Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Quick healthy dessert

Who loves sweet potatoes?  If you've read my blog, it's obvious that I do.  One night I wanted to make myself a healthy dessert.  I had a sweet potato in my cabinet, so I decided to make a mini sweet potato casserole. First, I pricked holes in the sweet potato using a fork and microwaved it until a fork would easy go into the potato.  Then, I peeled it and mashed it with an egg and a little skim milk. Some people think of eggs as unhealthy, but I like to think of them as a little extra protein.

Then I poured the mixture into an oven-proof baking dish and topped it with chopped pecans and some brown sugar. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, and voila, you have yourself a delicious dessert.

Butternut squash noodle soup

I made up this soup completely by accident. Initially I wanted to make a typical butternut squash soup.  I got a bag of frozen cut up butternut squash and put it in a pot of vegetable stock along with an onion, some garlic, and a little nutmeg for seasoning. Once the squash was soft, I took my stick blender and blended up the chunks of squash to make what I had hoped would been a puree.  It turns out that even with the pureed squash, my soup was more like a thick broth.  I was out of frozen squash at this point, so I had to get creative.  Instead of bailing on my soup, I added more vegetable broth and some Israeli couscous. The product was addicting.  I think that if I were vegan or vegetarian and sick, this would be my go to soup.  It has the richness and homemade goodness of a good chicken noodle soup, without the chicken.


How many of you have ever had okra?  I had never eaten (or heard of, actually) okra until traveling to Africa. Many people think of okra as a southern food, but it actually is an African vegetable.  Here's what it looks like in its natural state.

The insides look like little stars:

According to the internet, many people shy away from cooking okra because it gets slimy when cooked.  Apparently if you do NOT rinse it before cooking, the slime is not a problem.  I was a little anxious about not washing my vegetables before cooking them, but I figured a little dirt is better than a lot of slime.  I sauteed the sliced okra in olive oil with onion and garlic (obviously) and some cumin to give it an Indian flavor. Here's what it looked like while cooking:

And after.  This was AMAZING.  It totally took me back to my trip to Africa.  The dish was so good that although I intended to make extra to take for lunch the next day, I actually ate all of it at once. I highly recommend trying okra if you haven't already. You can buy it fresh (as pictured here), or frozen.

Infamous muffins

There's a running joke in my family that I am incapable of baking muffins. It's not so much a joke as much as an unfortunate truth.  There was a 2 or 3 year span in which any time I attempted to bake muffins, they turned out inedible. (Unless they were from a mix, those I could handle...phewf!)  Despite my lack of success, and the groans from my family, I continued to try and try to make muffins.  I finally succeeded! These are banana chocolate chip muffins.  Now...how can you go wrong with banana AND chocolate chips together?  You can't.  That must be why these turned out.  I searched on the internet for recipes, and the same one kept coming up over, and over, and over.  I decided that it must be a winner, so that's the one I tested.  A winner it is. See if you can find the recipe and make them for yourself!

Salmon and lentils

This dinner came to be on a night when my fridge was particularly empty.  If I remember correctly, I had some lettuce that was about to go bad....and that's about it.  Luckily, I keep fish in the freezer for nights like this.  Just like shrimp, it defrosts in cold water in just a few minutes.  The recipe I used was Emeril's salmon and lentils.  The lentils were delicious.  Normally I cook mine pretty plain, but this recipe called for a bay leaf and whole clove of garlic. Not diced or sliced--whole. The salmon was topped with a variety of spices including oregano, which I had never thought to put on salmon before.  All in all, it was pretty tasty!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Football food

Chicken wings!!! 

If you've been reading my blog, you've probably figured out that I don't eat too much meat.  My weaknesses aren't high quality cuts, but bacon and chicken wings. Today, in the spirit of the playoffs, I made chicken wings with my boyfriend and his roommate Aaron. We made two kinds--buffalo and garlic parmesan. First, we cut up the wings, removing the tips.  

Then, we made the two sauces.  For the buffalo sauce, we sauteed ginger, garlic, butter, and scallions in a pot.  Then we added hot sauce and let it cook for a couple minutes.  For the garlic parmesan wings, we melted a stick of butter in a pan and added some garlic powder and onion salt. We preheated the oven to 450 and then covered the wings in their respective sauces.  Before putting them in the oven to break, we sprinkled (liberally) parmesan cheese on the garlic parmesan wings.

