Category Archives: recipes

Eating as a Non-Vegetarian- Lime and Garlic Marinated Porkchops with Cilantro-Lime Quinoa

Ok, I admit it: I like meat.

I don’t eat it very much. In fact, I eat it pretty infrequently. I rarely purchase it.

But I like it. I like the way it tastes. And there are very few photos of piglets that will make me feel guilty about enjoying a slice of bacon.

However, what I can’t come to terms with is what happened to the meat before its arrival at my dinner table. It arrives after inhumane mammalian brutality, hundreds (if not thousands) of travel miles, and undocumented harm to food workers.

All because I wanted a slice of bacon.

Yeah…that’s not ok.

I’m reaching a point in my life where I can’t bear to purchase meat that’s been produced in ways I can’t stomach. I mean, my ancestors ate meat- but the meat they ate is not the meat I buy at my local grocery store.

As regular readers of this blog know, I can pontificate on this topic for pages and pages. But all I really need to say is that in order for me to eat meat, I need to be prepared to find meat that was harvested from animals who were raised humanely.

Yes, it will be expensive. But that’s the price of being an omnivore in the 21st century first world.

ANYWAY, since yesterday was the most beautiful day ever (seriously, anyone who wasn’t in the North Carolina triad yesterday missed out on a gorgeous Southern spring day), I decided to make my girlfriend a spring-y dinner of pork chops and quinoa.

So where does an ecologically conscious Winston-Salem resident go when they want fresh meat?

Whole Foods Market, of course.

Whole Foods has a remarkable devotion to the sale of sustainably produced food items AND (probably most importantly) to crafting and maintaining solid relationships with farmers and ranchers. Since the food chain from farmer to consumer grows with every congressional bill and ‘science innovation’, it is more important than ever for us to support companies who strive to cut out the millions of middle men who get in the way of Americans eating food which doesn’t go against the evolution of our bodies.

As far as meat sales go, Whole Foods adheres to the stringent guidelines of the Animal Welfare Rating Standards, which are produced by the Global Animal Partnership. Basically, they have a 5 step standards list which details the requirements for a livestock animal’s living conditions. It looks like this:

Step 1: No crowding
Step 2: Enriched environment
Step 4: Pasture centered
Step 5: Animal centered: No physical alterations
Step 5+: Animal Centered: Entire life on same farm

As you probably noticed, there’s no step 3 for cattle. There are separate charts for poultry and pigs. And at Whole Foods, all the meat options are labeled with the number which corresponds to this chart. It’s another way of letting you know where your food came from.

Since I was making pork chops, here are the five steps I looked at:

Step 1: No crates, stalls or cages
Step 2: Enriched environment
Step 3: Enhanced outdoor access
Step 4: Pasture centered
Step 5: Animal centered: No physical alterations
Step 5+: Animal Centered: Entire life on same farm

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I ended up buying some very pretty chops from a local farm with a 4 rating. There were other options, but the fact that the meat came from a nearby farm means that the journey from farm to table was very short, and it insures the freshest ingredients possible.

It does not, however, insure the cheapest price.

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But here’s the thing- I can’t pretend to not know what I know about factory farming. And if I want to eat meat in spite of that knowledge, I need to be prepared to pay the price.

Plus, the flavor of this finished dinner was more than worth the money. I’m not a huge fan of lime and/or cilantro, but both of those flavors keep popping up in my recipes recently. I’m blaming it on Chipotle– I mean, who doesn’t love their cilantro-lime rice? But instead of making rice, I decided to try out the same flavor combo with quinoa. I’d say it was a success- Kate basically licked her plate clean.

(Ok, so she didn’t lick it clean. But she probably wanted to lick it clean.)

Both of these recipes are unbelievably simple, and can be whipped up very quickly. They can be served together, or paired with other dishes. For example, substituting cilanto-lime quinoa in a homemade Chipotle burrito bowl is a healthier option than eating mounds of fluffy white rice.

(I mean, don’t get me wrong- I LOVE fluffy white rice. But quinoa is just as delicious, and packs an unbeatable nutritional punch.)

