Thursday, April 28, 2011 Trying to Eat Healthy

Some of you may remember that I proudly announced I'd lost 10 pounds in the Vegan Night video. Well, you can go ahead and forget that little tidbit of information. I have packed up all my size 4 or less dresses to give away. I bought two new size 6 dresses and I'm looking at living the rest of my life pleasantly plump and overflowing with bodacious bazoombas.

I haven't even weighed myself, but I know I need to at least try to lose a few pounds. And my husband is in the same boat with me, so we've vowed to eat healthy for the next two days. No cheese, no bread, no meat, no candy... That there is my downfall. I love candy. I'm making candy for my Baking Two final. But for the next two days I'll lay off my crack of choice in an effort to keep my other crack safely tucked into the back of my jeans.

I spent 25 bucks on fruits and veggies at the supermarket. Apples, oranges, strawberries, bananas, mushrooms, tomatoes. I also bought some barley and 1% cottage cheese. I know, I know, I said no cheese. I'm afraid my tummy will rebel against me if I don't provide it with something milky and creamy. And maybe I should have gotten yogurt, but I can't seem to find any good yogurt these days! Activia blows-chunks since they changed their formula. I know that's not a very nice visual, but they really screwed up a great tasting yogurt, rendering it as plasticized and fake as all the other crappy yogurt brands out there.

And while I'm complaining... Eating healthy is not easy! You can't just open up a bag of chips and shove them in your face. You have to wash, prep, cut, peel, cook. By the time dinner was finally ready I was STARVING!

The good news is it was DDelicious! Mushrooms and polenta with fresh tomato and basil. I've not been a polenta fan in the past. When I was a kid my parents would make it with a layer of melted cheese in the middle, and I'd refuse to eat the polenta and just peel out the gooey layer for consumption. And my husband has made it and I've refused to eat it. I'm really mature sometimes, I know. Someone made it at school and I tried it but I thought it was awful. But somehow today's polenta was quite tasty. The mushrooms were drizzled with olive oil and coated with sage before roasting and the fresh tomato and basil was just that. Fresh.

Not a speck of cheese on the plate, but still a filling and satisfying dinner that delivered a bit of home cooked nostalgia, even though I'd never really tried it.


Monday, April 25, 2011 Ay Salsa, I Like It

Arepas - Colombian style corn cake with fresh corn and mozzarella. Mine was topped with roasted portabella mushrooms. You see that one dangling off on the left? I ate that one first. It was surprisingly smoky, I wondered where that was coming from for a brief moment and then the spicy heat kicked in. Not too much, it wasn't overpowering, especially when enjoyed with the corn cake and rice, but it was just enough to make these mushrooms stand out in a way that no other mushroom has in my mouth.

Not that it was standing out of my mouth. I ate it right up.

The chunks of corn and strings of melted cheese in the arepa brought it to a level not previously experienced. I've only had them once before in a restaurant, the others I've had have been store bought. But Ay Salsa made these with definite love.

I had a horchata to wash it down. The traditional Mexican rice drink was sweet as can be and yet light and refreshing. Almost like melted ice cream in flavor but little more than water in mouth feel, I could drink it all day if someone would only pronounce it calorie free.

I went with my class and everyone seemed to enjoy their food. Apparently the locals are very protective of this particular eatery because they were giving the twelve of us the dirtiest looks for taking up the entire back dining room.

I understand why. It's was DDelicious!


Ay Salsa is located at 25 High Street in New Haven, CT 203.752.0517

Friday, April 22, 2011 Butternut Squash Burritos

First off, I've gotta say the Stop & Shop in Darien has excellent employees. Every time I'm in there wandering around the produce department like a lobotomy patient someone always offers to help.

Sometimes I just don't know what to make for dinner. And, considering I'm a culinary student and accomplished dinner-party-thrower, this boggles me further into not-knowing-what-to-make-for-dinner purgatory. My mind gets hazy, I can't think straight and I have zero idea how to make anything into something tasty.

