Sunday, August 15, 2010

Summer Splendor

Summer's best - freshly picked blueberries

From the garden - Garden Peach heirloom tomatoes and basil with fresh mozzarella from the co-op.

Shrimp Caesar Salad - Romaine, avocado, shaved Parmesan and a squeeze of lemon
with shrimp sauteed in extra virgin olive oil, Old Bay and lemon. Dressing added after picture.

Mmm...Italian! Farfalle tossed with roasted broccoli and garlic, organic tomato sauce and mozzarella.

No better breakfast - a cheese omelette between toasted and buttered oat bread.

Garden blooms - marigolds, rosemary and mustard green blossoms. So fragrant!

My favorite fella...

...And a little bit of puppy love with a farm friend's new Rottie love bug, Annie.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Good food isn't just for people


As some of you may have read on (anne)vironment, I have a pup who has experienced seizures - one major seizure that impacted the right side of her whole body and a couple of minor/partial seizures that primarily affected the right side of her face. One of the best places to start when battling canine epilepsy is analyzing your dog's diet. I read label after label after label (and then some) to find the food that would best suit her needs, leaving out all of the unnecessary ingredients (which just so happen to be the ones that can be most harmful to dogs who experience seizures). After doing more dog food research than I ever thought possible, I decided that Dick van Patten's Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet food was going to be the best for Wheeler. This food is free of gluten, soy, dairy, corn and animal by-products - all common ingredients in traditional dog foods. Because Wheeler's previous food was chicken-based, I chose the chicken and sweet potato version of Natural Balance.

To give her meals a little boost and extend the life of a bag of dry dog food (sure I want her to have the best, but the best is pretty pricey...), I cut up and boil sweet potatoes, then mash them in the food processor. I also make a pot of rice. Both of these ingredients are often used by those who make homemade dog food, so they are great to add, even if supplemental to dry food. Wheeler loves it, and cleans her bowl every time!

Monday, August 2, 2010

A week of campers

This past week was quite possibly my favorite week of the summer...so far...we'll get to the potential of future weeks later. I spent it with a group for 4th-7th grade campers. I look forward to planning this week of work all year because we spend every moment of our days outside exploring the great, big world around us. There's not a hill we see that we don't climb...not a creek we see that we don't wade into looking for aquatic creatures. We caught more frogs and minnows and crayfish than I could keep count of. And Mother Nature, what a sweetheart, she tucked away her fussy storms and sweltering heat just long enough for us to enjoy our week together hiking through many local parks. If you're a regular reader, you know how much I love that "non-traditional" exercise - time spent hiking, bike riding, kayaking, horseback riding, etc. rather than in a gym.

Sitting in a big Indian statue on top of a cliff at one of the local parks

Also thanks to the cooler weather, my neighbors and I have been able to get together for some cook-outs in our backyard fire pit. We grilled everything we could get our hands on, but I think the best was the squash and zucchini from the garden, coated in a little EVOO and a sprinkling of sea salt. Another night we went fresh and light, cutting up fresh mozzarella balls from the co-op, my heirloom garden peach tomatoes (grown from seed in my apartment over the winter!) and basil leaves from the garden. Yum! Although we forgot the s'mores supplies all the nights we cooked outside, I had one at lunch on the last day of camp when we grilled at state park after spending the morning in the creek.

The campers all complimented my grilling and perfect s'more-making skills.

Lastly, an interesting turn of events in life has left me with a lot of free time on my hands. It's the free time I've been pining for all summer, but never expected to have...but here it is. It can be a terrifying world when you're out there totally on your own. Rather than spend every free day worrying, I'll do what I can to make the best of it. I'm looking forward sending my alarm clock on a vacation and welcoming a new morning routine: awaken when the sun says it's time; enjoy a cup of coffee and bowl of Cheerios at the kitchen table without being rushed; take Wheeler on a nice, leisurely stroll around the neighborhood; and then...just find ways to enjoy my day. And hey...since I won't have any room for excuses like "I just didn't have any time today," I should be able to spend some time exercising every day. And maybe I'll get back to some of the volunteer projects I've loved and the biggest excitement of all...more time with my sweet Charlie.

So this is where I find myself after another week gone by. As my life is transforming, it seems this blog is too. I promise I still have lots of snack and meal pictures to upload...hopefully I'll tackle that by the end of the week. And checkout (anne)vironment, too! It is part of my plan to also pack a whole lot more into that poorly neglected project. Stay tuned, friends!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Catching Up

Wow...I've really fallen behind! Here's a little of what I've been up to lately:

First, there's my dear, sweet Charlie:


Charlie has been having a tough time of it after developing laminitis and foundering. We had some very scary days that I questioned whether or not would be our last together. Fortunately, they were not. With a lot of lovin' and special care, Charlie came through. He is now completely sound at a walk, and is even doing a little trot work. This is a long way from the days when he could not even support himself enough to stand. I've been trimming and dressing his front hooves every weekend so we can get the cracked part of his hoof wall grown out. He developed an abscess on the coronary band of each front hoof, and those have been healing nicely now, too. I've always liked my guys tall, dark and handsome...this one's no different, and he's stolen my heart.

And the garden...oh, the garden:


It might look a little chaotic, but we've got a ton going on in there. I share this space with two neighbors and a friend and we all threw in our veggie loves and talents to make this space flourish. We have squash, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, kale, collards, broccoli, chard, greens, onions, peas and even hops. Unfortunately we've encountered a few issues like blossom end rot in the early ripening tomatoes and a squash borer has attacked a cucumber and squash plant. Overall, everything is doing pretty well and we have a nice little bounty to share.

A couple of times, I've been fortunate enough to have this view:


One of my neighbors and I have paid a couple of visits to the beautiful beach at Island Beach State Park in New Jersey. It's still nothing like the Carolina Coast where I grew up, but I'll take it! The last time we were there the water was up to a refreshing 65º...better than the first time when it was still only 55º! Hopefully I'll make it back a few more times before the summer is over. Each trip to the beach is a four hour round trip for us from Philly, but boy-oh-boy is it worth every minute of the drive!

