Tag Archives: new foods

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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Breakfast at the Screaming Rooster and a Tasty Calzone Lunch

My schedule has been so congested recently that I haven’t had time to stop and smell the roses- I’m just rushing from one location to the next like an insane person. Earlier this week, my girlfriend and I were going to have breakfast at a new restaurant in town but we both couldn’t make the time to do it. Today we finally got our acts in harmony and had an early breakfast at the Screaming Rooster.

screaming rooser hours

There are few things I love more in this life than eating out in restaurants. ESPECIALLY a new restaurant (or new to me, anyway). The Screaming Rooster is housed in a building which used to house one of my other favorite restaurants, Mary’s of Course (MOC is now called Breakfast of Course and has a lovely new location in downtown W-S….and vegetarian AND vegan options…seriously, so freaking delicious).

Both the Screaming Rooster and BOC use lots of local ingredients from farmers with which they’ve built personal relationships, and they serve their food in a friendly, unassuming atmosphere. I was so excited about going to the Screaming Rooster that I looked at the menu earlier this week and decided to order the Irish Steel Cut Oats with roasted seasonal fruit. Sounds delicious, right? Well, when we actually arrived in the restaurant, the inner Southern girl in me took over and I ended up ordering bacon, eggs, and a bowl of grits (with fruit on the side):

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Feel free to thank my incorrigible appetite for the shaky camera work.

This breakfast may seem a little boring and uninspired, but nothing could be further from the truth. Making a perfect bacon, eggs, and grits breakfast is not as simple as you think- MANY restaurants ruin these dishes spectacularly. However, the Screaming Rooster’s “Morning After” is cooked just right: the bacon is nice and crispy, the eggs are not too runny, and the grits are SO SMOOTH (and trust me, I’m an amateur grits aficionado- I’ll never steer you wrong when it comes to glorified gruel). This plate totals 9 WW points+, and only costs $7– basically, I’ve found a new favorite restaurant.

In other food-related news, remember when I made a thousand pounds of whole-wheat pizza dough and didn’t know what to do with it? (ok, so it wasn’t quite a thousand pounds- but it was more than a single household needs to keep on hand.) Well, I decided to make myself a calzone for yesterday’s lunch.

I’m not sure, but I think calzones are probably in my top 15 favorite foods- it’s basically just cheese and whatever filling you want. And for someone who doesn’t love tomatoes they are especially awesome because calzones traditionally do not contain any sauce. However, because of their cheesy goodness, calzones tend to be pretty high in fat content and generally really unhealthy. However, I scaled down the caloric content of my calzone by putting in 1/4 cup of fat-free ricotta cheese (1 wwpoint+) and 1 oz of reduced fat mozarella cheese (2 wwpoints+) Ok, so maybe I actually put in 2 oz of mozz- but do as I say, not as I do. Winking smile

Anyway, I also loaded up my calzone with olives, spinach and onions. You can put in whatever you like, but those flavors make my tastebuds sing.

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After these process photos were taken, I cut slits in the top, baked it, and it turned out perfectly golden brown and delicious. You’re probably wondering why there are no final shots of the calzone. Yes, that’s right- I ate the finished product before it could be photographed.

What tasty foods have you made recently? Are there any awesome restaurants in your town which make eating out even more exciting than usual?

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Holy Guacamole: My Weekly Weigh-In, and Eating The SAG Awards- a Movie Buff’s Super Bowl Sunday

Is this where I address my WEEK LONG absence? Is this where I beg forgiveness? Is this where I scold myself for letting the mundane details of my life consume me?

I certainly hope not. Because here’s what happened: I was busy. Very busy. And sick. Fairly ill, in fact. Many things happened during this week long sabbatical from blogging. I’m going to start talking about several of those things in just a moment.

But I’ve already done enough emotional flogging related to my blogging break. I think that in order for me to  successfully maintain this journal, I need to stop giving myself such a hard time about the way I communicate with others. I’m actually quite upset with myself because not only was I too busy to write, I was too busy to read my 21093041787 favorite blogs. Therefore, my google reader is about to hemorrhage from too many exciting blog entries.

