Sunday, December 20, 2009

French Toast

With all this snow on the ground, I walked the mile to the co-op where I do my grocery shopping. Some of the items I was looking for were out of stock due to deliveries being held up by the local weather. I was hoping for some egg bagels, but when seeing that all of the bagel bins were empty, I picked up a loaf of local artisan bread and decided on making French toast for a late lunch.

What You Need:
  • Bread of choice (I used a loaf of artisan bread, and cut 4 thick slices)
  • Eggs (2 eggs were enough for the amount of bread I used)
  • Milk (1/2 cup of almond milk)
  • Spices, if you choose (yes please! cinnamon and nutmeg for me)
What You Do:
  • Crack the eggs into a pie dish and beat with a fork. Add the milk and spices.
  • Slice bread and dip slices into the egg mixture, letting each side soak for a few seconds until it becomes saturated.
  • In a non-stick pan, lay slices out and cook until a golden brown crisp on each side.
I wasn't sure that I was going to want all 4 pieces of toast, but it was so good and that walk made me so hungry (uphill both ways, if you can believe it...this place isn't called the Wissahickon Valley for nothin'). To make French toast with an entire loaf of bread, use 4 eggs and 1 cup of milk. I like mine buttered with a little powdered sugar. Mmm. Over the past two days, I have trudged 5 miles in the snow and loved every minute of it. If only we could stay snowed in for just a little bit longer...

Cheat your way to chicken soup

Everybody loves a homemade chicken soup, especially this time of year. With this recipe, you can get the same, delicious soup by taking a few shortcuts and cutting down the time between preparing and enjoying.

What You Need:
  • One rotisserie chicken (mine was garlic and rosemary)
  • One package of soup greens, if available in your produce section
  • Sea Salt
What You Do:
  • Time to get your hands dirty and pull apart the chicken. Peel the skin back and remove all of the meat from the bones. I just used the white meat, and saved the wings and thighs (you can use them for another meal). Add all of the meat you're using to the crock pot.
  • Wash, peel and cut your vegetables. My soup greens package came with celery, carrots, dill, parsley, leeks, an onion, a turnip and a parsnip. If you can't find a package like this at the store, it's easy enough to purchase them separately. Add desired amounts of chopped veggies and herbs to the crock pot.
  • Add enough water to have broth as the soup is cooking, and sprinkle in the desired amount of sea salt (I use the finely ground salt).
After a couple hours of cooking on high in the crock pot, your veggies will be tender, the broth will be flavorful and you'll have a hot bowl of soup to enjoy! With the winter wonderland that has been created in Philly, my neighbors and I went for a 3-hour hike through our neighborhood and the park. Coming home to a hot bowl of soup right out of the crock pot was a delicious midnight snack!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gobble, Gobble

Who is excited about Thanksgiving?! I can.not.wait. to cook all day and eat all night. I've been building up excitement for a couple of weeks now. A couple neighbors and I are doing another traditional "orphan" holiday celebration - it's those of us who have far-away families and are staying in town for the holiday. No matter the size of the gathering, I am ready and waiting to prepare lots of tasty food, much of which I always enjoyed with my family during holiday meals.

Here are my contributions on the menu:
*Roast turkey breast - coated in butter with freshly minced garlic (it's 4.5 pounds, and since there are only 3 of us, there's no need for an entire turkey)
*Sweet potato biscuits (one famous Thanksgiving, I ate 15 of these...)
*Steamed asparagus with cheese sauce
*Pumpkin roll (a delicious dessert my college roomie got me hooked on!)
*Pumpkin pie with a cinnamon graham cracker crust

We will also be having garlic and rosemary mashed potatoes as well as sweet potatoes.

I hope everyone has a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Work Day

Today's non-traditional work out wasssss....

Pushing a wheelbarrow! It was the monthly grounds work day at the nature center where I work, and even though I was super busy wrapping up one event and getting ready for another, I hit the trails for an hour pushing wheelbarrows of wood chips from one location to another.

What I like best about the non-traditional (i.e. not in a gym and without typical "exercise equipment") workout is that it's usually so much fun! I like to think of our grounds days at work as "Doozer Days." Anyone remember the Doozers in Fraggle Rock? All they did was push their little carts back and forth and build structures all day long. Then the Fraggles came and ate them of course...

And what is a good meal to follow up a good workout? A hearty sandwich. Mmm. I'm an addict for a Subway foot-long hearty Italian sub roll with turkey, lettuce, tomato and olives. Even though it's tempting to pay the extra couple of bucks for a drink and chips, skip it! Not only will you save money, but you can choose something healthier like a glass of water and an apple.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Take Two:


Cheesy roasted cabbage and potato dish
. This time I made a monterey jack cheese sauce and used green cabbage.

One of my favorite meals:

A chicken Caesar salad! An entire heart of Romaine, a handful of shredded carrots, grape tomatoes, some fresh mozz, grilled garlic chicken and Caesar dressing. Mmmm. Yes, that's a pie dish and yes, I ate it all.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Back on Board

This past month of time has been a little ridiculous for me at work. Now that our biggest fundraiser of the year has come and gone, I can get back to having my thoughts be more collected, leading me to be a little more inspired to work for my dinner once I get home. The recent trend has been to come home wiped out and want something to immediately shove in my mouth, since I probably never got around to eating a full lunch at work. I am happy to bid farewell to such days.

On deck: ground turkey, chicken breast cutlets, frozen stir-fry veggies, cabbage, potatoes, lots of cheese, assortment of beans and an over-abundance of eggs.

Meal ideas: chicken and veggie stir-fry; chicken caeser salad; turkey burger, chili or burritos; roasted cabbage and potatoes with cheese; omelettes and more.

As for my recent physical activity, in addition to working with the horses I have begun a 6-week course in Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement classes. The goal of the Feldenkrais Method (named for the developer) is to improve function through becoming aware of your movements. The class is not one for burning calories or even toning. It really is as simple as heightening your awareness. Each class focuses on one area of the body, and over the course of an hour, excercises in simple movements bring awareness to the way the body functions. Each class begins with what my instructor calls a "body scan." Lieing on my back on the floor, I notice the way each part of my body comes in contact with the floor. The class also ends with a body scan, at which time I notice that the way my body comes in contact with the floor has changed due to the simple exercises I spent much of the last hour doing.

After reading that, your next question is probably "If you're not going to lose weight or even tone your body, why bother taking the class?" Here's where the horses come in. A horse can sense the energy of your body. Distracted or chaotic energy often results in difficulty communicating with your horse (which is done even more through the body than with the voice). Having quiet energy will result in a much more successful training session with your horse, who will feel comfortable and safe with you. My chaotic energy resulted in my foot becoming the resting spot for a 2000-pound animal's hoof, whereas my quiet energy resulted in being able to ride bareback with my eyes closed for an extended period of time, completely trusting my horse to keep me safe. In the end, I will say what a big difference the small changes make.

When I couldn't find my regular brand of multi-vitamin at the store, I picked up another brand thinking it wouldn't make a difference. Much to my dismay, after swallowing a vitamin early in the morning with a small glass of water, I was practically double over in stomach pain. Little Miss Smart Pants here neglected to read the lable, which directs the consumer to take with food. Of course. My previous vitamin allowed me the freedom to take it whenever I wanted, regardless of food intake. Since I don't eat breakfast before leaving the house in the morning, my next option is to take it at work...if I remember. What this all boils down to is that I often forget to take my vitamin.