Monday, June 14, 2010

101 Days of Summer

Wow, I have been swamped lately! Mostly with fun though, so I really can't complain. It's just meant that I've hardly been spending any time indoors and using a computer.

And now I finally get around to talking about this great summer health initiative I'm involved in!

Biz from Biggest Diabetic Loser had the idea to start an awesome blogger community challenge: 101 Days of Summer. From Memorial Day until Labor Day, a whole slew of bloggers are working to reach their summer health goals. I can't say enough about what a great idea this is!

The end of winter left me a few pounds heavier and my jeans a little tighter...something I was not happy about. To get myself on track, I've vowed to do a few things. I'm eating more raw foods as a way to get all those nutrients in my body in the most useful and beneficial forms. I'm also trying to do some form of exercise most days of the week along with tracking what I eat every day.

I'm by no means perfectly following all of the tasks I set out for myself to do, but I'm making a good effort. And I must say, knowing that 50 or so other people may read about my slip-ups if I were to, oh, stuff my face full of cake and have a movie marathon on the couch, certainly helps keep me on track! Oh guilt, it can be a beautifully useful tool sometimes.

I invite you to follow along on Biz's blog to see the group's progress as well as check back here to see my own personal progress. One more week and summer is officially here!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Good Food(s) of the Day

Dinner: Alu Gobi (Indian spiced cauliflower, potato and peas) with Basmati rice


Dessert: Smoothie! Made with frozen strawberries and pineapple, fresh blueberries, organic fat-free vanilla yogurt and orange juice. Mmm...perfect for such a hot night!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Good Food of the Day

Dinner at the office: Channa masala (from a great Indian take-out joint in the neighborhood; bought at the co-op) and basmati rice (made at home).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Good Food of the Day

Salad for lunch: Lettuce (two types) from the garden, in-season blueberries, smoked Gouda from the co-op and light raspberry-pomegranate dressing.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fridge Makeover


The last time I went grocery shopping, I decided to do a fridge makeover! I was thinking about the bottom drawer, intended to be a produce drawer, and how it actually becomes a black hole in the fridge. This is particularly an issue with my fridge since the front of the drawer is solid white, rather than clear (i.e. - no constant viewing of what's inside).

To remedy this issue, I decided that instead of produce, the drawer would become home to all of the items I don't necessarily need on a daily basis: cheeses, bouillon, carrots that I take to the barn on weekends, etc.

All of the produce moved to more visible places in the fridge, wherever its size allowed. Sauces went in one area, drinks in another and other dairy products on the top shelf so they could be seen and used before expiration dates.

So far, it's been working out great! My philosophy is always to question why things are the way they are, and adapt anything you can to your needs.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lizano burger and lemon asparagus

A few weeks ago, my friends and I had a potluck BBQ for my birthday, and I had the most delicious asparagus ever. Last weekend was another friend's birthday BBQ, and I was in charge of the turkey burgers, which were probably the best I've ever made. Tonight, I put them both together to make one supremely delicious dinner!

What You Need:
  • Ground turkey
  • Yellow or white onion
  • Fresh garlic
  • Salsa Lizano (or your own substitute)
  • Provolone cheese, sliced
  • Asparagus
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Lemon

Unfortunately, most of you will be unable to make these burgers using my key ingredient - Salsa Lizano. I was introduced to the sauce in 2006 when I went to Costa Rica for the first time. I loved it so much that I stocked up on a couple of bottles before returning home. To my delight, the grocery store in my neighborhood had quite a large Hispanic section and sold my Lizano! Since moving to Philadelphia from North Carolina, I haven't been able to find Salsa Lizano anywhere, nor have I met anyone who's ever tried it. I returned to Costa Rica last May and was sure to stock up on a few bottles of that delicious, all-purpose sauce. And yes, it is a sauce, not literally a salsa, as the name may be misunderstood. Lizano is a mix of deliciously tangy and somewhat spicy flavors, best described in use as Costa Rica's version of America's ketchup.

What You Do:
  • To make the burgers, use the necessary amount of ground turkey meat (99% fat free/white meat) and add to it the desired amount of chopped onions, garlic and sauce. Mix all together, form your patties and grill (or cook in a frying pan, as I did due to the drizzly weather today). Just before they are finished, top with a slice of cheese. I ate my burger sans bun tonight, but when I do eat them I always choose potato bread. Mmmm, so good!
  • To prepare the asparagus, slice off the bottom ends of the stem and discard (don't forget to compost!); slice the asparagus stalks to the desired size (I cut mine into thirds). In a frying pan, add a little extra virgin olive oil, throw in the asparagus and cook until slightly brown, stirring occasionally so all sides get cooked. Turn the heat off and squeeze lemon onto the asparagus and stir to be sure all stalks get coated.

Both parts of this meal have really strong and delicious flavors, perfectly complimenting each other. It can sometimes be a mistake to serve more than one intensely flavored food in a meal, but you can't go wrong with these two!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The BSI winner and next host is...

Woah...you are all awesome! The variety of recipes submitted for beets was really interesting, and I honestly wish I could have picked more than one winner. To come to my decision, I looked for creativity in the recipe, and of course something I'd love to try!

The entries were:

Beet Burgers from Aubree Cherie of Living Free




Beet Nut Bread from Chaya of Chaya's Comfy Cook Blog

And the winner is...

Beet Burgers!

This recipe is so wildly creative. First of all, I was so pleased that everyone had such healthy recipes, so props to everyone for that! It can be a such a challenge sometimes to eat healthy, particularly if your version of healthy excludes many ingredients that are found in easy-to-prepare food. As soon as I saw the recipe for beet burgers I was totally fascinated. I do not eat beef, so I love other alternatives for burgers! Congratulations Aubree, and thank you so much to all of you for being such good sports about cooking with beets ;) I'd like to try several of these recipes, so I'll be sure to post my progress.

Aubree, please email me your address so that I can send off your prize!

