Sunday, December 21, 2008

|last minute Christmas gifts?|

Did you know it's ridiculously easy to make biscotti? I always thought it was probably a giant pain until I made it myself. These make a great little Christmas gift to give to those people who give you a present and then you're like, uh oh. (P.S. I also give these to people because I planned to, so if you've gotten them from me in the past, it's not necessarily because I forgot you!).

Here's the method...you can pick and choose whatever flavors you'd like to add as indicated:

T.L.B.s (tasty little biscottis)
3/4 cups nuts (I used pecans today - almonds are excellent, too)
5 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 light butter, softened (the stick kind, that's 1 1/2 sticks, to save you the math)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 large eggs, plus 2 egg whites
3 teaspoons citrus zest (I used clementines today, but you can use orange, lemon, whatever citrus you have on hand...also, give the fruit a squeeze into the bowl after for extra zing)
2 teaspoons extract or liqueur (I used whiskey today, but almond extract, rum, vanilla, anything is good)
2 more egg whites

  1. Crush up your nuts. I do this by putting them in a plastic baggie and then hitting them with a can. Put them on a baking sheet and stick them in an oven at 350. Toss after 5 minutes, then put in for another 2 minutes. Take out to let them cool. Kick your oven up to 375.
  2. While that's all happening, mix together your flower and baking powder in a smallish bowl.
  3. Then cream together your softened butter and sugar using a hand or stand mixer. Add in the 3 eggs and 2 egg whites one at a time and beat in.
  4. Add in the flour mixture a little at a time. Lots and lots of stirring. Once you've got it all in, mix in your nuts. Reserve about 1/8 cup of the nuts for later.
  5. Get out two greased cookie sheets. Divide your dough into three equal parts and plop them down onto the sheets. Press them down until they are about 1/2-1 inch thick and are a big oval shape. Press a little of the remaining nuts into the top of each mound.
  6. In a clean bowl, beat your last two egg whites until they are fluffy. Brush the egg whites onto each of your three dough mounds.
  7. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes until they start to get golden brown. Take out and let cool for about an hour.
  8. Cut into a total of 72 pieces with a knife. Spread out on your cookie sheets with the cut sides up for toasting. Bake 10 minutes at 325 and you're done.
Each biscotti has only 70 calories and 2 grams of fat. Not too bad. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

|boundless love for soup|

There are many things I love about soup. Many, many things. One of the things I love the most is how you don't really need a recipe to make it. Once you have the method down, you're good to go. In the past few weeks I've created three soups with no real recipes...a vegetarian tortilla soup, a white bean soup, and a creamy broccoli soup. So good.

Here are some tips for getting you started:

  • Begin by sauteing some aromatics and herbs in some olive oil. Stuff like onions, garlic, leeks, celery, carrots are all good at this point.
  • After they start to get softened, add in your broth. I just use veggie stock in a can. Find one you like. Beer/wine are good, too.
  • Then if you want to add other veggies, beans, potatoes, pasta, you can. If you're using something like potatoes, you're going to want to parboil them somewhere else. This is also a good time to add other flavors to the stock, like some tomato paste, if you're into that.
  • To finish, you'll want to check the salt/pepper. And if you want a creamy soup, add some evaporated milk. Cheese would go in here, too.
  • And you're done!
CREAM OF BROCCOLI w/ a TOUCH of CHEESE
  • Saute onions,garlic, celery, carrots in a bit of olive oil until softened. While sauteing, add in some curry, pepper, red pepper flakes, and freshly ground nutmeg.
  • Add a couple cups of veggie broth. Bring to a boil and add freshly cut broccoli. You can use the stems, too. Let it boil just a couple minutes until the broccoli is bright green, but don't let it go too long!
  • Remove from heat and let it cook down a bit. Take some of the broccoli out and put it aside. Puree the rest in a blender (or with a stick thing). Be careful - if it's too hot or if you get your blender too full you'll have a mess.
  • Put it back in the soup pot and add in the reserved broccoli. Add in about a cup of evaporated milk (make sure you're not boiling at this point or ever again or you'll curdle).
  • Bring it back up to heat. Add salt/pepper. And if you want, add a few slices of American cheese. Enjoy!

|oatmeal "cookies"|

I have to give credit where credit is due on this one and say that I got it out of a Weight Watchers mini cookbook thing. But if you're looking for a filling, warm winter treat, mix up a packet of flavored oatmeal with some boiling water. Use a little less than directed on the package. Let it sit while your oven is heating up to about 350. Then drop the oats into about 5-6 blobs on a greased cookie sheet (or a silpat, of course!). Bake about 8-10 minutes and let cool.

They definitely aren't like real oatmeal cookies, but they're a fun alternative to eating oatmeal in the evening. And...after you're done with the oven you can leave it open and bask in the heat. Yeah!

|caramel love|

You know those delicious tubs of caramel you can buy by the apples in the grocery store? I always get the fat free kind because, even fat free caramel is quite bad enough for me, thank you, and because it still tastes good (unlike fat free dressing and fat free cheese). Anyway, if you have any of it hanging out in your fridge, I'd like to suggest to you two lovely uses for it....

CARAMEL YOGURT
Stir in about a tablespoon of the caramel sauce to some plain or vanilla yogurt. Mmmm, mmmm.

CARAMEL APPLE OATMEAL
Dice up half an apple and put it in a bowl with quick-cook oats and the appropriate amount of water. Microwave, then stir in about a tablespoon of the caramel. Nuts are a good option, too. This is so wonderful and delicious.

