Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

My attempt at carving leaves with "softly glowing" aspects ended in me punching a giant hole into the side of the gooey mess.  Hence the awkward angle.  The dog food, newspaper and plants threatened by frost really enhance the holiday feel of this photo.  You're welcome.

Is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?  If it's wrong, I don't wanna be right.  There must be a "festive gene" that all the women in my family seem to have.  Maybe it's just because I have such an amazing family (no one likes a bragger, but get ready 'cause here it comes).  Maybe the arrival of Halloween marks the beginning of my favorite part of the year because there is the promise of spending more time together and enjoying each others special gifts.  From Aunt Hannah's sausage balls and Uncle Tommy's Christmas Eve serenades to Mom's all-out comforting Christmas decor and Alana's Thanksgiving Apple Cake, my family members are holiday professionals not to be trifled with.  I could go on and on, but I'll stop being a bragging jerk and point out another awesome family- Have you met the Peas?  Peas and Thank You is my new blog crush.  Mama Pea's recipes are so pealicious that I had to buy her book.  Whether you eat only plants, only animals, or both, her book and blog are full of recipes and hilarious stories that you will love.  I loved these muffins.

Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Topping
These were the fragrant and wonderful start to the day.  And apparently they are nutritious too since I had enough energy following muffin consumption (I may or may not have had more than one) to fuel a hike by the river, intensive cleaning of the stove and microwave, and more Pea inspired cooking and eating before settling in for a cozy viewing of Funny Farm with Jeremy.

Teriyaki Tofu (recipe from Peas and Thank You) over jasmine rice with stir fried veggies for dinner.  Even tofu-suspicious Jeremy went back for seconds.
In other news, I had to scrape ice?! from my windshield this morning.  The holidays are truly upon us.  I can't wait to go home and roast my pumpkin seeds I've been soaking from yesterday's pumpkin debacle (I'm not to be trusted with large knives and slippery gourds) and hand out candy to young'ins.  Do you save your pumpkin seeds, or is it too much trouble?

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fast Food: Spaghetti and Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Every single day of my working life I drive all the way back home to the edge of town for lunch only to return in the blink of an eye to my downtown workplace.

For this:

Totally precious and mischievous Sampson.  28 pounds and he ain't close to stoppin' yet. 

Totally worth it.  This does present some serious time constraints when it comes to eating lunch.  It's all in the routine.  Most days I'll have a lunch sized salad or leftovers from dinner the night before.  But on days like today when salad pickins are slim but I still want a good veggie punch, I have noodles.  How fast did it take me to make my noodles for spaghetti today?  Eh, we'll say 30 seconds, give or take a few.

Have you guessed the secret yet?  It's raw zucchini!

I Said it's Raw Zucchini!!?!

Okay, so maybe you're not as awesomely amazed as I was when I first caught a glimpse of what a kitchen tool called a "spiralizer" can do.  It can even make those neat little curly and connected chips like you get at the fair?  And spirals, duh.

I had to get one right away.  The good news is they are pretty cheap as far as kitchen tools go, and you can click here to get the very exact same one I have and love.

Top that off with a little of my super simple marinara sauce leftover from the night before last, and DANG!  Let's eat!  You can use your own tomato sauce, or a bottled organic tomato sauce to make this even easier. I love to use a sprinkle of nutritional yeast or hemp seeds like I would Parmesan cheese for a little extra flavor and texture.

 I like to leave the peel on my zucchini to keep the extra nutrition and fiber, but you could peel it prior to making noodles to make it look more like actual pasta.  If you don't have a spiralizer, you can still make noodle-like strips using a vegetable peeler or using a good sharp knife to cut your zucchini into matchstick strips.

Now that you've eaten such a virtuous lunch, it's high time to reward yourself with a pumpkin spice latte.  Tip: Don't take out a second mortgage to go to Starbucks.  You got this covered.

In a jar with a tight sealing lid, combine:
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp maple syrup (or more, to taste)
1 cup vanilla almond milk

Shake all ingredients together vigorously.  You can try adding a small amount (2 tsp) of canned pumpkin if you like, but I found I like the creamier texture if I leave it out.  Heat this and drink it on it's own and be in a state of autumn bliss if you so desire, or you can take it to the next level (the caffeinated level) by adding some espresso or coffee.  To heat, either use a steam wand on an espresso machine, or heat it on the stove or microwave, then spin in a blender to give it the frothiness I know you will spend $5 for.  Pour over one shot of espresso or 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee and enjoy.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ecto Cooler, Anyone?

