Thursday, December 9, 2010

Healthy Obsessions

7-11!

Okay, so this healthy obsession isn't 100% healthy, nutritionally speaking, but as far as convenience, products and variety, it's good! And, sometimes in the long run it's good for your wallet, mind and body.

I love the flavored coffees at 7-11. I wanted a blueberry one last week, but my bus was there, so I caught my bus instead of stopping in. Next time around, I just happened to miss the bus.

So, no blueberry coffee! At least, not this day. But, they had all these other flavors, Colombian, extra bold, french vanilla, Irish creme, and my pick, butter toffee! Basically, 7-11 has stepped up their coffee game. Better 7-11s have a pretty well stacked DIY beverage counter, complete with sugar substitute, reg sugar, turbinado sugar, skim milk, whole milk, half & half...I really could go on. It's great, lots of flavors, at a decent price, all at your customizing finger tips.

And that's not all. 7-11 has done the DIY to their snacks. They have their own line of snacks, 7-11 branded, with some odd name, I forget. But, they had these cute little mini-muffins. So, I could get a coffee, and a pack of muffins for under 5 bucks, and under 200 calories. They also have bananas, a good grab-n-go option, but their price is a little high IMO, unless you elect to get 2 for $1.

And, they had something else! Extra Dessert Sensation gum with a BOGO coupon! Which, is probably the most awesome gum ATM. Gum stimulates saliva, which contains all sorts of jazz, as well as decay fightin' minerals, so it may be very good for gum & teeth health. Also, the gum tastes pretty much like the dessert, so guilt free flavor in a nice portable medium. Except the strawberry, kind of a let down. Meh.

Thank heaven for 7-11.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bear necessities, the simple bear necessities

Last night, I could not get to sleep. It was weird, because hours before I sat down on my couch and just passed out. I woke up like 20 minutes later with a good case of ..."whaaaaaaaaa? I was asleeep?"

Then I got to thinking of things, many things. Eventually I got myself into bed, and that's it, no sleep for an hour because of the many thinking of things. Thinking bad.

Later on today, I'm blabbing this to my co-worker and she's notes that maybe I'm hibernating.


(That's totally what I look like after work. Don't judge.)

I laugh, and say, "nooooo...I do that, but I'm not doing that now." Then, I reconsidered her point. I've had random cravings for pretzels, fruit, crackers, egg white sandwiches, cake...carbs!

And today, similar thing...fruit, fruit, crackers, all carbs - all the time. And random sleep.

So, with all that in mind, if this is the time of the year you hibernate, embrace it! Hibernation celebration! Only, do some prep work. For example, look at my cravings, simple sugars yes, but I did strive for fresh fruit, multigrain crackers, and a lone bag of vending machine pretzels without added fat. The cake, while not a fruit, it's a lowfat recipe of my own.

I keep craving items on hand, but only a few. Everything else, I have to brave the cold, the cost and the lack of sleep to get them. I also analyze what I want. This Weight Watcher article is pretty spot on. It's a good way to keep your comfort cravings in check and still be comfortable. Just because you hibernate like a bear doesn't mean you have to look like one.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ubiquitous Must Have #1

NDF.

What is it? I've written 9 of these, and the last one is some horrible, unreadable enigma! Kidding. It's Nonfat Dry Milk.

Why I love it:
  1. Shelf-stable. Make as much as you need.
  2. Versatility. Same product is a glass of milk one second, a Splenda aid the next, and then a thickener the next minute.
  3. Low in calories.
  4. Cheaper than milk because it's dehydrated.
  5. Comes in a box, usually with cows on it. I like the idea of boxed milk, alright?
So, if you hate skim milk, I really think that you'd make your peace with NDF. The flavor is concentrated, so if you dislike the texture & taste of skim (watery, bluish), you can reconstitute the milk by reducing the amount of liquid you'd normally use, or increase the amount of powder. Normal ratio is 1 cup of water to 1/3 c powder. Let's say you used the 1/3 c powder, but just 1/2 c water. You'd get this nice, creamy, sweet tasting milk by altering the ratio. You could swap out a lot of added calories in a recipe in addition to adding calcium and vitamins as well.

I use it for:

  • food base: smoothies, puddings, lattes
  • coffee creamer
  • soup thickener
  • ***Fat free whipped cream***
  • milk, duh
  • in recipes
The whipped cream trick is really neat; I hope to have video on that soon.

NDF, my favorite 3-letter abbreviation right after NPH. Y'know, Neil Patrick Harris...ubiquitious and a must have in his own right, I guess.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Foodprint: Dishing


A friend of mine was raving insanely about a place in Flushing that allows you to cook your own soup. Yeah, weird. I said it was insane If you're not one to with eat in Flushing regularly, or eat soup, or American Asian style cuisine...it is as odd as it sounds. But, you have to go, because it's fantastic.

(I guess I'm insane, too. Since, I'm writing it up. Oh noes.)

Yes, you can make your soup at home. Which is what my first response to "let's go to the hot pot place." Well, second.. I'm sure first was something inappropriate. Anyhow, it's a different experience when you take an in-house experience...out...house, erm. The place is Ice Fire Land. Aside from it's weird coolness, it's also healthy place to dine, by default! Even if you chose the more calorie laden items, you're still enjoying a nice hearty, broth-based and vegetable filled meal.

The soup is a selection of 2 or more elements, you pick an entree from protein based things like lamb, beef, fish, shrimp, there's even a vegetarian option, and the broth: hot, spicy, chicken and herbal, which was my choice -- and apparently pre-destined one at that.

I would go spicy for beef & lamb. Chicken for shrimp or fish, and herbal for fish, seafood and veggies. Pretty much, you can craft something familiar, yet unique. There's also a menu of extras.

And DIY sauces.