Bake the wings until they are done to your liking--shorter if you like them juicy, longer if you like them crispy.


The final step is to enjoy!  Make sure you have plenty of ranch or water on hand for the buffalo wings.  After eating, I recommend a nice nap on the couch before the football game starts. :-) 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Quesadillas and Fajitas

This week as part of my "eating the rainbow" shopping spree, I bought a yellow pepper and a green pepper.  Normally I stick to green peppers because they are cheaper, but I wanted to be extra colorful.  With them I made quesadillas and fajitas.  The great thing about making these two dishes is that the main preparation is the same.  Basically, you cut up some peppers and onions, and chicken or steak if you want some protein.  Then you saute them in a pan with olive oil and some spices.  The packet of spices called "fajita" at the grocery store is pretty good.  Alternatively, you can find recipes to make your own fajita seasoning online. The peppers and onions provide enough flavor, though, that you can even do without any spices.

If you want a fajita, you put the ingredients inside of a tortilla and add cheese, salsa, guacamole, or whatever else you want.  If you want a quesadilla, you add lots of shredded cheese and fry the mixture inside a tortilla for a few minutes.  Both are super easy and super tasty.  Which do you prefer?

Shrimp pasta


Today after work I had a random craving for shrimp scampi--which I've only had once in my life.  I looked up recipes, and realized that it requires white wine, which of course I did not have.  Since it was relatively chilly out today, I decided it wasn't worth going to the grocery/liquor store to get some.  Instead, I made up my own (similar) recipe.

First, as all of my favorite recipes start, I sauted some onion and a clove of garlic in olive oil.  Then, I added in some peeled shrimp.  I like to keep frozen shrimp on hand at all times.  They defrost in about 5 minutes in cold water, and are great for a quick seafood fix.  I sauted the shrimp until they turned pink.

Meanwhile, I had fettuccini boiling and broccoli steaming on the stove. Once the fettucchini was cooked, I mixed it in with the shrimp and onions.  I added a tiny bit more olive oil to the mixture, and spiced it very simply with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and parsley.

Eat a rainbow!

Say what?!? This week I was inspired by Cassey Ho from www.blogilates.com to eat a rainbow.  The idea is to eat a food that is a certain color for each day of the week. Sunday I went to the grocery store and stocked up on colorful foods. As you can see, I got a little excited...

  • Monday: red--tomato, apple
  • Tuesday: orange--orange, sweet potato
  • Wednesday: yellow--yellow pepper, banana
  • Thursday: green--lettuce, green pepper, kiwi, avocado
  • Friday: blue--blueberries
  • Saturday: purple--black berries, grapes
  • Sunday: eat as many colorful foods as possible!
It turns out that most of these foods are pretty tasty by themselves, so there hasn't been much cooking involved so far.  I did, however, trick myself into eating a  tomato by mixing it with avocado in guacamole.  It's really easy to make guacamole.  Just mash up the avocado, and then mix in diced tomato, diced onion, lime juice, garlic, salt and pepper, and maybe a little cayenne. I made some fresh tortilla chips to go with my guacamole.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Make your own take out

A lot of young people in DC are fortunate enough (or unfortunately for their bank accounts) to work downtown and have a ton of restaurant choices for lunch.  I, on the other hand, work in what my coworkers refer to as a "food desert." We have very slim pickings for lunch--subway, pot bellys, quiznos, giant salad bar, and not much else. So, I bring lunch almost every day to work.

This week I was inspired to make a cold noodle salad with peanut lime sauce.  At my college there was a little Asian restaurant on campus that served massive quantities of this dish.  I quickly became addicted, and recently--with the help of a college friend--figured out how to make it for myself.  The dish contains udon noodles, sliced up vegetables (I used cucumber, carrots, and green pepper), and optional chicken.  The sauce is a combination of peanut butter, soy sauce, water, lime juice, sesame oil, fresh ginger, garlic, and pepper. Here are a couple of tips:  1) Using crunch peanut butter is a bonus because it is like using peanut butter and sprinkling on peanuts...without actually having to buy peanuts.  2) Sesame oil makes any Asian dish taste more authentic.  To make the sauce you simply whisk together the ingredients.  Then, mix the sauce in with the pre-soaked noodles and veggies.  If you want an extra kick, add some sriracha on top too.

