I could focus on dinner and we could get out of the door sooner rather than later. The kale was okay—this is one of our go-to recipes because it is easy but it won’t win any flavor awards anytime soon. It is definitely competent but not exciting, if you know what I mean. He did a great job with it, the recipe is just not very exciting; but it is easy and it tastes good.

Sautéed Kale

Adapted from a recipe at Foodnetwork.com

Ingredients

  • ½ bunch kale
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (or 1 garlic scape) chopped
  • ½ cup stock (chicken or vegetable) or water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Directions:

1) Wash kale; remove stem and cut into bite-sized pieces.

2) Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.

3) Add the garlic and cook until soft, but not colored.

4) Raise heat to high, add the stock and kale and toss to combine. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

5) Remove cover and continue to cook, stirring until all the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add vinegar.

Due to all of the green, I was pretty satisfied with the healthiness quotient of this meal.

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.

Curried tuna salad and the art of building a sandwich

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Curried tuna salad and the art of building a sandwich

When I went shopping this week, I bought everything I needed to make tuna salad…or so I thought. In reality I forgot quite a few of my favorite add-ins (like celery, onions, and cilantro). Rather than make another trip to the store, I decided to just wing it with what I had and to throw in a few game-changers; after all, there’s no reason that tuna salad has to always taste the same, right?

Below I have posted the recipe for my on-the-fly curried tuna salad and what I think goes into making a kick-ass tuna sandwich. I didn’t manage to get any pictures (next time!*) but hopefully you can visualize the beauty of this dish. If not, I guess you’ll just have to make it!

*The picture posted in not a picture of the tuna salad I made. I forgot to take pictures, so this is just an “artsy” tuna salad sandwich that I found on Google image search. You have to trust me: the curried tuna salad is much more photogenic and way tastier than any old generic, “artsy” tuna salad. You won’t be disappointed.

Curried-tuna salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 12-oz cans chunk light tuna in water, drained (I used StarKist)
  • 3 tbsp. mayonnaise*
  • 3 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled, and diced
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
  • about 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • about 1 tsp. pickle juice (optional)
  • about 2 tsp. curry powder**
  • about 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • about 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (or less, if you don’t want your tuna to kick!)
  • black pepper
  • salt

*I highly prefer the taste of mayo to Miracle Whip but you should use what you like. If you use mayonnaise, I recommend Kraft Mayo with Olive Oil.

**For my tuna salad, I used Indian curry powder, by Badia. But if you like the taste of Thai curry better, use that instead!

Directions:

  • Add all ingredients to large bowl. Mix well. Adjust everything to taste (i.e. add more mayo if you like it saucier, add more lemon juice if you need more acid, more salt and pepper if it’s bland, etc. Just don’t go overboard with the garlic powder or curry powder–it might make it a little bit bitter!)

Curried Tuna Salad Sandwich

For me, a tuna salad sandwich is only as good as the veggies you top it with and the bread that it’s on. I start with a thick, hearty bread; this time I used Arnold 12-Grain. I popped 2 slices of that in the toaster and mixed up some Siracha mayo while I was waiting (3 parts mayo, 1 part Siracha hot sauce). I also gathered lettuce, shredded carrots and spicy sprouts (which aren’t actually spicy, in case you’re wondering), and sliced up some cucumber, tomato, avocado, and red pepper. By the time the toast is done, I’m ready to start layering: bread topped with Siracha mayo, then lettuce, tomato and cucumber with some salt and pepper on top. It is on that lascivious stack that I put my tuna salad; and you have to d this carefully, lovingly or else the tuna will knock all of the other veggies off of the sandwich (oh who am I kidding? It will do that anyway. But don’t give up!). I finished my sandwich by stacking the remaining veggies on top of the tuna and topping it with the other slice of bread (I like to double-team with the Siracha mayo so there’s definitely some of it on this slice). As soon as I can cut this baby in half, the sandwich is going to be on a quick run to my belly. I might have been a bit optimistic about being able to get all of that sandwich into my mouth, because a lot of veggies feel off onto the plate. Oops! But like a true foodie, I soldiered on. And it was fantastic. I enjoyed my oh-so-delicious sandwich with a handful of Cheetos Cheese Puffs (a girl has to have some vices!). Mmm-mmm. I’m already looking forward to tomorrow’s lunch (and I hope you are too!).