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Lime and Garlic Marinated Pork Chops

(Adapted from Gina’s Skinny Recipes)

Yield: 2-4 servings (depending upon size of pork chops)

Ingredients:

4 (6 oz) lean boneless pork chops ( for the record, I made this recipe using 2 super thick bone-in chops, and the proportions still worked perfectly)

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp paprika

1/2 lime, juice of

lime zest

salt and fresh pepper

1. Trim off extra pork fat.

Basically, go from here:

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To Here:

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2. In a large bowl season pork with garlic, cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Squeeze lime juice and some zest from the lime and let it marinade at least 20 minutes.

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I always recommend long marinade times, but if you need to make this in a hurry, 20 minutes should get the job done. I had to whip up this meal pretty quickly, and I think 20 minutes was long enough to get a good flavor infusion.


3. Line broiler pan with foil for easy clean up. Place pork chops on the broiler pan and broil about 4-6 minutes on each side or until nicely browned.

While that’s cooking…

Cilantro-Lime Quinoa

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup dry quinoa

1 1/4 cup Water

1 lime, juice of

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

1. Follow my instructions for fool-proof quinoa.

2. While quinoa is cooking, combine chopped cilantro, lime juice, and remaining oil in a medium bowl and toss until completely mixed. When quinoa is finished cooking, add it to cilantro-lime mixture and toss until coated.

Bam, dinner is served.

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Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you: Kate and I also ate French fries with our dinner. But those French fries are extra special, and will be reviewed in a separate post. However, just for the record, they were absolutely delicious. Smile

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The Best Potato-Leek Soup (I’ve) Ever Tasted- A Continuation of Spring Break Culinary Adventures

In honor of Spring Break, St. Patrick’s Day, and the fact that I fancy myself the poor college student’s Martha Stewart, I hosted a mini dinner party for my Spring Break Wrightsville Beach Vacation Clan on St. Patrick’s Day.

(Click here to read more about our beach culinary adventures.)

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You’re probably wondering why there are hamburger buns placed carefully next to baked brie and crackers. Well, no matter how refined I try to be, I’m still from North Carolina- therefore, my girlfriend’s contribution to our dinner party was a Carolina barbecue spread from Little Richards BBQ. If you’re interested in my further exploration into Carolina barbeque, check out last year’s Twin City RibFest Wrap-Up. Anyway, yes: instead of corned beef and cabbage, these Carolina girls (with our favorite California expat) enjoyed Lexington barbeque on St. Patrick’s Day.

(Oh, and by the way- YES, my cheese board is shaped like the outline of North Carolina. Haters gonna hate.)

As an accompaniment for the ever classy barbeque spread, I decided to make potato-leek soup. You know, so there could be at least a hint of Irish culture present at the table. I also made a Chocolate Guinness cake, which has since been turned into a Chocolate Guinness Cake Trifle with homemade whipped cream. Don’t worry, the recipe is coming later this week. Smile

Anyway, today’s main event is potato-leek soup. My soup turned out finger-licking good, even if it did require some elbow grease (and, as usual, a life lesson or two).

Potato-Leek Soup

(Adapted From Food For My Family)

Yield: 5 (more or less- depends upon how greedy you are) Servings

Ingredients:

3 leeks
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes or fingerlings
2 quarts of water
1/2 cup white wine
bunch of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
15 whole black peppercorns
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (go vegan, and this is totally optional)
1 teaspoon white pepper
salt to taste

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1.Remove the root end of the leeks and cut off the dark green tops. Retain the green tops. Slice the white and light green portion of the leeks thinly.

2.In a large stockpot heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté for 10 minutes until they soften. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds longer.

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3.Pour in the water. Add the green tops to the water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes.

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4. While the leeks are simmering, peel and dice the potatoes.
SIDENOTE: Aren’t these potatoes the cutest? Man, purity organic has some of the most aesthetically pleasing packaging on the market.

5. Remove the dark green tops from the leeks. Use them to make a small pouch to hold the thyme, peppercorns and bay leaves. Secure with a piece of kitchen twine and add to the simmering broth. Add the potatoes and the white wine and continue to simmer for 45 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender.

Ok, look: because I’m Jessamyn I decided to make this WAY more difficult than necessary. Basically, I decided that I shouldn’t let the absence of kitchen twine affect my chef skills. I decided to use toothpicks to hold my pouch together. In other words, what could have looked like this:

foodformyfamily bouqet garni

Ended up:

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Looking more like this:

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….um. yeah.