Your next host of the Blogger Secret Ingredient will be Alisa of One Frugal Foodie. Be sure to check her blog for this week's ingredient!

Thank you again to everyone for submitting their recipes! Now we all have lots of delicious ideas for new ways to eat beets. (See, they're really not so bad, now are they?)


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A little motivation

To get everyone thinking about what fantastic recipe they will submit for this week's BSI contest, here's a quick little dinner I made last week using fresh beets from the co-op.


A very basic prep, I washed a medium sized beet, filled a pot with enough water to cover the beet, put a lid on and boiled. While the beet was cooking, I diced two chicken breast strips and sauteed them in extra virgin olive oil and garlic powder. After the beet finished boiling, I removed it from the water and let cool, then sliced off the skin. Chop it up, toss it in the bowl and you're ready to eat! I really enjoyed the flavor of the beet with the garlic-covered chicken!

Here's an extra incentive to those of you thinking of submitting a recipe:

I have a good friend who hasn't eaten beets since she was a child and discovered how much she absolutely couldn't stand them. I suggested getting fresh golden beets, which had the potential to be a double-win in her attempt at trying beets as an adult (apparently your taste buds change about every 7 years). First benefit: the beets are fresh instead of canned. Second benefit: since they aren't the typical red beet, she may see them as something totally different and not association them with the canned beets she ate years ago. After seeing that I chose beets as my ingredient for the BSI challenge, she has declared that whatever the winning recipe is, she will make it for her official adult beet-eating taste test to see if she likes beets! So there you go...now go get your beets!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Big bowl salad

After an unnecessarily strenuous bike ride tonight (got partway to yoga class and had to turn around because my wheel was slightly bent and rubbing the frame - like driving with the parking brake on!), I needed a big meal. With some chicken in the fridge, I threw together my favorite garlic chicken salad with spring greens, grape tomatoes and a little shaved Parmesan.


Now in mid-April, some of those early season crops are in the ground. In my garden, the tiny greens are just sprouting. I bought this lettuce mix from my co-op, and it was probably grown in a greenhouse. Here in Philly, the last frost date is May 1 (can you believe it?!). That said, none of the frost-sensitive seedlings I've sprouted (squash, melon, three types of tomatoes...) are in the ground just yet. The frost tolerant seeds, however, have been planted. Along with the lettuce we're seeing sprouts from the beans and beets. The carrots and peas probably aren't too far behind. I can't wait until I can make a salad from my own backyard! Mmmm.

Blogger Secret Ingredient Reveal

Welcome! I'm really excited to be hosting Week 75 of Blogger Secret Ingredient! This is my first time hosting and I wanted to pick a great ingredient to use. So many of you have chosen some of my favorite items in the past, so I really had to think for this one.

Luckily, I've recently become a big fan of a particular root vegetable...

Source

Beets!


Beets are chock-full of nutrients. They can be eaten cooked, raw or juiced; produce natural dyes; can be planted before the last spring frost and have edible greens. What more can you ask for? Besides just the typical red beet, there are many other varieties including a white beet and (my favorite!) the vibrant golden beet. Take a trip to your local farmers' market and pick up some fresh beets to use for this week's BSI contest!

All entries will be due by 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, April 18. The winner and next host will be announced on Monday, April 19. To submit your recipe, please email me at savinglittleturtles at gmail dot com. Please send the full recipe (and photos if you choose), or a link to the specific entry on your blog. If you also have interest in being the next BSI host, please include that in your email or leave a comment below.

Because I love gardening and growing my own produce (I'm even growing two types of beets this year!), the winner will receive a variety of organic heirloom seeds, about a $10 value.

For those who are new to BSI (or need a refresher on the rules), each week there is a new host who must:
  1. Pick an ingredient, preferably one that is in season and readily available and not too expensive;
  2. link back to all the other previous weekly hosts;
  3. review the recipe submissions by Sunday night of each week;
  4. pick a recipe that is your favorite; and
  5. post the winner Monday morning and send the winner a token prize of your choosing.
To participate:
  1. you do not have to have a food blog to particpate
  2. you do not have to submit a photograph
  3. if you don’t have a blog, you can submit your recipe to that week's host, and they will post your recipe for you
The previous hosts and ingredients are:

Week 74: Dinner at Christina’s – Sour Cream

Week 73: The Chef in My Head - Goat Cheese

Week 72: 5 Star Foodie - Asparagus

Week 71: Eats Well With Others – Carrots

Week 70: Burp and Slurp - Brussel Sprouts

Week 69: Fun Fearless Foodie – Parmesan Cheese

Week: 68: Natalie’s Killer Cuisine - Cocoa Powder

Week 67: Eat, Live, Travel, Write - Lemon Zest

Week 66: Travel Eat Love - Coconut Milk

Week 65: Run Beans Run - Tofu

Week 64: Chicago Marathon Val - Mushrooms

Week 63: Biggest Diabetic Loser – Cheddar Cheese

Week 62: A Fit and Spicy Life – Balsamic Vinegar

Week 61: Peanut Butter Fingers - Nutmeg

Week 60: Jenn Eats Nutritiously Now - Garlic

Week 59: Home Cooked Em – Cinnamon

Week 58: The Balanced Broad – Flax

Week 57: Cookin Fanatic - Blue Cheese

Week 56: Foodie in the City - Ricotta Cheese

Week 55: Savvy Eats - Maple Syrup

Weel 54: Sound Eats - Dried Fruit

Week 53: Mega Nerd Runs - Acorn Squash

Week 52: Healthy Tipping Point - Pancake Mix

Week 51: Live, Laugh Eat - Almond Butter

Week 50: Balance, Joy and Delicias! – Cauliflower

Week 49: Healthy San Diego Living - Chickpeas

Week 48: Thought 4 Food - Yogurt

Week 47: London Foodie in New York - Chocolate

Week 46: Johnstone’s Vin Blanc - Oats

Week 45: Guilty Kitchen - Figs

Week 44: Ordinary Recipes Made Gourmet - Peanut Butter

Week 43: The Sophisticated Gourmet - Brown Sugar

Week 42: My Kitchen Addiction – Lime

Week 41: Nutmeg Nanny – Coffee

Week 40: Chaya’s Comfy Cook – Broccoli

Week 39: Healthy Delicious – Plums

Week 38: Zoe - Feta

Week 37: ChezWhat- Potatoes

Week 36: Cinnamon, Spice & Everything Nice – Blueberries

Week 35: Girlichef -Greens

Week 34: The Ungourmet – Watermelon

Week 33: Bread + Butter – Bell Pepper

Week 32: Burp and Slurp -Corn

Week 31: Say Yes to Salad – Kabocha

Week 31 1/2: Simply Fabulous Now – Cherries

Week 30: Thinspired – Bananas

Week 29: To Be The Whole Package – Almonds

Week 28: Kristas Kravings – Lemon

Week 27: From French Fries To Flax Seeds – Coconut

Week 26: Plentiful Plants – Avocado

Week 25: Training Fuel – Eggs

Week 24: Dinner at Christina’s – Cabbage

Week 23: Hey What’s for Dinner, Mom? – Strawberries

Week 22: One Bite at a Time – Basil

Week 21: Just Sweet Enough – Black Beans

Week 20: What I Ate Yesterday – Kale

Week 19: What’s for Dinner – Orange

Week 18: BranAppetit! –Spinach

Week 17: Tales of Expansion Dates

Week 16: Biggest Diabetic Loser – Zucchini

Week 15: Sweet & Natural –Peppermint

Week 14: bella eats [and runs] – Ginger

Week 13: Coffee Talk – Walnuts

Week 12: For the Love of Oats – Pumpkin

Week 11: Trying to Heal – Sweet Potatoes

Week 10: The Inner Workings of a College Graduate – Eggplant

Week 9: Itzy’s Kitchen – Pears

Week 8: The Fitnessista – Cranberries

Week 7: Tri to Cook – Lentils

Week 6: Rhodey Girl Tests – Polenta

Week 5: Eating Bender – Butternut Squash

Week 4: Care to Eat – Apples

Week 3: On a Lobster Placemat – Mushrooms

Week 2: Hangry Pants – Tomatoes

Week 1: sportsnutritionliving – Quinoa

You can find all the details about BSI here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sauteed vegetable and quinoa salad

What started as a "use the random bits of leftover veggies" type of meal ended up being a great vegetarian meal. I've eaten this several times already and am not tired of it! I made a full batch of it, and bring small containers to work for lunch. Mmm.

What you need:
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • Asparagus
  • Red bell pepper
  • White onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Shaved Parmesan
What you do:
  • In a large sauce pan, add 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water. Boil until water is absorbed.
  • Wash asparagus and pepper; chop or mince desired quantity of all vegetables.
  • While the quinoa is cooking, begin by sauteing the asparagus in olive oil. Once it is slightly browned, add the peppers, onions and garlic. Continue cooking until onions are clear.
  • Add the cooked quinoa to the vegetables and saute a few more minutes.
  • Spoon into a serving dish and top with shaved Parmesan.
High in protein, quinoa is an excellent grain choice for vegetarians, as well as those with wheat or gluten allergies. It is also an alkaline food, helping to balance the body's pH.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New Project Debut!

Hi Friends! I'm really excited to announce a new project I've been developing: (anne)vironment.

This is an environmentally-focused website containing travel information, recipes, product and event reviews and more! Please take a peek, and check back frequently to see what's been added.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Better Breakfast

I've mentioned in previous posts how I've been eating the Amazing Grass Berry Green SuperFood mixed with yogurt. I stepped it up a notch and have been making fruit smoothies with my awesome new food processor (I love this appliance so much!).

I accidentally deleted the pictures of the first smoothie, but it was made with a few spoonfuls of organic vanilla yogurt, 1 banana, a handful of frozen blueberries, a splash of orange juice and a scoop of BGSF. Yum.

After seeing pineapples for only $2.50 (!) at the produce market a couple blocks over, I bought one and stared at it every day, impatiently waiting for it to ripen. When the time had come, I sliced it up and started adding it to my morning blends.

So the next creation had the same as the first but I cut back to 1/2 a banana, added frozen strawberries and fresh pineapple.


I've been wanting to cut back on the amount of dairy I consume, so this morning's smoothie was made sans yogurt after my avocados had a couple of days to ripen. To make prep a little easier in the morning (I need to save every minute possible since I am notorious for rolling out of bed 40 minutes after my alarm goes off...oops!) I went ahead and put the 1/2 banana, fresh pineapple and frozen strawberries in the food processor bowl and put them in the fridge. That allowed the strawberries to thaw overnight. In the morning I added the frozen blueberries, the orange juice, the scoop of BGSF and half an avocado. The creamy texture and mild flavor of the avocado makes it perfect for a filler in lots of recipes (I have a great one up my sleeve to try sometime when I need a dessert!). In this mix, the avocado replaced the yogurt.


As an environmental awareness plug, I strongly advocate using locally in-season produce. Fruit gets a little difficult because so many of the fruits we love come from tropical climates. I try to do the best I can by carefully choosing the lesser of all evils. I purchase organic, fair trade bananas at my co-op which ensures that the growing process is as easy on the land as possible (shipping is still an issue, since they're from Central America). While berries are starting to show up in stores, they're not local berries. Our crops won't be ready until late summer, and I will happily wait to be able to enjoy those delicious berries. Instead I'm buying frozen berries which were picked in-season. They're not losing any significant amount of nutritional value by being frozen. Most of these early season berries don't have a lot of flavor and can have gross textures...think of all the miles these delicate fruits travel in trucks! As for the pineapple and avocados, I do buy the conventional versions of both fruits. Organic options for those are often very sparse, and the prices are a little out of my range. While I sometimes wish I could buy more organic or local products, I'm happy for now that I do what I can in at least supporting some of those options.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pita Pizzas!