And this weird dessert thing I wasn't into, but cool.

And bubble tea.

Just go. I ran out of ands.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Spice Girl (aka Flavor Transferring Lesson Two)

Remember when I talked to you about flavor building? (Well, not talked, but typed.) Now, I want to talk to you about spice layering. It's like flavor building's first cousin twice removed.

Everyone has either a favorite dish or a native dish. It can be the same dish or two different ones. It's also something that's been made several times by several different people and it probably has a standard recipe. Spice layering starts with these dishes, because things that grow together often taste good together and before we had globalization, you had to eat stuff from your 'hood. So, all the things you ate were more or less from one region.

For a class, I did a handout about how to use spices in cooking. As a demonstration, I brought four spices: cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. I used instant hot chocolate as the base and asked people to sprinkle whatever they liked into their drink with two recommendations, which were cayenne with cinnamon and nutmeg with cardamom. The spices paired with another (hidden) flavor, the cocoa powder, gave the hot chocolate a new spin with no cooking involved. Also, by using spice, you can reduce some of the other ingredients that tend to add extra calories such as full-fat whipped cream, full fat milk or added sugar, because the flavor is so potent.

Spice layering is akin to listening to a good song on your i-pod, and loving it over and over. But, then you hear that song in concert in a specially designed acoustic hall with live musicians and instruments. Your ears get the full range of the music that ear buds CANNOT produce. Spices work that way. One note leads, and you love it, but the really beauty is combining it with other foods and spices to get the full effect.

Science can be really tasty AND analogous AND musical.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Presentation, Presentation, Presentation

Often, I leave the cooking channel on in the background. I'm actually very much in love with several TV chefs, but they don't know about each other, so please don't tell.

Something I've been hearing them say as of recent: make a plate. Better eating is obtainable through vanity! Go fig! Remember that whole post with my cool lunch bag ? (Including a broken link I should fix). Yeah, it's that same idea. Plus, when you take the time to make an actual plate, you assemble a meal. Meals are good, I hear. Also, presentation of the plate, it's a good basic skill to have if you ever want to cook for someone. Heck, even if you just bough cooked food and wanted to fool someone, you should know how to plate it.

It's also more likely that you'll ingest the food slower instead of the on-the-go inhaling so many of us do now. And if you enjoy it slowly, you may actually feel more sated as you are calmly, and timely eating your meal.

Just think...pretty as a picture and pretty as a trim waistline: presentation, presentation, presentation.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Healthy Obsessions

Trader Joe's Lite Kettle Corn!

Okay, so this obsession isn't quite as healthy as it ought to be, but lately I've been obsessed with trying to eat more whole grains. A whole grain is a grain, duh, but a food where the grains remain intact -- seed, germ, endosperm --- and popcorn is a whole grain! WIN!

I like the Trader Joe's kettle corn because, they've lightened up their own brand, and Trader Joe's generally makes things preservative free. The price is nice; I get the portioned controlled, 6-pack for 2.99, roughly 50 cents a bag. I can eat two of these things and not feel so bad. They also manage to fit in some of my purses, and it's actually a nice, filling snack.

It's not that I want to eat popcorn as a main dish, or a side dish. But, it is pleasant to know that healthy food can also be snack food, and even if you sauce or sweeten it up a tad bit, it can still fit reasonably into your daily diet. Besides, if eating kettle corn is wrong, I don't want to be right. But, I'm right...so it's not wrong at all.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Do Not Just Add Water


I did my first official 24-hr recall with a classmate. This is a type of nutrition assessment. I've done them before, but not to the full entirety - portion sizes, time, etc. I've also haven't been subjected to one myself. I learned that it's quite a task to remember everything you ingested from sunrise to sun-up, but it's a good activity to try out once in a while.

During my recall, I told my classmate that I use carnation instant breakfast packets to blend into my coffee. He was a little intrigued. Then, when I told him I finished my day with cocoa, he was also intrigued, as I don't use water for instant cocoa. I use tea, usually a nice roobios or black from Teavana. Water is great, and you should drink it, but as a drink base, it can be pretty bland at times. I like blending other liquids with instant drink packets, you reap extra vitamins and minerals from various liquids (tea, milk) and amp up the taste. A chocolate flavored tea with hot chocolate can yield a very chocolate-y beverage without the extra calories.

And brewing tea is simple. Get a nice pot, mind the time, and cool it off. That way you have tea on hand to blend to your heart's content. Also, have in mind the kind of beverage you want, hot instant cocoa doesn't work well with cold liquids, some brands don't readily dissolve with a spoon..you'll need a blender, frother or hand mixer/immersion blender. Once you know what you're working with, all the adding comes to place.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ubiquitous Must Have Item #2

Fat free Greek yogurt!

Yogurt is an all around good food. Even some lactose intolerant folks can enjoy yogurt because of the bacteria cultures present. Now, now, don't worry it's friendly bacteria, and you probably have more bacteria on your keyboard than in the yogurt.

Greek yogurt is even better because of it's reduced milk serum content. It's strained, so it's thick and creamy. It makes an excellent marinade for meat (tandoori chicken anyone?) and a good swap for sour cream. I've also used it to thicken smoothies (not my favorite use, but good one) and I add flavor to plain yogurt all the time to make banana splits. It's also a great low-calorie protein, nonfat varieties tend to have 8-11 grams of protein per 1/2 cup - 3/4 cup serving.

A good on the go snack is an individual sized Greek nonfat yogurt, Fage, Chobani, Oikos and Trader Joe's all make them, and I add a packet (usually tablespoon sized) honey to it. Very tasty and you're reaping the digestive benefits of both the honey and the yogurt!