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Whatever, it still turned out ok! But if you don’t have kitchen twine, just go to the store and buy some. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did. And your bouquet garni won’t look quite so busted.

6. Remove leek stem pouch. Add the cream.

7. Blend the soup in a food processor or blender until smooth. Return to stockpot and heat to desired temperature before serving. Enjoy.

NOMNOMNOM.

Since today is the first day of spring and central North Carolina is enjoying some baller warm weather, the number of soup recipes will probably thin out (I’M SO PUNNY HAHA) in favor of springy and summery recipes. Good-bye, chowder city. Hello, corn and strawberries. Smile

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Feminist Coming Out Day, and the BEST Curried Lentil Soup Recipe

So I’ve been absent. Horribly absent. But I have an excuse, I SWEAR! Ok, it’s just the ‘I-was-too-busy-to-blog-wah-wah’ excuse you’ve heard already. However, on the bright side, today was the last day of winter term classes- just a few more assignments, and it’ll be SPRING BREAK LIVIN’ Y’ALL.

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Ok, that’s definitely not what my break is going to look like. It’s going to look a little more like a constant date with this:

cleaning products

Seriously, my apartment is begging for a deep clean.

In the mean time, in honor of International Women’s Day and Feminist Coming Out Day, I need to write a letter to the two people who birthed this woman. If you get grossed out by excessive sentimentality, feel free to skip ahead.

Dear Tangela and Jesse,

It would be impossible for me to give thanks for everything you’ve done that’s made my life possible. However, at the age of 23, I realize there’s one thing for which I am most grateful, and for which I must attempt to give thanks:

Thank you for not limiting my definition of happiness.

You allowed me to be myself, and in doing so left the world at my disposal for interpretation. I have never felt as though there is only one version of happiness- I never felt that if I didn’t get married, have children, or pursue a specific career that I would be less than what you wanted me to be.

This freedom of interpretation has allowed me to have several painless awakenings over the year- not the least of which include my sexual neutrality, fat positivity, and (at times) radical feminism.

You did what every parent should do, but what seems to be extraordinarily difficult. Your ability to forgo your own versions of happiness in favor of my own personal exploration means more to me than words can ever say.

Love,

Jessamyn

ANYWAY,

last week I made the most DELICIOUS curried lentil soup. Because I’ve been living under a rock since last Friday, this recipe (and the corresponding photographs) have been living in the Jessamyn archives. Let them be liberated!

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Curried Lentil Soup

Yield: 8 servings (time to bust out the tupperware, y’all)

Ingredients:

1 cup dry lentils, rinsed
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
8 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth
1/2 cup dry couscous
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

8 oz mushrooms

Combine lentils, onion, celery, mushrooms, garlic, cumin, and broth in a large pot. Bring to a simmer, then cover loosely and cook until lentils are tender, about 50 minutes.
Stir in couscous, , curry powder, and black pepper. Continue cooking until couscous is tender, about 10 minutes. Add salt to taste.

This recipe is hella simple. However, the secret to perfect lentils (whether they are in a soup or served plain), is a three step process:

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1. Carefully look them through for rocks, dirt clumps, mishapen dark beans, or any other non-tasty items.

2. Rinse your lentils.

3. SOAK SOAK SOAK. For at least 15 minutes, but you can let them sit for hours. My favorite thing to do is look them over, rinse, and let them soak in a bowl full of water for an entire day before cooking. The lentils will absorb lots of water, and they will be super soft and creamy as a result. Trust me, if you want to have perfect lentils, you will not skip this step.

Seriously: NOMNOMNOMNOMNOM.

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BY THE WAY:

Um, guess what I found at The Dollar Tree?

frozen berries

Yeah, that’s right: frozen berries. They had a variety: strawberries, peaches, blueberries, etc. I got peaches and blueberries. I was really just shocked by the refrigerated and frozen food sections in the DOLLAR STORE, but that’s probably just me and my bourgeois attitude. Apparently this is old news- however, I was still really excited.

Also, how is it that The Dollar Tree has extensive online shopping options, and Michaels Arts and Crafts barely has a store locator? I am just filled with questions today….

Happy Feminist Coming Out Day, Y’all!

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Happy Ayyám-i-Há! Jessamyn’s Fool Proof Persian Rice Recipe

I don’t spend a lot of time talking about my religious beliefs because that’s not the purpose of this journal. However, I am very passionate about rice and proper rice cookery, and my religious beliefs play an intricate role in my rice passion.