I have, however, been loading up with Vitamin C as coworkers are coming down with colds and other sniffly, stomach aching, nastiness. We all know that Vitamin C can help the immune system function, and that oranges are a prime source. Did you know that other good sources of C include brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kiwi, canteloup, broccoli and raw bell peppers? Humans are unable to make Vitamin C inside their bodies, but because it is so important, we must either take supplements or find it in the food we eat.

I've also started taking a Vitamin D supplement. The sun's ultraviolet rays are our best source of Vitamin D, and while I love some time in the sunshine, we are severely lacking it in Pennsylvania this time of year. Perhaps the greatest function of D is to help the body absorb calcium. If you enjoy carbonated drinks, listen up - the phosphorus (in the form of phosphoric acid) used in soft drinks can have a negative effect on your body by depleting it of calcium. The Daily Value developed by the US Food and Drug Administration suggests an intake of 400 iu of Vitamin D for adults each day, even though some doctors are recommended much higher amounts, especially depending on your lifestyle and location.

As animals, we have a tendency to slow down during the winter and add a few extra pounds. Try as we might, we still keep this connection to our wilder ancestors. in today's world, we allow this to happen and then get into a mad rush to uncover our healthier selves come the first sign of spring weather. Winter feels like it's approaching quickly this year, so let's all do ourselves a favor by keeping the system that is our body healthy and working smoothly. The more you do for yourself now, the more your body with thank you when you're not working it to death next spring.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Magic Meal

If you run a tight schedule but still like to prepare dinner at home, you're probably no stranger to Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals. What would you say if I could offer you a 10 minute meal? With as few at 3 ingredients and 10 minutes of your time, you can have a homemade meal ready on the table.

In an earlier post, I discussed my recent trip to Trader Joe's. While I was there, I picked up the following things that I used to make this meal:

1 pouch of brown rice
1 bag of stir fry vegetables (they have a couple mixed veggie options)
1 bag matchstick carrots
1 bag mixed raw veggies (baby carrots, cauliflower and broccoli)

Brown rice is the better rice option, but takes significantly longer to cook than white rice. Say hello to Trader Joe's precooked long grain brown rice - all you do is open the pouch and microwave for 1-2 minutes and it's ready!

Already in my fridge, I had a bottle of reduced sodium soy sauce to add some flavor.

Instructions
-Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the bottom of a frying pan or wok and let heat.
-Add desired quantity of frozen stir fry veggies.
*Extra step: I added the extra matchstick carrots, broccoli and cauliflower.
-When the veggies are close to being finished, microwave the rice pouch.
-Add a little soy sauce to the veggies and finish cooking.
-When the rice is finished, pour it onto a plate and top with veggies cooked in soy sauce.

There's you're meal, and it won't take more than 10 minutes!

Pics will be up later...I've got a PHILLIES game to watch!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Banana pumpkin muffins with walnuts

Tomorrow some friends and co-workers are coming over to carve pumpkins, and I always want to have something to snack on when I have guests. To celebrate the season (and pay homage to the great pumpkin, of course) I made these delicious muffins! I had half a can of pumpkin puree leftover from making my cookies, and a freezer full of bananas, so this was a great recipe. I found the original recipe online last year, but have made my own modifications to it to make it a bit healthier.

Ingredients:
1 mashed organic banana
1 cup organic pumpkin puree
1/4 organic low-fat vanilla yogurt
2 eggs from free-range chickens
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup Florida Crystals pure cane sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon


Instructions:
Mix banana, pumpkin, yogurt and eggs in a bowl with an electric mixer.

In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients, then add to the wet ingredients until just mixed in.

Pour batter into sprayed muffin trays and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

Working it out

Today, working at the barn really work me! The horses were in last night, so there were 10 stalls to clean. I was the first to arrive, so I started right away. I completed 4 of the stalls - pushing wheelbarrows full of manure/soaked straw and raked, carried out/dumped 5 of the water buckets, refilled the waters and dropped down the hay. They all sound like simple tasks, but believe me, you feel every bit of effort put into pushing the heavy wheelbarrows and lifting forkfuls of soaked straw.

My horse for the day was Elvis, an ex-racing quarter horse. Every one of Jill's horses has a story - Elvis's is that he didn't run fast enough. He was filthy from rolling in mud, so I must have spent 15-20 minutes grooming him. My first portion of training with him was to "drive" him - two long lead lines are clipped to either side of his halter and stretched out the length of his body. I hold the ends of them, walking behind him. After a bit, I walked with my hands on his backside to keep my movements with him. He was doing really well, so on went the saddlepad, bridle and reins and up I went. Big steps were made today with keeping a horse "in the box" and using my aides to direct him. He crapped out after awhile because it was too long for him - his body was worked too hard as a racehorse and at times can still experience some soreness.

My fitness activities for today: working at the barn and riding from 9:30-2:30. That's 5 hours of physical work - it was free and didn't require a gym membership.

To remedy my rushed morning, I packed a container full of TJ's frosted mini wheats, which I ate during the drive to the barn. I also packed an apple, which I ate on the drive home. Saturdays are a little hectic for meals because I'm not usually home until around 2:30, but today was even later. I've developed a hankering for Wendy's after a long day at the barn, which is a bad habit I've been passing up the past two weekends. Today's alternative was my own "chicken" nuggets - the Morningstar Farms buffalo nuggets I purchased yesterday at Trader Joe's. I made 6 nuggets, a total of 240 calories. If I'd indulged in my "usual" at Wendy's (5 piece nuggets and french fries from the Super Value menu) I would have eaten 440 calories. With one change, I saved myself almost half the calories and a few dollars - a win on both counts.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Onward and upward!

I love my co-op where I do most of my grocery shopping, but a few minutes away from the nature center where I work is a Trader Joe's. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with TJ's because so much of their food is pre-made, frozen, and can be packed with sodium. Also, the produce selection is fairly limited and all comes wrapped in plastic - NOT sustainable for the environment. However, I do sometimes get the urge to stop in and pick up a few things.

My mindset today was on healthy options. Let's see how I did...

For healthier snacks, I chose:
-frosted mini wheats (something I like to snack on mid-morning...sweet but mostly good for you)
-roasted garlic hummus
-sea salt bagel chips to go with the hummus
-honeycrisp apples

For lunch, I chose:
-a French baguette (okay...not THE best option)
-roasted turkey cold cuts
-Champs Elysees salad mix, Romaine hearts and a bag of shredded carrots
-avocado

For dinner, I chose:
-brown rice
-frozen stir fry vegetables with no preservatives
-Morningstar Farms meatless buffalo chicken nuggets

My not-so healthy indulgence:
-honey roasted peanuts

There is an overwhelming number of goal-oriented thoughts floating around my head, but I want to keep this simple in order to avoid ruining my efforts. During the past couple of weeks, I've had a problem with oversleeping, skipping a morning meal, eating a late lunch, snacking too much after dinner and staying up too late. By adjusting to better meal-time habits, I can already get myself back on the right track. My mornings are always rushed, so a bit of extra effort (like slicing an apple the night before) will save my morning minutes and ensure that I get my breakfast once I'm at the office.

