Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Blogging to catch up

Wow I have been MIA for longer than I wanted.... Life has a way of taking you up in a whirlwind. Plus, I think the fact that I am now only using my computer for blogging purposes and not taking my laptop to school might have something to do with it.

Honestly, my schedule has me coming home so late most nights of the week that dinner is becoming more practical planning than a gourmet adventure. Usually I make a large about of something on Monday night, and it needs to last through wed night. Thursdays I get home fairly late, but can still whip up something, albeit for a late dinner. Now, ironically Fri-Sun are the days I have "most time" to be coming up with new recipes. That is, after I do homework, copious amounts of reading and visit with some family and friends so they know im still ok and have not become a social recluse . lol

Oh, and did I tell you. There is a good chance I will be starting a part time job in a couple of weeks :)  I'm excited -- a new opportunity to learn, excel.... and the added income doesn;t hurt, right ;)

Once that  starts there will be even more adjusting to do, and maybe re-purposing of the blog. I could go the route where I document my daily eats, but would you be interested in that? Not sure what to do just yet, but I also dont want to leave the blog.... May turn into fitness/food/stories and the occasional recipe get together ( i hope)...

Anyhow, here are a few pics and notes from the past week or so...

 Trying to eat healthy at school... there will probably be a repeat performance of sorts tomorrow evening. What do you eat at the school cafeteria that is healthy?

Unfortunately my options are very slim (vegetarian/vegan wise). Its pretty much exactly what you see ... salads, fruit and baked potato.

The other vegetarian options are .... eh, guilt inducing?  Pizza, grilled cheese, fries, sweet potato fries and quesadilla. Yup, that's about it.

Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like if I took over the cafeteria for a week, just a week.

I also picked up a few ethnic ingredients from the market. Slightly ambitious, I was opening to use all of them in one week. Needless to say, I still have the grape leaves waiting for me and lots of pickles!

     When I was a little girl I used to hate anything made with grape leaves, I think I might have just been  anti-green for a year or two. But now, I love using grape leaves to make sarma a vegetarian recipe with rice, onions, herbs, lemon juice and tomato sauce... I did buy the big bottle of lemon juice, because you never know, I could use it in cooking or making lemonade. But fresh lemons win, always. 

     The Patak's mixed chutney/relish is for others, as are the pickled mangos. I'm not a big fan. If I had any at all, I think i'd like to make it fresh myself.  Finally there is the huge can of  MID EAST pickles  ( my favorite brand). Wouldn't you know, when I was buying the small cans or didnt have any we wanted them the most, and now that I have two tupperwares full in my fridge, I barely cook meals that are accompanied by these delicious salty gems.

I finally found my HONEYCRISP apples ( Whole Foods, of course). They are definitely a splurge at $2.99/lb.  Hopefully, trader joes will bring these in soon as well, at least there you get 6-7 apples for about $8.

I also found my favorite LARABAR flavor so far... Cherry pie. I'm a sucker for tart dried cherries to begin with, so it was an easy win for them.
There was also some roasting of Italian eggplants to go along with the whole wheat rotini marinara pictures below.

I wasnt to happy -- either my oven failed me, or technique. There was smoke at one point ( apparantly?) accompanied by the smoke alarm, but the eggplants were no where near burned, crisp or otherwise. I was baffled. I know one thing I can do is slice them thinner - I think I was hoping for the same effect you get when you put a half Italian eggplant on the barbecue -- wishful thinking.

 See what I mean?? Don't get me wrong, they still tasted amazing. Roasted with a bit of olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.

 I also had lots of fun with vegetables. I think I enjoyed taking pictures and capturing their color more than I enjoyed eating them. Is that blasphemous? But look at the simplicity of the sweet potato and yam, and the vibrant colors of the gold and red beets!

This next dish also made its way into the weekly menu at some point. It was simple enough. Boil some orzo in just enough stock so that the stock is absorbed by the time the orzo is cooked ( I added sliced sun dried tomatoes in with the orzo so they would plump up in the process -- you could leave them out completely or soak them earlier and add them in at the last minute). Then in a separate pan caramelize some onions and sautee with eggplant.  Toss the onions and eggplant in with the orzo along with some sliced bell pepper and green peas. The sauce, it oh so simple!  Slowly add cream cheese and stir so it melts, add as little or as much as you like. Season with salt, pepper,  basil, rosemary and oregano.

Seems like a decent way to get the kids to eat their veggies wouldn't you say?  When I described it to my aunt and cousin they said it sounded like an updated, colorful mac n cheese.