As a member of the Baha’i faith, celebrating Ayyám-i-Há is a crucial part of our calendar. The Baha’i calendar has 19 months of 19 days, and the days of Ayyám-i-Há (4 or 5 days, depending upon whether or not it’s a leap year) are intercalary days which serve to synch up the Bahai 19/19 calendar with the 365 (or 366) day solar calendar.

I always explain Ayyám-i-Há as a sort of Baha’i Christmas- it’s a time of fellowship and goodwill with loved ones. However, it’s really much more than that- while gifts and gift giving are an accepted custom, they are not really the purpose of Ayyám-i-Há . In my personal life, Ayyám-i-Há is a period of preparation before I enter The Fast, which is the 19th month of the Baha’i Calendar. During The Fast, Baha’i’s do not consume any liquid or food from sun-up to sundown- it’s a period of purification, meditation, and spiritual rebirth before Naw-Ruz,literally meaning “New Year”.

What better way to celebrate before a fasting period than by preparing your favorite food?

Rice is a key element in Persian cuisine and, since I’m obsessed with food, Ayyám-i-Há is an excellent study of food culture and the community created by the consumption and preparation of food. Like any one who was raised in a tightknit community, I grew up with a vast yet incredibly tight and VERY diverse extended family. Just as important to me as any biological family member, my Persian “aunties” and “uncles” taught me countless lessons about the best way to properly cook Persian rice.

While everyone has a different method, the universal “most important part” is the tadigh. Meaning “bottom of the pan”, tadigh is probably one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted- by allowing the rice to cook (uninterrupted) (low and slooooow), the oils used to cook the rice will create a delicious rice “crust” on the bottom of the pot. This crust is a freaking delicacy. Sometimes people put slices of potato underneath the rice and let those get crispy, too- with or without added extras, tadigh is buttery, delicious, and irresistible.

It’s also REALLY DIFFICULT TO COOK PROPERLY. I’ve spent several years trying to properly make Persian rice with some very interesting (code for ‘disastrous’) results. However, I’ve finally crafted a fairly fool-proof method of making pretty perfect Persian Rice. Your tadigh will turn out buttery, crunchy, and scrumptious, and each individual rice grain will leave you moaning with happiness.

(did ‘moaning’ take it a little too far?)

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Fool-Proof Persian Rice With Tadigh

NOTE: All of these steps should be followed to the letter, or you will NOT have perfect Persian rice. You were warned.

Yield: A Little Over Four 1-Cup Servings

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup Dry Basmati Rice

(My understanding is that it’s very common to substitute Basmati rice for traditional Persian rice. Basmati rice is actually an Indian rice, and it’s really perfect in this recipe. When cooked, the long grains of Basmati rice will stay perfectly separate from one another- not gummy and sticky)

1/4 cup Butter

(I never said this was healthy.)

2 tbsp Olive Oil

(Again- Never said it was healthy)

1 tbsp Salt

2 1/4 cup Water

(A Good Rule of Thumb? Use 1 1/2 cup of Water per 1 cup of rice)

You Will Also Need:

A Medium Non-Stick Saucepan with a Matching Lid

(SO IMPORTANT- if you don’t have one, borrow one from your neighbor, roommate, parent, whoever. Or buy one– you’ll be glad you did. )

A Clean dishtowel or a Single Paper Towel

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The stages of Rinsing

1. Rinse your rice thoroughly 7-8 times, until the water is clear.

(This is probably the single most important step in your rice cooking process. Basmati rice- well, rice in general- is extremely starchy. Rinsing will help remove some of the starch, making it somewhat healthier. Simply pour water 1-2 inches above the rice, stir gently with your fingers, pour into the sink, and repeat. Again, DO NOT SKIP OR SCRIMP on this step.)

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2. Combine your rice, water, butter, oil, and salt in your saucepan and bring to a boil, uncovered.

(While the amount of added oil and butter I use is slightly unorthodox, this is the best method I’ve found to producing a perfect layer of tadigh. I’m sure you can find recipes that use less oil, but they may not be as foolproof as this one.)

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3. Once the rice has absorbed most of the water and the water level has reduced to just below the rice grains, reduce heat to low and cover with matching lid. The pot lid should be wrapped in a dish towel or guarded by a paper towel.

