Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Welcoming the holiday season (or an ode to delicious eats)

Hey all! Sorry for my extended hiatus. My life has just started going back to normal (okay, not really back to normal, but less chaotic) since I started my term of service with Americorps! I think I've finally gotten adjusted enough to come back and show what I love to do: make yummy foods! Here's what I've been up to recently:

Sunday was my cooking day after the long Thanksgiving weekend.

I made some soup:

 This soup was super simple to make. I threw lentils, 4 cups of water and a vegetable bouillon cube into my slow cooker and put it on high for an hour or so. Then I added some chopped carrots, and after another 30 or so minutes it was done. Yes, it's a bit plain and not really fancy or anything, but I found that it goes well with the fresh bread I made:

Usually, I'm completely afraid of making bread unless Ralph is with me (he's the best at kneading it and letting me know when it's ready to rest). However, I stumbled upon a great french bread recipe here. Okay, okay, I know I'm not making the most perfect loaf of bread, but that's okay. If you have a good recipe, you should always be as accurate as possible with your measurements. Despite doing that, your bread will not turn out the same every single time you bake it. I mean, it will definitely come close, but if you change the way you knead it or give it more or less time, it will turn out slightly different each time, and that's what makes bread baking so much fun!

Another fun thing I made: Pumpkin scones! (I had 1/2 cup leftover canned pumpkin, so this was the perfect way to use it!) 
I adapted a recipe from the NY Times's Pumpkin and Ginger Scones recipe. I modified by totally omitting the ginger pieces and maple syrup. Instead, I added pumpkin pie spices, such as 1tsp cinnamon and 1/2tsp nutmeg. I also used 2Tbsp brown sugar and also dusted a bit on top of each scone for a little more sweetness.

Other than those small changes, I followed the recipe to a T and ended up with 13 1/2 palm sized scones.
Yum! All autumn I've been dying to make pumpkin scones. These were worth the wait!

Stay tuned for more seasonally inspired eats. Since tomorrow is the first day of Hanukkah, I'm thinking of making latkes, but we'll just have to wait and see. Until then, have a good night!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My week in eats

Last week, I was convinced I could hold out no longer... in regard to making Angela's In-A-Jiffy Curry Chickpea burgers!

With one batch of the recipe, I made 7 palm sized burgers!

Curry burger topped salad beast, which was repeated at least one other time over the weekend.

On Monday, I was a busy baker. It started out with muffins:

I used a recipe from One Frugal Foodie's Smart School Time Recipes, which is a free downloadable cookbook featuring easy, healthy and not too expensive recipes. (sorry, I had to share- how can you go wrong with a free cookbook, right?)

The muffins were delicious! I didn't have the vanilla extract  that the recipe called for, so the next time I make it with the extract, I bet they'll taste even better!

Later on, I decided to make Baked Ziti for my sister. After I was finished cooking, (and just as we were going to dive in and take our portions), this conversation took place:

   Me: "Wait, wait wait... I have to take a picture."

   Melissa: "You're going to post this even though it's not healthy?"

   Me:" Well, you just got back from your trip to Asia and you said you didn't like the food there so... for
           that reason, maybe this is kinda healthy?"

I guess what I meant by that is that indulgences are part of every healthy diet. True, I wasn't the one who went to Asia and who has jet lag, but I figure we were also celebrating her birthday and I was celebrating her return.

Anywho, the pictures, the pictures!
As I was baking this, I like to think I was channeling my dad (who is infamous in my household/family or maybe just to me, for his baked ziti. I didn't make his sophisticated version though, I was kinda strapped for time) and my old roommate, Marc (who, after school vacations, would come back with ingredients from the Italian shops in his neighborhood. I also vaguely remember his pronunciation of ricotta as "rih-gutta", but that's another story, haha!)

Anywho, the ingredient list:
Cooked ziti 
Cooked ground beef (or meatballs!)
Favorite or homemade tomato sauce

Now for the layers:
(Little bit of tomato sauce on the bottom, to prevent burnt ziti)
Ziti>Sauce+meat >ricotta> sliced/grated mozzarella
Repeat until you reach the top of your container or run out of ingredients

Looking back, I think I needed to add some things to it, mainly the ricotta. In future, I'd take 1-1.5 cups of ricotta and mix it with salt, pepper, garlic powder/minced garlic and maybe even mix it with mozzarella cheese. I think this is how it's usually done, and I think this batch would have been even better with some more spices. Ah well, we live and learn!