Monday, August 18, 2008

|poco pinto posole (y frijoles negros)

I found this tasty recipe on the message boards at weightwatchers.com. It was really good. I, of course, doctored it up a bit, so it's a little different than the original given to me. Enjoy!

 

1 (15 ounce) can yellow hominy - drained

1 (15 ounce) can corn - drained

1 (15 ounce) can pinto beans – mostly drained

1 (15 ounce) can black beans - mostly drained

1 tomato, diced small

1/4 cup onion, diced small

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup minced fresh jalapeƱo pepper

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro – if you don’t have fresh, you can add dried cilantro and coriander powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 cumin

 

In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients. Heat through.

 

This would be excellent served over rice or a baked potato - eaten with chips, too. Yum! It was really filling all by itself. I added a handful of crumbled silk tofu to it. That added some oomph. Yum, yum. It would also be great in a crockpot for a winter's day or a potluck.

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, August 16, 2008

|hummus is great|

I've loved hummus for ages. The smoothiness of it. The multiple flavors. The way it goes with bread products so well. Mmm...

The only sad thing about hummus is that it's pricey. Last time I checked, a little tub of it was running about $5 at the local grocery store. They say there are about 8 servings in a container, but I've often found them to be about 2 servings. Needless to say, I don't have enough cash to have a hummus habit.

Until...one of my friends told me you could make hummus...WITHOUT TAHINI! Did you know that? Honest to God. If you have a reasonably well-stocked kitchen, you could probably make hummus right now. Try it out...

For about 2 cups of hummus, combine the following in your food processor:
- 1 can of chickpeas, drained (reserve the liquid)
- 1 heaping tablespoon of minced garlic
- salt and pepper
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and broken into smaller pieces
- 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspon cumin

Turn your processor on. It won't be creamy once it's blended, but add any combination of the following to get the consistency you want. Obviously, olive oil is going to give you the most authentic taste, but it's also going to add themost fat/cals.
- reserved chickpea juice
- olive oil
- fat-free plain yogurt (just learned about this one on the WW boards)
- thoroughly cooked cauliflower (I haven't tried this myself, but have heard it works well)

I have a friend that swears by a little peanut butter (to substitute for the tahini, which is sesame seed paste). I can't tell the difference and it adds a lot of fat/cals, but try it if you want.

Get the consistency you want, store in a tupperware container and you're good to go. I'd estimate the cost at about $1.15 for approximately 2 times what you get in a store-bought tub.

P.S. Do the exact same thing with any of the following for a yummy change-up
- white beans
- black beans
- cooked eggplant (this is babaghanouj)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

|instead of a baked potato|

My husband always laughs at me because my favorite thing to eat is usually a whole mess of vegetables on top of some sort of starch. When we were losing weight together while living on campus, I would frequently get a bunch of veggies off the salad bar and steam them in the microwave with Italian dressing on them, then dump it all on a baked potato. Yum.

Tonight I was going to do a variation of that, but decided I wasn't really in the mood for a baked potato, so I did this instead...

GREENY NON-BAKED POTATO GOODNESS

  1. Dice a potato. Stick it in the microwave with a little water for about 4 minutes. Drain, then throw in a skillet with about a teaspoon of olive oil to finish cooking. Salt and pepper at the end.
  2. Meanwhile, dice up an onion and start sauteeing it with a little olive oil and garlic (in a differents skillet). P.S. If you don't already have a giant jar of pre-minced garlic in your fridge, you should really get one at the store.
  3. Chop up some broccoli and steam it for a couple minutes in the microwave. (You can use the stalks, too - just peel them and dice them).
  4. Throw the broccoli in the onion skillet. Add a big ol' handful of greens (I used kale tonight). Add a sliced mushroom, too.
  5. Salt and pepper the vegs when they're done.
  6. Add the potatoes.
  7. Top the whole thing off with a couple splashes of vinegar.
  8. Put in a giant bowl and enjoy.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

|polenta goodness|

I do so love polenta in a tube. I know it's really easy to make it yourself, but sometimes nothing beats the super-easy tube kind. Here's something I whipped up tonight...

POLENTA WITH A MESS OF VEGGIES AND BEANS
1) Saute the following in a little olive oil: garlic, onions, bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini. Dice everything uniformly small. At the end, add some chopped tomatoes and a can of drained kidney beans.
2) Meanwhile, slice your polenta log into about 12 slices. You can pan fry it or just bake it in the oven on a cookie sheet with a little cooking spray.
3) Heat up some pasta sauce. I used vodka sauce, but any good marinara works, too.

Top the polenta with the veggie/bean mess and then the sauce. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

|green beans|

We've been getting fresh green beans the past three weeks in our CSA shares. This week, I'd estimate we got about 4 pounds. Yikes! Good thing I love green beans. My favorite way to cook them is this...

STEP ONE: Trim the ends, but leave them really long.
STEP TWO: Cover in water and boil the hell out of them (meaning about 25 minutes). This ensures no squeakiness.
STEP THREE: Drain and then dress with olive oil, salt, pepper, and shake on a few sliced almonds. I know they're all processed and, therefore, evil - but I love, love, LOVE those Almond Accents that they sell by the lettuce in the grocery store.

Enjoy! YUM!

Also - for anyone else struggling with massive quantities of cucumbers right now, let me share with you my favorite way to eat cukes: cut into spears, dress with salt, and lime juice. Delicious fresh or after about a day.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

|what happened when i tried to make a quiche|

Last week, we went to a dinner party with some folks from church and one of the women had prepared a beautiful strata...eggy-cheesey goodness on top of bread. What could be better? My husband, who previously wouldn't eat ANYTHING with his eggs, has recently branched out, making omelets and eating (gasp!) cheese with his eggs. He enjoyed the strata so much that I decided now was finally the time to attempt a quiche (one of my all-time-favorite foods). He was open to the idea, so I started looking for a recipe.