Yesterday I did about three laps around the produce section.

"Can I help you?"

"No...I just don't know what I want for dinner."

She smiled. She works in a supermarket and she doesn't know what to make for dinner either. Happens to the best of us.

Finally I spotted a container of cut up Butternut Squash. Hallelujah. Not very Earth Day of me, but this was yesterday. I'll admit, the ease of it caught my eye. I do tons of prep at school. Although I usually cook my winter squash whole, the chunks of orange sold themselves to me and I decided to make some...

Butternut Squash Burritos

Butternut Squash (cubed)
Brown rice
Black Beans
Chopped onion
Chopped garlic
Flour tortillas
Wholly Guacamole 100 Calorie Pack (Since I can't seem to get a good avocado this is my guac of choice for now. Feel free to make homemade and feel superior \m/)
Fresh Cilantro (I was thrilled to find single serving herb selections. For 99 cents you can get the herbs you need and not feel like you're wasting anything. Brilliant.)

First I put some brown rice on the stove. For the two of us I added 1/2 cup of dry rice to about 1 1/4 cups of my homemade chicken stock (I added more later to finish cooking the rice). If you're vegetarian make it with veggie stock or water, although something with flavor is always best.

The cubed squash I boiled until it was tender and seasoned it with some salt and pepper when I took it out. While that was going on I put the chopped onions in a pan with a little olive oil, once they were translucent I added the black beans and spiced them with two kinds of paprika, chipotle and fresh garlic.

Throw the tortillas in a warm oven for a bit then layer the goods around the bottom third, fold in the sides, then the bottom and roll it up. Rice, squash and beans topped with fresh chopped cilantro and guacamole all rolled up in a warm tortilla. Mmm, mmm, mmm. The fresh cilantro makes it. The texture and flavor of the brown rice playes nicely with the spicy beans and sweet chunks of squash and the cool guacamole sneaks in to provide a contrast in temperature.

Very tasty. I'm looking forward to leftovers.


Walking for Earth Day

Today is Earth Day. So when I was planning on going shopping I thought to myself, "I'll walk!" So I did. I walked about three miles through the center of my hometown of Stamford, CT to reach my destination.

I almost got hit by a car.

Actually, let's call it four cars.

Stamford is not a pedestrian friendly city. We have sidewalks. We have buttons to push to cross the street and lights that start to count down before you're even halfway across. Sometimes there's even a crosswalk between those two pieces of pedestrian technology.

Do the drivers care? Some do. Obviously today there were at least four drivers who didn't give a hoot.

Yeah. Those thick white stripes painted on the road? Not a piano. Not a tribute to Abbey Road. That's for me to walk in while you stop your car in an effort to obey the law. You know, pedestrians having the right-of-way and all that.

You see, in order to actually get anywhere you can't exactly follow the walk/don't walk signs. Sometimes they never change (intersection of Broad and Summer), sometimes cars are turning even though you have the go ahead (Broad and Greyrock) and sometimes people making a right turn from the center lane don't see that you're even there (I'm talking to you Beemer turning onto Tresser from Grove). A person on foot needs to be aware of all the traffic lights, who has a green, who's got an arrow, who's going right on red and didn't consider the option of a pedestrian coming towards them on a sidewalk. Who's going to run a red light regardless of the fact that groups of pedestrians are jumbled up on the curb OBVIOUSLY waiting to cross the street (That's you, three drivers who ran the light in front of Burlington Coat Factory.)


But, after all, this is Stamford. Where people have turned rude into an art form. Were you avert your eyes and never say hello. Where friendly is not only the exception but it's Halley's friggin' Comet. Who am I to suggest people be considerate?


Sunday, April 17, 2011 Cadbury Creme Egg Baked in a Biscuit

I know I already blogged about this faboo dessert from Carnival Night! But it's just so darn tasty and so dang seasonal I've decided to share it once again, along with my Slammin' Drop Biscuit recipe.