It's evolution, baby

Constant change. It's usually the name of the game, isn't it? I began this blog as a way to centrally provide recipes and meal ideas to friends. I was having several people ask for recipes, would lose track of what I sent to whom and when, so instead of going to them, the blog allowed them to come to me. I grew up eating very healthy foods - to the point that kids would call me "rabbit" in elementary school because I always had a hefty serving of raw veggies packed in my lunch. I was also extremely active with dance, horseback riding, swimming, rollerblading, biking and so on. As I've gotten older, I've based my eating habits around the same general principles, but I've also developed a sweet tooth, a morning coffee habit and a love of dark beers. And I have fallen victim to the 9-5 slump.

So that's one change. Another change is considering what to do with this blog. I still enjoy posting recipes and sharing my knowledge of how to live a more environmentally friendly and sustainable lifestyle through your eating habits (I am an environmental educator, after all), but I think there's more potential here.

For a few months now, my pants have all been a bit snug. I go back and forth with which ones fit to my liking and which ones I peel off and throw in the corner the second I get them on. Today after lunch, I took a little bit of time off work and attempted to go shopping. I decided that at this moment, I'm not as concerned with the size on my pants tag as I am with them fitting well and looking the part. After 6 pairs of pants of varying brands, sizes and styles, I quit. I wasn't satisfied with any of them. Granted, finding that perfect pair of jeans is difficult, but I became discouraged and knew I wanted to change something. I'm not as much concerned with losing weight (if I was asked my height, weight and pants size, people would probably scoff at the idea that I need to "shape up" my eating habits) and I am with toning my existing figure. The shape of my body changes quickly, and I should try to use that to my advantage.

So now, not only with you find recipes here, but this blog will really fall into its title "Part of the Whole." Eating is just part of what you can do to maintain a healthy body and mind. I will be making my best effort to track simple habit changes, some easy exercise solutions and some overall wellness ideas. I hope everyone finds it useful, and feedback is always welcomed.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

More Food Confessions

The biggest of them all: I have been eating terribly lately. I've also had horrible sleeping habits, too. Combined, the two are pretty dangerous. I'm mostly so tired because THE PHILLIES ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES. I've been up really late watching the games, which haven't been over until midnight. This leaves me not wanting to wake up early to eat breakfast or pack an adequate lunch, which leads to a lot of unnecessary snacking at work, then the desire for a quick and easy dinner, which has sometimes been at the bar where I watch the games due to my divorce from cable. Whew!

Some terrible indulgences of late have included: pizza...and more pizza, sour patch kids candy, more glasses of beer than I care to count, hot wings, potato chips.

A couple of savings graces came in the form of: brown rice with steamed broccoli and soy sauce, a turkey sub with only veggies - no cheese or dressings, eggs, an apple.

I'm going to give myself through the weekend to get back on track. I'm due for a grocery shopping trip, so I'm looking forward to planning some good meals! I still have an acorn squash from my last trip, and am hoping to do something possibly a little more creative with it than the standard baking with seasonings.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Roasted cabbage and potatoes with cheese

When I saw my cousin's recipe for roasted cabbage with cheese, I was a little surprised that I liked the idea of it so much. My history of being an adventurous eater is nearly non-existent, and yes, in my early days of trying "new" foods, cabbage would have been considered adventurous.

I based this recipe off the one Christina posted, but I wanted to make it a little heartier so that it could suffice as an entire meal (hers was a side dish to flank steak). To beef it up a little (har, har), I opted for adding potatoes and onions and seasoning with garlic instead of salt and pepper. I also used only half a head of cabbage - I bought red instead of green, because the work was done for me...someone at the co-op already had it cut in half!

Ingredients:
Half a head of cabbage
Potato(es) (red)
Onion (vidalia)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
1 tsp butter
1 tsp flour
3/4 cup milk (skim - and from a local farm!)
3/4 cup shredded cheese (colby-jack)

Instructions:
1)
Slice the cabbage into wedges, brush with olive oil and bake at 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes on each side.
2)
While the cabbage is baking, scrub and prick your potato(es) and microwave for 2-3 minutes. This will help them cook quicker when the go in the oven later. Slice into little wedges.
3) Remove the cabbage from the oven and let cool while you prepare the cheese sauce. Reduce oven temperature to 350. Christina's instructions say: Melt the butter in a medium skillet and add the flour. Mix together until it's bubbly, then add the milk. Stir and let it thicken for a minute or two. Then add the cheese, and stir until it's all melted. Remove the sauce from the hot burner until you're ready to use it.
4) Chop the cabbage into small bits, chop the onion and mince the garlic. Along with the potato wedges, combine the cabbage, garlic and onions in an oven safe baking dish and mix; pour the cheese sauce over.
5) Return to the oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes uncovered, or until cheese sauce is bubbling and slightly browned. A few minutes before it was finished, I added a little bit more shredded cheese on top for an extra cheesy melted layer.

It's fun to find a recipe you like and make your own creation from it. It also extends the life of the recipe so your stomach doesn't get bored too quickly. I chose not to season my cabbage when I initially roasted it, because I knew I'd be using fresh minced garlic when all the ingredients were combined. Garlic powder can be very salty, which leaves me with swollen fingers - ick. I prefer to save my flavor for the fresh ingredients that are easier on my body!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pumpkin Perfect

I love October! It's the best month of the year - perfect weather, the best holiday and the official go-ahead for eating everything that could possibly be made with a pumpkin flavor.

Yesterday, I was trying to think of a snack to make that was a little like dessert but not too sweet, when chocolate chip pumpkin cookies came to mind. Mmmm. The recipe I used is half of the original recipe since - let's be real here - I'm not going to be sharing these cookies with anyone, but also don't want to eat 7 million of them on my own. Even halved, this recipe still made about two dozen medium sized cookies.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar (I used my favorite, Florida Crystals)*
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg (cage free)*
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (organic)*
1-1/2 cups flour (unbleached)*
1 tsp baking soda
1/2tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves**
1 cup (1/2 bag) milk chocolate chips (mini)*

* My options - use whatever brand or type of product you want

** I did not have any ground cloves in my spice collection, but I did have some pumpkin pie spice - it's a mix of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice and could probably be substituted for the total amount of all the spices used in this recipe.

Instructions:
1) Slice the stuck of butter into a large mixing bowl. Add the white and brown sugar, and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy.
2) Beat in the egg, then the vanilla and the pumpkin puree
3) In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
4) Slowly beat the flour mixture into the rest of the batter, on third at a time.
5) Stir in the chocolate chips
6) Spoon onto an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.
7) Remove from the oven and let stand on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.
8) Gobble down several cookies, followed by a glass of milk from a local farm


Inspired Meal

I have a beloved hobby that's been renewed: riding horses. As a working student at a local-ish horse farm, I have tasks such as mucking stalls and the indoor riding ring, picking hooves, grooming, tacking up, turning out and bringing in horses, and many other jobs that might need assisting such as massaging a sore horse and keeping another still and calm while his sprain was taken care of. In exchange for my work, I'm becoming trained to train, and to be a "horse professor." The woman who owns and operates the farm has a very natural connection with her animals - she tries all homeopathic methods first, uses reiki and other such methods for sore horses and does her fair share to treat the environment right.

