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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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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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+

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+

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=

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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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Spirulina- Sounds like a Disease, Tastes like a dream

You know, every time I get sick in my adulthood, I think this is some sort of karmic payback for every time I faked sick during my childhood. However, as an adult with a schedule and mandatory responsibilities, getting sick? SIGNIFICANTLY LESS COOL.

At this moment I’m sitting in the UNCSA Health Center, praying that the doctor doesn’t utter the word ‘influenza’. When I arrived at the Health Center this morning 5-10 minutes before it opened, I was surprised to find that I was merely joining a queue of other diseased students.

Since I started this entry I have seen the doctor, endured a heinous pharmaceutical experience, and have taken up at a semi-permanent residence in my bed. Again, the one good thing about being sick is that I can blog my heart out (as long as there are tissues in the immediate vicinity).

Because I’ve been so ill, I decided to make an extra special Green Monster yesterday. Actually, two things really sparked my need for green:

1. I discovered an untouched pint of FAGE plain yogurt in the back of my fridge that expires in a couple of days. My new found love of Chobani has distracted me from my lifelong obsession with FAGE texture, and I refuse to let such a thick and luscious yogurt go to waste. I don’t usually put dairy products in my monster, but this was an emergency.

2. I wanted to try the spirulina powder I bought. News flash: remember when I blogged about Winston-Salem’s Washington Perk and Provisions? Well, you can buy spirulina powder IN BULK there. Huzzah.

Yesterday’s monster consisted of:

-Three Giant Handfuls of Spinach (I’m not big on measuring leafy greens, but I think the handful trick is good enough)

-3/4 cup FAGE plain non-fat greek yogurt

– 1 Banana

– 1/2 cup Peaches

– 2 tsp spirulina powder

First I blended the top four ingredients, making sure to put the yogurt on the bottom. It’s a pretty good rule of thumb to put liquid beverage ingredients close to the bottom of your food processor/blender (this also goes for smoothies, milkshakes, pina coladas, etc.) because they allow the bulkier items to smooth out easier. In the case of a green monster, the spinach will whip right into the yogurt creating a thick and creamy mixture.

Oh, have I not introduced you to my new friend? Meet my new food processor, the Black and Decker FP1600B. She’s sleek, matches my coffeemaker (and ipod dock and scale), and doesn’t start smoking when I run her for long periods of time- therefore, she’s my newest and bestest friend. I still have my baby cuisnart mini-prep, but it was starting to show signs of age- i.e. smoking while in the act of crushing garbanzo beans. I’m not ready to give up on ol’ cuisnart, but that baby definitely needed a pinch hitter.

Anyway, after I blended up my main ingredients, I added the featured player: spirulina powder.

Look at those greens! I just want to go swimming in that color. Ok, not really.

As I’ve mentioned before, spirulina is an incredible superfood and is the richest beta carotene food- legit, spirulina beta carotene is 10 times stronger than carrots. Among the multitude of its incredible benefits, spirulina also strengthens the immune system. And since I’ve been struck by the black death, I need as much immune system subsidizing as possible.

I only used 2 teaspoons because I wanted to ease my way into drinking spirulina- however, because of the additional flavors in my beverage, the spirulina blends in seamlessly.

Now, as a fair warning, this green monster was not very sweet- if you need more natural sweeteners, add more fruit. So don’t make this exact recipe and expect to taste the fruity rainbow- I was going for greenery, not garden variety. However, I found this drink to be quite delicious and just what the doctor ordered.

Since we’re on the topic of green smoothies: Roni of Green Lite Bites made an adorable video of her and her son making smoothies together. It’s really cute, and very informational- if you’re interested in joining the green revolution but want to ease your way into it, watch this video for some great pointers and hints.

I can’t wait until I’m making green smoothies with baby Jessamyns. Actually, this is what I hope my motherhood looks like:

Also, I was a touch too emphatic when I added the spirulina to my monster, and ended up sprinkling forest green powder on my Santa Claus footed Jammy Jams.

santa jammie jams

Yes, that’s right. I’m 23, and I wear footed Santa Claus pajamas. Jealous?