Because I primarily cook for one, that sometimes means a rush to finish a product before it goes bad. After making falafel, I'll typically only go through 2-3 pitas out of a package. The solution? Little pita pizzas! Not only were these delicious, they were so darn cute.

What You Need:
  • Pitas (whole wheat)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Tomato sauce
  • Mozzarella cheese (part skim)
  • Toppings
  • Italian seasoning and garlic powder
What You Do:
  • Brush the pita with a little extra virgin olive oil (it's the secret to the most delicious pizza crust, you know)
  • Add sauce and spread across top of pita.
  • Sprinkle a little dried Italian seasonings and garlic powder, especially if you are using a plain tomato sauce. It'll add a little bit of extra flavor.
  • Add your cheese and your toppings.
  • Cook at 350 degrees for about 15 - 20 minutes (for two pizzas).
Ready to go into the oven!

The perfect little pizza with a whole wheat crust!

My mom and I would occasionally have make-your-own-pizza nights and I always loved doing that. What was especially great about this meal, is that I was using lots of extras from other meals I'd prepared and letting nothing go to waste! The pitas were extras not being used for falafel night, the sauce was left over from making chili, and so was the bell pepper.

My best chili yet!

Ahh, I am getting so backed up on posts! I have several that I need to write and download pics for so that I can post them. Hopefully I can get them all up this week!

My last post was about all of the meals I'd planned to make after very carefully planning my grocery shopping list and what I'd be eating during the week. One of the best meals I made was a delicious batch of chili.

Prior to making the chili, I'd used about 1/3 of the 1-pound package of ground turkey to make burritos. I didn't want my chili to be less filling because I wasn't using the full pound of meat, so I was sure lots of "extras" were added. As it turned out, this was way better!

Here's what I used to make my chili:
  • tomato paste
  • petite diced tomatoes
  • tomato sauce
  • ~2/3 pound ground turkey
  • onions
  • garlic
  • carrots
  • frozen corn
  • bell peppers
  • dark red kidney beans
  • black beans
  • paprika and chili powder
  • served with brown rice and topped with shredded cheddar cheese
I think the extra beans and the corn really made the chili this time. I also added the bell pepper and carrots to the crock pot without any prior cooking, so they still kept a little of their crunchiness (I love that!). There were so many really good flavors that blended together and it was so, so good. To give the meat a little extra flavor, I browned it in the same pan I sauteed the onions and garlic in. One of my favorite things about making chili is that it never turns out the same! That being said, for basic cooking instructions, see my earlier post about cooking chili on the stove instead of in a crock pot.

After the chili cooled, I packaged two small containers to put in the freezer (Score! I almost forgot they were there!) and put the rest in the fridge to be taken to work for lunches. All I'll have to do when I thaw the small containers is make brown rice to go with them.

About the rice: I tried a new trick a friend of mine shared about cooking rice, and it worked great! I measured one cup of brown rice and poured it into the pot and let it heat for about 5 minutes, stirring so it didn't burn. After the rice grains were toasted a bit, I added the 2 cups of water, boiled about 5 minutes, put the lid on, and let it cook on a low temperature. The rice was fluffy and cooked to perfection!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A week of meals

I have been snowed in for too long and my eating supplies were reaching the slim pickin' level. The nature center where I work was closed Wednesday and Thursday due to this most recent blizzard that contributed more snow to our record-breaking winter. Before leaving work Friday to do some grocery shopping, I made a meal plan for the coming week. I chose many items that can be used for multiple meals in an effort to reduce leftover bits of veggies, etc.

Here's what's on the menu:
  • Falafel with tomato and avocado in a whole wheat pita
  • Ground turkey burritos and guacamole
  • Pita pizza topped with green pepper
  • Ground turkey chili
  • Cream of broccoli soup with potatoes
  • Grilled chicken and veggies
  • Frittata
I'm excited to get these meals cooking because the soup, falafe and chili will produce enough extra that I can package single servings to either freeze for later, or bring to work for lunches. I also just bought a food processor! Meal prep is about to get infinitely easier!

How did I cut down on purchasing? I am sharing the bell pepper and tomato sauce with the chili and the pizza. The pitas will be stuffed with falafel, and serve as the base of mini pizzas instead of using dough. I'm going to add potatoes and cheese to both the cream of broccoli soup and the frittata. I also am sharing onion and garlic in the frittata and chili, and black beans with the chili, frittata and burritos.

While I can always compost leftover pieces of vegetables, I'm also irritated with myself if I let something go to waste unnecessarily. My goal with shopping this week was to find multiple uses for a single produce item that wouldn't normally be totally used in one recipe. I feel pretty confident that I will achieve that with the meals I've planned.

I feel a little like a chump about doing my shopping for this week, because none of it was done at the co-op. An email was sent out earlier in the week that the deliveries would be slim, so there may be a lot of items out of stock. I didn't want to chance that (plus since Friday was the first day most people were out and about, everyone was restocking fridges and pantries), so I stopped at the grocery store and even Target to meet my shopping needs. Try as I might, I can't win 'em all.

P.S. I have a new (to me) product that I'm excited to try for the cream of broccoli soup!

Contest Alert: Amazing Grass products

The blog Honoring Health is having a giveaway sponsored by Amazing Grass. I just wrote about my experiences with Amazing Grass last week, and it's a great product!

In this contest you can win:
  • Various flavors of Amazing Grass Green SuperFood
  • A couple types of Amazing Grass Amazing Meal
To enter, just do one or more of the following:
  • Tweet about the contest
  • Leave a comment on the Honoring Health Amazing Grass giveaway blog entry
  • Add Honoring Health to your blog roll
  • Post an entry in your own blog

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Contest Alert: $500 "messiest recipe" from Mixing Bowl

From the Mixing Bowl website:

$500

Contest ends on 02/14/2010

Got a delish but messy recipe that you think twice about making? Bring it! Roll up your sleeves and break out the Bounty because we're looking for your best, most perilously-messy recipe -- definitely not for the faint of heart. From sloppy Joes to saucy ribs and chicken wings, we want to see your most creative original recipe. The prize: $500. But remember, photos must be of the actual recipe submitted, and the recipe must be original. Entries that don’t follow these guidelines are ineligible to win.