Then I remembered I had a potato (a giant one) sitting around that needed to be used up. And I remembered just how bad for you pie crust is. So I decided to do a little tinkering and here's what I came up with.... (P.S. It was REALLY good).

THE QUICHE THAT ISN'T REALLY A QUICHE AT ALL
1 pound potatoes
1/8 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced very fine
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 tablespoons fresh herbs (I used sage and rosemary)
10 ounces frozen spinach
2-3 cups cabbage/carrot mix (or some other veggie that you have on hand)
1 egg and 2 egg whites
1 cup light cottage cheese
1 cup 2% milk shredded cheddar cheese

  1. Slice your potato into thin rounds. Boil them in salted water for about 10-15 minutes, then drain and run cold water over them. When they are cool enough to touch, make your crust with them - spray a pie plate with non-stick spray, then press the potato pieces into the plate, making a crust (be sure to go up the sides, too). Once it's all covered, spinkle the breadcrumbs on the top and drizzle with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. You can do this part ahead of time and then refrigerate the crust if you'd like.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 375. Saute your onions, garlic, and herbs in 2 teaspoons of the oil. Meanwhile, cook the frozen spinach according to package directions. Also, nuke your cabbage/carrot mix for about 1 minute in the microwave with a splash of water. Throw your cooked spinach and cabbage/carrots into the onion/garlic/herb skillet. Salt and pepper the veggie mix. Let it cool a bit while preparing your egg mixture.
  3. Mix together 1 egg and 2 egg whites. Salt and pepper it. Add in 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese and all of the cottage cheese.
  4. To assemble the pie: sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheddar onto the potato crust, arrange the veggie mixture on top of that cheese, then pour on the egg mixture. Top with 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese. You can garnish it with a few cherry tomatoes if you have them on hand.
  5. Bake at 375 for about 30-40 minutes. Let cool about 10 minutes, then serve.
6 servings = 4 WW points each serving

This is fantastic with some fried green tomatoes. Mmmm, mmmm!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

|sometimes the easiest things are best|

Kudos to my husband for making this yummy treat for lunches this week. I didn't tinker with it at all (well, I did add a splash of balsamic to mine and that was excellent).

PASTA SALAD
Cook up some whole-wheat pasta (we used rotini). Cool it. Add the following to it, toss, and enjoy:

  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil per serving of pasta (1 cup of pasta = 1 serving)
  • Chopped green onions
  • Halved cherry tomatoes
  • Handful of chopped basil and parsley
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 1/2 ounces (per serving) of fresh mozzarella balls, torn up into bite-sized pieces
  • Couple of tablespoons of frozen peas (thawed) - per serving
It's 7 WW points and we decided it must be really good for you....carbs, proteins, dairy, veggies, fruits, and healthy oils. Yummy.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

|the kind of person who cooks without recipes|

I have long believed there are two main types of cooks in the world - those who need recipes and those who don't. In between, there are tons of shades of gray - people who use recipes, but aren't afraid to play with them a bit, people who try something and then try to re-create it, people who make things up entirely. (There are also bakers, but that's a whole other world of food preparation, defying cooking categorization).

I have long, long wanted to be the kind of cook who doesn't use recipes. As a kid, I moved slowly into the "tinkering" category. I was always adding stuff in to a recipe or taking it out. My mom didn't love this and would tell me to stop it, but I eventually got pretty good at it. A few years ago, I had my first major light-at-the-end-of-the-cooking-without-recipes tunnel when I successfully re-created chicken marsala without a recipe. I was pretty proud of myself (still am, in case you couldn't hear the puffed-up nature of my typing).

Still on my quest - this week had both a highlight and lowlight. First, I decided to take some of the non-meat-product sausage in a tube (which my wonderful sister-in-law and brother introduced to me!) and create a stuffed cabbage recipe (because we had a bunch of savoy cabbage on hand). I've never seen a recipe for stuffed cabbage, so I did a lot of guessing - used sauteed onions, garlic, cooked rice, an egg, the sausage, herbs, and some tomatoes in sauce for the filling. Then wrapped it in cabbage and cooked it, simmering in more tomato sauce, for a while. My technique was good, the end result was pleasing. Unfortunately, I had forgotten one cardinal rule of fake-meat-crumbles. They expand with time and liquid. So, as I was eating it, the meat bits started to get larger and less meat-like and grosser. It wasn't pleasant.

The leftovers went in the trash. The savoy cabbage is now in a coleslaw. The last of the fake sausage will be used for either breakfast egg muffins or pizza. Sigh.

But...never deterred, I soldiered on to create a bean dip for my lunches this week. Success! My bean dip is yummy yummy, so I'd like to share the recipe with you. Feel free to doctor it up if you're a tinkerer or ignore it altogether if you're too good for recipes. :-)

CANNELLINI-LENTIL DIP
Combine the following in a food processor:
3-4 cloves of garlic
3-4 shallots (onions would work, too)
handfull of parsley
a few mint leaves
2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons of the juice from your can of beans

Chop this stuff up in the processor. Then add:
1 can of cannellini beans (drained)
1 cup of cooked lentils
a bit more of the bean juice

Puree. Add salt and pepper. Drizzle in 2-3 teaspoons of olive oil.

Enjoy on pita, crackers, veggies. Whatever you want. Mmmmm. It's about 2 points for 1/2 cup on Weight Watchers.