(If rinsing is the most important step, covering and reducing is a very close ‘second most important’ step. The rice will steep like this for awhile, and the combination of heat and liquid creates a lot of condensation within the pot. If this condensation gets in your dish, you will have mushy rice. Therefore, the dish towel or paper towel creates a barrier, collects the liquid, and saves your rice from mush city. If using a paper towel, simply put it on top of the pot and gently set the lid atop the paper. If using a dish towel, wrap the lid in the towel, tuck the ends of the towel into the handle, and set the lid atop the pot. I’ve seen many people use the paper towel method with great results- in my opinion, paper towels are more of a fire hazard than cloth dish towels wrapped tightly around handles. Choose whichever method works best for you, but I will almost always use the dishtowel method.)

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See, it’s wearing a little hat! Smile

4. Allow rice to cook over low heat for 45 minutes.

(Don’t peek. Don’t even think about peeking. Even when your apartment/house is filled with the delicious aroma of fragrant rice perfume and you’re salivating with desire- DON’T FREAKING PEEK.)

5. Don an oven mit. Turn off stove, remove lid, and place a serving platter/dinner plate on top of the pot. Flip the pot upside down onto the serving platter and carefully shimmy it upward to release your rice.

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TA-DAH! Does it look like a cake? YES. The most delicious cake you’ve ever had in your life. The “pot shimmy” might take a few tries in order to master, but just keep trying- you’ll get it right.

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The golden crust of the tadigh surrounds the fluffy rice- I use a cake slicer to cut my tadigh and serve it in slices. You know, like a cake.

Because my lovely girlfriend can smell my Persian rice cooking from a mile away, I decided to make a simple tofu stirfry with bell peppers as the perfect match for the perfect rice.

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SO yum.

Happy Ayyám-i-Há, yall!

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Quinoa- A Rice Addict’s Manna

I love rice. In fact, next to macaroni and cheese, it’s probably my favorite food (probably? I’d say DEFINITELY). I’ve never really understood why people are obsessed with foods like pizza and ice cream- rice is where it’s at. It’s ridiculously versatile, comes in dozens of varieties, and can be really inexpensive (it can also be really expensive, but I digress).

While I love pretty much every variety of rice, from perfectly al dente brown rice to gorgeous wild black jasmine, my favorite has got to be perfectly cooked white basmati rice. In fact, I’m going to write a tutorial about how to prepare perfect basmati rice later this week in honor of Ayyám-i-Há (more on that later).

However, just because I love to eat mounds of fluffy white rice doesn’t make it healthy. Sure, you can eat a cup without seeing negative consequences- but who can stop at one cup? I need the whole pot, damnit!

This is where quinoa comes in. Quinoa is god’s gift to rice addicts- it looks like millet but tastes like rice. While the nutrition facts are not terribly different from rice, it is jam packed with nutrients and takes up less space than individual rice grains. Why is that relevant? Because you get more bang for your buck, that’s why. It is closely related to buckwheat and chia, and while it is commonly mistaken for a grain, it’s really a type of grass. Sounds thrilling, right?

Well, sometimes people are put off by quinoa because it’s not very pretty- the individual seeds always remind me of pellets. Also, it DOES NOT taste good al dente, and all too often it is cooked improperly. I’ve made quinoa several different ways with varying degrees of success and tasti-ness: here’s the cooking method that works best for me.

Jessamyn’s Fool-Proof Quinoa Recipe

Yield: 4 generous 1/2 cup servings

Ingredients:

1 cup dry quinoa (unrinsed or pre-rinsed, it doesn’t matter)

1 1/4 cup Water (Feel free to use whatever liquid best suits your dish- chicken broth, vegetable broth, cayenne infusion, whatever. Wait, let me clarify- don’t just use ANY liquid i.e- don’t blame me if your beer soaked quinoa tastes awful)

 

NOTE: There are three major issues which directly result in crunchy and unpleasant quinoa- poor rinsing, short soaking times, and too much/too little water.

First thing you should do?

1. Put your quinoa in a bowl, cover with about 2-4 inches of water, and let soak for at least 15 minutes. Personally, I prefer to let mine soak for at least 1 hour, but I don’t think this is absolutely necessary. Basically, like any soluble object, the longer you allow the quinoa to sit in the liquid, the more liquid it will absorb (resulting in chewy, puffy, delicious quinoa). In my experience, you can do a perfectly fine quinoa soak in 15 minutes. However, if you know you’re going to cook quinoa burgers for dinner, start your soak much earlier in the day. Soaking is really important for everything from grits to beans- if you want the perfect texture, do yourself a favor and schedule time for a decent soak.

2. RINSE YOUR FREAKING QUINOA. At least twice, but preferably three times. Who wants to eat a dinner that is covered with sediment? Certainly not this girl. So after you’ve let your quinoa have a proper soak, rinse it free of debris in a fine mesh strainer.

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Imagine this mesh strainer contains quinoa and not, you know…chick peas Smile

Ok, I know not everyone was lucky enough to come across a fine mesh strainer for the bargain basement price of only .25 during a routine yard sale crusade. However, a mesh strainer is pretty key for the rinsing of quinoa- I mean, unless you want to eat the quinoa out of your sink drain. I suppose you could line a regular colander with cheesecloth (actually, that’s a perfectly fine alternative), but you should really invest in a metal strainer. It’s a worthy investment, and it doubles as a sifter when you feel the need to bake vegan chocolate chip cookies in the middle of the night and can’t find an actual sifter (I mean, not like I’ve done that….)

By the way, I think it’s a good idea to rinse your quinoa even if it’s pre-rinsed. Maybe it’s just my inner dystopian farmer, but an extra rinse certainly won’t hurt your dish.

3. After rinsing your quinoa, place it in a medium saucepan and add your pre-measured 1 1/4 cup water. Bring the mixture to a rapid boil. Though I usually tend to be vague about proportions, the liquid:quinoa proportion is pretty important in this particular case. Most people say that you should use a standard 1:2 ratio when cooking quinoa and liquid- I think it’s better to use less liquid, but cook longer and slower. This way, your quinoa doesn’t turn out gummy and mushy. Therefore, the 1:1 1/4 ratio works best for me. Others may disagree, but this is the method I will endorse. Depending upon the kind of liquid you use and the strength of your heat source, you may need to add a couple of tablespoons of extra liquid. However, this method is fairly foolproof if you use water.

4. After your quinoa reaches a rolling boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for about 30 minutes.

5. Turn off heat, fluff with a fork, and eat greedily.

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Like I said, quinoa is really versatile. I have made fried “rice”, quinoa burgers, stir-fry, and many, many other dishes- just like rice, quinoa can be one of your culinary best friends. It can also be purchased in bulk, a great option if you shop at/live near a store which sells bulk items.

I hope this recipe clears up any confusion about the proper way to cook quinoa. There are dozens of methods, but this works best for me. Maybe the next time you have a craving for rice, you’ll give quinoa a try.

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Jessamyn Tests: The Rhodey Girl’s Baked Falafel

I absolutely love falafel. The problem? No matter how you turn it, deep fried chickpeas don’t become healthier by nature of being legume based. Therefore, deep fried chickpea goodness is still deep fried.

That being said, you can imagine my glee when Sabrina (the “Rhodey Girl”) posted a baked version of her uncle’s top secret falafel recipe. I’ve been trying to find the time to try out her recipe, and I finally was able to make (and photograph) my adventures in falafel land.

(By the way, the Rhodey Girl didn’t just post a recipe- she made a great video recipe post as well. Check the link below to get a more in depth falafel tutorial.)

I pretty much followed Sabrina’s recipe to the letter, but I didn’t have any parsley (she says to use about 1 cup) on hand so I left it out. In the future I think I will haul my ass down the street to Compare Foods for some fresh parsley, because I think the bright flavor from parsley will cut through some of the smokiness and heat from the other flavors.

Baked Falafel

(Oh, you want The Rhodey Girl’s Original Recipe?)

Yield: Roughly 4 servings of 5-6 falafel

Ingredients:

1 15 oz. can of drained, rinsed chick peas
1/2 red onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbs whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbs cumin
1/4 tbs coriander
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 tbs kosher salt
1/4 tbs black pepper
Parchment paper (Sabrina used cooking spray, but I am a firm believer in the power of parchment)

1. Mix all your ingredients in a food processor until it reaches a medium chunky consistency.

Basically,

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2. Put the batter in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth for 30 minutes in a warm place until the batter has risen a bit. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

(I made my batter before class, and came back after about two hours. I don’t think this created a different taste.)


3. Using two spoons or an ice cream scoop, drop small flattened balls of batter onto a cooking sheet covered with parchment paper

(The size of the falafel balls are of the utmost importance. If you make them too large- you know, like the fried balls of deliciousness served at your local Middle Eastern restaurant- they will not cook properly. Baking is very different from frying, and size matters.)

4. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.

5. Pull out of the oven, burn your mouth because you are too eager, and eat greedily while watching reruns of The Office. Or Parks and Rec. Or Big Love. But probably The Office.

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I paired my falafel with a side of quinoa dotted with dried cranberries. Oh, and a generous 2 tbsp of plain Greek yogurt.

Verdict? Well, while they were pretty delicious, I think the addition of parsley is pretty necessary. The flavor of baked falafel is pretty delicious, but don’t be fooled- they don’t taste the same as fried falafel. While they are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, there is a flavor created by submerging items in liquid fat that is difficult to replicate.

That being said, if you are looking for a low fat take on a surprisingly not-that-healthy food, then go forth and conquer this recipe.

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FonDOs and DON’Ts: Why I’m Not a Vegetarian

Yesterday, thanks to a series of modern science miracles (dayquil, sudafed) paired with home cure-alls (a 48 hour long relationship with my neti pot) and the best remedy of them all (SLEEPSLEEPSLEEP), I emerged from the depths of plague just in time to make a fondue Valentine’s Day Dinner for my girlfriend.

 

Fondue incorporates everything I love about food and community- it brings diners together to create a meal which is representative of individuals, while encouraging fellowship. Seriously, I could probably write a dissertation on ‘how and why fondue can create a food revolution’, but I’ll try to contain myself. Anyway, my obsession with fondue started a few years ago: ever since then, I’ve amassed a collection of fondue pots (so far I own seven) which are on display around my apartment. This also means that I’m constantly looking for excuses to use them.

(For those of you who are rolling your eyes at the thought of a fondue pot collection, I encourage you to take a look at your shoe/dvd/perfume collection and keep the judging to a minimum.)

Anyway, making a three course fondue dinner at home, while it does take a bit of prep work, is really easy. The process is made even easier when you haven’t spent your weekend dealing with a nose full of mucus, but that’s neither here nor there.

When planning a dinner of this magnitude (even if it’s only for two people), I find it’s helpful to make a detailed shopping list- this is a preventative measure so that you don’t end up wandering around a grocery store for longer than necessary. Ok, maybe I did that anyway- but that has more to do with the fact that I was sick, partially delirious, and the fact that I’m not immune to the well-orchestrated insanity of Whole Foods on Valentine’s Day Eve.

Already owning a fondue pot (or seven) makes planning a spur of the moment Valentine’s Dinner pretty easy- therefore, I would recommend investing in a fondue pot of your very own. Since I bought most of my pots at yard sales, my entire collection probably has an exact monetary value of less than $40. However, a couple of my pots are individually worth more than $40. For those who are not willing to scour yard sales, I would recommend purchasing a pot with a reliable non-stick cooking surface and easy to use heating system- if you’re going to purchase more than one pot, feel free to get exciting with your heat sources (butane fuel, tea light candles). However, if you’ve never done fondue outside of the occasional Melting Pot Dinner, I would recommend getting an easy to use plug-in fondue pot. There a couple of models which would make great starter pots- Rival FD350S and Cuisnart CFO-3SS, for starters.

Anyway, I made a classic Swiss cheese fondue and Fondue Bourguignonne, a traditional meat fondue. Here’s my first confession- I was too cheap and lazy to make a swiss cheese fondue from scratch, so I bought a pre-packaged Swiss fondue.

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I was very pleased with this purchase- it made my life SO MUCH EASIER, and cost less than it would have cost to individually buy the necessary cheeses. I bought this box of cheese for $6.99 at World Market and it was worth every penny. To dip in the cheese, I chopped up a couple of granny smith apples and half a loaf of 3-grain whole wheat sourdough from Whole Foods.

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I think it’s best to use a really hearty bread for cheese fondue- it’s less easy to drown your bread in the cheese, and it helps decrease the odds of cheese overdose (something I’ve never experienced, but am absolutely sure can happen. To someone who is less cheese obsessed).