My happy meal

Question: Can a 'for your happiness' meal still be a 'healthy' meal? What's your favorite indulgent meal/food?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Coleslaw Nostalgia

Last week, I went to the grocery with one thing in mind: I wanted to make carrot ginger dressing for a salad. But as I was walking around the grocery store, I started thinking: "So if I'm going to get this bag of carrots and red cabbage (I love red cabbage, I would eat with a little bit of balsamic and French dressing any day!), why don't I make cole slaw too?" And so I was going to make cole slaw, but not just any cole slaw. Let me explain:

When I was little, my parents and I would go to this little restaurant called "The Iron Horse". It had this train station feel and was kind of quirky. See, instead of serving bread before the meal, they would come around with pickles and cole slaw. I loved eating them together so much that, these days, I'd rather not have pickles without cole slaw or vice versa (especially if it's creamy cole slaw!)

Fast forward a couple years (roughly 10-13 years old). My parents and I were visiting my grandma and step-grandfather in Arizona. My step grandfather Ben likes to cook and bake a great deal, and at this point in my life he was well known for his "cakes" and ruggelahs. The dough always tasted of a hint of cinnamon, a dash of lemon and very little sugar. They were filled with a dried fruit mixture that I would mistake for chocolate (if only for the color, not necessarily the flavor). This time when we were visiting, I was obsessed with his homemade cole slaw. I asked my grandma what he put in his cole slaw, but Ben didn't have recipes for what he prepared, he would just go based on what he was trying to make and how it tasted. She did, however, tell me some of the things she knew he put in his coleslaw, so I could try to reproduce it at home: tarragon vinegar, a very little bit of mayonnaise (Ben's cole slaw was not heavy- it contained just the slightest bit of creaminess), salt and pepper, and maybe a little bit of lemon? These were my guides and after I came back home from my trip, I tried to reproduce his cole slaw. I remember making cole slaw a couple times, but I felt that I could never get it right, so pretty much stopped trying and that was that.

 Flash forward ten or so more years and here I am again, making some cole slaw. Luckily, I had this baby to help me out with the shredding:

Six or Seven cups of shredded cabbage, red cabbage and 2 carrots later and I'm ready to make the sauce!

1/3 cup rice vinegar (though I would recommend tarragon if you can get your hands on it!)
3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
pepper to taste
2 small pinches of salt- makes it!

My little bowl of cole slaw

When I first tasted this, I was so sure it tasted just like Ben's cole slaw. Right now, I'm not so sure, but I do think this was the closest I came to reproducing it. If nothing else, it brought back wonderful memories of my family while we were celebrating the Jewish New Year.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Carrot Ginger Dressing

Hello and happy Thursday!

Ever since Ralph and I went to Moosewood on Saturday, I have been dreaming of making carrot ginger dressing. Yesterday, that finally came into fruition.

OK, I admit it turned out a little more like a puree than a dressing, but I don't have a juicer or anything, which would probably solve the problem.

Carrot-Ginger Dressing
3 carrots
2 inch piece of ginger (though I'd use a little less, it was a bit spicy)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
~2 tbsp rice milk

Shred the carrots, then use the food processor to puree the rest of the ingredients.

I let the dressing chill in the refrigerator for a little while, and then went for a jog. I ran 2.75 miles in 25 minutes. I would have gone further, but I was ready to take on a salad beast:

I know it looks small from this angle, but this was a huge salad. Underneath the dressing, I had lettuce, tomato, yellow pepper, red cabbage and a dab of hummus, yum!

This morning, I biked 7.8 miles to the post office and back in 50 minutes. It was such a nice day for a ride!

