Thursday, April 25, 2013

Food Day!

Chances are, if you work in an office or have ever worked in an office, you have experienced the phenomenon known as the "Food Day".  Innocently it is defined as a day where people bring in food, to share with everyone.  Realistically it is defined as how much salt, sugar and fat can we get into one cubicle to graze on all day long.  If you are someone who struggles with the temptation of a food day, and I know, it is not easy sometimes, I have a few suggestions to help you deal.  Now, personally, I have no trouble watching people walk by with donuts and cupcakes and whatnot.  I've been to the Boston Science Museum and I've got the visual in the form of Crisco, of the amount of fat in one of those donuts.  I'm good thanks.  Because I'm all too aware of the fact that to level the calories consumed in that donut I'd have to jump rope vigorously for 30 minutes (that is no easy task), or walk briskly for an hour or go on my usual 3 mile, 30 min run, I rather not.  I want to run for added health benefits, not to waste that on a donut!  My real weaknesses on a food day are the thing's like Karen or Kim's homemade mac and cheese.  Or Deb's sausage bread.  For the love of God, it is really hard to resist the sausage bread.  So I have a few strategies that may or may not work for you but surely it could be worth a try.

1.  Don't participate.  This is my usual tactic.  I don't want to be like that guy who never brings food but eats everything that anyone in any corner of the office brings in.  Nope, not me.  If I don't bring food to share, I don't eat the food being shared.  I stick with my boring routine of yogurt, oatmeal, banana.

2.  Call it breakfast, call it lunch, call it something but it sure is not a snack.  Hopefully we don't normally graze all day on pulled pork, half moons and three varieties of taco dip.  So on food day, pick something in a reasonably sized portion and consider it a meal.  I sometimes do this.  I'll wait until lunch time and fix myself a little plate and be done with it.  Grazing is trouble.  That is a crap load of jump roping.  Whew.

3.  Tomorrow we are having a food day to celebrate the arrival of my supervisor's new baby boy.   So as not to be a Scrooge, I am going to participate, employing strategy number 3.  Bring something healthy that I really like to eat! Whaaaat?  It's true.  I am bringing a quinoa salad (see recipe below) that I love and if no one dares to try my lovely healthy contribution, I'll eat it myself.
Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) is considered a super food.  It eats like a grain but is actually a seed.  It is a complete protein and also high in fiber.  You can do a ton with it as far as flavors go so it's easy to incorporate into your menu.  My recipe starts with one cup of quinoa which cooks just like rice. 
For the dressing, combine olive oil, lemon juice salt and some red wine vinegar and whisk together.
Add some fresh chopped dill and black pepper to taste.
Once the quinoa is cooled add a cup of diced cucumber.  I just love these little red bowls Nelsy got me for Christmas.  They are all marked as measuring cups, very handy.
Dice one medium tomato, add it to the mix along with....
A half cup sliced green onion.
Gently mix with the dressing and add in 1/4 cup of crumbled feta.
Toss and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Make a few hours or a day ahead.  This can be served chilled or at room temp.

Dill-icious Quinoa Salad

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice (juice from 1 whole lemon)
1 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs fresh dill, chopped
black pepper to taste
1 cup diced cucumber
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 cup sliced green onion (about 5 onions)
1/4 cup crumbled feta

Boil 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt.  Add quinoa and reduce to a simmer, cook covered for 15 minutes until water is absorbed.  Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl mix olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper and dill.  Whisk until well combined.

When quinoa is cool add the cucumber, tomato, green onion and dressing.  Toss lightly to combine.  Add the feta and toss again.  Refrigerate until ready to serve, can be made a day ahead.  Serve chilled or at room temp.

I'm hoping people will like it! I just had a taste and can't wait to have some tomorrow. 


Saturday, April 20, 2013

One Pot Wonder

You just can't beat a one pot meal.  Less clean up is always a good thing if you ask me!  I'd say in the past year or so I've really grown to appreciate chicken thighs.  They have slightly more fat than a chicken breast but they also have a lot more iron and zinc (good for the immune system and cancer prevention to name a few perks).  Better still, they are cheaper than chicken breasts.  I found this recipe on the Food & Wine website called Indonesian Coconut Rice with Chicken and Zucchini.  Sounds exotic but if you or your family members are not adventurous eaters, fear not.  This is pretty tame, very easy and a nice change from plain o'll chicken and rice.
To start, heat some oil in a large, deep frying pan or a Dutch oven.  Season 8 chicken thighs with salt and pepper.  I used boneless, skinless chicken.  Brown on both sides, about 8 minutes total.
Remove the chicken from the pot and add onion and cook until soft while stirring occasionally.  Then add the garlic and cook for another minute. 
Next you add coriander, cumin, 1 1/2 cups of long grain rice along with some salt and pepper and cook stirring for one more minute.
After that you pour in one can of unsweetened coconut milk and 1 3/4 cups of water.  Add the thighs back to the bot and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook on low (stirring two or three times) until rice and chicken are almost done, about 20 min.
While that's working, dice up a pound of zucchini (this is where the kids come in handy).
Add the zucchini and cover.  Cook until done, about 7 minutes more.  Then stir in a little lemon juice and some chopped fresh cilantro.  Unless of course you're one of those people that thinks cilantro tastes like soap, if you're one of those leave it out.  I so love cilantro, I would never choose to leave it out.
There you have it my friends.  This is good stuff!  I didn't change anything in this recipe so just click on this Food & Wine link for the full recipe and enjoy!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Are You Nuts?

