Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cleaning the Cupboards

Still trying to use up leftovers, I got my bake on as an exam de-stresser.

The first exam week creation was a fruit pizza. After my marine science exam I wanted something to cheer me up, so I used my last tortilla and the JUMBO kiwi I found at Food Lion (serious proof of people messing with foods) along with other leftover berries, grapes, cream cheese and orange marmalade.

This would cheer anyone up!

Then today I spent all day doing physics, and it was rainy and gross and depressing outside, so I made one of my favorite cold winter soups: Avoglemono Soup. This bowl of greek goodness has a chicken broth base with eggs to thicken it and lemon for an intense flavor. The orzo and the chicken add a hearty touch to stick to your ribs. Garnished with cilantro, of course.

Then, while doing French, an intense peanut butter craving hit me and I needed some chocolate too (oh dear), so I made some funky puppy chow out of puffed wheat and crushed shredded wheat. Instead of melting chocolate, I made the black bean brownie batter to mix into the dessert! It was even Allen-approved (and he doesn't like sweets).... Oh, and I made a huge mess while mixing it.

Two exams to go - just French tomorrow morning and physics saturday (worst Saturday of my life, waaaah, boooo, hisssss).

Exploring Oats

I had a week of overnight oatmeal breakfasts for the last week of classes since mornings were rushed but I needed something tasty and something that tasted like it had been nicely prepared!

Three of the creations included chocolate brownie overnight oats, mandarin orange & peach with a hint of tangerine zest, and my favorite so far (besides traditional with cranberry juice and golden raisins) was the peach melba oats - the raspberries added the perfect tang and sweetness!

One morning I had some extra time and I happened to be out of almond milk the night before (which I use as my base for overnight oats), so I made blueberries and cream oats!! It was perfect when I added a touch of vanilla creamer. The trick was first brewing blueberry tea then cooking the oats in the tea with some truvia and adding the creamer and frozen berries last :) - Also pictured is my usual greek yogurt with pepitas -. 

While attempting to use up more of my food before move out week, I noticed I had an avocado that NEEDED to be consumed that day and lemons that also needed to go bye-bye. SO, I made pesto tortillas out of ground oats and pesto mix with olive oil and water as the "crust" to my creative pizza-type crepes. Then, while I cooked the tortillas in the pan, I threw some freshly sliced tomatoes in the oven for roasting with a little pesto on top. I whipped up a spread of goat cheese, avocado, and lemon juice, and the whole thing all together was to DIE for! Yum yum yum.

I ended up making three tortillas total, so I used the leftover one as a snack before dinner with more of the spread and greens, then shaped it like a taco.

I wanted to share my delicious tortilla creations with Allen, so our Thursday night dinner was mexican meatballs from a recipe I found on the paleo website (even homemade sauce) and cheese enchiladas de Allie made out of my oat tortillas (this time I mixed chili mix into the ground oats instead of pesto). Allen begged me to make the enchiladas again and raved about them the next day too! They were so stinking healthy, and I'm glad he loved them. They looked pretty too!

I'm sure this next week will be full of interesting meals as I attempt to clean the cupboards! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tacky Christmas parties and broken creamer caps

Dinner with Allen on December first meant a nice big meal (well. duh. we usually do that except this time we had something SUPER yummy). I ended up eating FIVE AND A HALF chicken drumsticks they were so stinkin' good! Man, can Allen cook drum sticks or what!

For some reason I wanted chicken again the next night really badly, except this time I was craving pesto (who does that?). SO, we made pesto chicken to go with the zucchinni parmesan fritters Allen baked for me (not pictured because I ate ALL of the fritters - three zucchinis worth - before Allen could take the picture of dinner). The mushrooms and caprese salad complimented the flavors nicely.

After we were full, we went to Walmart to find the tackiest sweaters on the racks. Unfortunately, although the sweaters were perfectly ugly, they were at least $17. Instead we headed over to the women's section and found these adorable "always believe" santa shirts that were super creepy, hideous, and would be excellent for the party.