Stay tuned- I'll be posting my favorite cole slaw recipe later! Until then, enjoy the day!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How I mixed two recipes- and still ended up with something edible

Monday night, Ralph and I were itching to make some curry. I pulled up my web browser and searched for a chicken curry recipe on allrecipes.com and set to work. Upon starting however, we hit a tiny snag. Our recipe asked for 5 tbsp curry powder, but we really didn't want to use the premade stuff (You know how it is- the premade, no name brand of curry always feels like it's missing something.)

So I pulled up another tab and went digging for my go-to recipe for Lamb Biryani, a recipe I've used many times in the past and which has a flavorful sauce. I still wanted to use the original recipe I had for Chicken Curry (found here), but I wanted to make a powder using the spices in the Biryani recipe and quadrupled it:
1/8 teaspoon(s) cayenne- used 1/2
1/2 teaspoon(s) ground cumin- 2tsp
1/4 teaspoon(s) fresh-ground black pepper- 1 tsp
1 3/4 teaspoon(s) salt added to taste while cooking
1/4 teaspoon(s) ground cardamom or ground coriander 1 tsp cardamom pods
1/4 teaspoon(s) turmeric- 1tsp
5 cloves didn't have any available :(
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
I then went back to following the Chicken Curry recipe, by maxing the powder with a little bit of water, just enough to make a paste.

3 cloves garlic, crushed minced
3 small onions, 1 large onion minced
1 slice fresh ginger root
5 tablespoons curry powder, recipe shown above +cinnamon stick
5 tablespoons water, enough to make a paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 1 cup yogurt
1 cup can (lite) coconut milk(
1 cup milk- substituted with 1/2 cup rice milk, to balance out the extra coconut milk
1 cup water (used this, but I wouldn't recommend it, unless your mixture looks especially thick)
2 large potatoes, cubed 1 cup green beans
1 (4 pound) whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces meat cut off the bone,cut into 1 inch pieces
salt to taste
1 cup Jasmine rice

Overall cooking process:
Ralph and I mainly followed the recipe from here- sauteing the onions, garlic and ginger, adding the curry paste, and then following with the milk products*. We brought the mixture to a boil, then added the chicken and green beans. Afterwards, we covered the pot and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes. We also put up 1 1/2 cups of water to boil for the rice, then added the rice once the water was boiling and let it simmer uncovered. After 25 minutes or so, the chicken was cooked, but the curry overall was a bit watery. We tried to fix this by adding a little bit (1 tbsp) cornstarch and let it simmer a little longer (again, in future, I would just add less water at the beginning).

And voila!
*Note: The only reason Ralph and I used the whole can (diverging from the recipe) was because I didn't want to waste the rest of the can of coconut milk. If you plan on making a second curry very soon or just don't mind having leftover coconut milk, then I'd follow the original.

My bowl:

Afterthoughts: It was only when I posted the recipes that I realized how many changes Ralph and I made to the recipes, whether out of necessity or practicality. While we were a little disappointed that the curry was a little watery, it still ended up tasting very good, and for that reason I feel this was a successful meal. I know we didn't make it in the most traditional way, but I was happier using the separate spices to make the curry sauce than going with a generic curry (again, you have no idea what you're going to get and it always feels like a flavor is missing).

Have you ever had an experience like this, adapting two recipes? Did it turn out better or worse than expected?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ithaca IS Gorges- Buttermilk Falls

Good Morning! Aside from the Hurricane Earl Storm warnings and associated funky weather, this Labor Day weekend was beautiful in Central New York! Ralph and I had to head to Ithaca (to look for a car), but we also went on some cool excursions, like a trip to Moosewood Restaurant.

Had to document the best veggie burrito I've had in my life this burrito. It was soooo delicious with their homemade guacamole. I ate every little bit. Ralph got their lasagna, which I got last time and it was as amazing as I remembered it to be.

After lunch, Ralph and I put our game faces on and headed to Buttermilk Falls, a New York State Park showcasing some of the beautiful Gorges in and around Ithaca, NY. The state park has a few different trails, some connected by roads so you can take the 0.6-0.75 mile trails and connect them into a longer hike.

To give you an idea of what we hiked:
Starting at the bottom of the map, we took the Gorge trail, the Bear trail and the Treman trail, and then doubled back on the Bear and Gorge trails.