Ello, Poppet.

I have a confession, if you will.  While once I was a carnivorous, wild beast of a cook, feasting on delicious animal fats and hearty meat, cheese, and eggs (evidence here)... those days are gone.  At least for a little while.  Fear not omnivorous friends!  I'll continue to post recipes that can have meat, cheese, eggs, or what have you added to them.  But for my health's sake, I've decided to go with a largely meat and dairy free diet for a bit.  (I won't freak out if some animal product slips in unknowingly or in a pinch).

I'm not here to tell you that you should do the same either.  It's purely a personal choice, and the way I've been enjoying eating for almost a month now.  It's nice sometimes to step out of one's comfort zone and do something you thought you never (literally NEVER) thought you would or could do.  So when you see recipes on this site that use Earth Balance (a vegan butter substitute), or vegan "cheese," please feel free to substitute the real deal.  You'll also see some interesting ingredients you might not eat as a part of your regular diet- don't be afraid!  In the past three weeks I have discovered that chia seeds, hemp seeds, sea vegetables, and nutritional yeast are awesome additions to any diet and any chef's pantry.  Check out the links for more information on these power foods.

Have I lost you yet?  Leaping lizards, you're still here?!  Then let me tell you about my breakfast obsession.  It's big, green, and it's ALIVE!  Have you heard of the craze over green smoothies?  Google it.  It's rampant.  And no wonder!  Did you know that you can shove handfuls of greens like spinach and even kale into your fruit smoothie and not even TASTE IT?!  It's true.  The smoothie I made this morning was one of my favorites so far.  Behold:  The Ecto Cooler...
Okay, so it's not the ectoplasmic mucus that Slimer leaves behind in Ghostbusters, but remember that Hi-C juice box?!
2 handfuls of baby spinach
1 ripe fresh or frozen banana
1/3 cup frozen raspberries
1 cup frozen pineapple
1 Tbsp nut butter (I used almond)
1 cup cold water
Ice cubes (optional)

Combine all ingredients except ice in blender.  Blend the heck out of it until it looks like the delicious slime above.  Add ice to thicken if needed and blend again.  This makes about a 24 oz. smoothie, or one serving.

Just in time for Halloween, this concoction looks disgusting, sounds scary, but tastes amazing and gives me enough energy that I don't even need my morning coffee!  Adding a healthy fat like almond butter, ground flax seeds, or hemp seeds gives it staying powder to hold off your appetite until lunchtime.  I have had a variation of this smoothie every single morning for the past three weeks, and I'm just getting started.  The key is to raid the frozen fruit section of your local Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, and you're always ready for a new combination.

Have you ever tried to go vegetarian/vegan/primal/paleo/etc?  
How did it go?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Grilled Bacon Jalapeno Poppers (Man Bait.)

This weekend was a blur.  A fantastic and wonderful weekend, but a blur nonetheless.  My most excellent, funny and generous sister and her fiance came to visit this weekend from Asheville, NC to celebrate my most excellent, funny and generous uncle's birthday.  It was a big one (Uncle Tommy would have you believe it was the big 3-0, and I'll never tell otherwise).  Fire pits, jam sessions, weenie roasts, champagne, and Close Encounters of the Doggie kind were all critical components.  Top it all off with the Duke Chapel Choir and the birthday boy singing a most incredible performance of Be Still My Soul commissioned by said birthday boy himself, it was a weekend to remember. 

While I did do a little cooking this weekend (some pretty yummy veggie burgers to be featured soon), I didn't capture any photos.  Remember all those photos in my phone from past cooking adventures I failed to post about?  Here's where they come to the rescue.  One of my favorites was also the simplest.  Three ingredients combined to create a flavor explosion.  It doesn't get much easier or delicious than Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers.  They're nutritionally a far cry from the veggie burgers, but Great Oden's Raven they're good!!  And if you really wanted, you could make them vegetarian or vegan by substituting the bacon for "fake" bacon and vegan "cream cheese." 