Friday, June 27, 2008

|reconnecting with my old friend, Mr. Manwich|

I know this is going to sound pretty lame, but when I became a vegetarian, one of things I knew I would really miss were Manwiches. So lovey and easy to make. Cheap, too. As a kid, I enjoyed them will full-fat ground beef, but - as an adult - had graduated to lean turkey meat. A quick brown of the meat, throw in the can of Manwich, slap it on a bun, top with mustard and pickles and life was good.

It look a while, but my husband and I finally decided the best possible meat substitute for Manwiches (and probably pretty much anything that calls for ground beef) is the lovely lentil. They have almost no flavor of their own, and the texture is just right for ground meat. Plus, they are cheap, easy, and really nutritious. Would it work with the Manwich?

The answer is....YES! They were fantastic! I just boiled about 1 cup of lentils until they were done (about 30 minutes). Drained them and then added them to the Manwich sauce and a few sauteed onions. Still added the mustard and pickles to my bun. So tasty.

And...for a more adult version of the Lentilwich, might I recommend topping some brown rice with any left over Lentilwich filling have lying about. Very tasty.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

|i am such a sucker for greens|

I only recently discovered that you can cook almost any kind of greens. I know, I know - most people probably already know this, but it took me a long time to move from canned spinach to frozen spinach to bagged collard greens to FULL ON greens of all varieties. Today in our CSA, we got a bunch of fresh beets (side note: my husband actually said he wants to eat them, which I was initially excited about because he has never eaten beets before, but when I saw there were only FOUR beets I actually got a little bummed because that means fewer beets for me). Anyway, we got beets and I was going to throw out the tops because I didn't think I would have time to saute them (lazy, I know).

But then...THEN I saw that we had garlic scapes in our basket of goodies. I had read about them recently and was dying to try some. So it was on. I cut up my little scapes. I cut some green onions (also in the basket of wonder) and then sauted up my beet greens. Threw on some salt and pepper and now I have an awesome little side for lunch tomorrow.

Mmmm, mmmmm.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

|the report from los angeles|

For a person that loves food as much as I do, vacations are always awesome. Here are some highlights from my first trip to L.A.

  • I hadn't been to a PeiWei or a Baja Fresh in THREE YEARS...and L.A. has both, so that was awesome.
  • Had my first experience with Sprinkles (far, far superior to Crumbs) and Pinkberry, both of which were amazing. They take cupcakes and frozen yogurt to a whole new level.
  • We went to the "Farmer's Market" just southwest of Beverly Hills (it's in quotes because there were no farmers there) and had some fantastic tacos at Loteria. They basically have a bunch of "stews" that they put into homemade corn tortillas. Mine was made with potatoes, poblanos, and cilantro.
  • We had dinner one night at Father's Office in Santa Monica. There were very few vegetarian options, but I had the fries "a la cart" (they came out in a little grocery cart). They were very thinly sliced with an herb-salt seasoning on them. My husband had an amazing looking burger with gorgonzola, gruyere, and carmelized red onions.
  • Our last day there, we went with my brother to an actual farmers' market downtown by his office. There were so many amazing options! I had some cold soba salad with jicama in it, fresh cherries and grape tomatoes, and a HUGE brownie.
  • Urth Cafe in Beverly Hills is AWESOME! They do this whole organic, earthy gig. I had some really creamy and thick squash soup and a little hummus/tabbouleh platter. And on the recommendation of my brother, we both had the Spanish latte, which was some of the best coffee I've ever had.
  • One of the tastiest roasted vegetable sandwiches I've ever had happened at the cafe in the Getty Center. Tasty. I also really appreciated all the signage they had everywhere about things the cafe is doing for environmental sustainability. For example, by the sandwich station they had a sign asking you to consider NOT adding cheese to your sandwich, but using one of their non-dairy spreads because of the greenhouse emissions from dairy cattle.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

|fried banana tacos|

A little while ago, I posted about how much I love my husband - especially for his ability to invent amazing foods like these easy sopapillas. Tonight, I took them a step further, creating the amazing fried banana taco. Here's the scoop...

FRIED BANANA TACO:

  1. Slice 1 large banana into sections that are about 1/2 an inch in diameter and 2-3 inches long. Place them in a skillet that you've sprayed with a little non-stick spray.
  2. Cook them over medium heat, turning occasionally. When they are a little brown on all three sides and start to get gushy, remove them from the skillet and set aside.
  3. Re-spray the skillet. Throw in a tortilla. Spray the upside of it and sprinkle on some cinnamon-Splenda mix. Watch it bubble a bit and turn once the bottom gets some brown spots.
  4. Turn the tortilla, spray it and put more cinnamon-Splenda on. Once the other side is browning, you're almost done. Turn off the heat.
  5. Create a fold in the tortilla, like you're making a quesadilla. Loan the bananas on one half, then top with about a teaspoon of honey. Fold the tortilla over. Plate and eat like a taco.
This is amazing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

|lest you think i'm a food snob|

Most of the stuff I post about on here is pretty unusual or fancy-schmancy stuff (or at least it's not Doritos and beer - not that there's anything wrong with Doritos and beer..mmmm). But in case you think that I never cook with any "normal' ingredients, I'd like to share one of my favorite soup recipes. If you grew up eating vats of Rotel and Velveeta dip, you'll love this stuff.

I don't remember where I got the recipe...I think it was a Weight Watchers message board many moons ago.

CHEESY ROTEL SOUP:
Open two bags of frozen mixed vegetables (32 oz. total - any variety). Microwave them according to package directions (usually by adding about a cup of water and then 5-6 minutes).