Reese's Cup Cake

I haven't posted any desserts in a while, so I figured I should mix it up.  This week my boyfriend and I made a Reese's cup cake.  You might be asking yourself, what is that? Well, it is a chocolate cake with a peanut butter filling inside. 

I had never made anything like this before, so I took step-by-step pictures.  First, I followed the directions on a chocolate cake mix to whip up some cake batter. Then, I poured the batter into my special pans. You can see in the picture that these pans are rather small--maybe three or four inches in diameter and have a raised center.  This center will create a hole for the filling.
 The next step is to bake the cakes in the oven according to the directions on the mix. They won't take as long to bake, however, since they are smaller.
 Here comes the exciting part.  After the cakes have cooled, you can add the filling.  The peanut butter cup filling was a combination of peanut butter (I used crunchy but would recommend creamy), milk, and cool whip--so much for that clean eating thing I just talked about...
 Then, once the filling is inside the two halves of the cake, you simply flip one cake on top of the other.
 Then, cover with icing, and chocolate chips or sprinkles if you desire.  For the last picture, I cut out a piece so that you can see the filling too.  Tada!  I think this cake looks really impressive, and isn't actually that hard to make. 
If there are any careful readers out there, you may be thinking to yourself...but what about all that leftover cake batter?! Obviously, I couldn't let that go to waste.  There was enough batter left over to make 12 cupcakes in addition to the cake.  I didn't want to eat all of these cupcakes at once, so I used a type that my aunt taught me.  Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, you can put them in freezer bags and freeze them for another time.  When you are ready for a quick chocolate fix, just take the cupcakes out of the freezer and let them defrost.  Put on some fresh frosting, and you have a delicious treat!

Baked oatmeal muffins


I've recently been intrigued by the idea of clean eating, and eating whole foods.  Basically, this means eating a food in its natural state (ex. an apple with the peel) rather than in a highly processed form with lots of added sugar, fat, preservatives, etc.  So, this week I decided to make a really healthy breakfast option--baked oatmeal muffins.  They weren't really muffins, as much as oatmeal in muffin form.  Basically, here's what I did:  First I combined oats (traditional, not quick, though that would work too), an egg, a mushed up banana, a diced apple, cinnamon, chopped pecans, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and some milk. Notice, there is no oil or sugar in this recipe. Then, I poured this mixture into a muffin tin.  Most of the recipes I looked at for inspiration used a pie dish, but I thought muffins would be cute and easier to take to work with me.

Then, I baked the muffins in the oven for about 15 minutes.  When they came out, they looked about the same.

I was a little nervous the the "muffins" wouldn't hold their shape once removed from the tins, but they did.  I wouldn't say this is  a new favorite recipe, but it was definitely edible...even pretty tasty once combined with some yogurt.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Nacho average Nachos

Last night I went out to Applebees for dinner.  I couldn't decide if I wanted nachos as an appetizer, but my boyfriend wanted mozzarella sticks, so we went with that.  It turns out that I really did want nachos, so I made them today during the Denver-Pittsburgh game (at half time, don't worry I didn't miss anything).  I layered tortilla chips, shredded cheese, black beans, a sliced up jalapeno, and fresh salsa in a glass dish and baked it in the oven for about 5-10 minutes.


I haven't had any posts about breakfast yet, but I'm pretty sure it is my favorite meal.  I really do believe that it is the most important meal of the day. I cannot get going without it, that's for sure.

Smiley face pancakes. Brandon's parents gave him a pan to make smiley pancakes last year for Christmas.  They are nice and fun and little!  Brandon topped his with syrup, and I topped mine with plain yogurt and blackberries. Yummm.

And here, we have waffles topped with yogurt and berries.  The great thing about waffles is that you can make a full batch, and then store the leftovers in the refrigerator.  Whenever you want a waffle without spending the time making them, just pop in the toaster, and thirty seconds later you have a fresh-tasking waffle ready to go!

Growing up on a farm with chickens, I was privileged to have fresh farm eggs on the weekends for breakfast.  While I was home over the holidays, my dad made us fried eggs for breakfast.  We had almost enough farm eggs for everyone, except now that my brothers are pigs and want 3 eggs each, we had to use one store egg.  Check out the difference here.  The farm egg is on the right, and the normal (non-organic) store egg is on the left.  The yolk of the farm egg is much deeper in color, and the white is much thicker.  It's amazing how much the eggs differ not only in taste, but also in appearance.  I'm curious to see how organic, free-range, and other types of eggs compare to these.