Starting at the bottom of the Gorge trail, looking up:
First view of the falls
Looking down on the falls
A waterfall along the trail
Ralph standing next to Pinnacle Rock. This piece stands alone due to the erosion around either side over many many years.
To my left is one of many pools found along Buttermilk Creek
Once we got to the end of the Gorge trail and started on the Bear trail, the view was a lot less picturesque (no more falls up here and the Creek was a bit dry further up)

At the very top of the Treman trail/ Treman Lake

View above the lake. That curve right there, we realized very quickly, was what we would be walking on very shortly. I was thinking "Yikes!" but I was also distracted by the amazing view from here.
Apparently, this is what a really old damn looks like.

A view on our way back, on the Gorge trail.

On a side note, as we were backtracking, Ralph and I decided to take a short break, and sit on a wall just near the beginning of the Gorge trail. A second later, someone behind us yelled "You can't sit there!" and we jumped up only to realize it was our old Backpacking instructor, Josh! Josh was studying at Binghamton for his Master's while Ralph and I were undergrads. We talked for a few minutes and found out he worked at the state park and that he has an 18 month old daughter (Congrats!!!). It was really great to run into Josh, especially since he was one of the few people who knew Ralph and I before and while we began dating, and because we ran into him a lot in the past 3 years after we took his course.

All in all, we had a really fun day exploring Buttermilk Falls. I really want to go back in the future to check out more of Ithaca's gorges. For now, I have pictures and great memories of the day.

Edit: Chocolate Covered Katie is doing a Larabar giveaway, so I'm linking back to put in my entry. I also wanted to mention that, after making coconut butter, it dawned on me that Katie has lots cool recipes and she'll also be doing a coconut butter theme very soon. I can't wait to check it out and start creating awesome eats with coconut butter!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Coconut Love

Good afternoon! Happy Birthday to my sister, Melissa! (Although she probably won't be viewing this, but that's okay)

Let's step back to a couple months ago. I saw that Angela, from Oh She Glows, posted how she made coconut butter from scratch using a food processor and dried coconut. So began my yearning to make this coconut butter stuff I'd been hearing about all over the blog world. Most bloggers buy Artisana coconut butter, which was hard for me to find, and when I did find it, I also found that it was very expensive. However, making it at home sounded absolutely amazing and very cost effective. I pulled out my old but handy food processor and coconut flakes and began processing. Thirty minutes later and a cup of almond milk later (I was convinced that maybe it just needed some liquid?), I pretty much gave up on making coconut butter. My food processor was just not fast or powerful enough to pulverize the coconut into a butter.

Two months or so later, Ralph got me a 7 cup food processor for my birthday!
As much as I loved my old food processor, this one holds more food, is powerful enough to knead dough (!!!) and is surprisingly quiet compared to other kitchen appliances. On Sunday, when I received the processor, mom, dad, Ralph and I 'broke it in' by making a huge smoothie, which turned out very delicious and creamy.

Later in the week, I found myself having a coconut craving. I really wanted to try to make coconut butter again. Here's how it went:

2 3/4 cups shredded coconut + 1 Tbsp sugar

I blended the coconut for about 15 minutes, scraping down the sides when I felt the coconut was getting stuck on the sides a bit.

After about 15 minutes:
Relatively creamy, and warm from the food processor.

Put the butter in plastic, then popped it in the fridge.
I later took it out of the fridge, and I think I can store it out of the fridge because it's solid in or out of the fridge.

That was my journey with making coconut butter. Now all I can think of is this: what can I make with this stuff? Time for me to research and get creative!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tree Hugger

Good afternoon! Happy September 1st!

I started my day bright and early at 7:30 (that's early for me these days, but I promise I can wake up very early when I have work an such), noshed on a piece of nut cake and then headed out for a run. I did a 10 minute warm up, then 40 minutes steady state. I'm not sure how far I went (I ran in a nearby park that had a nice walking path, but let's just say I off-roaded it now and then to stay in the shade haha!). When I concluded my run, I was quite hot since it was just after 9, and I was sure it was already in the 80s. Wrong! When I got back in my car, the temperature showed it was only 75*F. I guess it was a humid 75? Oh well, I was just happy to have done a total of 50 minutes running.