 The next morning was a... well it was morning and it came too quickly and I needed coffee. But when I went to snag my coffee creamer from the fridge, I discovered that the cap was molded so terribly that it did not fit the bottle at all and the creamer would go bad as soon as I tried to re-seal it. SO, I got my hot glue gun all heated up and went to work!

This was the result, and although it looks as janky and redneck as could possibly be, it is fully functional and I have fresh coffee creamer for the week that won't spoil thanks to my ingenuity. 

Orange Marmalade and Ketchup? You bet!

Yeah, orange marmalade and ketchup is right! I was craving some baked plantains and had no idea what sauce to dip them in... creamy? No. Spicy? No. Sweet? Kinda. Tangy? YES. I sorted through my fridge and found ketchup which is always a safe dipping sauce. Then I saw orange marmalade on my fridge door and my curiosity won me over. I first tried dipping a piece of the plantain in each separately but it wasn't quite the satisfaction I wanted. THEN, when I accidentally combined the two in a scoop, heavenly angels sang to me. Orange marmalade and ketchup - the newest, bestest plantain dip.

I was in a baking mood that day so I also decided to get some cupcake tins out and try this new chocolate cupcake recipe I found online. It only uses oats as the "flour" so that's why it caught my interest.

They actually turned out to taste like little chocolate lava cakes and I helped myself to one on the way to class... and when I returned... there were only two left :( My roommates love my baking a little too much.

I saved a cupcake for Lauren for a snack while I cooked dinner. I invited her over for a nice meal because she had a stressful week. Her mamma usually makes us salmon, broccoli, quinoa and sweet potatoes when we go home (her house = my second home), so I decided to make something similar but not too similar that it would make her homesick.

The result was Caribbean jerk marinated mahi mahi on a bed of orzo and snap peas cooked in veggie broth and herbs, and a little garnish of course! The orzo hit the spot and reminded me of MY mamma's cooking!

I'm now on an orzo kick and made a dish with it tonight - gettin funky with it!
I marinated salmon in the same jerk spices except added orange marmalade (trying to get rid of that stuff) and soy sauce to go on top of orzo that I stir-fried into chinese veggies with an egg and sesame seeds. Yeah... it was reeeal good.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Kitty Cakes

Vacation is a beautiful thing.  Last week I had the chance to go back to Michigan to visit my family for Thanksgiving and I also had some time to relax! I took a bath for the first time in God knows how long, and it was simply wonderful.

I also had the chance to see a few of my best friends from home. I visited Macey who goes to Kentucky Wesylan and we made s’mores bars and pumpkin bread! I was only there for a short time before I went home to some of Mamma’s cooking (which makes my food look like overcooked lunch meat) and baking with friends. Skyler and Zach came over after dinner and we reenacted a baking session we had two summers ago where we made a chocolate cake and carved it into a cat!

I love those two. It was a great night spent catching up and watching the Gamecocks stomp on Clemson!

The day before I left, when I thought my trip home couldn’t have gotten any better, my sister took me to The Pump House. It’s a frozen yogurt place like I’ve never seen before! They have 21 flavors to choose from and a BILLION toppings! Or pretty darn close to that! I had pumpkin, eggnog, and pretzel dough as my flavors and tons of toppings including HOT apple crisp!

When I got home to SC, I already had a package from my mom – two, actually! They were from and they were filled with some amazing healthy snacks that are all SO yummy!

I sampled the seaweed chips first, and they turned out to be “surprisingly satisfying” as stated on the bag.

 I dove into the Gluten free cookies next, followed by a sampling of the Kale chips and the dried dragonfruit also called pitaya! I think it’s my new favorite fruit!