Meanwhile, boil 1 1/2 cups of water and add a boullion cube to it (I use veggie, you could also use chicken). Also, dice up in big chunks 8 ounces of light Velveeta.

Combine the veggie broth, Velveeta, veggies (drained), and one can of Rotel (undrained). Heat through until all the cheese is melted and the whole thing is bubbly.

This makes 6 servings of a cup each. Tons of veggies. Very comfort-food worthy. 2 points each serving on WW.

Enjoy!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

|who needs recipes, anyway?|

Just got back from a week-long trip and haven't been to the store yet, so there isn't much in the house. Sometimes I make up my best stuff when that's the case because you have to get creative, right? My best no-recipe cooking usually involves some kind of grain or eggs as a base, so I went with pasta today. Measured out some whole wheat penne and threw salt and garlic into the water. About halfway through the boiling, I added in a half-cup of frozen, shelled edamame. After it finished cooking, I drained it, then tossed it with a teaspoon of olive oil, a handful of fresh cilantro (which is currently threatening to take over the front yard), a tablespoon of tomato paste (I buy it in cans and then keep it in reused jars in the fridge). It wasn't quite right yet, so I added a dash of cayenne powder.

Perfect.

Friday, May 16, 2008

|csa week #2|

Week two report for our CSA....

  • big, beautiful mild radishes - greens still attached
  • turnip greens
  • watercress
  • fresh baby spinach
  • ASPARAGUS!!! tiny and lovely
  • Bell jar full of canned tomato sauce from last year's tomatoes....I can't decide if I want to put it on pasta or just drink it straight out of the jar - hmmm
Tonight we're having pancakes for brinner...with our fresh maple syrup from last week. Quite a bit of it has already been used on my morning oatmeal, though. :-)

For lunch today I'm having my re-created version of the edamame salad I blogged about last weekend with a big fresh salad....salad greens from the CSA, spinach, gorgonzola, almonds, a couple mandarin orange slices, radishes, and a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Delicious.

By the way - if you don't know how to make salad dressing, it's really super easy. Start with something simple like this - it makes enough for 1 big salad:
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon or spicy brown mustard (or whatever kind of mustard you like, really)
  • salt and pepper
  • your favorite herbs/spices...today I used turmeric and cayenne powder - anything works really, or nothing at all still gives you a good flavor
Whisk together and enjoy! This way you don't get any nasty ingredients you can't pronounce (unless your mustard has them, of course) and you get a dose of good-for-you olive oil.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

|ode to edamame|

Sometimes, when I'm eating edamame, I pause and think, "How did I live before edamame was everywhere?" It's pretty much one of nature's perfect foods...low in calories and fat, very high in fiber and protein. You can squeeze it out of its little pods and it's more fun than a Pez dispenser. You can buy it already shelled and sprinkle it into almost anything.

This morning, I went to the local Farmers' Market and it was all abuzz...the first arts fair of the summer, too. Afterwards, I was craving "real food" without having to cook it so I stopped by one of the downtown grocery stores that has an amazing salad bar and prepared foods section. I made a tasty salad with fresh spinach, dried cranberries, Annie's Green Goddess dressing (which really deserves a whole post of its own), Gorgonzola, and marinated tofu. Then I picked up a little plastic container of their freshly prepared edamame salad. It is SO delicious. I brought the container home so I can look at the ingredients and try to recreate it. It says: edamame, wild rice, water, red peppers, scallions, chili paste, lemon juice, sesame oil, tamari, rice vinegar. Looks like I'll need to pick up some chili paste at the store later today.

Thank you, God, for creating edamame.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

|i love eggs|

One of my favorite things about cooking is you're never quite sure where it will take you. Take today, for example. I came home for lunch fully expecting to grab a little cilantro out front and saute it up with some chopped peppers, onion, garlic - throw in an egg - scramble - put on a tortilla with cheddar cheese. Eggs are one of my all-time favorite things to eat for lunch because, regardless of what I have on hand, I can always find a way to make something in a skillet with eggs. Add on a carb and I'm all set.

But when I opened the refrigerator a half-hour ago, I discovered the peppers were all gone. I guess my husband really listened to me when I told him, "Hey, eat these peppers this week!" I have to check in with him when he gets home to figure out just exactly how he ate all those peppers yesterday.

I could have been alarmed, but then I remembered all the goodies I got from the CSA yesterday! Before long, I had fresh spring garlic sauteeing in the pan - added in some of those oyster mushrooms and watercress - took a quick trip to the front porch to get some sage and rosemary - and I was in business. It was all looking so good that I decided to forgo the carbs altogether (a huge compliment, coming from me) in favor of having two eggs in this omelet. Once it was all cooked up, I still needed cheese. Normally, I dislike ricotta - but since my only options were ricotta, reduced-fat cheddar cheese shreds in a bag, and a cannister of fake parmesan flakes, it was a no-brainer. I slathered on some ricotta, folded the whole thing in half and sat down by my window. It was one of those meals that requires you to do nothing else but eat - and thank God for the beauty of food. No TV on. No magazine out. Just me and my eggs.

I'm so glad he finished off those peppers yesterday.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

|csa week #1 - i actually squealed with joy|

So...today was the first pick-up day for our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). This is our first year doing it and we are so excited. In case you're not familiar with the concept, a CSA is basically a group of people who pay a local farmer (or farmers) up front before the season begins to get an entire season's worth of produce and other farm goodies. We paid $325 for a 1/4 share (enough for 1 person). We've heard horror stories from other people about getting WAY TOO MUCH FOOD - so, despite my never-ending appetite for produce - my husband convinced me taht smaller was better for this first year. The season should last about 6 months, so when you break it down weekly it's less than $15 a week. Fantastic value - plus you're supporting local agriculture.

