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 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...