I've been riding a Percheron - a breed of draft horse who spent his time working as an Amish plow horse before being welcomed to the spoiled life of a riding horse. I've ridden him bareback and with my eyes closed (a method to train me) - now that's an experience! For training, I've worked in-hand with a fussy gelding who's known for being a bit of an ass on most days. Overall, it's an incredible experience and I'm happy to have found my place there. You can even find me singing along to my "favorite" country songs while working and riding...and even in the car...shhh ;)

Now, onto the food! When people think of horses, they often think of cowboys and campfires and all of the rustic meals that have been part of that lifestyle. With the cool air coming back, I wanted to make a big pot of chili. This is a great meal for me because I can make enough for dinners, lunches at work and even some to freeze for later. Somehow, I managed to lose the recipe (or, more like the "outline") that I used when I made chili last autumn and winter, so I started over today.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I'm not one for following perfectly measured out recipes, so this one won't be either. It's up to you to make those decisions based on your own tastes.

The base: 1 pound of ground white meat turkey from locally raised birds - no antibiotics or growth hormones.
Everything else: 1 smallish bell pepper, 1/2 a jalepeno from my garden, 1 clove garlic (minced), a few slices of onion (minced), 6 oz. ca of tomato paste, 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes, paprika, chili powder, olive oil, 1 can of small red beans.
Extra: Brown rice and shredded colby-jack cheese.

Every other time I've made chili, I let it simmer for hours in a crockpot. Today I felt like being a little more involved in the preparation, so I opted for stovetop cooking.

1) First, I cooked the turkey in a medium frying pan and set aside.
2) In a stock pot, I sauteed the chopped onions, garlic, bell pepper and jalapeno pepper in a little extra virgin olive oil until the onions were soft, but not browned.
3) After the veggies were cooked, I added the meat and sauteed a bit more together, then added the cans of beans, tomato paste and diced tomatoes.
4) I added dashes of paprika and chili powder, stirred, then covered the pot and let all the ingredients simmer while I cooked my rice.
5) When the rice was finished, I scooped some into my bowl, added a serving of chili, stirred together and topped with shredded cheese. So filling! I like mixing rice in with the chili because it adds another texture and really extends the meal to provide more servings. You don't need as big of a serving of the chili if it's going to be mixed with rice. It also means you may not have to buy as much meat - something that could certainly save a big family a few dollars. When brown rice is used, it adds an extra nutritional component that the meal did not have before.

My chili was so darn hot that it cracked a beautiful piece of pottery one of my friends gave me (the outside is a pretty metallic blue glaze). I'm really disappointed - it's been a favorite pasta and salad bowl since I received it. Since I can't bear to part with it, I'm sure it'll find a recycled use as some sort of catch-all bowl somewhere else in the house.

What did I use from my shopping trip yesterday? Turkey, onion, bell pepper, cheese, rice and red beans. Now I have a few more lunches or dinners already made!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

To market, to market

Have you ever had such a knock-out grocery shopping trip during which you've bought so many great meal components that you don't even know where to start once you get home? A blessing and a curse at the same time, hmm? That's how I'm feeling after getting home from the co-op! I think my first step is going to be to make a meal plan for the week, and take it from there.

Here is a sampling of some of the items I bought (L=local product; O=organic):
  • 1 lb. ground turkey (L)
  • red beans (O)
  • black beans (O)
  • rice (O)
  • pumpkin puree (O)
  • red cabbage (L)
  • red potatoes (L)
  • tomato sauce (O)
  • assorted cheeses
  • pasta
  • acorn squash (L)
  • broccoli
  • bell pepper (L)
  • eggs (L)
  • vidalia onion
There was plenty more that came home with me - organic fruit, local dairy products, organic yogurt, etc., but the above items are what will be featured in this week's meals.

Friday, October 9, 2009

FREEdom

Don't you love receiving gift cards for birthdays or other occasions? Shopping is always fun, but it's waaay better when you're not worrying about spending your own money.

Check out THIS contest - there are 8 bloggers who are offering opportunities to win $200 gift cards to Best Buy, where you could have the freedom to wildly purchase anything you want!

In THIS contest, you could win a $100 Visa gift card. There are 8 opportunities.

Want to win a year's supply of Wonder Bread? How about a $100 grocery store gift card? Win both with THIS contest! Grab one of the 7 prizes!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tasty dish for 1, please

Another confession: I despise the word casserole. It always makes me think of multiple gross ingredients baked into a pan and topped with cheese - to trick you into thinking it's good.

Due to above confession, I commonly call this type of meal a "baked chicken dish," which it is. I'm a big fan of that classic meal - made with chicken strips, rice, broccoli, cream of celery soup and topped with cheese - baked in the oven. It is indeed a tasty and easy dinner to make, but when wanting to limit my meat intake to about once a week, I don't want a couple days worth of leftovers (remember, I'm cooking for one). I would, however, like some extra rice and broccoli, so I opted for the following version.

I bought three stalks of broccoli, then washed and steamed them all. I also steamed an entire (dry) cup of brown rice. This gave me plenty of broccoli and rice to use in my dinner and have leftovers for lunch tomorrow (which I'll eat with a little soy sauce drizzled on top). Then I browned two chicken breast strips, cut into smaller pieces.

In a Pyrex dish I layered the rice, the chicken and the broccoli, then topped with shredded Mexican blend cheese. I placed it on the bottom rack of the oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. One thing I also despise is the taste of meat warmed in the microwave - it seems to lose flavor and texture. In the end I had a dish perfectly portioned for one person, which had all the healthy components of a well-balanced meal.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Meat-fest '09

Okay, that wasn't the official name...more like "backyard barbecue"...but it should have been called meat-fest!

Fact: I am not much of a meat eater. I have not eaten beef in probably over 3 years now (environmental reasons), and occasionally (once a week?) eat chicken, pork, turkey or various seafood.

Confession: On Monday, I ate 3 types of meat and 1 seafood.

Sadly (or maybe luckily?), I don't have any photographic proof. In the backyard is a wonderful fire pit dug into the ground and lined with stones. It's a favorite dinner spot for my neighbors and me, who quite often collect the contents of our refrigerators/freezers and turn any and everything grill-able into a meal.

The Menu:
-Dry rubbed pork ribs
-Andouille chicken sausages
-Dry rubbed chicken breasts
-Shrimp
-Assorted veggies (the saving grace to my potentially looming heart attack)
-Frozen Nutty Bars (the necessary dessert to any fireside event)

I started out easy with some grilled summer squash and zucchini - coated in a little EVOO with a generous sprinkling of garlic powder. Then I hungrily (savagely? no, not me) dug into a crispy, seasoned chicken breast and had a helping of shrimp, steamed in a cast iron pan over the fire with broccoli, corn and okra. I have finally, at the age of 25, become brave enough to eat slimy okra. Finally, I tore into some pork ribs, my new love. We've had then 3 or 4 times over the last couple of months, every time with the rub varying just a little bit. This one was a mixture of paprika, brown sugar, cumin and some other tasty spices (this same rub was used on the chicken). I could hardly wait until they were charred just enough to be crunchy and delicious.

All of these foods were grilled over a wood fire. Chicken breasts should be pounded before seasoning so that they cook through a little easier; place them bone side down on the grill first. For best results when grilling a rack of ribs over a wood fire, wait until you have a glowing bed of coals. This will prevent the outside of the meat from becoming charred before the inside is thoroughly cooked.

Now scamper off to your yards to collect some wood and make dinner!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Oktoberfest!

Recently I took my first trip to Lancaster County (PA's Amish country), where I attended an Oktoberfest at a local brewery. The day was a lot of fun and there was a lot of good food, music and of course, beer! The selection of brews was a little disappointing, but I managed to find decent enough choices to use my three drink tickets for.