I have been counting down the days and today was finally the first pick up. I was wondering what we would get because it's been very cold here lately. I am happy to report that our little happy basket had the following:

  • Baggie of watercress
  • Baggie of spring greens
  • Whole brown paper lunchbag full of OYSTER MUSHROOMS (they are gorgeous!)
  • A bunch of fresh spring garlic with the stemmy parts about 3 feet long (not kidding)
  • 1 full CUP of fresh maple syrup
Plus, our CSA people included a cute little handwritten sheet with info about where everything came from and RECIPES! I can't believe it. This is the greatest thing EVER!

The event was fully topped off by the fact that our friends that we picked it up from (we share pick-up duties) had purchased me a box of Morningstar Farms Veggie Dogs - the little bite-sized kind. Just to say thanks for teaching a Bible study we did together. Does life GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS?!?

(i apologize for the massive amount of capitalization in this post...i am just seriously psyched right now)

P.S. I am now going to eat some more fattoush and watch Idol. Life is good.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

|why you need an herb garden|

Last weekend, we went out to the local greenhouse and bought the goods for a little herb garden in our front yard. We bought starters of basil (two kinds), parsley, mint, cilantro, and rosemary and put them down in large pots. It's been a little chilly all week, so we've dutifully been brining them in and out of the garage. My car is wondering why it's been relegated to the driveway - but I'm happy to report it's all totally worth it.

Tonight, we kicked off herb season with a bang. My husband went out and harvested (can you say harvested when it's just pots on your front porch? that seems a bit pretentious) about 1 cup of parsley and 1/4 cup of mint.

I chopped up all of the following and threw it together in a giant bowl:

  • Romaine lettuce - about 8 leaves cut into long strips
  • 2 tomatoes, 1 cucumber, 1/2 red onion - diced small
  • Parsley and mint

For the dressing, we did about 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup lemon juice with some salt and garlic powder.

Toss it all together with some ground sumac (a couple tablespoons), some ground pepper, and crumbled up pita chips and you have Fattoush - one of my all time favorite salads. It's Lebanese. Thank God for Lebanese food (see also: tabbouleh and labneh). I think the real deal is supposed to use scallions, but I prefer red onion.

  • We didn't have pita chips on hand, so we baked up some tortillas with sumac on them.
  • What is sumac, you ask? It's apparently a berry that they dry in the sun and then grind up.
  • I can't even imagine how amazing this will taste in the summer when all these veggies are at the height of their goodness.


We went to the Derby Festival this weekend and I ate WAY too much junk food, so this salad made my body body happy. I'm off to drink my weight in V8 now.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

|i love my husband|

I love him for many things, not least of which - this week -are his mad skillz in the kitchen. He invented an awesome new snack. It's so simple that he probably didn't officially invent it - but it's new to us, so I want to share it. It's like sopapillas...but only 3 WW points and 3 minutes to completion. Mmmm.

Here's what you do...

  1. Put some nonstick spray on a skillet over medium-high heat. Throw a flour tortilla on it.
  2. Spray the other side of the tortilla with nonstick spray. Sprinkle on cinnamon-Splenda.
  3. Let it heat for a few minutes. It'll puff a little. Turn it before it burns.
  4. After turning it, sprinkle cinnamon-Splenda on the other side.
  5. Once it's all toasty, take it off and top with a little honey.
  6. Tear it to pieces and enjoy.
  7. Say a brief prayer of thanksgiving for the genius of my husband.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

|brinner|

There are few things in life more enjoyable than eating breakfast for dinner ("brinner"). Just ask Turk from Scrubs. Sadly, when we started living the Weight Watchers lifestyle, we discovered having brinner wasn't going to happen as often as it used to. Turns out that having pancakes, bacon, eggs, etc. is actually a lot of calories and fat. Who knew?

So I am pleased to announce that I just had an AWESOME brinner that was very low in WW points and delicious. Now, I know this will probably strike most of you as, "Man, she's finally gone too far with this crazy Weight-Watchers-vegetarian life" but it was awfully tasty.

I took a tube of plain polenta (which is usually by the tofu in the grocery store - don't know why) and cut it into slices. I pan fried it in a little non-stick spray. At the same time, I fried up a couple pieces of fakon (see previous post). Then I defrosted a few frozen blueberries and topped them with a little Cool Whip. I put it all on one big happy plate and topped by polenta with sugar-free syrup (I highly recommend Mrs. Butterworth's brand).

It looked and tasted like breakfast for dinner! And it was only 5 points. Awesome!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

|fakon|

There aren't a lot of meaty things that I miss since going vegetarian, but BLTs are one of them. I probably think about a BLT at least once a week. With tomato season just around the corner, I decided I needed to find a good option so I could make it through the summer. I had heard good things about Morningstar Farms Veggie Bacon Strips (or as I prefer to call them: "fakon"), so I gave them a try.

Verdict in two parts: they look like dog treats, but they taste pretty much like bacon! Much rejoicing! Also, you can have two big strips for 1 WW point. Mmm.

I had one crumbled up in a tortilla with eggs and cheese. I ate one by itself. Both delicious. I'll have to get back with you in a few months on the BLT front because I refuse to eat tomatoes that aren't in season (what's the point?). But I am thinking it's going to be a good summer for BLTs. Mmmmm.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

|take it to heart|

I have a killer recipe for polenta that I've literally been meaning to post for about three weeks now. That's how lazy I am.

