Tag Archives: salad

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!

Back on the wagon

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You may have noticed that I haven’t written much about exercising lately. Well, I have a confession to make: the last two weeks I have been not as healthy as I should have been. Exercise has been infrequent (ok, nonexistent) and we ate more red meat last week than we should have; also, there may have been some chocolate involved. But I am back on the straight and narrow!

Things to look forward to on my blog this week:

1) Less red meat! In fact, no red meat this week; instead, we’ll be eating salmon, chicken sausage, chicken and veggie spaghetti. I am tired of eggs and toast for breakfast so I need to think of something different for next week but in the meantime I have been having lots of salads, which brings me to…

2) Salad recipes! I have been eating some truly amazing salads and I’ll probably share a few recipes.

3) A recap of my daily exercise. Yep, I said daily, not every-other-daily or once-a-weekly. I need to kick myself into high(er) gear and that starts with more activity.

Bonus! An update on The Great Job Hunt. Yes, I know this isn’t really related to food but it’s relevant in my life so I’ll probably write about it. Things like pimping a resume, going on a job interview, and bemoaning unemployment.

Recipe time! Let’s start with the salad (because breakfast has been boring me lately):

Lox Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 handful green leaf lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tbsp diced red pepper
  • 2 tbsp shredded carrots
  • 1 tbsp diced tomato
  • 4 slices cucumber, quartered
  • ½ avocado, diced
  • ½ tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 oz smoked salmon, chopped
  • ½ oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tbsp Instant Dressing

Directions:

1) Add lettuce to bowl; top with remaining salad ingredients and dressing. Enjoy!

This salad is super easy, super flavorful, full of good fats (poly/mono-unsaturated from the dressing and the avocado, omega-3s from the salmon) and really, really delicious. But don’t take my word for it—make it yourself!

Dinner time!

Sweet and Spicy Salmon

Adapted from a recipe at Unwined-TN

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp chili powder
    1 tsp pepper
    ½ tbsp ground cumin
    ½ tbsp paprika
    ½ tsp salt
    ¼ tsp curry powder
    ¼ tsp cinnamon
    ½ tsp brown sugar
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 lb fillet sockeye salmon

Directions:

1) Mix chili powder, pepper, cumin, paprika, salt, cinnamon, and brown sugar in a small bowl. Rub spice mixture all over fish, making sure to get sides and top of fish.

2) Tear off a piece of tinfoil that is about twice the size of the fillet. Grind salt and pepper in the middle of the foil; add minced garlic and pour tablespoon of olive oil on top.

3) Center fish over the garlic/olive oil on tinfoil. Fold tinfoil up around fish, making a pouch. Put pouch on preheated grill and cook for about 10 minutes.

While I adapted the rub from the recipe at Unwined-TN I borrowed the method of cooking from A Newf in my Soup:En Papillote, French for in parchment, is a method of cooking food in a folded and sealed pouch or parcel, and then baked. The parcel is typically made from folded parchment paper, but a paper bag or aluminium foil works equally well. The food steams in moisture from the food itself, or from added water, wine, or stock.  Vegetables, herbs and spices add to the flavor.” So there you are. I have wanted to try cooking fish en papillote for a while but I had my eye on a recipe that uses phyllo dough as the bag and that doesn’t exactly fit in with my new ideas on eating healthy. Serve the sweet and spicy salmon with roasted broccoli and a salad for maximum health!

Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Feta

Adapted from a recipe at A Couple Cooks

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag broccoli florets (or 1 head broccoli, cut into florets)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ feta cheese, crumbled

Directions:

1) Preheat the oven to 425°F.

2) Cut each garlic clove into quarters.

3) Add broccoli and garlic to a bowl and toss with olive oil. Add salt and fresh ground pepper.

4) Line a baking sheet with tinfoil; add broccoli and garlic to sheet, spreading it out evenly. Roast the broccoli for about 20 minutes.

5) Put broccoli and garlic back to bowl; add feta cheese and top with lemon juice.


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.

Polenta “lasagna” and spending time in the kitchen with family

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Polenta “lasagna” and spending time in the kitchen with family

This past week, I was fortunate to have my family in town. My mom drove down because her cousin was going to be this area, so The Boyfriend and I put up my mom’s cousin, her husband, their daughter, and their daughter’s daughter (3 generations!). We live in a 2-bedroom house so this week was a bit hectic, but definitely fun!

