Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Something of an obsession...

First of all, I hope I am not annoying you all with the ever-changing look of this blog.  I am super picky when it comes to graphic design and always have a hard time settling on something final.  Plus, I am working within the limitations of Blogger and struggling :)  I kind of like this new layout though, hopefully you all do too!  Let me know.

Anyway, onward and upward!  Lately I have been reading all of the food blogs I can get my hands on (which is one reason I had the urge to remodel the blog).  There is a whole world of food blogging that I have recently been exposed to that I had NO idea existed.  I mean, there are competitions for Best Food Blog, and on top of that there several categories within this competition, such as Best Food Photography (love!), Best Original Recipes, Best Cocktail Blog, the list goes on and on.  Needless to say, when I discovered this new world I was stoked!  And motivated!

There is something about the beautiful pictures and creative recipes that has me hooked.  It is such a fun new hobby, and I have been using any excuse to cook all of the worthwhile recipes I come across.  Which is a LOT.  I have noticed, however, that I have started gravitating to one blog in particular:  Smitten Kitchen.  While I love a nice, sophisticated food blog, some of the recipes can be a bit too pretentious for my taste (pun intended), calling for all sorts of fancy (fancy=expensive) ingredients.  And sadly, I don't have half of the fancy utensils needed to mix, beat, knead, stone bake, etc.

I am pleased to discover that this gal at Smitten Kitchen feels the same way I do.  She realizes we can't all be Julia Child all the time - we need simplicity, we need shortcuts, but we also need great food.

So, this weekend I made a gluten free version of her Smashed Egg on Toast recipe (it was gluten free on accident because we had rice instead of toast).  Now I want to smash eggs on everything!  This recipe was a great weekend breakfast change-up.  We had all of the ingredients it called for, but would never have thought to put them together for breakfast.  This might become a go-to breakfast, it was that good, and that easy.

Hefty handful of spinach
1 small pat of butter
1tsp Dijon mustard
1tbsp Shallots, finely chopped (I substituted minced yellow onion)
3/4 cup Rice and/or toasted bread
1tbsp Heavy cream
Goat cheese (feta works too).  It would be wrong for me to tell you how much to use.
1 egg (I won't judge you if you make 2 or 3 or 4)
Salt & pepper to taste

Place rice or toast on plate, smear with dijon mustard.   In a pan, melt butter and saute shallots until translucent.  Add spinach and cook until wilted.  Add cream and stir until incorporated.  Pour this mixture over the rice/bread. 

Add water to a pot or saucepan, enough to cover the egg(s).  Boil, gently place egg in boiling water.  Watch the egg closely.  At about 6min (I go to 7min if I am cooking more than one egg) is when the egg should be soft-boiled.  To peel the egg, run under cold water and peel carefully.  Place egg on top of spinach, dust with salt, pepper and your favorite cheese and smash away!!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Simple Pleasures | Buttermilk Biscuits

It could have been the fact that we just finished the cleanse and were ravenously eyeing all solids foods, or it could have been that I haven't had biscuits in probably 10 years (and the ones I remember were always the in-a-can Pillsbury version), but damn, this recipe caught my eye and I had to make it!

I have always enjoyed a good drop biscuit, but growing up, we would always eat store bought biscuits with gravy for dinner.  Think bacon gravy and hamburger gravy (all my grandmother's recipes).  And while it was soo delicious, it was also so heavy, and that's probably why I haven't thought to make them since being "on-my-own."

But when I saw this recipe I suddenly thought of all the possibilities a biscuit provides - sweet & savory; breakfast & dinner;  sandwiches or solo - the list goes on.  I immediately wanted to make a cheesy, garlicky biscuit.  So, I did just that.  The next time we had friends over for dinner and I made a feta scallion biscuit.  And it was good :)  But I still didn't feel like I was doing the biscuit justice.  So, on Easter Sunday I made Denny and I brunch and made plain biscuits, to eat with butter and jam, and then gave a savory biscuit another go, this time it was rosemary basil and parmesan.  I also made some scrambled eggs with veggies.

The savory biscuits were still good, but when I tried a plain one, with butter and jam, I about died.  I had to stop myself from eating them all, and I can't say I did a good job.  By the time I "stopped" myself I had eaten 4 of them (!) and shoved my plate of eggs towards Denny for him to finish.  I finally felt satisfied :)  Try them, and I guarantee you will love them!

2 1/4 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons to 1 1/2 tablespoons (10 to 20 grams) sugar (to taste, see note above)
1 tablespoon (15 grams) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
9 tablespoons (125 grams) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 °F and cover baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in large, wide bowl. Using fingertips or a pastry blender (I used a regular blender), work butter into dry ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse meal, Add buttermilk and stir until large, craggy clumps form. Reach hands into bowl and knead mixture briefly until it just holds together.  Drop onto a nonstick cookie sheet or roll out (to 1/2" - 3/4" thick) and use a round cookie cutter (or glass) to make "neater" biscuits.