Fondue Bourguignonne is really easy to make, as it’s just 2 cups of oil (I used canola) heated to 350 degrees. You dip the meat in the oil, cook until your desired ‘done-ness’ and voila- meat, it’s what’s for dinner. However, Fondue Bourguignonne is NOT healthy, and VERY dangerous. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to have a fire extinguisher nearby. I mean, if you’re not using an open flame then it’s probably ok, but sputtering oil does not feel good when it comes in contact with bare, tender skin. Basically, use caution when preparing this dish.

Since this was a special occasion, I tried to buy really high quality meats- I decided to use a local London Broil, and local sweet Italian sausage. I chopped both meats into bite size, fast cooking pieces.

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As a rule, I don’t eat a lot of meat. It’s very expensive, and it becomes especially expensive to buy meat which doesn’t make me feel like a horrible person for even looking at the packaging. However, when it’s possible to find meat that was butchered from animals who were raised in humane conditions and fed meals which are representative of their actual dietary needs (as opposed to wide-spread animal homicide through corn feed), I have less of a problem incorporating meat in my diet. For me (I can’t and won’t speak for anyone else), it’s important to be able to make a direct connection between the meat I’ve consumed and the animal that gave up its life. It’s nearly impossible for me to come to terms with meat that’s been slaughtered in factories which exploit both the animals and the workers. However, I think it’s important to support local farmers, and raising livestock is one of the traditional crucial elements of a working farm. Do I eat meat on a daily basis? No. Will I eat meat if the circumstances are acceptable? Sure.

Anyway, one of the best parts of making a meat fondue is getting your meat nice and crispy, then coating it in tasty dipping sauces.

I made two dipping sauces from scratch- they were both REALLY easy, and pretty healthy.

First I made a mustard sauce using the rest of my FAGE Greek yogurt- I even mixed it up right in the container.

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Mustard Sauce

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Greek Yogurt

3 tbsp Dijon Mustard

1 tsp Coriander

1 clove Garlic

1-2 tbsp Lemon Juice

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Combine all the ingredients, mix well and chill until serving.

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I have to say, this sauce turned out awesome- This is my own original recipe, and I was really pleased with the consistency and flavor. Most mustard sauces use mayonnaise and/or sour cream as a base, but Greek yogurt gives a delicious creamy texture for a fraction of the calories. Plus, on a personal note, I think it tastes better.

I also made a Teriyaki Sauce.

Teriyaki Sauce

Ingredients:

– 1/2 cup chicken stock (I used Maggi bouillon dissolved in H20)

– 3 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
– 2 Tbsp fresh or bottled lemon juice
– 2 tsp cooking sherry
– 2 tsp honey
– 1 clove garlic

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan; heat to boiling. Refrigerate until serving time. Can be served warm or cold.

This sauce also turned out quite delicious.

When preparing new recipes, I know many cooks on a budget can be deterred by expensive ingredients that they don’t use frequently. I mean, hello? Cooking sherry? It’s not exactly an every day ingredient. However, my method for gaining a recipe friendly pantry is to make a list of dry ingredients which occur frequently in recipes. Then, gradually (one or two at a time) purchase the ingredients during routine grocery store trips- this way, when you come across a new recipe or concoct a dream recipe,  you have the necessary tools on hand without going into spontaneous debt. I’ve accumulated countless vinegars, oils, and spices using this method: most recently I bought toasted sesame oil which has elevated my impromptu tofu scrambles to another level.

For dessert, I decided not to make a river of chocolate fondue and opted for a couple of (GASP) store bought desserts.

Actually, this was probably my best idea- I bought four tiny desserts (two mini chocolate covered cheesecake bites, a mini-cannoli, and a petit four). This way, my girlfriend and I were able to have a very sweet dessert without creating a ton of leftovers and without breaking the caloric bank. Also, they were only .99 per treat- Whole Foods Market, you are my valentine.

I hope everyone has a great Valentine’s Day. If you’re single, try not to let the antics of your slobbering friends (myself included) get you down- self-love is much more important than love from a partner.

And if you’re slobbering all over someone, try to remember than Valentine’s Day is not the only day of the year that you should make a noted effort to show care for the one you love (or ones– monogamy is not for everyone).

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