First up was the Gold Lager, a nice German style beer that was light on the hops. I really love the dark brews, so after that one I went for the Stout - a dark, heavy beer with a strong flavor. My last choice of the day was the Porter, another dark beer. After that, I was all beered out.


The food choices were also all traditional German eats. For lunch I went for the spaetzle, a super yummy noodle and cheese dish. I first had this when I was in college, homemade by a German neighbor. He even handmade all of the noodles! His version had onions in it as well. My neighbor Nick had an agenda - eat one of every sausage offered - and he did! I could not leave before having one of my favorite treats - a hand-rolled and buttery baked soft pretzel. Mmm.

Butternut Squash

Despite being a big fan of summer squash, I've never tried the autumn or winter varieties. I guess at some point I just refused to eat it and it was never offered again. Well that's changing! Carefully choosing foods is important to me, and one way to do that is to choose foods that are 1) locally grown and 2) seasonal. If you can do both at once, that's even better! At the co-op, I chose a locally grown, small-medium butternut squash to make for the first time.


To prepare my squash, I washed it, sliced it in half lengthwise, scooped out the seeds and put each half in an oven-safe baking dish. I rubbed some butter on top and added pumpkin spice - the kind you'd use to season a pumpkin pie. I also added a sprinkling of brown sugar. I set the oven to 375 and covered the squash halves with foil so the tops wouldn't burn, and placed the dishes on the bottom rack of the oven. On the top rack, I placed a tray with the seeds, which I rinsed and stirred in some olive oil and salt.


Both came out great! Not pictured are the other components of the meal - steamed broccoli and chicken, which I baked in a butter and brown sugar glaze. It was soooo good.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Where are the pics?

They're coming, they're coming! I've had several posts saved as drafts, waiting to download the pics from my camera, upload them to the website, blah blah blah. Rather than get a massive backlog of posts, I'll just come back to them later and add the pics - so enjoy for now! I'll let you use your imagination ;)

Caramelized Autumn Spice Apples

Today felt like one of those beautiful, warm autumn days - my absolute most favorite of the year. To enjoy every bit of it, I made an autumn treat after dinner.

What You Need:
  • An apple (I had a Pink Lady in the fridge)
  • 1 tbs of butter
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
What You Do:
  • Cut the apple into chunks. It's easy to use and apple corer and then cut up the slices.
  • Begin melting the butter in the pan and add the apple pieces and let them warm.
  • Add the sugar and stir around to coat the apples pieces.
  • Sprinkle in cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.
Also great with cinnamon sugar graham crackers or vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

From the Garden

This is an easy meal that could either be straight from your garden, or probably all purchased locally from a farmers market. Simple, filling and tasty. My co-op has an awesome variety of potatoes (even purple ones!), so I might try this with some other options as we get into the colder months. Also, you could very easily add a meat to this dish if you wanted. It'd be almost like a stew without the broth.

What You Need:
  • Potato (I used a red potato)
  • Veggies (Carrots, yellow squash, zucchini and broccoli)
  • EVOO
  • Seasoning
What You Do:
  • Wash and cut your potatoes and veggies.
  • Option A: Stir all veggies with a little EVOO and seasoning and bake at 350 for 10-15 min.
  • Option B: Steam veggies while potatoes (stirred in EVOO and seasoning) bake.

I chose option B because I had already steamed my veggies earlier in the day, without knowing exactly what I was going to make for dinner. Also, I used a little sprinkling of Season All (seasoned salt) on my potatoes. Cooking the potatoes and veggies separately spared me from eating overly salted foods. If you're using any type of herbs for seasoning, I'd say throw 'em all together and bake.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tilapia and Harvest Grains

I've always eaten a lot of white fish as part of my diet, until I went on a sprint as a vegetarian. Now I've reintroduced fish to my diet, and tilapia was first. On a trip to Trader Joe's this morning, I picked up farm raised tilapia and harvest grains, among a few other things. TJ's harvest grains is a hearty mix that makes a great side dish, or is substantial enough on its own with steamed veggies added. This was an easy, filling and healthy meal.

What You Need:
  • Fish of your choice
  • Grains (quinoa, cous cous, harvest grains mix, lentils, etc.)
  • Veggies (I added carrots)
  • Seasoning (For fish, grains and veggies, I love Salsa Lizano, a Costa Rican staple.)
What You Do:
  • A few hours prior to starting your meal, marinate your fish in a seasoning rub or sauce.
  • Cook your grains according to package directions. I've often had problems with TJ's harvest grains sticking to the bottom of the pot, despite following the cooking instructions. This time, I smartened up and used a deep, non-stick frying pan with a lid. What do you know...not a single grain wasted by being glued to the bottom of the pan.
  • Chop your veggies and toss in with the grains to steam.
  • As the grains are nearing their finish, start the fish. I did a pan-seared tilapia tonight by melting a little Smart Balance in the bottom of the pan and then cooked the fish on both sides until it was cooked through.
  • Make a nice little bed of grains on your plate, top with the fish and finish off with an extra dash of seasonings or drizzle of sauce if you choose.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Roll me out of bed

I've been all about the eggs lately - scrambled, omelets or hard boiled. I had an early wake-up call this morning for a volunteer project in the park that ended up getting rained out. Since I was up, and everyone knows an early trip to a bakery gives you the best pick of the freshest goodies, I headed out on an errand. Tonight is a birthday party for a friend of a friend and I wanted to bring her some treats. After that, I crashed until lunch time. What do you make for lunch, but is really your first meal of the day? A breakfast sandwich, of course.

What you Need:
  • A tasty roll (I have some fresh Jewish egg-washed rolls from the co-op)
  • 1-2 eggs (from free-range, vegetarian fed chickens)
  • Cheese (I mixed it up this morning and opted for Monterey Jack)
  • Butter (my choice is Smart Balance with Flax oil)
What you Do:
  • Pop your roll in the toaster oven while you're cooking the egg(s).
  • Cook your egg as desired (I made mine into an easy omelet with cheese).
  • When both are finished, butter the inside of the roll, add your egg(s) and close.
Adding the Monterey Jack cheese was really tasty. The egg washed roll was also sweet tasting on its own. Putting it all together was delicious!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Birthday Baking

Saturday night I went to a friend's birthday party at a rented social club. The birthday girl is not interested in presents - not store-bought ones, anyway. She is asking party guests that if they do bring a gift, to let it me something homemade. So baking it is! I'm a big fan of Florida Crystals Natural Can Sugar. In fact, I have totally switched from using granulated sugar to using this type both for personal health and environmental reasons. On the back of the sugar bag, I found the following recipe, which sounds like a tasty treat for a late August summer snack.

What You Need:
  • 1 cup butter, room temp (I used soy margarine)
  • 1 cup Florida Crystals
  • 2-1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp lemon extract (I found that it could use a little more lemon flavor. Maybe 2 tsp?)
Optional Lemon Icing
  • 1 cup 10x powdered sugar
  • 1-1/2 tbs lemon juice
  • Grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 drop yellow food coloring (optional)
What You Do:
  • Cream the butter and Florida Crystals until smooth.
  • Add the flour, sour cream, baking soda and lemon extract and blend until smooth.
  • Divide the dough in half and place each half on a piece of wax paper. Roll each section into a 2-inch log and freeze until firm.
  • Remove 1 log at a time, slice dough into 1/8 inch slices. Place on ungreased cookie sheet
  • Bake at 350 until edges are golden brown.
  • Cool and drizzle with icing, if you choose.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tanzanian Dinner

One of my neighbors, Nick, is pretty skilled at making international cuisine. I'm a huge fan of his Moroccan chicken made with chickpeas, his Mexican food and another great French chicken dish.