Before I had returned to SC, Allen and I decided to take on a 30-day challenge to a bikini body (or in his case, swim trunks body)! I wrote up the plan in the airport during my four-hour layover in Cincinnati. Ew. It really doesn’t change much for me (Allen doesn’t like the diet changes very much because it involves portion control – sorry, love). In fact, it doesn’t change my diet at all except increase protein intake and encourage me to eat 4 or 5 meals a day instead of 3 or 4. This morning I got a little creative and made peachy cinnamon oatmeal. I boiled a spiced peach tea bag and cinnamon in water before adding the oats, and then I stirred in truvia and some maple agave, along with the diced peaches. It was scrumptious!

I followed breakfast with physical therapy and a doctor’s appointment for my knee – I got a new brace! No more ugly giant green knee-immobilizer! Hooray!

My second meal of the day was half of a cantaloupe with my new favorite dessert as the filling – cottage cheese with walnuts and drizzled with maple agave (it takes JUST like butter pecan ice cream, and I SWEAR I’m not crazy).

Lunch was a chicken burger over salad and couscous mixed with lentils and sugar-snap peas and Parmesan cheese! DEEEELISH! Tonight I’m having sesame salmon with mushrooms and zucchini J

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Successful Pickling

I ate the carrots today with my lunch, you know, the ones I lacto-fermented... and they turned out to be great! They didn't have any bitterness or weird after taste; they were simply delicious pickled carrots. Maybe I'll make a tray of lacto-fermented veggies as an appetizer for Thanksgiving! According to my new cook book, it's a very good idea to have raw or fermented veggies before eating a meal with only cooked foods. I can't wait to try the process with cucumbers!

Last night after the last home football game - WE WON - Allen made me my FAVORITE turkey sloppy joes. For my birthday back in March, I had requested these as a birthday dinner and he thought it strange, but he ended up falling in love with them and now we make them all of the time!

Since he was manning the dinner preparations, I decided to make him that pizza bread he's been talking about. He bought whole-wheat artisan-style pizza crust, mozzarella, and pepperoni, so I threw it all together and made it look pretty by "braiding" the crust.

I baked it in the oven at 400 for roughly 12 minutes and he loved it :) Next time, extra pepperoni.

Friday, November 16, 2012

New books, lacto-fermenting, and mashed potato volcanoes

I decided to buy myself a Christmas present this year - a very early Christmas present. I came across an amazing "cookbook" while searching for what to do with my leftover whey. The title is Nourishing Traditions and it uses and promotes all natural foods and whole foods and really looks down upon all of the "new-fangled" foods we have today composed of 1,000,000 ingredients that one can rarely pronounce. I can't wait to post some of the recipes it has, and it has EVERYTHING and incredibly simple tutorials on how to do cook and prepare the foods. Not only that, but each section begins with an educational piece that educates the reader on the specific group of food they will be working with.

Any way, the very first recipe I used from my new, cherished book is lacto-fermented carrots. I changed the recipe quite a bit because it was originally gingered carrots, but I changed it to garlic pickled carrots. All I did was mix carrots with garlic salt, more salt, and garlic cloves in a bowl, before dumping them into the jar and pouring water and whey into the jar to fill it. They have to sit at room temperature for three days before being transferred to the fridge, and today is day two and I cannot WAIT until tomorrow to give them a try :) The picture of them looks rather scary, but that's just the whey settling on top of the carrots.

I prepared my pickled garlic carrots while waiting for dinner to simmer and reduce into a nice gravy. Comfort food at its finest ALWAYS involves gravy. This time I made a mountain of mashed potatoes in the center of my plate, surrounded by chicken and carrots in a mushroom gravy. I combined cream of mushroom soup, water, A1 steak sauce, garlic, chicken and carrots in a sauce pan and let them simmer on medium low for about 30 minutes until the chicken was pull-apart yummy and the soup had reduced into a healthy gravy.

I sent a picture of my final product to Allen and he called it "Chicken Pompeii." The title stuck to the dish like the food to my ribs.

Speaking of Allen, I had diner with him last night (our usual Thursday night dinners at his place). We got a little "fancy," as he calls it when we cook really good food, and made whole portobellos topped with spaghetti squash mixed with caramelized onions and garlic and PLENTY of shrimp!