Step 1: Freeze the Cadbury Creme Eggs (4-pack)

Step 2: Prepare biscuit mix

Mix together -

3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

In a separate bowl mix together 1 1/2 sticks of melted and cooled butter with 1 1/2 cups buttermilk. The butter will clump up, this is supposed to happen. If the butter didn't clump because it was too warm stick it in the freezer for a bit. The clumps are what makes the biscuit so slammin'.

Add the wet to the dry and mix with a spatula until they are just incorporated. Do not over mix.

Step 3: Remove the foil from the Cadbury Creme Eggs and carefully clump the batter around the egg. Make sure you cover the entire egg with a good layer of dough, you don't want any holes or weak spots where the chocolate could leak out.

Step 4: Bake them in an oven preheated to 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes. You can do it on a pizza stone or in a pan lined with parchment paper.

For the sauce:

Juice a few oranges into a small sauce pan and reduce a bit. Add butter and a little cornstarch and water mixed together. The more cornstarch you add the thicker the sauce will be. I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons. As the sauce comes to a boil it will thicken like magic.

Of course, you don't to have to use orange sauce. Chocolate sauce, whipped cream, Ice cream...whatever your little heart desires. Make it your own, because it is.

Happy Spring!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011 School Lunch Controversy

Maybe you've heard of the Chicago school that banned lunches from home. Honestly, when I first read the headline, I thought it was an article from The Onion. But, alas, it's actually real. Unbelievably real.

Obviously there are a host of issues that go along with this. Government telling us how to live, parents perceived apathy regarding their children's waist lines and health, school systems feeding garbage to the underprivileged, who knows what's best for who...I could go on and on.

The second season of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution starts tonight on ABC. I watched the last season with great interest and I'm looking forward to how he tackles the LA schools. This is clearly an important issue, even our First Lady has jumped on board, but I fear that, as with everything else in this country, it will be slow going. People love to resist change for some reason, even when our health and well being is at stake.

I'm one to talk, of course. I've gained weight since I began to cook. I'm not always eating healthy and I'm struggling to get back into an exercise routine. BUT! I'm not so fat that I can't get up on my soapbox and spout about my headbanging ideas for our nations children.

Every school should have a garden! I don't care if you're in suburbia, the sticks or an urban jungle. All you need is seed, sun and dirt. Cafeterias should be composting as much as possible, creating their own rich growing medium and supplying the students with the freshest veggies possible. Opportunity to learn some practical science? Anyone?

And while I'm at it, change the school calendar! Take the winters off and go to school in the summers! That's when the growing season occurs! Back in the day the kids were needed in the fields, but now they need to be back at school picking, pruning and canning for the days ahead! Am I crazy? Yes. But can you imagine a generation of Americans able to grow their own food? Take THAT agribusiness! Talk about a practical education.

This is totally doable. It just takes some outside the box thinking. It takes guts, balls and bravado. You know, those traits that pioneering people have. And now we're at a point in our existence that these things are quite necessary for our survival. We can't live without food. It's about time we empowered ourselves, starting with our children, to take control of the supply chain. To BECOME the supply chain. It's time for us to reconnect with the earth and it's cycles and return to the natural organic life that we are meant to be living.

How's that for an education?

Contact your local school board and ask them to consider a garden in every school yard.


Sunday, April 10, 2011 Introducing the Faux Boy!

I can't possibly be the first one to come up with that play on words, but please, give me all the credit.

Tonight's dinner came to me slowly as I walked down to the supermarket. I've wanted seafood all week. Actually, I've wanted lobster all week. But I've been unable to find it anywhere on sale. Fairway had shrimp on sale but that's a much longer walk than my neighborhood supermarket. So my mind somehow settled on mushrooms, hence, the Faux Boy.