Instead, I'd like to share with all five of my loyal readers this hysterical tidbit from the outside of my Quaker instant oatmeal:

"TAKE IT TO HEART
Research shows that whole grains, like Quaker Oatmeal, as part of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products may help support blood pressure levels already within the normal range."

My husband makes fun of me for reading packaging...but I must say, with free entertainment like this, I think it's well worth it.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

|contains almonds|

So I bought this tasty-looking little package of frozen green beans with toasted almonds made by Birds Eye. I opened it up and discovered the almonds were in a separate little clear plastic bag (which totally makes sense). But the hysterical part was this: printed on the outside of the CLEAR plastic bag which obviously had almonds inside of it were two words....

"CONTAINS ALMONDS"

God bless the simple joys that come from living in an overly-litigious society. Hysterical.

Monday, March 10, 2008

|indian convenience food|

Sometimes, coming up with new recipes gets old. And so does eating the same old stuff. So we were pleasantly surprised to discover an entire half-aisle at our local grocery store of what I'm gonna call "Indian convenience food." We don't usually shop those middle aisles too much because most of the stuff there is way too high in points for us to eat. But we were low on ideas of what to cook this week and browsing the aisles.

Our favorite local grocery store is family-owned and has the best romaine lettuce ever. They also have organic milk cheaper than the big box store. And they have a rockin' bulk food section. And - will wonders never cease - they also have a whole aisle of ready-to-eat Asian and Indian food.

So we were looking at the Indian food and found a little pouch of Dal Makhani. I've never had it before, but it says it's "lentils in tomato cream sauce." Sounds good to me. Nutritional info says its 2-3 points per serving. We figure we'll serve it over rice - adding another 4 points for a 6 point entree.

Let me tell you about the joy of preparing this dish. There is a plastic pouch. You snip the edge. You stick it in the microwave for 2 minutes. You take it out, open it up and pour it over rice (cooked in the rice-cooker, of course!).

Verdict? It was AWESOME. Really excited about this find and eager to try other varieties.

Oh, yeah, as I'm sure you're wondering - it does have 16% of my daily sodium. But I don't want to hear about it because I'm already watching calories, fiber, fat, protein. And not eating meat. And trying to buy outside the industrial food complex. There's only so much I can worry about.

Sodium isn't on my list.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

|pizzadillas|

We made quesadillas the other night and were thinking it would be fun to try pizza-style ones. We were right - it was. Here's what we did...

PIZZADILLAS:

  1. Saute some veggies (we used onions, red peppers, and mushrooms).
  2. Lay tortillas flat on a hot skillet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Let them heat for a couple minutes.
  3. When they start to crisp on the bottom, put some marinara sauce on top, then the veggies, then mozzarella.
  4. Put them on a cookie sheet under the broiler until the cheese melts.
  5. Remove from broiler and fold in half.

Monday, March 3, 2008

|fun with the rice cooker|

If you're like me, you think that rice cookers are for making nice, sticky white rice without having to worry about it burning. You would be right. And even if that was all your rice cooker could do, it would be an amazing appliance.

We decided we wanted a rice cooker after I learned from my friend Suzanne that you can also make brown rice in it. Brown rice is usually such a royal pain to cook...so we asked for a rice cooker for Christmas.

My mom, being the best gift-giver in the whole wide universe, gave us a rice cooker AND a great little book with recipes for things you can cook in the rice cooker. Holy moley! Who knew you could cook so many things in there?!? You can make bulgur, quinoa, couscous, polenta, oatmeal...basically anything that's a grain.

And - wait for it - you can also ADD STUFF TO YOUR RICE while it's IN THE COOKER. God be praised. Who knew this was possible? We have made some really tasty things since we got this cookbook. I'll share with you one of recipes that we just discovered tonight. And if you want to buy the whole darn book, get thee to Amazon post haste. You won't regret it (unless you don't have a rice cooker).

VINTER'S RICE
1) Saute some grated onion in a little butter in a skillet. If your rice cooker doesn't have a stupid weight-enabled safety feature like ours, you can even do this IN your rice cooker. Seriously. It's amazing.
2) Once the onion gets soft, add 1 cup of rice. Saute for about 10 minutes until it starts to get golden (low heat). Put some pepper on it.
3) Put it in your cooker. Put three thin slices of lemon and a bay leaf on top of the rice. Add 1/2 cup of white wine, 1 3/4 cup of broth. Add a little salt.
4) Put the cover on and let it cook till your cooker says it's done. Fluff and serve (remove the bay leaf and lemon slices first).

Enjoy!

Friday, February 22, 2008

|bulgur stir fry - super yummy|

Who knew that you could make anything besides tabbouleh with bulgur?!? Not me! But then I saw a Weight Watchers core recipe for making stir fry with bulgur, so I decided to give it a try. It was awesome. I, of course, didn't have most of the ingredients they suggested on hand, so I made up my own gig.

BULGUR STIR FRY AVEC WHATEVER IS IN THE FRIDGE:
1) Put 1 cup of dry bulgur and 1 3/4 cups of water in my rice cooker. Pressed the button. (Gotta love the rice cooker).

2) Cooked one scrambled egg very thin (like an omelet with nothing in it) in the skillet and let it cool. Then I rolled it up and sliced it into strips.
3) Heated up my wok really hot with a couple teaspoons of oil. Threw in the various things I had on hand...onions & peppers (from the amazing frozen veggies section at Kroger - so wonderful to have on hand), a handful of edamame, carrots, broccoli slaw, a little frozen corn, mushrooms, and tons of garlic. Cooked that up.

4) Added the egg strips, some baked tofu (recipe courtesy of my friends Sandy and Suzanne - it's below), and the cooked bulgur.