Dannon also makes a Greek Yogurt, pre-sweetened. It comes in a large tub and 6oz size. Also tasty. I dig the vanilla. You could also make a suitable yogurt cheese by straining your favorite plain yogurt overnight in the fridge with a cheese cloth or coffee filter. Get thee to the Greek.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Foodprint: Dishing

Sometimes, I pay people to feed me.

Welcome to my latest grouping of random thoughts & food: Dishing!! This was per suggestion of friends. So if this is awful, blame them.

Havana Central

A very lively, bubbly, noisy place off of Time Square, New York that features live music amongst other things. The music is fantastic, it really does accent the restaurant. I was there in July. I had the picadillo. Why? 1. Because I knew what it actually was. 2. It's made from prime ground beef, sauteed in onion, tomato, raisins, peppers, all good stuff.

I have no idea how many calories I ate, but I wasn't worried. Cuban food can be good when it's at its simplest. Health conscious folk should steer from the fried, salty, porky and sugary, but head full on for the flavor.

Havana central's picadillo is delicious and well portioned in my opinion. It was that night's dinner and next day's lunch. It came with a side of rice, plantains, avocado, and yucca. The yucca was fried, but also decoration as it served as a bowl for the picadillo. It was also one of those entrees that taste even better the next day because the flavors just keep developing. The ground beef is savory, with hints of sweetness and a bit of heat. The yucca's crisp and light, however, that's only for one night. Upon refrigeration, it's chewy, but tasty. And plaintains. Yummm. They didn't make it home. It was so good that I to made a picadillo the week after as I was so inspired.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Frankensteining Fun

I've created a monster! IT'S ALIVVVEEEEEEEE!

It's......................a raw smoothie.
Had to do it!
You can freeze avocados! I know, I'm a kook for being excited about that. I've debated with my produce guy, he kept whining about how it'll be black if I keep it too long. But, with the help of a good blade, a lime, and well sealed container, you can freeze an avocado. Simply slice it in the middle, rub down the innards with a touch of lime, and freeze. When you want to thaw, microwave the avocado on a low power, defrost of 30%, for 25-30 seconds. You can actually eat it like this, but I used it to make another green monster smoothie.
I didn't use any spinach or dates this time around. Instead, I blended a black tea, dried mint, a carnation packet and vanilla with the avocado. This makes a great breakfast start because it has vitamin E, (GOOD FAT!!), it's nicer green color than the other monster, and it has calcium, digestive powers of black tea and mint, and added vitamins from the packet.

You want to use items that play up the nutty part of the avocado, so think sweet and nutty, or bright and nutty. Perhaps spicy and citrus-y could work. The monster is yours to create, but of course, you can use DIY:Smoothie as a starting point.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Foodprint: Quickies

I'm patting myself on the back for this one. Last, last, last week's breakfast was rice & beans with eggs. I took a pre-seasoned, reduced sodium of course, rice & beans mix, baked it up, and stashed it in the fridge. For breakfast, I scooped out 2/3 cup of beans, and then about 3-4 egg whites (pourable equivalent is 1/2 cup) and microwaved it.

For my hard work, because it does require some stirring and very, very, very complex...um....button pushing...I was rewarded with a hearty, cheap, tasty breakfast.

I had enough rice to take this breakfast as a lunch the following week! This time, I used whole eggs, and same method. (Note: you can microwave whole eggs, out of the shell, but poke the yolk before doing so, or otherwise, the egg's on you in so many ways.)

Sometimes you really can marry convenience to a healthy lifestyle if you don't mind making an adjustment (cooking ahead of time, using pre-packaged items). And if you don't like eggs, you could probably do a Hoppin John (rice, beans and bacon) or a nice soup with the mix.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ubiquitous Must Have Item #3

I've debated about this one for some time; It was a battle of the unspicy spices: salt & pepper. Then familiar grains of pasta & rice. But, then there was a dark horse entry...

VANILLA!!


Salt, pepper, pasta, rice...are essential, but with all the sensitivities that some folks have to gluten and the need for low sodium food, vanilla came out on top. And pepper, I don't know. I just like vanilla better.

It's pretty much something I have to keep, and just use it for various things. True, it matters most in baking, but I've used it for coffees, shakes, cocktails, sauces and smoothies.

And, homemade whipped cream!!! Love that!

The scent alone makes it a must have. It smells awesome. It's also a splurge worthy bargain. I shall elaborate: vanilla, real vanilla, is another labor intensive product. So when you buy it, you pay a pretty penny, but you're paying for a really great good, and it really takes a little...from 1/2teaspon to a teaspoon...to go a long way. It's an investment in your kitchen.
If something is too bitter, and I don't want to add any sugar, or additional sugar, I add a pinch of vanilla. It's complexities can often mask bitterness, not to mention, add something special to a recipe.

It also goes well with ubiquitious items cinnamon and almond milk.

And rappers of the 1990s.

Word to your mother.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

PS...I Love You

I read a Weight Watcher article about 7 Ways to Eat Smarter. The first tip was to sneak veggies into your dishes. I was all, "I do that already! That's great! But why is it sneaking?!?"

Theory: we shy away from vegetables for so many socially primed reason we don't even realize how awesome they can be.

This is where I will yap about salad PS..I Love You.


Pasta Salad: The Next Generation.

Yesterday I did a "cabbage in the straw" quick fix. Cabbage in the straw is a 30-min meal recipe from Rachael Ray. Basically I matched thin whole wheat spaghetti up with shredded green cabbage. I paid just 1.59 for the cabbage, which is 3x as much as I paid for the pasta.

Yup. I paid 39 cents for the pasta. Coupons baby!

The point is...aside from bragging...pasta and vegetables come in such a large variety and many of them are very, very, very cheap. Or, can be made very, very affordable. If a box of pasta costs let's say 2 bucks. Eventually it goes on sale because of it's shelf life (gotta clear inventory) or you have a coupon. Now, it's affordable. It's very, very, very affordable when you stretch out an 7-8 cup serving box of pasta with vegetables.