Came home and made a smoothie:
Used about 1 cup rice milk, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, 1 banana, some bits of peach and apple and lastly some chia seeds to thicken it a bit. Yum!

I also had some toast with peanut butter and 2 dates to round out my breakfast.

Afternoon Activity:

So, I am a self proclaimed food and running enthusiast, but I may also have to add 'arborist' (not to mention semi-professional dog walker) to my resume. Let me get you caught up to speed.
My sister's cute little pine trees look like they're withering away, no? Well, they are kinda dying, but it's not due to the lack of rain. Take a closer look:
Those things hanging off the trees are little sacs of pus/yucky stuff/possible moths? Either way, these things are killing the tree, so Melissa asked me to cut them off and either drown the sacs or burn them.

I cut off a bunch of them and threw them in water, thinking that playing with fire, (especially on a hot day) was probably not a safe idea.

Now, I love trying to be hardcore hiking, biking and running, but like most girls, bugs kinda creep me out (she mentioned that they were filled with worms!!! Luckily, no worms crawled out). However, I'm always up for a challenge, so I tried to cut off as many of the ones as I could reach.

My cutting tools. I asked Dave for some gloves so I wouldn't have to touch the sacs.

New adventures- to be continued...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Birthday Weekend!

Hello Blog world! I turned 22 yesterday, so naturally I celebrated all weekend with my family.

On Saturday, Ralph and I took a trip out to Long Island to visit my aunt, uncle and cousin. We had a nice sized lunch (salad and my first cheese fondue) and later on took a drive around the area, eventually stopping at a beach on the North Shore. The weather was so nice on saturday- warm, but not too humid!

My aunt also baked me a beautiful and tasty heart shaped chocolate cake:
Long story short, we all had a great time and ate yummy food and my aunt, uncle and cousin met Ralph, yay!

On Sunday, I was happy to spend the day with Ralph and my parents. We went into Jersey (to look at cars for Ralph, just to look) and then drove up to West Point for lunch, heading to the Thayer Hotel right on the campus. They are well known for their Sunday Brunch buffet and my parents kindly treated us to lunch there. It was such a beautiful setup- truly the most awesome brunch or buffet I've ever been to! Needless to say, we were all completely stuffed once we left. After lunch, we went for a little walk, heading to the museum. We wanted to go for more of a walk, but we were sure where we could walk on campus and it was unusually hot (compared to the last 2 weeks). We did go for a quick little walk around the quiet town, and then headed back south toward home.

I guess the reason I wanted to talk about this weekend is because I ate a lot (i.e. ate really big meals till I was practically stuffed), and especially a lot of cake (wouldn't be much of a birthday with out it though, right?) and 2 drinks on saturday. First, I've noticed that the day after I've had a drink, whether it's beer or a mixed drink, I always tend to feel bloated (i.e. yucky) the next day. So yesterday, on my birthday, I put on my favorite dress, ready to enjoy the day. But instead of just enjoying my birthday, I was beating myself up about how I felt (yucky and bloated and worrying that this weekend's indulgences are going to make me fat). To make everything worse, I then ate a lot at the buffet on my birthday and felt even more gross, lethargic, sweaty, hot etc. Today, I'm feeling much better and now wondering why I beat myself up so much? Instead of being happy to be with my parents and boyfriend, I'm was preoccupied with how I looked in the mirror and because I was mad about that, I was acting like a jerk the whole day.

Then, I go to bed, wake up on a brand new day and I actually feel okay. I still felt the need to scrutinize myself in the mirror  because I'm wearing a new shirt, wondering whether or not to hate it because I didn't find it flattering. Well, despite those thoughts, I went outside and ran some errands. When I came back home and took another look, I didn't feel the need to beat myself up- I felt like I looked okay (i.e. not feeling "fat" because, naturally, we can all feel "fat" or "not fat". I'm shaking my head at myself right now!)

I drank some water to stave off dehydration and than I kinda made this:

I love hummus and tomato sandwiches. This tomato was from my parents' garden, so it tasted delicious (seriously, those red things at the grocery store that look like tomatoes? Who are they kidding...)