However, that’s neither here nor there, and yelling at myself on the internet will not turn back the hands of time.

First thing’s first: in spite of my tumultuous week (which involved a GIRLTALK CONCERT, sinus related illness, and breaking my Couch to 5k Personal records), I managed to LOSE WEIGHT this week. Now, while I’m obviously unbelievably stoked to have had this happen, I think there’s an actual Weight Watchers related lesson embedded in this experience:

ALWAYS WEIGH-IN. I didn’t want to weigh-in today- I was convinced I’d gained weight, and I didn’t feel like dealing with the consequences of my actions. I was in a very low place. However, I told myself that I needed to calm down because how could I change my actions if I refused to even see the results? So I stepped on the scale, totally prepared to see a gain. And I lost. I lost over a pound. But the point is that I was PREPARED FOR THE GAIN. I was ready to take responsibility for my bad choices (yes, super salty cheese enchilada that was SO not worth the ww pointsplus….I’m looking at you).No matter what kind of ridiculous roller coaster week I’m facing, I need to always remember that the proper way to start over is by getting all the facts.

ANYWAY, like I said, this week was very congested (and so was my nose- HAHAHAHA). I made a lot of really interesting food (most of which I didn’t photograph- boo hiss), and I increased my standard pace during week 2 of the Couch to 5k Challenge.

In particular, Sunday night was particularly exciting because it was the live broadcast of the 17th Annual Screen Actor’s Guild Awards.

sag awards

Anyone who knows me is well aware that Awards Season is the Jessamyn Equivalent of March Madness. In other words, Sunday night was essentially my own personal Super Bowl Sunday (yeah, that’s right, I just combined sports metaphors).

In honor of the occasion, I decided to make a lot of party related food for one person (one person because, aside from my mother, I’m the only person I know who is obsessed with awards shows).

I decided to make guacamole, hummus, and a pizza.

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This probably sounds stupid, but I’m 99.9% sure I  had never opened an avocado before Sunday. Yes, I’ve eaten avocado- I love avocado. But for some reason, the preparation of fresh avocado is not a very large part of my life.

The guacamole turned out pretty delicious:

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I used a very generic guacamole recipe, i.e throw avocado, onions, salt, and lime juice into a food processor, but there are a few changes I might make. For starters, while using a food processor is time efficient, it creates a fairly smooth consistency. I prefer chunky guacamole, so I might just use a fork to mash up the fruit next time. Also, using ripe tomatoes is usually tastier than using recently picked tomatoes- as a result, I had unnecessarily large chunks of tomatoes (and I hate tomatoes- ok, that’s an overstatement but you get the picture).

In addition to the guacamole, I made a batch of hummus using canned garbanzo beans. It turned out ok, but the flavor is a teensy bit off to me. This was my first time making hummus from scratch, and for that reason I’m cutting myself a little bit of slack. Maybe it tasted off because the beans were canned and not fresh- the recipe I used said to use some of the water drained off the beans. In all honesty, I think this added to the weird flavor. In general, canning juices are not know for having the most palatable taste. Whatever, the hummus tastes pretty good in wraps and with homemade corn chips. I just need to futz with the recipe a little.

The main event of my SAG Awards Viewing party was the homemade pizza. I’ve been craving pizza for weeks, and I finally had enough time to make a crust from scratch. However, before I started the pizza making process, I decided to fulfill one of my goals: Making turkey sausage from scratch.

Now you’re probably wondering: Jessamyn, what does one put in turkey sausage? Well, for someone who follows directions well and reads recipes thoroughly, the ability to rattle off an exact ingredient list is probably second nature. However, if you’re like me and have the natural urge to do things the hard way, then you probably just eyeballed every spice in your kitchen until you came up with something resembling sausage. I mean, making sausage is basically just handmixing a bunch of spices into a mass of raw beast right?

(my great-grandmothers are probably rolling in their graves).