It was truly amazing. The bulgur is even tastier than brown rice. By far. Also, it's much better for you than brown rice. One cup of it is only 2 WW points (151 cals, 1/2 g fat, 8 g fiber). Here's something weird - my spell checker doesn't think bulgur is a word. Odd, huh?

********************

On a completely unrelated note, I just finished reading
Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. It was absolutely one of the funniest books I've read in ages. This woman is about to turn 30 and is feeling a little loser-y because she's a secretary in NYC, so she decides she needs a "project" and sets the goal of cooking all the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. The book is more about her craziness than the food, but it's still wildly entertaining.
********************

BAKED TOFU A LA SANDY & SUZANNE

1) Toss together the following in a glass baking dish: 1/4 c. lemon juice, 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce, 2-3 tablespoons oil, pepper, garlic, rosemary.

2) Press the excess water out of a block of extra firm tofu. If you've never done this before, it's easy...just put the tofu on top of some towels on a plate; put something heavy on top of the tofu for about 30 minutes.

3) Cube the tofu into about 50 little cubes. Toss in the pan with the oil mixture.
4) Bake at 400 for 30-60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so.

This is tasty on stir fry, salads, pitas, by itself, you name it. Mmmm.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

|soy cheese - my first time|

This post is dedicated to Marie and Lauren, who apparently actually click on this blog from time to time and, in doing so, encouraged me to actually post something for once. I hope you enjoy your lentil tacos!

***************
So...yesterday there was a big news story about a massive beef recall. I heard CNN was showing the video all day long. Fortunately, I don't watch CNN, so I didn't see the video. But, after hearing about the story when we were at our "reduce your carbon output/stop global warming class", I came home and had to Google it. I couldn't even watch the videos, because just reading about the treatment of these poor animals made me cry myself to sleep. I wish I was being melodramatic when I say that, but it's actually true.

And these cows were dairy cows at one point in time, so that's how they got so sick and were being killed for really cheap meat. To feed to our children. Or to end up in the garbage at a school cafeteria. You remember those days. By the way, if you have no idea what I'm talking about, go to www.hsus.org. They're the ones who broke the story.

Anyway, I'm not a huge animal lover or anything. I wear leather. I think it's okay to kill animals and eat them. I became a vegetarian for environmental reasons, not for animal rights reasons. But this, this is just wrong. There's no denying that. And the dairy issue was particularly bothersome because I'm not a vegan, nor do I think I will ever be a vegan. I try to get cage free eggs and buy organic milk and yogurt (though I have my doubts that the giant organic milk companies are that much better).

All of this being said, I had to go to the grocery store this morning. I said a small prayer of confession as I walked past all the raw beef (again, wish I was kidding, but I'm not). And I decided I would try some soy cheese for the first time, just to check it out.

The verdict? Soy cheese is freaking awesome. It is about a thousand times more tasty than fat-free cheese (which is, sadly, what we usually eat in our house). It is SO FREAKING GOOD. I am really pumped about this discovery. I made a grilled cheese for lunch and it was amazing.

So, I'm still not a vegan. And I don't think I will ever be one. And since my husband and I decided last night that moving a dairy cow into our spare bedroom really won't work at this point in our lives, I guess soy cheese is a good option. If it saves one cow from that horrible fate, it's worth the few extra pennies it costs. Plus, it tastes better.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

|ringing in the new year|

Deciding what to eat on the first day of the year is pretty durn important...and as this first day of 2008 draws to a close, I'm pleased to report that it's been an excellent day, food-wise.

BREAKFAST - Took a piece of whole wheat toast and put sliced banana on top. Yum.

LUNCH - I was out and about, so I stopped at a coffeeshop and got a skim milk steamer with gingerbread syrup. Mmmm. Got home and ate some leftover creamed peas from yesterday. Don't know how to make creamed peas? Tragedy or tragedies. Don't worry, though, I'll put the recipe at the end of this post.

DINNER - This was the best part of the day so far. My husband got a Loge cast iron indoor grill with a panini press for Christmas (courtesy of me, of course). I got a new santoku knife, so I went to work chopping. Chopped up onions and caramelized them in just a teaspoon of roasted red pepper olive oil. Then I sauteed sliced mushrooms and leftover red and orange peppers from last night's crudite. Put it on bread with brie and grilled it up. Served with with a grilled artichoke (directions below) and tomato and basil soup (courtesy of Campbell's gold box deliciousness). The whole thing was AMAZING.

Instructions on CREAMED PEAS & GRILLED ARTICHOKES:
To make creamed peas....
1) Heat a can of peas. Meanwhile, in another skillet make gravy by taking about 2 tablespoons of flour and 1/2 cup of milk.
2) Stir your gravy pretty constantly. Once it starts to thicken, add a tad of butter plus some salt and pepper.
3) If your gravy is looking thick, add some more milk or some of the juice from the peas.
4) Drain the peas and fold them in. Yum.

To grill an artichoke:
1) Trim the prickly parts off the tops of the leaves. Cut off the top inch or two of the choke and trim the stem down if it's long. Cut the whole thing in half lengthwise.
2) Put in a microwave safe dish with a couple tablespoons of water. Microwave about five minutes.
3) Put the choke halves, open side down on the grill. You can brush them with olive oil or cooking spray first.
4) For an easy dipping sauce, just melt a little butter and add lemon juice and pepper.
5) Peel the leaves off one by one. Dip into the butter and then scrape the soft part off with your teeth. When you get to the furry looking part in the middle, don't quit! Use your spoon to get rid of the fur and then cut the heart into chunks. Dip in butter and rejoice mightily.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!