And even though we tried to give Ralph the rest of the cake (I'm still convinced he's a growing boy and that he's going to whither away unless I stuff him with food), we still had a good quarter of it, so I had a little piece, mostly guiltlessly, with iced coffee to balance out the sugar shock on my system, haha! 

All eaten while staring at these pretty carnations Ralph got me for my birthday.
Thanks Ralph!

Okay, now that I feel a lot better getting that all off my chest, my next task is finding something to get for my sister's birthday, yikes! My sister's birthday is exactly a week after mine, and despite this consistency, I'm always spending the week in between wondering what to get her. This year, she's actually going away on a business trip starting the day before her birthday, so I feel like it's even more important for me to do something really nice for her this year (plus, I'm living with her again for the first time in years). Long story short, any suggestions?  I'll keep you posted, especially if (God-willing) I have an epiphany this year and figure out something nice by myself, haha!

Have a great day and a wonderful week!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Back On My Feet

Hello! Is anyone still out there? I hope so, because I'm back and ready to continue this blog, with some minimal changes. See, I took this unintended hiatus due to several things: deciding to change up the way I plan to blog, I was camera less for the past 2 weeks when I went back home, and procrastinating because I wanted to figure out what to say when I came back. So here it is...sorry ahead of time for the long post, but there are things I need to say.

As much as I like holding myself accountable for what I ate, I found it to be getting less and less enjoyable for me. Although I didn't photograph and post every little thing I ate, the most annoying thing was deciding whether or not I should post such and such thing, if for instance I grabbed a piece of chocolate or a rice cake. I would prefer to cook something and post a picture of what I made because I really enjoy cooking and I haven't been doing much of that lately. So, I plan to post things I cook or something I didn't make that was interesting and tasty, instead of posting and obsessing over every little thing I ate.

I really want this blog to be a therapeutic experience for me and to help me move into my twenties with a healthy body and body image. For most of my teen years, I was very concerned and obsessed with the way my body looked. I was very lucky to have gotten through those years without an eating disorder, but I definitely think I partook in disordered eating. I can't really remember how I ate, but I just feel like I would do weird things, mainly ignoring my body- sometimes waiting too long to eat, causing myself to eat until I was uncomfortable full. I was a runner who had no clue how to fuel herself- eating a small breakfast and lunch and then running at practice after school. Not surprisingly, I would be quite hungry when I got home around 4:30. Looking back, I just don't feel that this was very healthy and I guess I just didn't really know how to eat 'right'. Right now, I feel like I'm still learning how to eat 'right', but I also think I've learned that there no one 'right' way of eating, it depends on the person. Let's put it this way: I'm still learning the best way of eating for me.

Okay, next tangent, I guess. For many years I've been self conscious and body conscious. I still am to some degree, but getting out of my teenage years has made it easier to be happy with myself. I like myself more these days, but I still want and need to work on these issues. Even though I'm still body conscious, I'm happy to say I don't really have a love/hate relationship with food anymore. I mean, granted, I'm probably still weird about my food choices (like touting that I much prefer meatless meals, even though I will eat meat, especially chicken wings or buffalo chicken flavored/topped anything.) But, I don't fear food the way I used to. Again, I love to cook things, and I still debate whether or not to "healthify" something, or just make said thing the old fashioned and more satisfying way. I'm trying to listen to my body and be in tune with my hunger and fullness cues. And as I do that, I'm trying to conquer my fear of the mirror. And that's all I want to say about that right now.

Anywho, remember the last time I posted, I promised to post a picture of my new haircut? My parents and Ralph have finally seen my hair, so here it goes:

Okay, I know the pics a little cut off, but I had to pick the one that showed off the infamous dimples, haha! It's a lot shorter than this, right?:

Recently made food:

Last night, my sister Melissa and I made pizza! She picked up some ready made whole wheat pizza dough (so convenient!) and we fixed up this beauty with lotsa pizza sauce, lotsa cheese, half supreme pizza and half buffalo chicken.
Can you tell which side I favored more when adding the toppings?

Melissa and I decided on stir fry for dinner tonight. I really have no plan for it except for that I'm thinking of surprising her with sesame or general tso's chicken to go with it. I'll let you know how it goes, see you later!