I look at a ton of food every week.  I look in magazines, cookbooks and  websites.  I might be a little obsessed but I do love to eat and therefore am very entertained by picking out recipes.  I may go through the same magazine 10 times before I decide something looks good to me or worth giving a try.  Such is the case with the Angel Hair Pasta with Walnut-Carrot Sauce.  Maybe you agree that at a glance, the name isn't overly appealing.  Personally I've never been a big fan of the walnut.  But being aware of just how healthy Walnuts are, I decided to give them more of a chance lately.
This pasta dish was surprisingly delicious and honestly, I've been having a bit of a craving for it (I make it a couple of weeks ago).  This recipe is pretty simple and only takes 30 min to make, perfect for a busy weeknight.
Gather your tools and let's get to it.  I actually roasted up some shrimp to go with this and I'll show you that after the sauce.  First you cook some whole-grain angel hair pasta saving 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water when its done.
The recipe calls for 10 ounces of pasta but I probably used closer to 12 for the 4 of us.  12 ounces is plenty for 4 and there are almost always leftovers, enough for a little lunch the next day. 
While the pasta water is heating up, put a couple of carrots, walnuts, some garlic, oregano, lemon zest and some salt and pepper in the food processor.  Almost forgot, a pinch of red pepper flakes as well. 
Process until finely chopped.
Next you heat some olive oil in a large skillet and add the carrots.  At this point the recipe says to add golden raisins, I say no thank you.  You do what you like.  So is it just me or does this picture make my stove look like it isn't flat?  I keep thinking my skillet is going to slide onto the floor.  What's up with that?
While those carrots are cooking through,  juice a lemon.  Once the carrot mixture has cooked about 5 minutes, add the cooking water from the pasta, and bring to a simmer.  Then you add the pasta, lemon juice, some fresh parsley and pecorino cheese.  Salt to taste and serve.
I know it doesn't sound like much but man, this was tasty.  I find that I don't like the whole-grain pasta with everything but it really works well with this sauce.

Angel Hair Pasta with Walnut-Carrot Sauce (Food Network Magazine)

Kosher salt
12 oz whole-grain angel hair pasta
2 med carrots, rough chopped
1/3 cup walnuts
2 cloves garlic, rough chopped
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp grated lemon zest
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 cup golden raisins (I opted out)
1/2 cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 Tbs chopped fresh parsley

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook as label directs.  Reserve 1 1/2 cup of pasta water, then drain.

Put the carrots, nuts, garlic, oregano, lemon zest, 1/2 tsp salt and red pepper flakes in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the carrot-walnut mixture and the raisins and cook, stirring until carrots soften and begin to brown, about 5 min.  Add reserved cooking water and bring to a simmer.  Next add the pasta, pecorino, lemon juice, parsley and salt to taste.  Toss and serve.

So about the shrimp,  I find this so easy and delicious anytime you need to add a little somethin' somethin' to a meal.
I put a tablespoon or so (just eyeball it) of olive oil, a squeeze of a lemon, a minced clove of garlic a dash of salt and a couple of turns of the pepper mill in a little bowl.  I also chop about a teaspoon or two of whatever fresh herb I have, usually oregano but parsley or thyme would be great too.
Pre-heat the oven to about 375 and toss the shrimp with the bowl of oily goodness and roast, turning once until they are opaque and pink.  If it has stopped snowing where you are you could also put the shrimp on a skewer and grill them instead.  Grilled shrimp is my fave.
There you have it.  A few simple ingredients, no specific measurements required.  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Pork Sweet Pork