Anyway, I started with a pound of lean ground turkey. From that point, the sky was the limit. Here’s a sampling of ingredients that made their way into Jessamyn’s turkey sausage:

–cumin seeds

–thyme

–rosemary

–cayenne pepper

–oregano

–onion powder

–garlic powder

–nutmeg

–fresh ground black peppercorns

WAIT A MINUTE. Let’s pause here a moment, and I’ll give you a process shot of my beloved turkey sausage:

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I bet you’re wondering why I just inserted a photo of chocolate chip cookie dough into a blog of sausage making. That’s because it’s NOT cookie dough- do those look like chocolate chips to you? Let’s turn the flash on this baby:

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Yeah, that’s right- my gorgeous turkey sausage was marred by accidently dumping half a canister of WHOLE BLACK PEPPERCORNS into the mixing bowl.

I wish there was a photo of my face as the pepper fell into the bowl. I’m sure it was priceless.

Needless to say, I spent the next 15 minutes individually picking the black peppercorns out of the raw sausage. Yes, I washed my hands often. Yes, I was BEYOND pissed off. But I’m not made of money- there was no way in HELL that I was going to toss out a pound of meat because of a few hundred black peppercorns.

Anyway, after much trial, tribulation, and peppercorn picking, this finally went into my oven:

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And then, miracle of miracles, the crust rose properly! And it was both soft and crunchy. AND I DIDN’T EAT IT ALL AT ONCE (probably the greatest miracle of all).

By the way, the crust recipe I used was my own personal spin on a WW recipe- instead of using 4 1/4 cup ( s ) all purpose flour, I subbed in 2 1/4 cup ( s ) whole wheat flour- partially because of the health factor and partially because of the ‘I ran out of all-purpose flour’ factor. A lot of people are afraid of whole wheat flour, but I think it’s perfectly delicious.

Original WW Recipe:

1 1/2 cup(s) water, warm (105-115°F)

1 tsp sugar

2 1/4 tsp yeast, or 1 package

1 Tbsp olive oil

4 1/4 cup(s) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp table salt

Jessamyn’s Adaptation:

1 1/2 cup(s) water, warm (105-115°F)

1 tsp sugar

2 1/4 tsp yeast, or 1 package

1 Tbsp olive oil

2  cup(s) all-purpose flour

2 1/4 cup(s) whole wheat flour

1 1/2 tsp table salt

  • Combine the water and sugar in a measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until foamy and lagoon-ish, about 5 minutes. Stir in the oil.
  • Combine the flour and salt in a food processor, stand mixer, or with your bare hands (like in olden times- just pretend you are someone’s Italian grandmother). With the machine running (if you don’t feel like busting it out with your hands), scrape the yeast mixture into the bowl; pulse until the dough forms a ball, about 1 minute. If necessary, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly until smooth and elastic.
  • Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray; put the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm spot until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.
  • Punch down the dough, then cut in half. Refrigerate or freeze in floured zip-close freezer bags at this point or use as directed in the recipe. Yields 1⁄12 of dough per serving.

I only used 1/5 of this recipe to create my Sunday night pizza. The dough can be used in a lot of different recipes, and I have big plans for homemade calzones later this week.

ANYWAY,

How was your week? If you watched the SAG Awards, were you shocked by any of the wins and snubs (for example, are the various critics associations just pretending Inception never happened? Actually, maybe it was all just a dream…)

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Filed under couch to 5k challenge, food, recipes, verba abuse, weigh-in, Weight Watchers

Product Review: Udi’s Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread

I don’t have any major food allergies- I mean, there’s a very great chance that I might have undiagnosed lactose intolerance, but that has yet to stop me from eating cheese like it’s going out of style. And while I don’t have any (known) gluten allergies, reducing the amount of gluten in one’s diet has a number of health benefits, including better digestion.

Anyway, when I saw that Udi’s Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread was on sale at Whole Foods, I got really excited to try out this really reputable brand.

Udi’s started making gluten-free products after their master baker was asked by a friend with celiac disease to come up with a new recipe for gluten-free bread. He ended up developing Udi’s “secret” recipe, and the rest is history.