Enter here. (Must create a membership log-in for Mixing Bowl)

Blizzard Brunch

We had another big snowstorm on the east coast, and in typical fashion, the neighbor friends gathered for brunch to enjoy all sorts of homemade foods.


Here's what was on the menu:
  • Frittata - eggs from the backyard chickens, parmesan and white cheddar cheeses, potatoes, onions, garlic, asparagus and cayenne pepper
  • Bread - my banana walnut bread
  • Soup - cream of broccoli soup with potatoes and bacon
  • Rice pudding - a version with almonds raisins and several spices
  • Fruit - pineapple and avocado
  • Drinks - French press coffee and home brewed apple cider

Monday, February 8, 2010

Contest Alert: Equal Exchange coffee and chocolates from Mambo Sprouts

Mambo Sprouts is giving away a yummy gift basket with fair trade, organic chocolates and coffee supplied by Equal Exchange! While I have not had EE chocolate, I do purchase their coffee from my co-op and all types I've tried have been excellent. I strongly advocate supporting companies that are socially responsible while providing a quality product. Check out all the ways you can enter to win this great prize! Be sure to enter by February 14; winners will be emailed on/around February 17.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cupcakes!

I'm not really into football, but my neighbor invited a few of us over to watch the Super Bowl. I've been wanting an excuse to make cupcakes lately, so I took advantage of this get-together.

For the cupcakes, I used a boxed French vanilla cake mix - with my own touch, of course. The instructions call for water, eggs and oil added to the mix. Anyone who eats my baked goods knows I never use oil. In its place, I added a single serving container of organic, low-fat vanilla yogurt and also added a bit of vanilla extract.

Browsing the frosting options, I saw that even the cream cheese frosting is artificially flavored. What the heck? I'll make my own, thanks. I halved the recipe and used 3 cups powdered sugar, 4 tablespoons of softened butter and 1/2 a stick of reduced fat cream cheese. Giving it a taste test, I thought the frosting was too sweet. To knock the sweetness down a bit, I added some fresh half-and-half from a local dairy farm. Perfection. It cut the intensity of the powdered sugar and still left the frosting nice and creamy. Yum!


Amazing Grass

No...not that kind of grass. My cousin commented on my last blog post, mentioning the Amazing Grass product Green SuperFood we've both been using lately...which reminded me I forgot to post about it!

This product is pretty amazing, having many health benefits. It balances the pH level of your body, which can help your immune system stay strong. There is an energizing benefit as well, which is something Christina and I both love. I do hesitate to promote these energy claims, because it's not something that jolts through you and then leaves you to crash. I've just felt more awake and better functioning, skipping that daily afternoon workday crash I used to experience nearly every day.

My typical use of the product (I use the berry version) is to mix one scoop into about a cup of organic, fat-free, French vanilla yogurt and eat it in the morning or the early afternoon. It is marketed as a drink mix, but because it is actually very finely ground grass products (wheat grass, etc.), it does not dissolve because it isn't really a powder. If you read reviews on the site, you'll read many happy claims from prolonged use. Whether or not all claims are legit or are experienced 100% by all users, I do notice what it does to my own body and am happy that I've found and use this product. If you have a Whole Foods near you, look for the individual serving packets and give it a try!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snow Day Brunch

Overnight and into today, Philly topped off another record snowstorm at 28.5 inches! This is the second biggest snowstorm on record for the city, bumping our December record storm down to the #3 spot. How crazy is that?! Since December, we've had over 50 inches of snow from just two storms. I really love it. If we're getting snow, I want snow.


My neighbors and an extended group of friends have a tradition of Thursday brunch. Since I work during the week, I've only been lucky enough to make it to brunch once last summer. Knowing the storm was coming and we'd all probably be snowed into the neighborhood, L put out a call for a Saturday brunch. On my way home from work on Friday, I stopped at the co-op hoping to pick up some scones or fruit. Not a chance! Every.single.bin. for all of the bagels and pastries was empty, as was the bread shelf. The bananas were green. The avocados hard as rocks. I settled on fresh apple cider from a local orchard and some healthy looking grapefruits.


The spread was delicious! We had red potatoes roasted with rosemary, garlic, onions and olive oil; a quiche made with goat cheese, bacon and kale; homemade pecan-cranberry bread; bacon; grapefruit and bananas; delicious coffee from a local shop and the cider. We finished the meal with a shot of Kombucha. "What," you are probably asking, "is Kombucha?" Glad you asked! It is a probiotic tea that begins with a "mother culture." It is then mixed with water, tea and sugar to make a liquid that smells about as harsh as apple cider vinegar but a taste much sweeter. This drink is known for medicinal and other health benefits, and would typically be swallowed after a meal as we did this morning.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Super Stuffed Salad

I love a good salad...one from a bowl so enormous that you don't know if you can eat it all. I've had an iffy appetite lately, but know I need to eat. I've made such strides in my food transition based on all of this knowledge I have been devouring (har har) from reading Michael Pollan, as well as watching so many food/agricultural-based documentaries. Something I didn't want to happen was to have my funk throw me off track and lead me back to soda, snack foods and processed comfort foods. Tonight I made a great big salad that filled a pie dish and it was delicious!

It included: fresh spring mix greens from the co-op, locally raised/free range chicken cooked in olive oil and garlic, avocado, locally grown apple, cucumber, raw sunflower seeds and raspberry-pomegranate dressing (added after the photo).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chicken Parmesan

I love the smell of Italian food cooking. The garlic, onions and tomato sauce...it builds the appetite even more! Every December, there is a Township employee lunch and it's a feast of Italian food. The chicken parmesan is so incredibly good that I always go back for seconds (hey, it's encouraged!). Tonight was the first time I've ever made my own and it was so good!