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The Winter Blues and a Delectable Avocado Pasta Dinner

Well, the Winter Illness Monster has settled into my house for the second time in three weeks. Am I being punished for not getting the flu shot? Or does this have something to do with wearing tights and skirts all winter long? Yeah, probably.

For whatever reason, my nasal passages are stuffed to the brim and my voice has decided it doesn’t want to come out and play. I’ve been forced to take a sick day. Downside of a  sick day? I’m incapable of leaving my bed. Upside of a sick day? While I can’t talk, I can still blog- as long as my typing doesn’t interrupt my c0nstant nose blowing.

I absolutely adore avocado, and was entranced by an avocado pasta dish that Angela of Oh She Glows blogged about a few weeks back. I finally got around to making this delicious dish a few nights ago. It tastes very decadent and creamy when it’s really simple and fairly healthy. The healthy fats in avocado make the pasta taste like a Fettuccine Alfredo hybrid, but without the heavy cream and cheese.

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Naturally, I adapted the recipe to ‘Jessamyn’ standards, which typically results in a key element being forgotten or dramatically distorted. In this case I used a bit too much garlic- in her recipe recap, Angela definitely says to limit the amount of garlic you use if you’re not too fond of the flavor. I love garlic, so I scoffed at this direction- I should not have scoffed. My sauce was very garlicky- I mean, it was still good, but I should have been a little less generous with the aromatics.

15 Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta

(Oh, you want Oh She Glow’s Original Recipe?)

Yield: Serves 1

Ingredients:

1 medium sized ripe Avocado, pitted

1/2 lemon, juiced

2-3 garlic cloves, to taste (USE 2 IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SMELL LIKE THE INTERIOR OF A GARLIC PRESS)

1/2 tsp kosher salt

~2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2-3 oz of dry whole wheat pasta

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Bring several cups of water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add in your pasta, reduce heat to medium, and cook until Al Dente, about 8-10 minutes.

2. Make the sauce by placing the pitted avocado, salt, garlic cloves, lemon juice, and olive oil into a food processor; process until smooth and creamy.

3. When sauce is thick, creamy, and delicious, reserve two healthy scoops (about 1/4 cup) in a serving bowl. Pour the rest of your avocado sauce in an air-tight container and store in the fridge for no more than 1-2 days.

4. When pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse in a strainer and place pasta into the serving bowl. Toss with sauce until fully combined.  Serve immediately. Makes 1 serving.

The trouble with avocado is that it does not keep well after being exposed to the air. Therefore, I ate my avocado pasta for a couple of different meals in the days immediately following it’s preparation. This would be a really nice meal to share with someone else- If you choose to do this, simply double the pasta and serve all the sauce at once.

I served my pasta with turkey meatloaf cups which I adapted from a Weight Watchers Recipe. They are really easy to make, freeze very well, and can be used in a multitude of ways (for example, yesterday’s lunch consisted of a meatloaf sandwich).

Jessamyn’s Turkey Meatloaf Cups

Yield: 9 Servings (You can stretch the meat into 12 muffin cups, but 9 makes a healthy portion)

Ingredients

cooking spray

1 pound uncooked ground turkey breast (I used 93/7)

1 tsp table salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 large onion(s), finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)

3 clove(s) (medium) garlic clove(s), finely minced, or more to taste

1 egg

1 tsp low sodium soy sauce

2 Tbsp sherry cooking wine

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF and coat 9-12 muffin holes with cooking spray

2. Place turkey in bowl; season with salt and pepper, mix until incorporated and set aside.

3. Place oil in a large frying pan and cook over medium heat; add onion. Sauté onion over medium heat until wilted and translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic; cook for 1 to 2 minutes.