 I also made oven baked eggplant chips for the first time with a little, okay a lot, of garlic salt and added a side of oven baked crispy green beans! His friend Mike joined us for the meal. After he took his first bite, his eyes got wide and he looked at me and said, "WOW. I wish my wife cooked like this." I couldn't stop smiling, but maintained my excitement.


Dinner again tonight with Allen before Mallard Ball (sorority function)! I'm hoping to dive into my new cookbook again and dig up something from the 700 pages it has to offer!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Being Cultured...

Long time, no blog.

Although exams and papers have kept me from logging my local food adventures, my schoolwork hasn't halted my creativity in the kitchen! In fact, I performed a few daring experiments that went surprisingly well.

The other night, I was avoiding my English paper at all costs and went on good old Oops... well, I had been thinking earlier that day about my staple food products and how a lot of them besides produce are not local to SC. That is, my yogurt is shipped from far, far away. I recalled a little "how-to" from a book I'd read the summer before called No Impact Man by Colin Beavan about homemade yogurt, and decided I wanted to give it a shot. Two purchases were made: the first was two packets of yogurt cultures and the second was a strainer for yogurt to make Greek-style yogurt and yogurt cheese! Here's why they were FANTASTIC investments...

First of all, I had so much stinkin fun making this stuff that I was giddy and dancing around stirring my yogurt cultures. I decided to use the crockpot-overnight method for making my yogurt. All it required was my mini crockpot, milk (I chose organic skim), my yogurt cultures, and some big bath towels. I heated the milk to about 180 (total guess, I just let it heat on low for 3 hours), let it cool to 111 (again, just guessed and waited till I could stick my finger in it comfortably), stirred in my cultures, and let the crockpot sit in thick bath towels overnight (homemade incubator!). When I awoke, I had YOOOGUURRRT! I poured half of it into a big Mason jar and the other half into my strainer contraption. Four hours later, I had thick Greek yogurt.

The contraption worked amazingly, and my yogurt tasted great too! I stirred in some pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon, and maple agave - tasted like creamy pumpkin pie filling :)

I ended up straining the Mason jar full of plain yogurt too and making a key lime pie. WHAT? KEY LIME PIE? Yes, and it was sugar-free, fat-free, and high protein. I guess I'll share the secret: Sugar-free lime jello mix... and some truvia. That's it. Everyone raved about it being the best, creamiest key lime pie they'd ever had, and their jaws dropped in disbelief when I gave them the nutritional lowdown.

Need to find a local farmer to get some milk. Found meat, now need milk.

My boredom also got the best of me today and I made some blondies instead of brownies, this time using chickpeas. I also got funky with it and added peanutbutter, making heavenly little peanut butter blondie cakes that disappeared instantly (okay, I ate a little more than half of the batch, shoot me).

Before game day, I did a little more creative baking and made some tailgate treats: corn dog muffins. SUUUPER simple. Corn muffin mix and hot dogs and happy tailgaters.


Oh yeah, and I broke my kneecap at half time when I stepped up onto a bleacher. Sorry there isn't a good story; I was sober and well-behaved, and my clumsiness just got the best of me.

Homemade granola and banana chocolate muffins were the result of my bed rest imprisonment.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Under the weather

I have tried so incredibly hard not to get sick , but the bug finally bit me. Saturday night I came down with the flu and I’m trying my best to fight it off with fluids, sleep, vitamins and Tylenol only when needed.

When I’m sick, I’m completely out of it, and I have to use my go-to’s and backups for meals and routines. My Sunday morning go to breakfast came in handy, because the warm oatmeal felt good on my sore throat then the cold Greek yogurt soothed it. When I’m not feeling creative, I usually eat this. I stir in cinnamon-sprinkled peaches into my oatmeal and pepitas into my blueberry Greek yogurt for some crunch. I finish it off with some berries and dark chocolate (I bought a dark chocolate orange the other day that I’ve been treating myself to), then a BIG cup of coffee.