In my opinion, this bread stands above other gluten-free breads I’ve tried. It’s a little mealy, but not too mealy, and it has a delicious bite as well as a really mellow flavor. I tried the original recipe, and I think it’s really good for every day sandwiches and toast. However, be aware that gluten-free does not mean THE HEALTHIEST FOOD IN THE WORLD OMG- I mean, it’s still bread. And the last time I checked, bread is a carbohydrate. That means two slices of Udi’s Gluten Free White Sandwich Bread is 4 WWpoints+. Basically, as long as you don’t eat the entire loaf in one sitting, I think eating Udi’s bread is perfectly fine for a Weight Watcher.

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For lunch, I ate my Udi’s in a sandwich made with a Boca Chik’n Patty, lettuce, mustard, and an egg white (look, don’t act surprised- I said I like eggs).  The whole thing was 8 WWpoints+.

Tonight my brother and I are having our first WW meeting together. Since we’re both doing WW online, we’ve decided to meet up once a week and have our own version of a WW meeting. I think it’ll be a great way for us to spend a little more time together, and support each other.

Do you have any unconventional support systems? Also, how do you feel about gluten-free diets?

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Say it Ain’t SNOW: A Recap of New Purchases, and Why Corporate Farming is Destroying My Judgement

Today I was reminded of one of the side effects of living in a world dominated by corporate food manufacturing: it’s very easy to forget that weather directly affects farming opportunities. I mean, when you can buy peaches and strawberries in the middle of December, why the hell would anyone be thinking about the fact that those items are out of season and didn’t come from a farm nearby?

(It’s probably because we live in the Matrix. Or America. You know, semantics.)

Therefore, if there’s been an unusual amount of snow and ice in your area, there will be a very meager selection of produce at your local farmer’s market.

Let me make this a little more simple:

This:

(Source)

+This:

(Source)

=

Whatever, I’ll hit up the market later in the week. Anyway, while I was at home with my parentals and little bro, my mom and I went on a mother/daughter grocery shopping expedition and I found steel cut oats at ALDI:

Um, what? I had difficulty finding a selection of steel cut oats at Harris-Teeter, and there’s a giant display at ALDI for half the typical price? I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but that strikes me as slightly amusing. Now, these oats are quick cooking, so I don’t know how they will compare to these oats:

I’ll be sure to let you guys know how the taste testing goes down with these two items. Whole Foods versus Aldi– this ought to be very interesting.

Also, my mom hooked me up with a new kind of tahini:

I’m pretty excited to try it- Mama Bear got it for a great price using amazon.com, but some of the reviews say it’s kind of bitter. Do you eat tahini? Do you have a favorite way of preparing it? I, for one, am about to embark on a series of hummus experimental adventures.

Also, when I arrived home in Cancer City, guess what was waiting for me?

And Yes, I did pose these photos on top of my record player.

🙂 🙂 🙂 I love new purchases, especially when they come in the form of an Eat Smart Precision Pro Kitchen Scale and an Omron GoSmart Pocket Pedometer.

Because I’m Jessamyn and I have the patience of a two year-old, OF COURSE I had to immediately start weighing everything in my kitchen using my lovely new scale. I won’t bore you with all my testing, but I was very impressed with the scale’s accuracy and ESPECIALLY the great convenience of the tare function. By using the tare button, I can easily place a plate/bowl on the scale and zero out its weight before measuring my actual food. There’s no silly math involved at ALL. It’s a REVELATION, y’all.

Plus, doesn’t it look so pretty next to my coffeemaker? Now my kitchen is semi-color coordinated.

(Ok, I’m making an ass of myself.)

I’d have taken more photographs of my pedometer, but I immediately adjusted all the settings, clipped it to my shirt, and walked around my kitchen like an idiot for ten minutes. Things I’ve learned so far? Apparently I have a very short stride, and walk too slowly. I’m sure more lessons will be learned as soon as I start walking and acting like a normal person again. Ok, that’s probably asking a bit too much- everyone knows I’m nowhere near normal.

How was your Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day? Did you act more or less silly than I did?

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Oats and Quinoa and Grocery Stores: OH MY!