So, back to dinner: I took one of my splurgers, pesto, and added it to my quick fix. You can can also stretch out pesto with a ubiquitous item, chicken stock. So, literally my dinner costs me under $2 a serving. Maybe 3 when you add the pesto.

What is also great about pasta salad is that you can flavor transfer, so you're not eating the same ol' salad. You can match like shapes with like with like such as thin spaghetti with shredded cabbage, floret vegetables (broccoli or cauliflower) with elbow noodles (macaroni), spherical with spherical (gemelli w/ beans). Or, jsut go against the grain and mix it all up. You really have a great tabula rasa with pasta salads. You can get gluten free mixes or whole grain if you don't do white starch or looking to up your nutritional profile.

Go where no man has gone before people. Yes, I made a star trek reference. Shush and make me a salad.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wrapmaster Flash

Today, I successfully made a lettuce burrito. Many, many, many times I have tried to do the deed and many, many, many times I have failed. The stem is too tough and wham -- burrito breakage. The filling is too great or goupy and wham --- burrito breakage. Or, I just can't hack the wrap, folding this way or that way -- and wham -- no breakage -- just me impatiently dumping the contents onto a plate and calling it a salad.

So, be it dumb luck or just ascertaining a new level of wrapping skill, I got it.



Here's my theory.

There's a certain technique yes, but also a certain leaf. I had a very large romaine leaf, about the length of a sheet of paper, and it was half-crisp and half limp. I cut off half the stem, placed my filling (chicken breast) towards the stem part, not the side of the leaf or the middle, as you would normally place filling in a wrap or taco. Then, I just went for it. The limp end, I folded envelope-burrito style and left them stem alone. The sturdiness of the stem supported the chicken breast, while the leaves, limp enough so that they behave like a blanket, encloses the filling. Note that by folding just the one end, the stem behaves as an opening, or a tasty entry into deliciousness.

I got skillz.
video
Sort of.
video

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Urge to splurge - Part II

So, last time on MacGuyver...

So without listing what foods I think you should have as splurges -- because the whole point of this site is for you to decide -- I will give examples of my own splurge worthy items as inspiration.

So, technically it's a list but it doesn't include specific foods. Yay technicality!

I splurge regularly. But that's because I can, I love to, and I don't eat out to frequently because this currently fits my needs & lifestyle. So I shell out $$$ for certain items. And they are...

  • Treats! If I love it, I should have it, and just set aside a bit of cash for one or two of my favorites to have on hand. Sometimes, having a treat is the healthiest thing you can do. Just not every day, and every meal. Treats can be anything, fancy cookies, artisan breads, select cuts of meat, whatever you deem a treat is a treat.
  • Nuts! I had some curried nuts from a Farmer's market, and they were awesome. I bought them for company. But, instead of serving the whole container, I put it into two cute little bowls along with other snacks, and served them. I still have half of a container left. And, if I like, I can freeze them. And I liked the idea, so I did.
  • Oils! A ubiquitous item for starters and other oils like sesame or peanut, can be very valuable and splurge worthy because a little bit of oil can go a long way.
  • Cheese! Specifically, a nice aged cheese like parmesan, or my current favorite, Peccorino. I can grate it over eggs, salads, pasta, mac & cheese, pizza...sometimes, I just eat a sliver. And, when it begins to mold, you can actually just shave/slice the mold off and the rest of the cheese is okay. For germa-phobes or those serving others, you can usually buy the cheese wedge in various sizes, as it is often sold by weight, so grab a smaller wedge.
  • Weird Fruit! I like sundried tomatoes (not packed in oil) and avocados. Avocados can actually be prepped and frozen to be used in recipes were they're usually cooked. Sundried tomatoes can be rinsed, dried and stored in the fridge to last for months without a spec of mold. Certain fruits just have odd staying power and great flavor. You have to discover which weird fruit suits you.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Urge to splurge - Part I

Healthy eating is usually synonymous with ZZzzzzzzZZZZ.

Or $$$$.

For ZZZzzzzZZZ...wake up. If you choose to eat dull, bland foods, of course it's a chore. Wake up and be creative, but really let's explore the other issue for a sec.

The $$$ because nonfat foods are often harder to produce. Or, ingredients used to make healthy foods require labor intensive production. I was watching Bizarre Foods last night.; the amount of time, labor and process to yield cashews were just ridiculous. But, cashews are sooo good, so I deem it worth the money, especially once you know the effort it takes to get it.

Sometimes spending some cheddar on good cheddar can solve both problems. You just have to do some prep work to do it. Here are some guidelines:

  • What am I buying? If I don't know what is, I'll seek info and see where I can use it. I love cookthink.com for this very reason.
  • Shelf-life...freezing things does wonders for shelf life...the longer the items last, the better the cost/time ratio.
  • Flavor. Your food should nourish you, yes, but it can also taste awesome. These things are not mutually exclusive.

Many of my ubiquitous items, so far 4-10 are up on FLNI. A lot of them take these guidelines into consideration, making them excellent staples for your kitchen and your diet.

More to come on this topic......tune in, same bat time, same bat channel.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tea Time!


Free Shipping is on at Teavana again until July 5th.

My latest greatest pairings

MateVana with Rose Roobios

Oolong Revolution & Sweet Fruit Garden with fresh lime juice.

I've brewed the latter combination at night, and then chill it to enjoy it iced during the day. I sweeten it with Splenda during brewing. And since Oolong tea is a delicate tea, brewing is a mere 2-3 minutes. Cooling occurs as I sleep, tasty without being massively time consuming, and saves me 1-2 that I used to spend on Snapple or CokeZero daily.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ubiquitous Must Have Item #4

Garlic!

Before you go off on the vampiririsms, the smell, the robin leach/garlique references, think about how awesome garlic is. It's a mainstay in food & pop culture! It also has the potential to be sweet, pungent and spicy.

Sweet garlic a.k.a. roasted garlic is an excellent flavor bumper-upper and pretty easy to DIY. Just take whole cloves of garlic, unpeeled, wrap in foil, and roast in oven for 45-60minutes. Upon removal, just unwrap and you're good to go. Excellent for spreading and just all around sweet garlicky goodness. You can also cut off the tippy top of of a head of garlic, drizzle in olive oil and roast in a small pan (muffin pan/mini ramekin).

Pungent! Okay, not tasting sounding, but so fun to say.

Pungent!

Raw garlic. I once made an Emeril dish that required 40 cloves. I got to 20 something before I quit. The dish was surprisingly good and not overpowered. Raw garlic is also great when grated. If you want to add a lot of flavor to a raw (uncooked) sauce, raw garlic can be very helpful. Grab a zester/microplane and get all pungent with it.

Oily!

I love infusing oil with garlic. Basically, grate or chop garlic and let it gently simmer in the oil. Once the oil lightly bubbles, you have garlic oil. Very easy, very tasty, very---oily. Also, a good swap for butter.

Spicy!

It's a spice, technically. So, garlic can pair up with many spices. Garlic & chili powder. Garlic & nutmeg. Garlic & peppercorn. Garlic & parsley is a really good one. Garlic gets around.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Brine Time


My first brine went super duper well. Foodwise. I nearly fireballed myself in setting up for indoor grilling...but that's another matter!

I was following a very easy weight watcher recipe that called for a brine. Whenever I've seen/read a recipe with a brine, it usually requires tangoing with a large piece of meat and overnight soakage. That takes a lot more resolve and memory power than I can spare at a time. This particular recipe though allowed me to use either boneless or bone-in chicken breast and a combined brine time (part set up-part soak) of 90 minutes. Brine on!

I chose boneless chicken breast because the market had a BOGO Free on it. The freebie sits in the freezer whilst the paid one sitts in my belly.

The success is due to the accessibility of ingredients (chicken, kosher salt, water), tools (bowl, fridge) and time. It's pretty much goof proof. And since I nearly goofed with the pan, it's nice to know something is goof proof.

Brining is also a good cooking method that allows you to maintain juicy texture of your meat on the cheap without loading in up calorie wise. (Here's a nice wiki blurb on it.) It's also not labor intensive, you just need to do a little bit of homework, which is a major mantra when eating for health and eating to fit your lifestyle.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Healthy Obsessions

I'm obsessed with Future Food. Not future food like the Jetsons where you'd push some buttons and out comes a dish of beef tenderloin (that would be awesome) or Soylent Green (not awesome). It's a television show on Planet Green that features to chef's who perform several food experiments from using granola bars & energy drinks to make "junk food" from making edible packagaing peanuts.

What I love about future food is how it constantly makes me re-think about what I can do with food. Most of the techniques and products they use aren't available on the local market, but the idea's are fresh up for stealing, erm, for inspiration. They had another show based on hamburgers and they assemble a veggie burger from ingredients in a cow feed, like corn, and many people found it tasty.

I don't think I'd be one of those people, but I'd like to think maaayyyyybee I could. All in all, it's cool to watch.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ubiquitous Must Have Item #5

Leafy greens!

I've been yammering about them for some time. To be honest, I didn't know what #5 should be, but as I've been deciding what foods should be "ubiquitized," leafy greens kept pooping up, finally taking their spot at #5.

Remember, I hate them, but I love what they can do for me.

Their best use for me is bulk. I can bulk out a canned soup, an omelet, a burrito, smoothie (green monsters, roaar!) or a meat entree with them. I up the nutritional value of any dish with them, without added effort. I also don't taste them, and when I add them raw, I lower the chances of destroying all of the water-soluble vitaminy goodness (vitamin C, B complex).

Another use: lazy side dish salad. Sometimes, I can't think of what I want to go with my meal, however, if I have some greens and haven't eaten enough veggies for the day, I put out some greens, lemon juice and fresh herbs (if I have on hand) or just salt & pepper, and I have a quick side dish.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Do you know the muffin man?


You should. Then you should find out what he bakes in.

Muffins tins are excellent multitaskers as they can play a major role in portion control. Last week for lunch, I used a modified muffin tin, a mini-loaf pan, to make individual meatloaves. I had meat that I could eat hands on! So, aside from the gluttonous-perk, I had built in calorie/portion control as each loaf weighed in at 2 oz of meat.

I've also used muffin tins to do assembly-style breakfast, such as mini-quiches and egg scrambles for breakfast sandwiches.

Another benefit: by increasing the surface area of your entree, you shorten the cooking time. So, where a meatloaf can take as long as 40 minutes to an hour to cook, mini meatloaves take about 25 to 30 minutes. It takes no extra effort as you "downsize" some of your favorite recipes. The only additional step is that you have to grease/lin the tines and perhaps adjust the oven temp or cooking time.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

There's a monster in the blender...

One of my co-workers will periodically ask me about leafy greens, although I don't know why. I suppose she figures that since I eat healthy that I must love to eat all healthy things.

So, I tell her leafy greens are probably some of the best nutritional bargains out there. They're full of vitamins, minerals, and very low in calories. They're gorgeous to look at while they're still in bunches. You can get several pounds of them (when frozen) for a mere 1-2 dollars at the grocery.

They also are notoriously bitter. Ugh. I can eat them, but I have to hide them in casseroles, wraps, soups and omelets. I kind of hate them, but I won't tell her that.

Incidentally, we discovered green monsters: shakes or juices that incorporate greens and yield a drink mixture. Google it!

Her doctor recommended blending greens such as spinach, kale, and collard with a bit of ginger. It was horrible. I suspect her doctor has no taste buds because they all committed suicide from drinking that thing.

Fear not! There's a better way. One of my healthy obsessions, Herbal Flavors, serves its own variety of a green monster, and it's pretty good. The banana in it kills the bitterness, but since it's a smoothie, it's raw, so little or no nutrients are lost. It also keeps your taste buds from committing suicide. I make a copycat of their green monster because their green monster is five bucks-a-pop. Their green monster eats all the green out of my wallet if I indulge too often.

It's pretty nifty when you can replicate dining out faves at home. For a green monster, use my smoothie guide and a basic/bland base (milk/juice -thickener- sweetener - extra: vanilla) . Adjust it by adding a cup of leafy greens. I also like to add nutmeg, it's spicy and pungent which compliments well with baby spinach (my green of choice).

I have pics, but have no idea how to get them out of my phone. That's a whole different monster to contend with.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Healthy Obsessions

I'm obsessed with the new vegetarian place near my job "Herbal Flavors," don't worry folks -- I love chicken & bacon far too much to become a big V -- I'm digging their chocolate macadamia nut cookies and soup of the day.

Their menu's kind of pricey, but the food follows my "fresh is best" mantra, so it's worth it to me. Lots of veggies, interesting smoothie blends, and really, really delicious "hippy-ish" cookies. I also like the fact that they let me sample things without buying them. Who doesn't like that?

Check your hood for a local, new place. They genuinely are starving for business much like you're starving for food. Since it's not a chain, but a local place, they may cater to you in hopes that you bring in business. You can find a new, healthy favorite and lord it over your co-workers.

I also spotted a Teavana infuser there! Boss!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Healthy Obsessions Tidbit


Teavana's has a free shipping order valid until April 26th if you join their Facebook fan page, and click on the fan offer link. If you get a lb of tea, you also get 10% off. The tea is pricey, but everything now-a-days is.

Here's me healthily obsessing about Teavana.

Here's the FB page.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

DIY: Fruit Smoothie

The perfect fruit smoothie is usually a combination of 4 key ingredients: fruit, duh, a thickener, frozen items and liquid. There's also the optional items, sugar and spice, but a perfect smoothie can stand alone without those items.

Smoothies take a lot of practice, and even with practice, don't always come out right, but man are they tasty even when it's a mess.

Proper prep + key items = jamba what? jamba who?

First, wash/peel/dice your fruit. Take half of it and freeze it overnight.

Next, chill your liquid for 30 minutes up to an hour. You want the top of the liquid to freeze, but you don't want an ice cube.


Now, you take out your frozen fruit, allowing it to slightly thaw.

Break out your blender and add your liquid. Here's where you also can add your sugar and spices, if your like, and now you add your thickener and set it on the lowest speed that provides continuous motion (i.e. no need to press or pulse). If you have a blender with a feeder, add your fruit, frozen fruit, and lastly ice, gently as the blender goes. Once the last ice cubes is smashed you should have a nice, thick fruit smoothie.

Here I have spent hours.....researching......compiling.....the ultimate smoothie list:

Liquids Frozen Items Thickeners
for 16 oz, keep liquid at 6-8 oz



Ice yogurt
Liquid - Acidic
frozen yogurt
mango blueberries instant shake packets
orange strawberries (such as carnation instant
100% juice blends
breakfast)

Frozen - High sugar Items

Low -cal liquids
pudding mix

bananas protein shake powder
Unsweetened almond milk mangos peanut butter
water


crystal light Spice Accent
coffee


Trop 50 mint lemon juice
skim milk cinnamon canola oil
tea nutmeg vanilla extract
silken tofu
rum extract


chocolate syrup


lime juice

Sugar

Artifical sweetners
Honey
sugar
agave nectar
fruit nectar


I really didn't spend hours, but I find it a pretty solid list. The first 3 columns are essentials (liquid, frozen item, thickeners), which I placed in bold. The last 3 are accessories (spice, accent, sugar), which I put in italics. You can add all 3 from the bottom, or one, or none at all, but either way it makes a healthy, delicious smoothie. You can even adventure with more items, such as spinach, kiwi, soda (smoothie to float), the idea is the same, although with soda you have to adjust for the carbonation.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Throw it in a bag!

Plastic zip-loc bags are a must. Again, not eco-friendly, but if you're trying to eat healthily but at work for hours, pressed for time or trying to dismantle a bomb, you may not have the time to cook a meal.

So, just throw it in a bag.

If you haven't read my entry about flavor building, shame! Read it! Basically, take the main components of a favorite high-calorie meal and transfer it to a lower-calorie dish. Then, put that dish in a bag.

I was talking with my Neg, and this idea came to me when I suggested she make her own granola. Basically, take a high protein bran-like cereal, freeze-dried or dried fruit, roasted lightly salted nuts, and a bit of spice for added flavor, and you've got portable granola. Kind of like making your own chex mix.

Salads are also easy tho throw in a bag, and you're not limited leaf based. I've bagged mixes using broccoli slaw and pasta. Rice could work as well. I also like squirting a bit of lemon (acid!!!) on my salads, fruit salads in particular. Lemon juice is an excellent alternative to salad dressing, doesn't add extra calories, adds vitamin C and keeps produce bright (retards oxidation)

Obviously, there are things you should avoid bagging: usually liquids, cut tomatoes, things that need heavy refrigeration. But, I've found that if I take a smaller bag or, tiny container, I can bag that stuff in my plastic bag. Things that need cold are often bagged with a mini-ice pack to keep them cold.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Ubiquitous Must Have Item #6

Cinnamon.



NOT CASSIA.
YOU HEAR ME CASSIA???

Real cinnamon is very complex therefore worth the extra pennies. It's one of the spices that does sweet and savory equally well, lending it's great complexities to desserts, beverages and numerous ethnic dishes. It also has antioxidant credentials. You also don't have to be cook to enjoy it: a pinch or sprinkle on the right food and you're good to go. It's flavor ready.

I also think it smells awesome. I have a really poor sense of smell and when I smell something (pleasant), I'm elated.

Here are some random math/food equations starring cinnamon (NOT CASSIA):

cinnamon + chili powder = awesome

cinnamon + nutmeg = classic awesome

cinnamon + garlic powder + salt + pepper + sweet potato = odd, delicious awesome

cinnamon + spicy chili = yummy in the tummy

cinnamon + me = scratch this one...

cinnamon + cinnamon = kind of gross, there's a you tube video...too much cinnamon dries out the mouth

Cassia can't do the math. It's okay in basic desserts, but it lacks the notes (just like vanallin compared to real vanilla).

No fakes allowed. Cinnamon's a must must must have.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Healthy Obsessions

Frozen vegetables. Not very exciting. I know...

It's like your first run to the library, pre-DVD. There's all this knowledge and books and it's freeeeeeeeeeeee. You get to take it home for nothing. Vegetables are like that. Only, you can't loan them out. But, they're low calorie, some nearly calorie free, and you get all these health benefits for next to nothing.

Lately, I've been noticing coupons for Green giant vegetables. They have a steamed variety similar to Bird's eye Steamfresh as well as having a "Just for one" variety. They also go on sale frequently, so coupon + sale = healthy food for 1-2 bucks.

I like using the lightly seasoned ones with pasta, easy and nutritious.
It's also portable, you can take the box or bag to work, and if you have a microwave, you have fresh veggies all you have to do is add some lean protein (last week I snagged canned tuna for 50 cents) and you're good to go.

It would be awesome if vegetables had their own card. I'd use a veggie card. Only, the vegetables can't be "used" and on loan. That would not be awesome.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ubiquitous Must Have Item #7

ACID!!!




No, not the acid you trip on. I mean the big C, citric acid, the one you find in citrus fruits like lemons, lime and grapefruit.

A little acid goes a long way. Although citric fruits can be tart and sour, bits of juice and their essential oils behave like the right degree of bass and treble to a song. It amps up the dish's flavor and perks up the subtle notes.

So, what if you hate lemon? Use a lime, tangerine, grapefruit, even strawberries. These all have vast amount of vitamin C, and all of them (except strawberries) can be zested (grated with a hand grater or microplane) to provide the same flavor bump, but without added liquid or juice.

If you're lazy (I could say opposed but not buying fruit and squeezing a slice is kind of lazy) try the bottled kind, but get the true lemon or true orange instead of the concentrate. While the latter keeps really long in the fridge, (I admit to having lemon concentrate, I do -- shame!), it lacks a lil' something, something. I also prefer having the fruit because I can use it for both juicing and zesting; zest in a spice bottle can dry out over time and buying juice in a bottle -- lacks a lil' something something.

I like saying, a lil' something, something.

Just did it again. Anyhow. That's why acid is a must for me. The fruit, not the bad acid.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ubiquitous Must Have #8


Olive and canola oil!

They share the spot, they are BFFs in my kitchen.

Olive oil is like the really hot friend with the killer shoes. It's a great butter swap and the extra-virgin variety has the highest amount of monounsaturated fat of all oils.

I know, I know, nothing can replace butter, but have you ever made a stir-fry with garlic infused olive oil??? It makes butter look like a prom queen -- 20 years later -- with all it saturated fat and easy plasticity. Using the spritzer bottle trick, you can use it as a go to fat to start most your recipes and reduce the amount of butter you usually use (I know butter-lovers -- it's hard to let go).

Canola oil is kinda the unattractive friend with the awesome personality and dry wit. It doesn't have a flavor to it. However, it's got a great ratio of monounsaturated fat to saturated fat. You can use it to replace some of the butter in cake recipes, usually up to half, and still get a nice moist product. I learned this from Elie Krieger.

I've also used canola as a "fatback." I add a teaspoon of it to nonfat products. Seems dumb -- why don't I just buy the full fat product?? You can't control the amount of fat when you buy the full fat, with adding back canola oil, I know the fat I'm chewing. It's really great to add to nonfat yogurt and nonfat hot chocolate (when blended with a mixer or blender), you get the rich taste and mouthfeel and the benefits of unsaturated fat.

I <3 my BFFs and so does my actual heart!!

(Good EVOO cooking tips can be found here)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ubiquitous Must Have #9 is...

Stock in a box!

Totally stolen from Rachael Ray. Stock in a box is AWESOME! Firstly, it's shelf stable like canned goods, until opening.

Stock in a box is my go to for adding flavor in recipes where water is used. So, for rice, grains, some sauces, soups, even boiled meatballs, I use stock. I love that Kitchen Basics makes an unsalted variety now. The amount of stock you use in a recipe is equal to the amount of water, but I find that I can stretch (in other words: be uber cheap) by using a mix of water and stock actually. The flavor is usually concentrated enough that it survives being watered down.

Another great thing about stock in a box is that it tends to be actual stock. Someone else has done all the work for you -- making actual stock is a patient, time consuming process, one that I hope to never perform.

Now,if I could get Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake to make a digital short about it...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Healthy Obsessions




French Toast!


WHAT? FRIED BREAD?


Yeah, it's healthy, when done correctly.

Firstly, I use my spray bottle to lightly grease the pan. You could use real butter as well, but keep it to a teaspoon to keep it light and let it spread over the pan at a very low heat.

As for the batter, here's the secret. I use egg substitute (you can use egg white, too, all you "it's fake eggs with chemicals!" whiners) and non-dairy milk like Almond breeze. I add a teaspoon of real vanilla, and a touch of sea salt. Then, I paint it on my bread of choice with a basting brush. Voila. French Toast, at a fraction of the usual calorie count using light ingredients, all natural, or a combination.

Ooh la la!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ubiquitous Must Have Item #10

Unsweetened Almond or Soy milk.

This stuff, especially the almond, is a kind is magic! The fat in the soy or almond gives you the unctuous taste of the fat, the health benefits are a plus and the light/unsweetened varieties are low calorie. I use it as creamer for my coffee, but this stuff is great as a swap for creamer in sauces, milk in scrambled eggs, and a nifty use in one of my healthy obsessions.

The boxed kind are also shelf-stable until you open them, so you don't have to worry about spoilage the moment you buy it. You can get the one in the dairy case, but I tend to prefer the box kind.

I learned about it from hungrygirl.com as she uses it in a ton of her recipes. I wasn't really amazed with it, it was also a pain to find at the time.

But, I became fond of it when I found it at Trader Joes (Trader Joes!) and gave up fat free half & half. The thing with FF Half & Half was I never used enough of it, and it would spoil. With the almond milk, the sheer volume difference in servings makes me love it. I was using 2-3 40-cal servings (2 tablespoons) of FF half & half everyday; the unsweetened almond breeze has the same amount of calories for a whole cup, and I don't use a cup's worth in day. I save money, calories, and get additional nutrients. That's why this is a must have for me.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Healthy Obsessions


Teavana!

I'm really digging tea & tea infusers lately. For a while, I just thought of tea as the beverage of the sick, the really mellow people, and of hippies. So, either tea has become awesome, or I've become a mellow, sick hippy. Either way, I'm kind of obsessed with teavana. Their tea is pricey, but with a nifty tea infuser you can yield several cups out of each 3 teaspoons of tea. I've swapped out 2 whole cups of coffee with tea, and I'm marginally less cranky. I also tend to stick with the rooibos types, which are good for the tummy and the mate, which are good for the crankiness.

My favorites:

Energy chocolate chai blend (combo of rooibos chai & matevana)
Haute chocolate Rooibos
My Matevana
Tiramisu Treviso Rooibos

They have a Facebook page, mailing list, and probably a twitter page as well, but I don't twit/tweet. If you sign up, it alerts you to the occassional free shipping they'll put out, usually around a holiday.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Q it up!


My very first question!

(Remember the following answer is merely a suggestion. Any alteration to your diet should be discussed thoroughly with a licensed health care provider or a physician. My answer is just something to consider, or to use as a starting point when speaking with your providers)

Q: I have high cholesterol. How do I take care of that while also trying to put on healthy weight?

A: Quantity and quality. The phrase "everything in moderation" is also a good summary, but it's become very cliched. The concept of quantity and quality comes from anatomy & physiology where the basic items organisms need to function (water, heat, food, pressure and oxygen) should be of good quality and abundance. If you're drinking water that's junk, your body will have junky functions.

So, how does this relate to cholesterol?

A co-worker of mine is a good example of quantity & quality. He is predispositioned for high cholesterol, so he avoids a lot of the typical things we associate with bad cholesterol such as smoking, heaving drinking and fried foods. But, when he really craves something, he eats something "bad" and very specific on that rare occasion. He chooses something he deems of quality and limits the quantity. Meanwhile, in his daily regimen he eats healthily -- recently he's been eating cooked rice & meat add adding fresh baby spinach for lunch -- and drinks nearly 1/2 gallon of water everyday. He's jubilant and although he works a desk job, he moves to and fro.

Also, the idea of quantity can be applied to limiting the amount of saturated fat consumed when eating animal fats. When choosing a protein, lean is best, but if you must go for fattier cuts, either trim the fat yourself before cooking OR select cuts of meat where it's labeled the animals were fed an organic or whole grain diet. These animals will be naturally leaner because the quantity and quality of their food was considered and will have less fat than the animal that was fed random feed.

Be choosy, limit amounts of alcohol: if you're going to have beer and cocktails, select quality and reduce the amount of alcohol you consumed by alternating water in between alcoholic sips.

Lastly, exercise the mind and body. Stress will ruin your body faster than a fattier meat, mainly because you'll stress out and pig out on the bad stuff to feel better! Exercise releases toxins in the body (such as lactic acid) and keeps the blood flowing. It may also release endorphins, which will give you a nice "pick me up" feeling. It can also improve blood flow. If your circulation remains good, the likelihood of clogged arteries can be reduced.

Also (lastly lastly) water is also a key factor because it's responsible for a lot of the movement of bodily functions, so you need to supply your body with it.

Friday, January 1, 2010

I solemnly swear not to swear

Happy New Year! Don't make a resolution. Instead, take advantage of the market for them.

Right now, gym memberships, diet food sales and clothing store clearances are all around you. This is the perfect opportunity to try out a workout class you didn't have the coin or nerve for because the gym thinks you've made a resolution, when really, you're making a smart shopping decision. Just make sure you fully understand the trial terms and haven't signed up to anything. You might find something you love, or something you love to hate!

Get some cute gym clothes. I tend to seek out yoga pants with pockets, but now all sorts of places make all types of clothes from moisture wicking pants to harem style gym shorts. I have no idea why you'd want the latter, but they are out there. And since stores are prepping for spring, get them on the cheap!

Sometimes, healthy food is expensive. Treat yourself to some sort of food you'd like to try, more than likely there's a coupon or discount for it online somewhere or in a circular.

Mostly, realize you're the same person you were on December 31st, just today you're probably hungover and you'll be the same person next December 31st if you choose to be. There's no list, no wish or promise that can change that. If you fail at something, be content that you went out to do it or try it, and if it means something to you, fail and then get up to finish it.