4. Add soy sauce and sherry.

5. Add onion mixture to turkey and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Drop by heaping tablespoons into prepared muffin tins until 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake muffins until center seems firm to the touch and turkey is completely cooked through, about 22 to 27 minutes. Yields 1 muffin per serving.

I sometimes chuckle when I read meatloaf recipes because the whole concept of meatloaf is to create a meal from what you have. I only used onion and garlic because that’s what I like in my loaf- however, you can throw in whatever aromatics, spices, or vegetables you have on hand and enjoy the hell out of your creation. Meatloaf gets a really bed reputation because of bad casserole concepts in the 1950’s. However, it’s actually a really great opportunity for food creativity.

Here’s what my finished plate looked like:

292011 013

It might look a little monochromatic, but it was DELICIOUS

I ate my meatloaf cups drizzled with mustard because I’m weird like that.

(And yes, I photographed my dinner on top of my record player, one of the many makeshift photo studios in my apartment. Haters Gonna Hate.)

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An “I’ve Learned The Hard Way” Recipe Review: Hungry Girl’s Cinnamon Rolls! (A Lesson In the Ancient Art of Mistake Making)

I actually wrote this entry several months ago when I was writing under another blogging alias, The Frugal Student. However, I recently found the entry, remembered what a RIDICULOUS cooking experience this was, and decided to share it with all of you. I wrote this entry write after my undergrad graduation (about eight months ago), and I was cooking in my old apartment kitchen- which just makes me appreciate my new giant kitchen. Seriously, my new kitchen is a palace compared to the shoebox I cooked in for a year.

So in the weeks since graduation, I’ve been indulging in some of the finer things in life. Basically, I’ve been doing a lot of sleeping and eating. Mostly sleeping. But I’ve also been doing a fair amount of culinary exploration. Which brings me to my next point: Have you met the Hungry Girl?

Hungry Girl is the pen name and brand created by Lisa Lillien. From what I can gather, Lisa is just your average girl who’s been trying to create delicious, healthy food which tempt the taste buds without killing diet plans. Then, after becoming really successful on the internet(z) she decided to take her dog and pony show on the road, and voila! She’s created an internationally known brand. Since The Frugal Student is a true fan of the DIY spirit and all it entails, Lisa’s story is not just inspirational, but a good jumping off point for new recipe ideas. With that in mind, I decided to take a little bit of my grad cash and buy the Hungry Girl’s cookbook “200 Under 200: 200 Recipes Under 200 Calories.”

Ok, before I go any further, let me just say that anyone who knows me is well aware that I am the modern definition of a book worm. I actually collect copies of “The Joy Of Cooking”, and have a fiction collection which requires the purchase of a new bookshelf. However, while I absolutely adore large, franchise bookstores like Borders and Barnes and Noble (c‘mon, who doesn‘t love sipping overpriced coffee while looking at wall-sized imaginings of Oscar Wilde?), I would not recommend that the average broke student/person patronize stores like this when money is tight and there are so many other options available for the purchase of books. For example, your local used bookstore is the best source for new books and, depending on the store, movies and music as well. I mean, think about it: why buy a new copy of a book when you can just wait for someone else to read it, and buy their gently used copy? Used bookstores are basically the ‘middle man’ version of putting up posters around town saying, “Hey! I read this book and don’t need it anymore. Do you want it?” For example, I got my barely used copy of “200 Under 200” for the bargain price of 8.00, including tax.
Now let’s say I couldn’t find a copy of “200 Under 200” that day, and/or I didn’t live in an area with a rockin’ used bookstore. This a time for the wonderful world wide web, specifically half.com or Paperback Swap. These are basically the internet examples of getting used books on the cheap. Paperback swap is especially awesome, as you gain credit by trading your own books.
Wow. Even for me, that was a pretty ridiculous tangent. Anyway, back to the Hungry Girl: so a few days ago I decided to try out her recipe for cinnamon rolls. Now, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but every once in awhile I enjoy a bite of something very sugary. The Hungry Girl swears by a number of products I don’t typically use, but I decided to stretch my mind so I could try this recipe while maintaining some of its integrity. But of course, because I’m The Frugal Student, I did make a few adjustments.