The meal below is Ugali (a type of polenta) and cabbage soup. The seasonings in the soup are spicy on their own, but coconut water is added to the broth which cuts the intensity. The aroma while cooking is amazing, but the taste was a little bit of a let down. The flavors didn't stand out as much as I thought the would after smelling it (it smells a lot like Indian food - curry is used) and I think that might have to do with the combination of the sweetness from the coconut water. Adding plain water or a veggie stock may allow the intensity of the spices to remain in the flavor of the soup. As you can see from the picture, no silverware! You squish the Ugali into a spoon shape and scoop the cabbage with it. Not only is it tasty, but it's fun to eat! We complimented it with mango slices for dessert and coconut water for a drink (always from the young, green coconuts).



Nick made this meal in honor of his friend and former neighbor, Brooke. She was doing medical work in a village in Kenya and was killed in a bus accident in Tanzania. It is often that we gather with friends over meals, and seems a fitting way to quietly honor a life.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Garlic Chicken Caesar Pitas

Clearly, I have a backlog of chicken recipes I have neglected to post over the past few weeks. Although the past three recipes have all been chicken, I only each chicken once every two-to-three weeks. In fact, that's all the meat I eat. I'm a real sucker for a great chicken caesar salad and I'm loving the way I've been cooking chicken lately. I had all the ingredients at home and ready, except for the lettuce, which I picked up after work. Easy meal!

What you Need:
  • Chicken breast strips (free range, vegetarian fed)
  • EVOO
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Romaine or green leaf lettuce (in the garden)
  • Tomato(es) - from the roof garden!
  • Organic Caesar dressing
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Multi-grain pita, cut in half
What you Do:
  • Prepare the chicken as I have in other recipes - diced, cooked in EVOO and fresh minced garlic.
  • Chop your lettuce and dry in a salad spinner (I bought my first one a few weeks ago and use it every chance I get!) and cut the tomato(es).
  • Mix the veggies, chicken, parm shreds and dressing. Then stuff those pitas!

Chicken Burrito

Since I have moved to Philadelphia, I am at a loss of a great Mexican restaurant. When I was in college, I was spoiled with the best Mexican restaurant I've ever been to just a couple minutes down the street from campus. Boy do I miss it! Anytime I have a hankering for Mexican food, I usually make it myself now. It's not quite the same, but it's better than what I've tried here.

What you Need:
  • Chicken (free range, vegetarian fed)
  • Taco seasoning (Old El Paso 40% less sodium)
  • Shredded Mexican blend cheese or Queso Fresco
  • Tomatoes (fresh from the garden!)
  • Tortillas (I like the bigger size ones)
What you Do:
  • Dice up the chicken, brown it and then cook as you normally would prepare tacos - directions on seasoning package.
  • Once the chicken has cooked, add it to a warmed tortilla with your toppings.
  • Roll up and enjoy!

Another take on Quinoa and Veggies

You're probably noticing that this is one of my favorite healthy and easy meals. It's quick to prepare, tastes great and there are usually plenty of leftovers to take to work for lunch.

What you Need:
  • Chicken strips (free range, vegetarian fed)
  • 1-2 cloves of fresh, minced garlic
  • EVOO
  • Quinoa (mix of organic white and heirloom red)
  • Squash
  • Carrots
  • Other veggies you may want - peppers, zucchini, eggplant, etc.
  • Local, hormone free mozzarella cheese
What you Do:
  • Start quinoa first because it takes longest - 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water.
  • Add cut up veggies to quinoa and water at start.
  • Dice the chicken into small chunks, and stir up with EVOO and minced garlic.
  • Brown in a small frying pan until cooked thoroughly.
  • Mix all together and grate the mozz over top immediately to melt.
I've eaten this meal a few times without the cheese, but the little bit of melted cheese really adds something extra to it to make it that much more filling and tasty. Yum!


Monday, August 3, 2009

Fire up the veggies!

Something my neighbors and I do often is make our dinners over an open flame, then sit and enjoy a night by the fire, usually with a beer or 3. A couple weekends ago, I had two college friends visiting and after a long day at the beach, we threw together a quick but easy dinner to make over the fire (I'd originally planned to make falafel, but because of the nice weather we took advantage of continuing to be outdoors).

On the way back from the beach, we stopped at a rest stop with a farmer's market and picked up a couple of eggplants. We had a large squash from the garden, and then picked up a few zucchini, mushrooms (cooked separately, as I violently detest them), provolone cheese and whole wheat pitas from the grocery store.

To prepare the veggies, I cut the zucchini and squash into small pieces and stirred in a bowl with EVOO and a couple of diced garlic cloves and a sprinkle of salt. After salting and rinsing the eggplant, I also cut it into small pieces and let it soak in a mix of balsamic and red wine vinegars. This gives a tart but delicious taste.

Once we got the fire roaring and put the cooking grate over it, I used an old cookie sheet (note to self - invest in a cast iron pan) and laid out all the veggies. I ended up putting all (except the mushrooms) on at one time, which mixed the vinegars and garlic. I halved the pitas and warmed them on the edge of the fire...let me tell you, there is nothing like a fire-warmed pita! Once all the veggies were cooked, we stuffed the pitas, put a piece of cheese inside and savored them!


That's me in the middle with my college roommate, Chrissy, on the right and our friend Christian on the left - he was visiting from Florida. And of course, we have our veggie pitas!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Big Breakfast

Waking up to a beautiful Sunday morning, I grabbed my sunglasses, the July issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine and my dog, and headed to the backyard for a little morning sunshine. While reading the Better Health section, I learned several tips for a better start to your day. I am a chronic over-sleeping, trying to get every last minute of being curled up in bed as possible. This leaves me little time for excess activities, including breakfast at home. I usually bring something to work and don't eat until around 10 or 11. One of the tips in this month's magazine was to eat a filling breakfast. A study found that dieting women who ate a 610 calorie breakfast (compared to those who ate 290) had lost about 40 pounds each. The eaters of the light breakfast only lost around 10 pounds each. For the record, I'm not on a major pound-shedding mission, but I do like to make sure I'm choosing the healthier options for meals and giving my body what it needs, when it needs it. So this morning, it was a big breakfast for me when I came back inside!

What I Made:
  • A glass of water when waking up
  • 1 cup of Equal Exchange (fair trade) Tanzanian Jubilee coffee with organic 1/2 and 1/2
  • 1 hearty grains English muffin with Smart Balance
  • 4 large strawberries, sliced
  • 2-egg omelet (eggs from free range, vegetarian fed chickens), with diced sweet red pepper and a little bit of colby-jack cheese. Instead of cooking spray, I melted a little soy margarine in the bottom of the pan for a no-stick option.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pizza Frites

My mom has been making pizza frites for as long as I can remember, and I was always excited when we were having them for dinner. What's not to love? It's fried dough and cheese! Any time I've shared these with people, they've begged for more...there's just something about them!