The first night that the family arrived, I wanted to make a recipe that I had been meaning to make all week. I took my time and it wound up taking a few hours to make it all, but that was just as well because no one was super hungry when they got in. Anyway, the recipes came out well and it was a nice, light meal to cap off the evening.

Polenta “lasagna”

Adapted from the recipe at Vegetarian Times

Ingredients

  • 1 medium-size onion, chopped
  • 6 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. low-fat milk
  • 2 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 17-oz. tubes polenta, sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cook onion in large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat 3 minutes, stirring often. Add all mushrooms and garlic; cook, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes, or until onion is tender. Add 3/4 cup milk, and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

2. Mix cornstarch with remaining 2 Tbs. milk, and stir into mushroom mixture. Add cream cheese and broth (or wine), and cook, stirring often, 1 to 2 minutes, or until smooth and blended. Remove from heat. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg.

3. Coat 8×8-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 3 Tbs. mushroom sauce in bottom of dish. Layer 1/3 of polenta slices over sauce. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese over polenta. Top with half of remaining mushroom sauce. Layer with 1/3 of polenta slices and remaining sauce, and top with remaining polenta.

4. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake, uncovered, 35 to 40 minutes, or until bubbly.

Beets are one of the super-veggies: they are low in calories and fat, but very high in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Beets contain a significant amount of vitamin C and folates, and are a great source of Niacin (vitamin B-3), Pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), Pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and carotenoids, and minerals such as iron, manganese and magnesium. Unfortunately, beets have always been one of those foods that I dislike. However, in the spirit of Adventurous Appetite, I am trying to fall in love with all of those foods that I disliked as a child. I now love brussel sprouts, why not beets?

One of the problems most people (including The Boyfriend) have with beets is that they taste like dirt. I wanted to know if that dirt taste could be harnessed and made into a lighter, more earthy taste.

I found this recipe for a great salad using beets as the main veg (I also figured that if The Boyfriend still hated the beets, he could at least eat the other veggies in the salad). This salad uses roasted beets. The salad and the dressings were tasty enough (though, be warned: the habanero sauce is HOT!) but frankly, I think next time I will just eat the roasted beets. They had a great texture (firm but almost velvety soft) and were light, sweet, and earthy (but not “dirty”!). So I recommend this salad if you too are afraid of beets or even if you love them but want to try them in a new way.

Roasted beet salad

Adapted from the recipe at Melomeals

Ingredients

  • 2 c roasted beets, cooled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 c shredded carrots
  • 2 green onions, diced
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 t minced fresh ginger
  • 1 t lemon pepper
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 T white vinegar
  • 1/2 c cilantro, chopped

Directions

1. Start by roasting the beets: preheat the oven at 400 F.
2. Clean the beets and trim the greens to about 1/2 inch from the top of the beet.
3. Put the beets on a roasting pan. Coat the beets with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4.  Cover with tinfoil and bake for 45+ minutes or until the beets are fork tender.

5. When beets have cooled, remove the skins and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.

6. Add cubed beets, shredded carrots, green onions, cilantro, and red pepper to bowl.

7. Mix OJ, ginger, lemon pepper, sugar, and vinegar together. Add to salad right before serving.

If I make this again, I think I will have just eat the salad like that, but I this time went ahead and made both of the dressings.

The habanero sauce is not really a dressing. It was tasty but quite spicy! I think it would almost taste better diluted and used as a marinade.

Ingredients

Adapted from the recipe at Melomeals

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/4 habanero
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 carrots
  • 8 large garlic cloves
  • about 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ t sugar
  • 3/4 cups red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions

1. Sauté peppers, onions, carrots, garlic and salt for 15 minutes in a non stick skillet

2. Add sugar, vinegar and water

3. Bring to a strong simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes

4. Let cool and blend

The sesame dressing was interesting. I think I liked it’s flavor more than that of the habanero sauce. It was a little thin (probably because I didn’t have the flax seed that it called for) but it was tangy and unique. And if you make too much of it, it would also be a tasty marinade.

Sesame dressing

Adapted from the recipe at Melomeals

Ingredients

  • 3 T toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 c vegetable broth
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 T chopped ginger
  • pinch sugar
  • 1/4 t lemon peppper
  • 1/8 t cumin
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar

Blend everything for a minute or two in a blender.

    The finished dinner:

It was perhaps not my favorite meal ever but it was healthy and definitely edible and my family seemed to enjoy it. And really, what more can you ask for?

To my Mom, Sandy, Paul, Jen, and baby Gabby: I am so happy you were all here! I hope we can get together again soon ❤