I think I like that description -- perfect.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Are you up for a challenge?

Hi everyone!

Recently, Justin from Marx Foods contacted me and asked if I was interested to take part in his " Blogger Mushroom Recipe Challenge".

I don't know about you, but I LOVE mushrooms -- especially when its not your average crimini, portobello, or button.

I of course jumped at the opportunity to participate :)

Though he already has some participants lined up, he would love a few more to make the challenge all that more exciting. So are you interested? Would you like to battle me in a challenge to come up with a winning wild mushroom recipe?

If you are, just check out Justin's website and let him know you would like to join in.

I look forward to finding out which of you become my competitors....

Monday, September 13, 2010

Missing my honey...

Honeycrisp apple  that is!  I cannot wait for them to come back into season. The apples pictured above are Fuji Apples -- the apples that hold me over until autumn brings the plethora of apples back into the markets. Has anyone seen honeycrisps in their local market??

In keeping with cold mornings, Steel cut oats are making a comeback. Though I used to make complicated, flavorful combinations like White Chocolate Cheesecake Raspberry , and  Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal .  These days I tend to be keeping things simple with Steel Cut Oats cooked in vanilla soymilk -- mix in fresh farmers market strawberries, and top with a few more for eye candy and you have the perfect morning oatmeal to bridge the gap between summer and fall.

Admittedly, just looking at the pictures of the pumpkin pie oatmeal is making me want to head to the store to pick up some canned pumpkin......I  absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE autumn and winter. Yes, I actually enjoy the occasional cloudy day  -- it provides the opportunity to cozy up under a soft blanket, with a cup of warm tea;  the excuse to accessorize with cute hats, beanies and winter coats; and prompts lots of jovial get-togethers.  Finally, the spices of season warm my heart and soul: pumpkin pie spice, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg -- spice cake like Monet made, apple cider, gingerbread cookies.  ( Ok, now  i'm daydreaming and I should really be heading off to the gym ...)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Settling in

Change takes time. Change takes focus. Patient + Focus = Rewards

I am happily settled into a workout routine, in fact I look for opportunities now to get an extra activity in our extended my planned workout for the day because it just feels that good to sweat and move your body. I toyed around with veganism for the last week, and though I dont mind it personally, it presents a challenge when I add in the rest of my world to the equation ( friends, family etc). I think , for the moment I will be "mostly vegan" but a tad of Parmesan here, or a couple organic eggs there will be ok.

I'm proud to say that in the last 5 weeks or so, I have lost a total of 10 lbs. While that isnt as much as I was hoping for, it certainly isnt anything to complain about either.

I've begun exploring alternative " minimally processed" snacks like the larabar. So far, I have only tried a couple of flavors including cashew cookie and gingerbread I think it was? It was alright -- its basically a combination of nuts, dates and spices. But when it comes down to it I think I prefer the original product. Good old medjool dates and walnuts soaked in water for about a day. Doesn't it just look beautiful ??

Simple seems to be the way to go lately.  Nevertheless, I think the Larabar is perfect for a school day when you want a snack on hand for emergencies. I may experiment in making my own in the near future. Stay tuned for that...

Other eats have been full of fruits, veggies and legumes. Tofu is an ingredient I have yet to master and if I make it into the second round of the Food Blog Project Challenge where we have to tackle and conquer a new ingredient/classic dish, I just may pick Tofu.

The green monster has become a staple in my diet . Thank you Costco for your deals on spinach: 1 lb of organic spinach for $3 -- its a steal, no?

Dishes like homemade guacamole and pico de gallo are stored away in the convenient Tupperware for the "go-to-snack"

I made a traditional persian stew with yellow split beans that I have blogged about in the past, but vegetarian style of course :)

It includes yellow split peas, tomato sauce, saffron, dried persian lemons ( those brown round things at the front of the picture) Cinnamon and turmeric. I think I ate the leftovers everyday for lunch and never tired. It is definitely a comfort food for me.

Served in a bowl on a cold winters night.... yummmmm ( yes, I know winter is not here yet, but those random freezing nights in the middle of August/September could have you second guessing mother nature)

( Picture of the stew below....)

There was also an attempt at making a vegan apple custard pie. There is a reason no pictures will be posted, even if it looked pretty as I was assembling it... the result tasted good, but looked very very unappealing. If I were to make it again, there would mostly definitely be changes in technique and even ingredients.

"Healthy" and "dessert" don't seem to marry well together, unless its a fruit salad and i'm not sure that counts.