Several medium to large jalapeno peppers (or other medium sized pepper of your choice)
1 block cream cheese or cream cheese substitute
1/2 lb bacon
Wood or metal skewers

This is a great side dish or appetizer to make when you're already firing up the grill for something else.  Make sure you have your grill getting hot while you prepare to skewer your peppers.  If you'd prefer to cook them in the oven, go ahead and preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

1.  Using a small paring knife, cut a slit in one side of your pepper lengthwise from end to end.  Do not cut all the way through.  You want to be able to gently squeeze each end toward  the other so it opens up like a cute little spicy coinpurse.  I totally won't make fun of you if you wear gloves while making these.  Peppers can burn, baby.  Scrape out the insides of the peppers (seeds and membrane).  If you want your poppers really spicy, you can leave more of the guts inside.  It should look like this: 

2.  Cut off a small slab of cream cheese and stuff it into your gutted pepper.  Like so:

3.  Wrap each stuffed pepper with half a slice or a whole slice of bacon, depending on how big your peppers are (or how awesome you want it).  It's fine if some of the bacon overlaps.

4.  Thread your stuffed, bacon-clothed and blissed out peppers onto a skewer for easy grill flippage.  Three to a skewer works out nice. 

Grill on indirect heat (away from the hottest parts of the grill) about five minutes on each side, or until bacon is lightly browned and cooked through.  If you're using an oven, try baking them on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet for 5 minutes on each side, or until bacon is cooked through.  I haven't tested the oven method, so keep an eye on them.  Serve as an appetizer or alongside your meal.  You're gonna want a beer (or two) and maybe a bat to keep all the men flocking to your house at bay and away from your precious vittles.

Are you making them tonight?!  I can't wait to hear how they turn out.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Asian Crunchberries

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Whoa!  Guess what?  I'm back.

Blogging takes a good deal of time and effort.  It's just the nature of the beast.  I can't tell you how many pictures of food I have on my phone from days that I almost got it together enough to share what I'd been up to.  I definitely missed it, and I'm so glad to be back!  But enough talk.  Let's cook!  Wheat berries. Yes, let's cook wheat berries.  I promise it's tasty. 

 This is one of those complete accident dishes that I'll totally do on purpose again soon.  I had just bought my very first pack of rice wraps so I could try my hand at fresh spring rolls.  Gotta get those veggies in.  After literally turning my kitchen upside down and having a mini meltdown when I wasn't able to find them, I was in a funk.  Seriously pouting.  I'd already chopped up a nice array of radishes, yellow bell pepper, cucumber, carrots and avocado into neat little matchsticks and slices and now my beautiful avocado was just doomed to turn brown.  In comes red wheat berries to save the day!  I'd been boiling the heck out of these babies for the last hour or so on the stove to add to salads and wraps during the week.  I'd had them once in a salad at Panera and have wanted to try them since.  They are a really affordable (bulk bin fun), delicious and chewy way to seem like your totes in the know and healthy chic. 

Because I made this in a frenzy of needing to use ingredients, needing Asian flavors (okay wanting), and needing to eat soon, this recipe is going to have a lot of approximations.  Don't let this stop you.  Make your own version and taste and season as you go, fair lad or lassie.  I promise you can't screw this one up even if you were born with hands like Edward Scissorhands.

4 large radishes, diced
1 1/2 cups cooked wheat berries (hard red variety)
1 large or 2 small avocados, diced
2 large carrots, diced or shaved with vegetable peeler
1/2 large cucumber, seeded and diced
handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
two handfuls dry roasted peanuts, roughly crushed
2 whole chopped green onions, white and green parts
1 large yellow or orange bell pepper

1 T toasted sesame oil
juice of 2 limes
2 T tamari or soy sauce (or to taste)
1 T rice wine vinegar
Dash of Sriracha
2 t brown rice syrup or maple syrup
Generous sprinkling of dulse flakes (dried seaweed)

 You can either make the salad and the dressing separately using the ingredients listed above and then combine, or if you're totally into winging it like I did, you can toss all the salad ingredients together, and then season according to taste with the individual ingredients listed above.  Keep tossing stuff in there until it tastes good.  Chill in the fridge until you're ready to eat or serve it.  I'm a sucker for anything that has a bunch of crunch and tangy flavor, and this has it all.  Are you totally weirded out that I have seaweed in my cabinet?!  Me too.  You can enjoy this salad chilled over a bed of lettuce, on its own, or wrapped up in a ginormous collard green leaf like I did for lunch today.  It doesn't get soggy like a tortilla and gives it a lot of eye appeal.  It's totally easy to be a collard burrito pro - check out this sweet tutorial for a leak free and oh-so-chic wrapper.

You could totally throw almost any vegetable in your fridge into the mix here.  The rules are there ain't no rules!  What was your last successful kitchen accident?  Do tell.

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