A French bread sandwich with fried mushrooms, fried onions, bacon, sprouts, tomato, guacamole and a hint of lime. DDelicious. The mushrooms I fried in the same style as Carnival Night! But this time I seasoned the corn flour with Old Bay. Mmm, mmm, mmm. This sandwich is out of this world. Flavorful, fresh, cool and crispy all at once. You won't miss the seafood!

I got all of the ingredients (minus the onions and bacon which I already had) at the store for less than 15 bucks. One french loaf, one lime, one package of sprouts, one package of mushrooms, one really good tomato, one bag of fancy chips and a fabulous product called Wholly Guacamole . I wanted to buy an avocado and make my own guacamole, but they were all hard as rocks, so for $2.79 I gave the product a try. I liked it! It gave the sandwich great flavor and all I had to do was open the 100 calorie package and smear.

This dinner will be repeated \m/

Rock on!


Saturday, April 9, 2011 Signs Of Spring

All hail the inventor of the seedling heat mat! HAAAAAIIIILLL! It was a mere four days ago that I put seed to dirt and good lawdy I've already got signs of life. Scallions, basil, even some peppers are starting to peep forth. I've gone pepper crazy this year. I'm thinking of having ten pepper plants. I know, that's a lot for my postage stamp of a porch, but the seeds I bought were a mix of many colors and I want to get at least a few different colors going in the garden. Plus, the way I have the icing bucket/planters lined up I'm thinking the peppers will form a sort of edible fencing. Privacy peppers. Ha.

I gave away my outdoor table and chair set thinking I'd get a bench to put out there instead. But that all changed when my husband got a Weber gas grill. So now we have to figure out how to get it out there peacefully co-existing with the plants...on a postage stamp. And if there's any room left for a place to sit and eat I'll be thrilled. But if not, I'll be happy with my multi-colored privacy pepper fencing.

Roast peppers, anyone?


Friday, April 8, 2011 NEWS FLASH! I'm Not Perfect

It was my intention yesterday to make a lovely dinner and then blog about it. I failed. So you're looking at a picture of goat yogurt cheese balls that I made in school instead. And I don't think they were made properly either. My teacher and I fudged them up together - but the result was quite tasty and pretty, so any and all mistakes were forgiven.

Such is food.

Sometimes you can screw around and come up with a tasty concoction. And sometimes it's just not meant to be and, even though your husband insists it was good, you know you missed the mark, wasted the food and don't know as much as you like to think you know.

The other day in Baking class the teacher made a point to note that, in his opinion, you need to know the classics before you can get creative. And he was looking right at me when he said it. So what I heard was possibly way more pointed than he intended, because I tend to hear things as personal criticisms instead of sweeping generalizations. But I also know that he's right. In a way.

Of course, in any field of interest, you need to know the basics. You can't start knitting intarsia without first having learned the basic knit and purl stitches. But I also think it's important to screw around while you're learning. Which brings me back to last nights dinner.

I'll never make that mistake again. At least not for a while, there's always the possibility I'll forget I learned the lesson in the first place. I'm not perfect. Far from it, indeed.

But how many times have I tried something new and succeeded? That's the prize right there! That's what makes it okay to play around and get creative with your food, even if you're not a walking copy of "The Joy of Cooking." Why wait? Do it now! Life is too short to postpone the satisfaction of making a good meal for yourself and the people you love. Making them something they've never had before. Making something ONLY YOU can make. That's the rockinest feeling in the world.

Bang on, my peeps!


Sunday, April 3, 2011 Carnival Night Recipes

Carnival Night was a great success! The bunny may not have been impressed with the meal, but Uncle Carlos and Aunt Linda brought him bananas and basil so he couldn't really complain. And the people in attendance enjoyed celebrating the bunny's birthday with some awesome tasting food.

Deep Fried Salad with Kale Chips

Handful of green beans, one pack of button mushrooms, one jar of pickle spears.

Dry out the pickles, clean and destem the mushrooms, clean green beans and take off the strings if you need to.