(recipe at Smitten Kitchen)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Juice Cleanse


Last week Denny, Jackie, and I decided to do a juice cleanse.  If you are like most people, you are wondering why we would EVER do this to ourselves!  Well, I can't speak for the whole group, but lately I have been feeling kinda... blah.  Headaches, fatigue, dizziness, grumpiness, and a figure that is becoming gradually more unflattering by the day.  Not to mention, I have this new intolerance to dairy - weird!  Milk is an absolute no-no for me these days, but somehow I do okay with yogurt and cheese - I'm not sure I understand it.

Over time, I have become a believer that you are what you eat - as in, what we put in our bodies has a direct correlation to the way we look and feel.  That being said, I also just LOVE food - pretty much all of it.  And I have a slight issue with self-control.  So, it was no mystery as to why I have been feeling this way - I have been eating poorly (a lot of take-out),  not exercising as much, and depending more and more on coffee to get me through the day.  (Not even in grad school did I drink coffee as regularly as I do now) I know that my body does not do well with coffee.  It actually makes me more tired and run-down.  But, dammit, I love the taste!

At any rate, I had been wanting (and now needing) to reset my body for a while, but looking at all the different cleanses out there will overwhelm just about anyone.  How do you know who to trust?  How do you know what you need?  Why is this so expensive?  I spoke with a friend who just finished the Blueprint Cleanse, and figured that if I knew someone who did it, and liked it then maybe that's the easiest way to go.

The cleanse is written by two nutritionists, Zoe Sakoutis and Erica Huss.  In an attempt to free your body of toxic build-up and give your digestive system a break, they developed the Blueprint Cleanse.  By ridding your diet of meat, dairy and all processed sugar (as well as juicing and blending your food), your body will be able to detoxify instead of trying to process all of the, well, processed foods your are constantly ingesting.

Below is a day by day account of what we were eating/drinking and how we fared physically, mentally and emotionally in the process.  In the end, did it work?  I think that is a big YES for all 3 of us.  Denny and myself want to do this on a semi-regular basis and even make some of the juices for breakfast to mix with our normal diet :)

Day 1 | Pre-Cleanse
the food: 
-2 bananas
-granola bar
-veggies tacos w/ guacamole
-asian cold noodles with spicy almond dressing (substituted almond butter with tahini)

the feeling: 
Feeling more hungry than usual and struggling a bit with blood sugar levels (probably because I stopped drinking coffee!)  But very satisfied by dinner.  The noodles were AMAZING and I would eat them on a regular basis.

Day 2 | Pre-Cleanse
the food:
-as much fruit as you want (all the same kind)
-cream of broccoli soup (made with cashews instead of dairy/cream)
-spicy edamame hummus w/ veggies.
-roasted fennel, beets, and sweet potato

the feeling: 
I had to keep reminding myself that I cannot snack whenever I want to.  Fortunately, this part of the diet does allow some homemade snacks, like hummus.  The hummus was so-so and I stuck to the carrots alone.

Day 3 | Pre-Cleanse
the food:
-we kept eating the hummus as a snack
-gazpacho soup (sooo good)
-grapefruit avocado salad with tarragon vinaigrette (this dressing was so good that I continue to make it)

the feeling: 
We all agree to feel lighter, and "good" overall today.  The hummus tasted so much better today, probably because of the increasingly lighter diet over the last 3 days.   I became pleasantly surprised by celery's ability to curb my hunger, when it never really has before.

Grapefruit Avocado Salad

Day 1  |  Cleanse
the juice:
-greens w/ apple
-pineapple mint
-watermelon smoothie
-greens w/ apple
-cashew milk

Greens w/ Apple

the feeling: 
Thank goodness we are doing this over a weekend, when we are basically snowed in, because the juicing part of this cleanse is a LOT of work.  With 6 juices/day, we don't feel famished, but there is a longing for solid food!  Feeling a little low on energy, Jackie and I dipped into one of the 'cheater' foods - 1/4 of an avocado.  It tasted amazing :)  Overall, though, I have to say that we never felt famished because we are drinking juices 6x's/day!

My new best friend :)

Day 2  |  Cleanse
the juice:

-greens w/ apple
-pineapple mint
-greens w/ apple & ginger
-watermelon smoothie
-greens w/ apple
-cashew milk

Pineapple Mint Smoothie

the feeling: 
The craving for solid food is starting to go away and we are definitely feeling lighter and can notice the bloating in our bellies going down!  The pros are out-weighing the cons :)

Day 3  |  Cleanse
the juice:

-greens w/ apple
-pineapple mint
-watermelon smoothie
-greens w/ apple
-cashew milk

the feeling: 
I went to work today and felt great.  I could function and think clearly and never felt like I was starving.  That is, until the catered work event we had later that night.  But as I gabbed with my co-workers, I was able to distract myself from all of the food that was around me.  I also told myself that I didn't NEED any of that food and that helped!  The hardest part about this day was finding time to make the juices for both Denny and myself while working 8a-5p.  The juices only last about 3 hours before they start to oxidize and turn brown, so making them ahead of time is nearly impossible.  Fortunately, I can come home from work during lunch, but most people can't.  So what then?  Bring your juicer to work???  This alone, the amount of time needed to prep and make your juices, is probably the main reason that many people don't cleanse!  Well, that and the cost :-/

We each spent about $100 for just the cleanse portion (3 days).  The pre-cleanse was about $27/person for 3 days.

The damage :(