For dinner, I relied on a warm crockpot meal to push me through the rest of my Sunday night homework. At around 2PM, I threw some chicken, turkey peperoni, red peppers, green beans, mushrooms and stewed tomatoes, all flavored with paprika, garlic powder and Cajun hot sauce into my mini crockpot to be ready by 7PM. I called it Spicy Cajun Creole, and it turned out perfectly! The spice helped my nose and the tender pull-apart chicken filled my belly. 

Farming Friends = Fresh Eggs

Jesse, a friend of mine and Allen’s, has chickens on his farm at home. He’s one of the most kind people you’ll ever meet, and it made my week when he brought back a grocery bag full of freshly laid eggs for all of us to eat! They were beautiful brown eggs and some were different shapes and sizes, unlike the commercial white eggs in the store. Another plus was that they didn’t take up any space in the fridge because I could keep them on my kitchen table making a nice decoration as well. The first recipe I made using the eggs was eggs benedict! It was slightly varied from the traditional version, however, due to a few modifications I made. Firstly, instead of an English muffin, I used one of my homemade oat flour mini tortillas. I make oat flour once a week by pulsing rolled oats in my mini blender. To make the tortillas, I simply add half as much water as there is flour, stir it into batter-like consistency, and pour it into a hot pan, flipping it twice until it’s cooked through. I store them in the fridge, wrapped in paper towel then tin foil for up to a week! They have a delicious flavor and lack the bitter or odd taste that some “healthy” store-bought, preservative-laden brands possess.

As for the hollandaise, I lightened up the recipe a bit and found that I actually prefer my version (which is a very big deal since I’ve grown up making grandma’s top-notch traditional recipe)! Simply enough, it’s plain Greek yogurt, Dijon mustard, pepper, fresh lemon juice, egg beaters, and a bit of parmesan! I threw it in the microwave for 20 seconds, and voila! To go along side my eggs benedict, I sautéed some green beans and mushrooms in garlic and threw a few pretty little grape tomatoes on the plate. Everything was locally grown except for the oats and mushrooms.

Since I wasn’t entirely sure how long farm-fresh, non-refrigerated eggs could last, I decided to use the remainder of them in some chocolatey brownies. But, these were not your traditional brownies – these were health nut to the extreme brownies, packed with fiber and protein and low in fat and sugar! The secret? Black beans!

That’s right – these little fudgey pieces of heaven tasted as dark and rich as traditional brownies except they were made of black beans, fresh eggs, truvia baking blend, vanilla, baking powder, dark cocoa powder and dark chocolate shavings. My little blender has been doing a wonderful job helping me to make healthy batters lately and I think it’s time to start saving up for a fancy one soon!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Seasonal Yumminess

I was at Allen's last night for the LSU v. Gamecocks football game (don't talk about it) when I noticed that the guys still had that huge bag of distorted hamburger buns sitting on the counter that were there last week... and I'm pretty sure the week before that too. They weren't QUITE stale yet, but their lifespan was almost over and there was NO way the boys were going to eat all of those buns unless someone had a barbecue (fat chance). Instead, since I can't stand food going to waste and since the game on TV had taken a turn for the worst , I distracted myself in the kitchen and threw those buns into a pan to make a breakfast casserole. There wasn't much in the fridge to add to it, but I threw in some cheese and green peppers along with the egg, milk, and herb mixture I poured over the bread to let refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, I popped that bad boy in the oven for 45 minutes and surprised all the guys with a hot breakfast casserole to raise their spirits. They loved it and Allen ate half of it :)

I needed some time in my own kitchen soooo....

I decided to give my new mini crock pot a test run with something simple that would make the apartment smell heavenly and came up with homemade applesauce! Peeling 10 apples was sort of therapeutic and the smell of cinnamon apples was comforting and heightened the feelings of the season. It turned out to be perfect and my roommates and I enjoyed big bowls full of hot applesauce as dessert together in the living room :)