I think we all have at least one thing that we're not comfortable cooking.  Some people are afraid to cook fish because they're unfamiliar with it, some shy away from roasts for fear of drying them out.  I hate to cook pork chops because they almost always come out either totally dried out or too tough.  It's too bad too because its nice to throw a little meat variety in the mix.  Since we joined a CSA for our beef and pork products, we often will have some pork chops on hand.  I found a recipe in Food Network Magazine for Honey-Glazed Pork Chops with sweet mashed potatoes.  These turned out really good.  The total cooking time is 40 min and the dinner comes in at 492 calories (likely less because they base this on 4 servings and you probably wouldn't eat 1/4 of the potatoes.  That would be a very hearty serving.
So you will need the juice of 1 orange, some olive oil, Cajun seasoning, fresh thyme and Worcestershire sauce to make the marinade.
Whisk it all together...
and cover your chops in it.  Place them in a 375 oven for 25 min turning once.  While those are cooking, put your sweet potatoes in the microwave and cook until soft, about 20 min.  Once cooled you'll scoop them into a bowl and mash with a fork along with some Cajun seasoning and butter.  These were a major hit!
After the chops have cooked for the 25 min, add some honey to the marinade and brush it on the chops and broil a few min on each side.  I may have mentioned this before, but I think it's worth mentioning again, if you measure your oil before you measure honey it will slip right off the spoon.  I was pretty excited when I made that discovery!
So there you have some nice, tasty chops.  Not tough or dry.  Just yummy.
How's that for a nice weeknight dinner? 

Honey-Glazed Pork Chops with Mashed Sweet Potatoes
(Food Network Magazine)

Juice of 1 large orange (about 1/2 cup)
1 Tbs olive oil
2 tsps Cajun seasoning
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
kosher salt
4 bone in center-cut pork chops (about 1 3/4 lb total)
2 Tbs honey
4 sweet potatoes (about 8 oz each)
2 Tbs unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375.  Whisk together OJ, olive oil, 1 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning, thyme, W-sauce and 3/4 tsp salt in a large bowl.  Pierce chops in several places with a fork and add to the bowl, turning to coat.  Transfer the pork chops to a rack on a rimmed baking sheet.  Reserve remaining marinade.  Bake the chops for 15 min, turn and continue baking until slightly golden, about 10 min more. 

Whisk honey into reserved marinade and brush onto chops.  Broil until golden and a thermometer reads 145 degrees, about 4 min on each side. Let rest about 5 min.

Meanwhile, pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork and microwave until soft, about 20 min.  Cut in half and scoop flesh into a bowl.  Add butter and remaining Cajun seasoning and mash.  Season with salt. Serve with pork chops and drizzle with pan juices if desired.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Good Things Come To Those That Move

I've been a little slow with the recipe sharing lately but I've been busy studying for my Health Coach Certification exam.  I'm happy to report that I passed with flying colors and I'm glad to take a break from studying for a while.  Although I do have a bunch of recipes on deck to pass along, today I want to share the most recent gathering of the brunch girls.  A couple of weeks ago on a sunny Sunday afternoon we gathered at my sister's house for a lovely pot luck brunch.
We were shy a couple of brunchers but we had a lovely time and a lovely meal which was not totally exaggerated for a change.  I think we're finally getting the hang of figuring out an appropriate amount of food. 
We started with a beverage and this White Bean and Prosciutto bruschetta that I found on the Food &Wine website.  I did doctor the recipe to my liking and decided after the fact that it is perfectly delicious without the meat.  I'll share my version sometime soon but if you can't wait, check out Food & Wine's website.
I should show you how nice and inviting the table was.  We're not always this fancy at brunch but that sister of mine, well, she can be pretty fancy.
Jenny made us a really nice spinach salad....
Ouije made this Egg Strata that trust me, we could all use the recipe for but she has to dig through her magazines or just put it on paper for us because it is delish!  I love the asparagus in it, yum.
Melanie made a really tasty Carrot Ginger Coconut soup.  She played with this recipe a bit too but if you click on the link, it's pretty close to what she made in her Vitamix blender.
Heather is always good for some sweets, she brought these Irish Cream cupcakes which were just perfect for March. 
So we ate and chatted and discussed our up coming events (wish I could remember what was just said, look at their faces!).  The next big one being The Paige's Butterfly Run which is a 5k in early June.  Missy will be running her first race and we are all bringing our families to either run or walk.  While on the topic of running and exercise we learned that one of our girls had a significant reduction in her cholesterol since she started running a few months ago!  Her total cholesterol went down and her HDL (the good one) went up quite a bit!  I love to hear things like this because it really proves that you can take control of your health.  And talk about your benefits of exercise, listen to this!  One of our girls was diagnosed a few years ago (at age 38) with osteoporosis.  Since that time she has been running and taking a R.I.P.P.E.D. class (interval training boot camp type class) and has since REVERSED her diagnosis.  How awesome is that?  I think sometimes people get too focused on exercise being about "getting skinny" (I'm not a fan of skinny by the way, I prefer healthy over skinny any day) rather than living a nice, long, healthy, comfortable life.  So here's to being able to keep up with our kids and even our grand kids, staying away from preventable diseases and spending our free time doing enjoyable activities and not being laid up,  and not spending our hard earned money on medical bills!  Cheers!