What You Need:
  • Dough (If you make your own, make a basic pizza dough. If you purchase ready-made dough either buy ready-to-use pizza dough or rising dough).
  • Mozzarella cheese ( I found hormone-free local cheese)
  • Cooking Oil (I like Smart Balance Omega)
  • Salt (optional)
  • Sauce (optional - any type of Italian sauce - marinara, pesto, etc.)
What You Do:
  • Let your dough rise if necessary. I used a ready-to-use pizza dough from a local Italian shop, so I just began pulling off pieces of dough about the size of a deck of cards or smaller.
  • Add just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan and put it on the burner to get hot.
  • Stretch the piece of dough and either drop it in the oil plain or add a thin piece of mozz, fold the dough over, and drop it in the oil.
  • Let each side lightly brown and then remove from oil. It's best to put a paper towel on a plate and put the pizza frites on the towel to drain. If you want, lightly sprinkle with salt, but the cheese will add a but of saltiness so be careful not to overdo it!
  • Prepare sauce for dipping if you want.

Friday, July 17, 2009

They're Here!

In my rooftop garden (I opted out of the shared in-ground veggie garden with the neighbors this year) is one of my favorite summertime treats - heirloom yellow pear tomatoes. When I first potted this plant, I added a little bit of worm castings as a 100% natural and chemical-free fertilizer, and since then I have been periodically adding coffee grounds. The tomato (and all the other) plants are doing great! Over the past couple of days I saw that a handful of the sweet little tomatoes were just about ready to be picked. It's salad time!

Believe it or not, I have never purchased a salad spinner, so before dinner tonight I went to the co-op and bought one. I don't think it's quite the most durably made kitchen accessory, but when making salad for one, it'll do. I wanted my usual salad greens, but the bin was empty...everyone else must be getting goodies from their gardens too :) Instead I picked up some romaine and I also bought a sweet red pepper. I already had carrots and raw sunflower seeds at home. I wanted a rainbow of a salad - the more colors, the more varied nutrients and phytochemicals! Unfortunately, once I made my salad (with all of the above and drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette), I was so ready to goggle it up that I got half way through before I remembered that I wanted to take a picture...oops!

So instead, here are a few of the tomatoes :)


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Italian Market Meal

This is one of my favorite places to visit in my city. During the early part of spring, my neighbors and I would come here and we'd each buy something to contribute to a big "family" dinner. The day would start early - around 11. We'd stop at our favorite coffee shop for something warm to wake us up, and then hit the streets in search of the perfect goods. In the Italian Market there are shops that specialize in meats, cheeses, pasta, desserts, fish...whatever you can think of, there is a shop for it. All along the sidewalks are open-air produce stands for those extras you might need - basil, onion, tomato - to make the perfect meal. We'd do our shopping, come home for "work hours" which often became nap time, start our meal and carry on late into the night.

It's always fun to find the cultural hub of your community, if you're lucky enough to have one. Different regions of the country are associated with different cultures. Don't get stuck in Wonderbread Land - see what everyone else has to offer! You can meet a lot of great people with interesting stories in some of these little markets. You'll also find some gems as far as the perfect place to buy the perfect whatever it is you are looking for. Embrace it!

Today I was in the mood for something lighter, and I've been craving cannolis for a couple weeks - I haven't had one in months! My neighbor Nick and I headed down to the market and picked up goods for this meal: cheese ravioli, gnocchi and caprese salad. Mmm. The ravioli and gnocchi were from a local pasta shop where it's made fresh. I took care of the caprese salad with fresh mozzarella and basil from the garden, and Nick made the pesto. Everything was delicious and instead of going with wine or some other traditional drink, we complemented it with my fresh lemonade - perfect for a sunny, almost summer afternoon. With a meal like this, you're supporting local businesses and since all the other foods were in season, local farms.

perfect summer salad






















What you Need:

  • Mixed greens
  • Sprouts - any type, I used garden
  • Walnuts (or pine nuts, sunflower seeds, soy nuts, etc.)
  • Raspberries
  • Apple (pink lady is nice and sweet)
  • Cheese (fresh mozz is my favorite)
  • Vinaigrette (raspberry pomegranate is my #1)
What you Do:
  • Mix it up

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Please don't super size me

As health conscious as I have always been, and as much as I educate myself about healthy living - be it food, cleaning products, etc. - I have yet to watch the movie Super Size Me. That changed tonight.

A month or so ago I canceled my cable. I was wasting too much time with the TV on - sometimes without even paying attention to it or having a purpose. My local library is now closed on weekends (thanks, economy) and I was unable to check out the books I wanted to get today. I visited the site Hulu (a site where you can watch TV shows and movies for free) and when I was looking through the list of movies to watch, Super Size Me was near the top of the list for most popular movies.

This movie was SHOCKING. I knew the basic idea of the movie prior to watching, but the numbers revealed were blowing my mind. The creator, Morgan, ate only foods served at McDonald's for a total of 30 days. Over the course of that time he had noticeable health problems, gained weight and learned a lot about the issues surrounding food in our country.

I've always been interested in the type of information revealed in this film. At some point during college (I am 25 now), I was reading a book about food issues - it might have been Fast Food Nation or Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating. My mom asked my why I do that to myself. By "that," she was referring to torturing myself with information about (basically) how disgusting the food system has become in the USA. Why? Because I'd rather know than die.

It hasn't been until the past few years as I was learning about all of these food related issues in college (I studied marine and environmental science) and also by my own exploration, that I began realizing how different the eating habits of my life were from my peers. My mom never fried anything she cooked, and I didn't eat processed foods. I recall stopping at an Arby's during a road trip with my grandpa and getting one of the standard roast beef sandwiches with cheese. I almost threw up because of the oily cheese, something my stomach had never known. Where I lived, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, there were two farm stands we frequented to get our fruits and vegetables during the local growing season. They were owned by two brothers - Joe and Eddy. Joe worked at the original Tarheel Produce stand in Currituck, on the mainland, and he could tell you where every single type of produce he was selling came from, who the farmer was, how long it would be in season and pretty much anything else you wanted to know. What does that boil down to? Everything I was eating was local and in season. Little did I know how rare that would become. Before a day at the beach, we'd stop at Eddy's stand, which was on the barrier island, and pick up fresh peaches, green beans and other munchies for the day.

Today I am so thankful for those experiences and have certainly been influenced by them when it comes to my choices. I've learned about the 100 mile diet - only eating foods that are grown within a 100 mile radius of you; about eating organically and why it's good for your body and the earth; about using household products that are as gentle as possible on the earth and our water systems when they go down our drains; and much, much more.

Thank you to those of you who read this blog. I began it as the place to post recipes, since several of my friends were asking me for healthy dinner ideas. I also want to use this space to integrate my green lifestyle and share that information with others. No matter where you stand in this "green revolution" we are finding ourselves in, and no matter how long you ride that wave, we cannot have healthy foods if we do not have a healthy earth. People are the only living creatures that are capable of making the choice to, well, make better choices. So if you aren't already, I hope that maybe you'll begin and that I can provide you with a little bit of education along the way.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Summertime Staple: Fresh-squeezed Lemonade

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. It's quick, easy and refreshing. Forget about those "lemonade" mixes with all the unnecessary extra ingredients!