As I write this entry, I’m sitting in the deli/mini grocery/coffeeshop my girlfriend works in, and I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have a store so close to my apartment which sells bulk spices and grains.

Wait a minute, let me back up and give a little free publicity: the store of which I’m speaking is called Washington Perk , and it’s fulfilling a serious grocery shortage in the Winston-Salem, NC area.

Ok, I’ll be more specific- yes, there are tons of grocery stores in W-S. Harris Teeter and Food Lion pretty much dominate the grocery options, though many people also utilize other big name chains (Costco, Wal-Mart, etc.) In my immediate neighborhood, we have a very substantial Spanish-speaking population and are lucky enough to have a Compare Foods Supermarket. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Compare Foods specializes in items which are specific to Latin cuisine. There’s a great Spanish bakery, vast crates of bulk beans, as well as an extensive butcher and deli. There’s also a multitude of options in food categories which are typically sparse or bare in your typical “American” grocer- where else can you find ten different kinds of Mexican hot chocolate? Also, on the scale of “expensive grocery stores”, CF ranks on the very low end of the spectrum.

However, Compare Foods is not a great source for organic produce (or any other organic item), and it can be cost in-effective to shop for items which are not prominent ingredients in Latin food culture. For example, though cheese is used in different types of dishes, traditional cheese (cheddar, etc.) produced “for” American cookery is EXTREMELY expensive. This is very similar to Super G Mart, a store in my hometown of Greensboro, NC, which specializes in Asian cookery. Super G Mart’s produce and meat selections are an unbeatable price/quality equation. However, I’ve seen packages of cheese costing nearly $7.

Of the available stores, there are very few which are locally owned. There are also very few which offer a large selection of local and/or organic products. And in my actual neighborhood, there are absolutely no coffee shops, and very few restaurants. This is where Washington Perk comes in. The Perk is locally owned, and features fair trade coffee, a small (but growing!) selection of locally produced dairy and produce, as well as a number of organic grocery options. There’s also a fairly inexpensive deli, and the aforementioned bulk spices and grains.

These are all very important features because one of the only other organic grocers in town is Whole Foods Market, and it’s not near my apartment AT ALL (though, for the record, I’m a fan of Whole Foods and everything for which they stand.)

Wow. Um, ok. Shall we get back to the point of this entry? 🙂

Anyway, there are a number of foods which I want to endeavor to make part of my regular diet during the next few months. Several of these foods hold nutrients and vitamins which I’m definitely not getting enough of, and I think they will help provoke my urge to create new recipes and meal ideas. Here are three with which I can’t wait to get more familiar:

(Photo Credit: Stacey Boyer)

Steel cut oats

My father has sworn by steel cut oats for a number of years, but I’ve always been turned off by how long it takes for them to become soft and chewy, as opposed to tough chunks which get stuck in your teeth leading to a morning of being called ‘oatmeal mouth’. I’m also turned off by the price, but most foods which are actually good for the human body tend to fall outside of my budget. I’m coming to the conclusion that instead of choosing unhealthy options because of the price, I need to re-work my entire food budget.

Danica of Danica’s Daily has a great recipe featuring steel cut oats which I am extremely psyched to try.

(Photo Credit: Stephanie of Noshtopia)

Quinoa

Quinoa is the new love of my epicureal life. I can’t believe I’ve let my food discrimination keep me away from this delicious delicacy for so long! The texture is an excellent substitute for rice or couscous, and it is unbelievably versatile. It can be savory, sweet, salty, or all three and more!

(All these exclamation points are making me feel like Billy Mays. (!))

(Photo Credit: Benefits of Spirulina)

Spirulina

I’ve been reading a lot about the positive health benefits of adding spirulina into one’s diet. Spirulina is a complete protein, and contains all essential amino acids. It’s stronger than the average plant protein, and it’s rich in a host of vitamins and minerals. Of course, the color and flavor can both be rather off-putting, but I get the impression that spirulina powder can be painlessly added to food and drinks.

What about you? What foods/recipes are you excited to try out this year?

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