To coat the veggies you'll need three bowls. One with flour, one with a milk & egg wash and one with corn meal. I used corn masa flour for the first bowl. I seasoned the milk and egg mixture with hot sauce and the corn meal I left alone.

Dip. Dip. Dip. Into the hot oil. Not rocket science. The green beans didn't really need that first bit of corn flour, they weren't moist enough to take any of it on. But the three dip process I've found really works wonders. Fish, adds a nice crunch to pretty much anything. And if you need to be gluten free the corn flour and corn meal is the way to go.

The kale chips were really tasty. Not everyone liked them, they can be a little bitter. But with enough seasoning I could be convinced to eat them every day!

Clean the kale, remove the ribs, toss with olive oil, salt and paprika and bake them in the oven in a single layer around 325 for about 15 minutes. When they're crispy they're done!

Pot Roast Sundaes

Believe it or not I've never made a pot roast. I'm not even sure if I've eaten one. I must have, it's not brain surgery. Big ole piece of marbled meat seared then cooked in the crock pot with celery, carrots, onion, garlic, salt, pepper and stock. Man I love my crock pot! I did it the day before the party, because food like this always tastes better the next day. I put the meat, veggies and juice in a smaller bowl and put it in the fridge so the fat would come together at the top and I could take it off. The next day I sliced the mean up cold, pureed all the veggies together and put it all in a pot on the stove to heat up, fall apart and come together in tastiness.

In a separate pot I made the mashed potatoes and then they went in the crock pot to stay warm! Love that crock pot, I tells ya!

Two scoops of potatoes, a scoop of pot roast, a sprinkle of cheese and a cherry tomato. I ate two of them. Crazy tasty.

Chili Cheese Dog Pizza

I had planned to make two kinds of pizza, this and a veggie. But the Chili Cheese Dog pizza was such a hit I made it twice. A few folks were brave enough to put mustard and relish on it! My husband made the chili for this one, good thing because I'd planned on just opening a can. GASP! I know. But I didn't feel like making a whole vat of chili for one or two pizzas. Thankfully my husband jumped at the chance to get back in the kitchen.

Chili, sliced hot dogs, cheese (mozzarella and cheddar)...we all wondered aloud why this was the first time our mouths were experiencing this. Incredible. Some suggested slicing the hot dog thinner, but that was nitpickyness. This was an amazing pizza combination. Talk of a pizza truck surfaced as someone suggested calling it "Vizza" :)

But it was not the time to be discussing business options and nicknaming a national dish after me. I had dessert to be making!

Cadbury Creme Eggs baked in a biscuit and served with Orange Butter Sauce.


Okay, the key here is to freeze the Cadbury Creme Eggs so they don't melt while the biscuit is baking. I used biscuit mix because I had it, but you can use any biscuit recipe you have, you could probably use the dough that comes in a can. Just remove the foil from the frozen creme egg (duh) and surround it with biscuit dough. My dough was sticky so I found myself using two hands to strategically plop, drop and slop bits of biscuit around it's entirety. Cover every little bit, no chocolate should be showing through and then plop onto parchment lined cookie sheets.

Mine baked for about 12 minutes. You'll need to add a little cook time because the center is frozen. That dough will need a bit more time to cook, trust me. My practice run was still doughy in the middle. If you've done a good job of covering the eggs in biscuit dough you won't have to worry about melted chocolate running out.

The sauce was just orange juice, a tiny spoon of sugar, butter and a corn starch slurry. I squeezed three oranges into a sauce pan and added the sugar and butter. In a separate cup I mixed water with a spoon of corn starch. When the sauce was reduced enough I added the cornstarch to thicken it. You could also use chocolate sauce, whipped creme, ice cream. Whatever your heart desires.

These were killer. No doubt about it. I had one the next day heated in the oven and I think it was even better. Or maybe they're just so good.......

Check out the video with music by In It For Storms!

And check out this month's Alternative Control \m/


Saturday, April 2, 2011 Carnival Night! Featuring "Monster" by In It For Storms