What you need:
  • 2-qt pitcher
  • 2 lemons
  • Filtered water
What you do:
  • Cut both lemons in half and use a hand juicer to juice all 4 lemon halves.
  • Pour the juice into your pitcher, and fill with filtered water.
  • No sugar necessary, but maybe I should warn you that I love tart and sour flavors. If you do use sugar, try Florida Crystals Natural Cane Sugar for a healthier option.

Friday, July 3, 2009

steamed veggies, quinoa and chicken

This was a really tasty, well-balanced meal (well, probably a little heavy on the protein with the quinoa and chicken). But it was good!

What you need:
  • Veggies of your choice (1 yellow squash and ~1/2 a large carrot for me)
  • Quinoa (I mixed organic white and heirloom red)
  • Chicken (free range, vegetarian fed)
  • Choice of marinade or seasoning for the chicken
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Butter (soy margarine for me)
  • Salt
What you do:
  • If you want to marinate the chicken, prepare this in the morning so that the flavor has all day to soak into the thawed chicken and it will be ready to use by dinner time. Leave it in the fridge.
  • Start your quinoa first since it will take the longest. Follow directions on package, which should be 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water. Cover and cook until tender.
  • Clean and cut your veggies and place in oven-safe dish with minced garlic, a little butter (either cube or shave it - make sure to place in various areas of the dish so it covers all veggies when it melts) and a sprinkle of salt. Cover it with foil and place in the oven. I set the oven to 400 and steamed them for ~15 minutes.
  • After the quinoa and veggies have been started for 5-10 minutes, prepare the chicken. Put a skillet on the burner and turn on to let it heat. While this is happening, season your chicken or take it out of the marinade. After the pan is hot, add a bit of EVOO, then put the chicken in. Cook thoroughly on both sides and use a lid or splatter screen if necessary.
  • When all parts of the meal are cooked, make a bed of quinoa and add veggies and/or chicken on top.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

bean sprouts!

I love sprouts - bean, alfalfa, broccoli and others. They're delicious on salads, in sandwiches or even just to snack on (ok well...the bigger bean sprouts are, at least). I have a large, empty applesauce jar that i've washed and had sitting on my counter and started thinking about sprouting some sunflower seeds. Unfortunately, I was not able to find raw sunflower seeds in either of the stores I went to last weekend. What I did find, was a bag of mung beans. The only sprouter kit I found was pretty pricey - almost $30 - and I was too impatient to order a cheaper version online, so what does a thrifty girl do? Improvise!

I purchased a 5-cup Rubbermaid Produce Saver container, because they have a little slotted tray that rests in the bottom of the container to keep your produce elevated for airflow. The lid also has a couple of vents on the side. Mung beans should be sprouted in a bottom draining container, so I figured I could somehow use this to do what I needed. Since the beans were the tiniest bit too small to rest on top of the slotted tray without following through, I slid the tray inside a knee-high nylon (I bought a couple packages of these for my Costa Rica trip - I put soap in them like I learned in Girl Scouts - and had an unused package left over). This still allowed for drainage but kept the beans from falling through the tray.

I rinsed my beans and put about 1.5 cups into the container. Then added enough water to cover them. Mung beans sprout larger when pressure is applied to them, so I put two saucers upside down on top of the beans, then put the lid on. I left the container in a dark corner on my counter until the next morning, when it would be time to rinse. The beans need to be rinsed about twice a day, so that they are soaking up fresh water while they sprout. To drain them, I just tipped the container to the side and let the water drain out of the vent on the side of the lid. This allowed the beans to stay pretty much in the same place without getting all jostled up and potentially breaking off the sprouts. So far, so good!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Honey Sunflower and Flax Seed Bread

I've gotten really into bread making lately. I despise high fructose corn syrup, and there are very few choices of bread that don't contain this gross ingredient. I also don't regularly eat much bread, so part of the loaf is sometimes wasted, which I hate doing. The bottom line is, I can bake a healthier, cheaper, smaller loaf of bread at home than I can purchase at the store. So here was my latest attempt!

What You Need:
  • 1/4 cup honey (I used local - sold where I work from a beekeeper in town)
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened (I used soy margarine, a vegan option)
  • 2 eggs, beaten (free range, vegetarian fed)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (I chose organic)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1-1/4 cup ground/shelled sunflower seeds (I used raw/organic)
  • 1 cup milk (local & organic)
  • 1/2 cup whole/shelled sunflower seeds (raw/organic)
  • 3 tbs flax seeds
What You Do:
  • Beat honey and butter together; add eggs and beat well.
  • In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and ground seeds. Add the honey, butter and egg mixture. Add the milk, and mix well. *At this point, I realize my batter was not as thick and is should be, and added a few tablespoons more flour*
  • Fold the whole sunflower seeds and flax seeds into the dough, and pour the dough into a greased loaf pan. Sprinkle a few extra flax and sunflower seeds on top of the dough.
  • Bake for ~60 minutes at 325 degrees, covering the top of the loaf with foil if necessary for the last 15 minutes.
  • Cool on a rack for ~15 minutes, then removed loaf from pan.

Banana, Wild Blueberry & Walnut Bread

I made this bread to bring along to a birthday party at a neighbor's house. It was a big hit - nothing but crumbs left in the bottom of the pan! The recipe is modified from a Better Homes & Gardens cookbook to add the blueberries and make it a little healthier.

What You Need:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached)
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt (organic sea salt)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • splash of vanilla extract (not in original recipe, but I add to almost all dessert baked goods)
  • 2 eggs, beaten (cage free, vegetarian fed)
  • 1.5 cups combined mashed ripe banana (organic) and wild blueberries (try Wyman's frozen)
  • 1 cup sugar (Florida Crystals Natural Cane Sugar)
  • 1 single serving container organic vanilla yogurt (substituted for 1/2 cup oil or melted butter)
  • ~1/3 cup chopped walnuts
What You Do:
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon & nutmeg. Make a well in the center of the mixture and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl combine eggs, banana, blueberries, sugar, yogurt and vanilla. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in walnuts.
  • Spoon batter into a glass loaf pan that has been greased on bottom and sides (to do this, I usually spread a little vegan butter around the pan using a napkin or paper towel).
  • Sprinkle a few more chopped walnuts over the top of the batter, along with a pinch more of sugar before putting in oven to bake.
  • Bake ~60 minutes at 350 degrees - check by inserting a wooden toothpick to the center to see if it's finished. Toothpick should come out clean. If needed, cover the top of the loaf with foil for the last 15 minutes so it does not get too brown.
  • When finished, cool loaf in the pan on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes, then remove from pan OR transport in pan. Cut & serve directly out of pan when you're at your destination.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Diner Dinner

Call me late to the party, but I just made my first ever (successful!) omelet! Oh man...it's delicious! I've tried many a time to create one of these delicious egg dishes at home, but ended up with a scrambled mess. Recently a neighbor and I walked to a local cafe, where there is counter seating and an open kitchen. I took advantage of my perch and watched the chef whip up an omelet on the grill. I saw as he quickly scraped the sides up to make a barrier with the cooked edges so that the center could cook without oozing all over the place. Then he added his ingredients, folded, cooked some more and served. So that's what I did tonight.

For my omelet, I used two eggs from free range/vegetarian-fed chickens, red pepper, broccoli and shredded Mexican cheese. I made a side of guacamole with 1 avocado, a couple slices of onion, 1/2 a Roma tomato and multigrain tortilla chips. It's a healthier alternative to going full-out diner with the menu. Deeeeelicious!