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 :)  

The Royal Family's Chef Visits Columbia!

Okay, so here’s that spaghetti squash I promised:

I ended up cooking it in the microwave then adding miced garlic and cooking it a little longer. After that I sprinkled a TINY bit of seasoning salt into the strands, added a can of stewed tomatoes with celery and onions, and a scoop of pizza sauce and cold cottage cheese. BETTER. THAN. SPAGHETTI… I really just said that. (Heads up to all of you health freaks and dieters – this is a magnificent substitute to pasta. I’m sure you could make a lovely spaghetti casserole with it too!)

This is what I ate after volunteering for a few hours at the SC State Fair. I originally signed up thinking that I was going to be helping fill out forms for a photo boot, but it was SO much more than that…

You see, the photo booth was for Sustainable Midlands, a nonprofit organization that works with the community, a clean air partner, sustainable schools, the local watershed, and IT PROMOTES THE LOCAL FOOD INITIATIVE! What they were doing at the fair was distributing their info while snapping professional pictures of fair-goers for free in their “photo booth” to show faces of those who promote local food. The location of the booth was what got me… we were in the corner of a huge white circus tent and front and center were three professional chefs, in a mock Iron Chef competition called the Famously Hot Chef Showdown (Columbia, SC is called “famously hot”). These chefs and their teams were given a box of local food that they had to assemble into a 3-course meal, and this was all hosted by the chef who served the royal family across the pond for 15 years! I met some incredible chefs that night, including the chef who cooks for the president of USC and the Gamecocks football team! I actually had a great conversation with him about how they should open up some more culinary courses at school and he gave me a few ideas about where to find culinary education elsewhere. It was AMAZING.

Here’s a clip of Ryan, the director of Sustainable Midlands, describing the local secret ingredients as well as a photo of the judges testing the dishes: