Monday, July 19, 2010

Adventures of the Palate

I need to be more adventurous. No, wait -- I WANT to be more adventurous. Life is short, too short to wait around for others to help, to short to wait for "things to get better", to short to live a repetitive life.  This week, the students at my school received the somber news that one of our classmates passed away from pneumonia. Yes, apparently the developed country we live in still lets its citizens pass away from pneumonia. How depressing. I had pneumonia when I was 7 or 8, and I remember the doctor cautioned me that if I were to get sick with it again, it could be fatal.  My classmate and I were discussing how we would feel if we had spent the last two years of our lives in law school, only to pass away right before the third year began -- miserable and pissed.  There would be a million ways I would rather spend my time if it knew it was so limited. 

This year has been filled with more than enough reminders of life's brevity. Please make the best of each day, live life to the fullest ( albeit responsibly and safely) and experience new things.  One small way I want to do this is by trying new food/health products. For example, coconut water is supposed to be an awesome source of electrolytes. 

Here are some of the benefits the website attributes to young coconut water:

- Excellent for replacing lost electrolytes from exercise or illness
- An all-natural sports/energy drink
- A natural isotonic beverage – contains a similar level of electrolytes found in human blood.
-  May help promote smoother, more hydrated skin
- Non-allergenic
-  Rich in potassium. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure and heart function
-  Effective oral rehydration medium and keeps the body cool.

I personally found the drink to be refreshing, it did have a very slight " thickness" to it. It was probably just mere awareness that it was not traditional water. The touch of Guava was the perfect addition to give it a refreshing taste. Admittedly I felt a slight bit of energy afterward as well as the feeling that I had just put something clean and beneficial into my system rather than typical processed foods.

I do have some plain coconut water in my fridge which I havn't tried yet, slightly worried about the flavor, or lack of flavor, but I will get to it soon and report the results.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Happy Birthday to me

Flowers from my Hunny. Aren't they beautiful?  I officially turned 26 years old on Tuesday. Gahh... officially over a quarter century old. When I was younger I used to think I would have so much accomplished by 26 -- grad school, career started, married, happy, stable.  Needless to say, I am running at least one year behind.

No crazy celebrations this year, Art took me to Cafe Bizou in Pasadena which is one of my go to "economical" French restaurants. I've never really had a bad experience there. My only complaint would be that there was a little too much butter in the balsamic glaze this week, but the chicken was perfectly moist.

I like making these" french/gourmet" meals or whatever you may call them.  Last week I made filet mignon with a balsamic leek glaze, leek-mashed potatoes, and oven roasted asparagus

The filet looks a little dark, I know, but its from the heavenly balsamic glaze. I got the idea from Giada de Laurentis, but tweaked it a bit of course.

Filet Mignon - To start with , I marinated the filets in red wine for about an hour. This allowed it to absorb both the flavor and deep red color. To make the filet, I seasoned it with fresh cracked salt and pepper and seared it on all sides. I finished the filets by topping them with some chevre and placing them under the broiler for 5 minutes. Please be careful and do not make the mistake I did -- placing them on the very top rack and setting the broiler to " high". The oil/fat from the cheese and filets literally fueled the broiler flames even after I turned it off, it was scary. I recommend either setting the broiler on low or places the filets at least 6 inches away from the flames. If I had a cast Iron skillet I would have used it for this dish ... another thing to add to the wish list.

Roasted Asparagus - This one was simple to make -- spread the asparagus evenly on a baking sheet and top with diced garlic and olive oil. It turned out fine I guess, but my favorite way to make asparagus is still sauteed.

Leek mashed potatoes -  The french make puree by dicing their potatoes and cooking them in milk... this was a variation on that since I used beef broth in place of the milk.  Then in a separate pan, I lighlty sauteed the white part of the leek and added  half of it to the potatoes once they had absorbed the broth. A good way to measure out the amount of liquid needed is to fill your pot with desired amount of  cubed potatoes, then add liquid, leaving the top 1 inch of the potatoes dry.  Once the liquid is absorbed and potatoes are cooked, you can add desired amount of salt, sour cream and the leeks and mash away.

Leek Balsamic Glaze - I used 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar along with 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of brown sugar. Simply combine the ingredients and simmer until it condenses into a syrup/glaze. Lastly add in the remainder of your sauteed leeks.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Summer Strawberry Shortcake

Easy, surprisingly low-fat and low-calorie Summer dessert.

I ventured into Whole Foods and found these " dessert cups" which are like mini angel food/pound cakes at only 100 calories each. Conveniently they also had "fat free" aerosol whipped cream. Real dairy-yes; fat- no.
I have to admit, I was a bit worried about the taste but it passed the fiancee test with flying colors :)

Of course, if you want to indulge you can always make homemade whipped cream ( as in the pictures above), but the fat free version was just as scrumptious and very guilt-free. The freshly sliced strawberries are a perfect addition, especially these from local strawberries from Whole Foods were perfectly sweet!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Caprese Pasta and Stanford

So... to start with, sorry for being MIA.  I decided to go visit my best friend from my UCLA years. She is currently pursuing a PhD at Standford (impressive, no? -- I think so). Anyhow, it was a much needed, relaxing experience.  The trees on campus are beautiful and the air is noticeably cleaner then down in smoggy LA.

However, the one catch about Stanford was that if I wanted internet I had to pay $30/week for it -- which I wasnt prepared to do. So, instead, I took a hiatus from the internet world for a while and it was refreshing.

Now i'm back, summer vacation is nearly over. So much happening this month.  My birthday is Tuesday, I have my Tax Law final on the 27th,  I'm moving to a new place the weekend of the 31st and I have the MPRE exam the first week of August.  Then of course, fall classes start within a couple of weeks of that. Rollercoaster, here I come. I'm guessing it wont be over until after the BAR exam.

Anyhow, quick, simple and fresh pasta recipe for the hot summer days.

( Serves 1-2 people) Chop two roma tomatoes, 1/4 cup of resh basil, 2-3 garlic cloves, and 1/3 cup of fresh mozzarella. Set aside in a bowl while you boil your favorite pasta) 2-5 oz). Once the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta and place it back in the pot on low heat. Pour in the vegetables and cheese  -- toss over medium heat for about 3 minutes and serve.