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.