What You Need:
  • chicken - 2-3 chicken breast strips
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • cracker meal (or bread crumbs)
  • mozzarella cheese
  • spaghetti sauce
  • olive oil
What You Do:
  • Trim the chicken if necessary.
  • Combine the beaten egg and milk in a shallow dish big enough to dip the chicken in. In a separate dish, pour enough cracker meal (or bread crumbs) to coat the chicken.
  • In a medium frying pan, pour enough olive oil to spread over the bottom of the pan, and turn on low heat.
  • Dip the chicken in the egg & milk mixture (be sure to get both sides) and then into the cracker meal.
  • Put the coated chicken breast strips in the pan and lightly brown on both sides.
  • After the chicken has been browned, transfer it to a baking dish for the oven. Add a layer of mozzarella cheese on top of the chicken, then spaghetti sauce and a top layer of mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes at 375 degrees or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. For the last 10 minutes, I moved the dish to the bottom rack to be closer to the heat (I have a gas oven). After turning the oven off, I opened the door and let the dish stay in there for a few more minutes to start cooling, so it was the perfect temperature to eat right away when I took it out.
To make the recipe even better, I made my own spaghetti sauce a couple of nights ago (okay, okay...I enhanced somebody else's). To do this, I minced 2 cloves of garlic, 2 slices of white onion and about 1/4 of a green bell pepper and sauteed in olive oil. Then I added 1 can of organic tomato sauce and 1 can of diced organic tomatoes and cooked. Yum!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Gallo Pinto Remix

With my leftover gallo pinto, I wanted to make a few different meals. The first: burritos.

I use ground turkey as a substitute for beef in any traditional recipe (I do not eat beef). Ground turkey can get a little pricey, especially when using the leanest variety, so not only is this a way to use leftovers, it's a way to extend food dollars. Gallo pinto is rice and black beans, so it can add substantial bulk to a burrito filling meaning you can use less of the ground meat.

What I Used:
  • Lean ground turkey (from a local farm)
  • 40% less sodium taco seasoning
  • Water
  • Gallo pinto
  • Flour tortillas
  • Shredded cheese
What I Did:
  • First, cook the turkey, adding water and taco seasoning as directed on the package.
  • Turn the heat down and add gallo pinto. Keep stirring so rice does not stick to pan, and heat until the beans are warmed through.
  • Once the gallo pinto has been reheated, fill your tortillas (or taco shells) with the ground meat/gallo pinto mix and add your taco/burrito toppings.
Sorry...no pictures for this post. Burritos are not very photogenic ;)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Home Cooking - Costa Rican Style

Tonight I had another gallo pinto night. Making this dish is sort of like making any soup or chili - it never turns out exactly the same anytime I make it, and I like that. I've been wanting to make gallo pinto since I went grocery shopping last Sunday and bought the ingredients, but kept forgetting to soak the black beans! I finally remembered to put them in water before I left for work this morning, so when I came home they were ready to be cooked. This recipe makes a pretty large quantity, so I have plenty to bring to work for lunch and to make with some scrambled eggs (my favorite way). I love Costa Rica and think of it often, so anytime I eat one of the meals I would have eaten there, I feel a little bit closer. Pura vida, friends!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants."

Delving deeper into these words of wisdom from Michael Pollan, based on his research for the novel In Defense of Food, I ordered and have been reading his new pocket-sized book of 64 guidelines to getting off the Western diet, Food Rules.

With the fridge getting empty and cabinets becoming bare, I did a small shopping trip today at the co-op. Based on Pollan's original words of wisdom, let's see how I did:
  • 4 clementines
  • 1 bell pepper
  • mixed salad greens
  • cilantro
  • 2 organic, fair trade bananas
  • 1 dozen eggs - veggie fed, no antibiotics, no animal byproducts and from a local farm
  • 32 oz bottle of skim milk - from a local farm
  • organic dried mango slices
  • organic dried black turtle beans
  • long grain brown rice
  • garlic hummus tahini - kosher, no preservatives, vegan, and from a local town
  • salsa - fresh veggies, spices and apple cider vinegar
  • raw honey (a gift for a friend)
Pretty much everything on my list is considered a whole food. For the two items made from multiple foods (hummus and salsa), both have very short ingredient lists that are whole foods and spices.

As I mentioned earlier, the 64 rules in Pollan's book are suggestions for a way to give your body what it needs in proper quantities while moving away from the Western diet, which is loaded with processed foods. Pollan tells readers not to try and follow each and every rule, but to at least choose one rule from each section of the book. Below, I've listed each section of the book (he switches the order of his original rule to fit the format of Food Rules), with one rule I followed from that section during my shopping trip.

Eat Food: #14, Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature.

Even though the hummus and salsa are not individual food items, both are made from ingredients that you know exist in nature - tomatoes, peppers, onions, sesame seeds, garbanzo beans, etc.

Mostly Plants: #24, Eating what stands on one leg [mushrooms and plant foods] is better than eating what stands on two legs [fowl], which is better than eating what stands on four legs [cows, pigs, and other mammals]. Chinese proverb.

The bulk of my shopping was all vegetarian, with only 3 animal byproducts: milk, eggs and honey.

Not too much: #44, Pay more, eat less.

It is true that eating organically costs more than eating traditionally grown foods, and that it is often hard for people to afford a totally organic diet. Shopping at a small co-op can also increase the price slightly, since smaller quantities of an item are being purchased to sell. By shopping at a co-op, though, I have ownership and trust those doing the overall purchasing of products for my store to choose only the best. We also have a very large selection of local produce and some packaged foods. I make choices about which items I will pay more for to get organic quality. My next best option is to support the smaller, local farms. As you can see by my grocery list, it was not very lengthy, but the quality is high.

Jeff Buckley Brunch

I absolutely love cooking on Sundays. The day seems to lend itself to a slow start, time for planning and time for enjoying. After a small shopping trip to the surprisingly uncrowded co-op (where members who complete work hours now receive a 5% discount!), I came home and cleaned my fridge and kitchen. I love organizing my refrigerator. It makes preparing meals so easy. And of course, I cannot function in my kitchen unless all the dishes are cleaned and put away, leaving me with enough counter space to work.

So with coffee brewing, Jeff Buckley crooning in the background and abundant sunshine streaming through the windows, I prepared a scrambled everything egg brunch. As you read through the recipe, you'll see that it's very adaptable to your own tastes. I've listed my own preferences and ingredient quantities.

What You Need:
  • Cooking oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 full slice of white onion
  • 1 small red potato
  • 3 slices of a green bell pepper
  • Black beans (drained and rinsed from can)
  • Sea Salt
  • Shredded Mexican blend cheese
What You Do:
  • Pour a small amount of cooking oil into a large frying pan and let it warm.
  • Wash and cut the potato and add it to the oil with a sprinkling of sea salt. Since the potato will take the longest of any ingredients to cook, allow the pieces to get a golden brown color on both sides (stir them around a bit) while you are cutting up the rest of the ingredients.
  • Next, add the minced garlic and onion. Allow them to brown and the potato to absorb some of the flavor.
  • The chopped pepper slices and black beans are last since they cook the fastest, and I love my bell peppers to still be a little crunchy.
  • Now, with my whisk at the ready, I cracked the two eggs into the frying pan and immediately began whisking them with the other ingredients. I wanted scrambled eggs, not fried eggs, so I didn't want to allow time for them to cook flat on the pan.
  • After the eggs were scrambled and all the ingredients were well mixed, I added a handful of shredded cheese and stirred it into the egg scramble to let it melt.
In my mind, I must have been wishing I was preparing this for two, because it made a large quantity of food (the finished scramble filled a large dinner plate). I really love these one-dish meals that have your protein, veggies, etc. all cooked into one item. It makes clean-up so easy! It's also fun to prepare because all you need are the key ingredients (eggs), but can change what is added based on whatever veggies or cheese you have on hand.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Don't Diet

If you are concerned about your body weight and want to change it, don't diet. A rapid and extreme change in your eating habits may be difficult for your body to get used to, and when you don't get the results you want, you'll get discouraged. And how will you make any progress if you are discouraged and revert to your old eating habits?

Author and investigative journalist Michael Pollan has made a name for himself with books such as Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food. He also was interviewed and featured in the film Food Inc. In his much talked about In Defense of Food, he set the guideline "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants." While being minimal in explanation, a lot of research was done to come to the conclusion that this is the best way to nourish your body.

In a Food Network episode of Good Eats ("Live and Let Diet"), Alton Brown shared his insight on losing 50 pounds over the course of 9 months without "going on a diet." As reblogged, here are the four categories into which he organized food, and examples of the foods to eat (or not).

Eat Daily
  • Fruits
  • Whole grains
  • Leafy greens
  • Nuts (1 oz a day)
  • Carrots
  • Green tea

Eat at least 3 times a week

  • Oily fish
  • Yogurt
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Avocado

Eat only 1 time a week

  • Red meat
  • Pasta
  • Dessert
  • Alcohol

Never eat

  • Fast food
  • Soda
  • Processed meals
  • Canned soup
  • “Diet” anything

And eat breakfast, every single godforsaken day.

And it keeps getting better. Michael Pollan has released a new book, Food Rules, with 64 ways to choose the types of foods that will most benefit your body. While 64 may seem like a lot of guidelines to follow, the purpose is not to abide by every single rule, every time you eat. If you were to choose at least one rule from each of the three categories (Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.), you'd already be on your way to giving your body what it needs. And even "junk" foods aren't a complete no-no...as long as you make them yourself. As I've been turning the pages of In Defense of Food, I'm absolutely fascinated with the research and conclusions in the book. I ordered my copy of Food Rules a couple nights ago and can't wait to get it! Expect another update as soon as I do, and I'll feature some of my favorite rules!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Happy New Year!

My new year celebration was spent in the Shenandoah area of Virginia with 5 great friends and our 3 dogs. We had fun passing each other on the highway until we all pulled into the driveway at a friend's family house. Some of us raided our cabinets and refrigerators at home and packed up some goodies to bring along, so after taking an inventory and quickly planning our meals, we made a shopping list and the girls (you know...the only ones qualified to shop) headed to the grocery store. How funny to shop at a Food Lion again (they do not exist in the NE), but glad I still had that old MVP card to save us $11! While it might be hard to prepare meals for that many people with differing tastes, we did a great job and to keep costs down, we choose some store brands and brands that were on sale. The total cost for each person after being split 3 ways was only $20! And to top it all off, we all came home with some goodies. I scored big by bringing home a large bottle of red wine and a box of ice cream sandwiches!

Our big meals for the trip were:
  • An Italian dinner! We added sauteed onions, garlic and peppers to a jar of organic Trader Joe's sauce for the spaghetti, toasted Italian bread and added minced garlic to olive oil for dipping, and had a salad with mixed greens from the co-op and chickpeas.
  • A hearty breakfast. With the leftover veggies from the night before and some of what was brought along, we scrambled eggs with black beans, onions, peppers and cheese. Oh so tasty. One of the guys made delicious scones (maybe cranberry?) that were so tasty dipped in organic French vanilla yogurt, and we also grilled a couple of big sausage links.
  • A warm and filling dinner. After spending the afternoon hiking through one of the parks with all the dogs, we were hungry and ready to get warmed up! After cheating and each ordering a couple of delicious slices of pizza (oops...) from the local pizza joint, we went home to rest and let our Friendship Soup cook. We opted for ground turkey instead of ground beef, added to the dry soup mix of lentils, beans, pasta and seasonings as well as a large can of crushed tomatoes. This is the best soup I have had in quite awhile, and after looking up the recipe, it's so easy to prepare the dry mix! Also, 1 container of the dried mix creates 16 servings! It's a good think, because I just may have eaten 3 bowls (shhhh).
This was such a great trip, and I had so much fun preparing meals with friends. There's no better way to do it!