HG’s Gooey Cinnamon Rolls With Cream Cheese Icing

For Dough

1 package Pillsbury Reduced Fat Crescent Rolls refrigerated dough

16 sprays I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! Spray

For Filling

¼ cup dark brown sugar (not packed)

¼ cup Splenda No Calorie Sweetener (granulated)

½ tablespoon light whipped butter or light buttery spread, room temperature

1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

For Icing

¼ cup Cool Whip Free, thawed

3 tablespoons fat-free cream cheese, room temperature

1 tablespoon Splenda No Calorie sweetener (granulated)

Ok, FIRST OF ALL: I don’t believe in only buying name brand products. And trust me, it’s not just because I can’t afford them. Ok, that plays a giant role. But also, there are many house brands which taste just as good as big name products. For example, I found the Harris Teeter brand crescent rolls to be just as tasty as Pillsbury, for a fraction of the price. Also, for those of you who don’t know, splenda is really F****** expensive. Also, I don’t typically buy no-cal sweeteners (I prefer to use honey and/or agave nectar.) But I did invest in a giant bag of Great Value  no-cal sweetener. And I’m not convinced splenda is that much better*. The point is, there are some house brands (Great Value, Harris Teeter, Fit and Active**, Trader Joes) which rival the most commercialized products out there. So even if a recipe calls for a very specific brand, don’t be afraid to try out the less expensive alternative. Just for fun, I’ll include which brands I actually used as I go through the recipe so you can see what worked (and what should possibly be upgraded*.)
*Um, we’ll revist this topic later in the recipe review.
**Fit and Active is a great house brand at Aldi. There are a wide variety of Fit and Active products, and they are all really awesome (especially the dried fruits, and whole wheat pasta.)
Ok, so STEP ONE in this recipe: “Preheat oven to 375 degrees.”
Yes, I included this step because this is something I tend to forget about until I’m ready to start baking. Anyway, preheat your fracking oven.
STEP TWO: “To make filling, combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well to make sure the butter gets mixed in evenly. Set aside.”

Ok, prepare yourself for my first screw up (the first of many, might I add.)
Now, in my opinion, I have a very well stocked kitchen and “pantry” (the term pantry is being used loosely to define the singular cabinet into which my roommate and I cram all of our dry ingredients.) I have multiple forms of sugar, but guess what I don’t have? Dark brown sugar. However, I do have light brown sugar. Which, of course, is hard as a rock because it’s been sitting in the back of a cabinet for several months. Hm. What to do? Well, I’ve actually read extensively about salvaging crunchy brown sugar from a life of crystallized rock-hood, and after a bit of reconstructive work (hyperlink), I brought my bag of sugar back from the dead and was able to use it in this recipe. The result? Um, I’m not a pastry chef or any sort of food scientist, but I am of the personal opinion that there’s a distinct reason why recipes call for a specific type of ingredient. In fact, this is not the same as substituting store brand ranch for Hidden Valley- ultimately, light and dark brown sugar are molecularly different and can’t be used interchangeably.  I’m not saying this caused a huge problem, but in the future I will definitely be using the correct type of brown sugar.
Also, I made this recipe before I invested in my bag of no-cal sweetener. I’m sure you can guess that the results of this recipe had something to do with my decision to buy a new product. Just for the record,

DOES NOT EQUAL

However, my filling did eventually come together, in spite of my haphazard ingredient renovations.

STEP THREE: “To make icing, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix until smooth and blended. Place in the fridge to chill and set.”
Time for the second screw-up- No, the problem wasn’t the Harris Teeter fat-free whipped topping I used (which, in my opinion, is just as good as Cool Whip brand.) It was the DEFINITELY NOT room temperature cream cheese I attempted to beat with it. If a recipe calls for something to be room temperature, take it out of the fridge more than five minutes before you need it. Also, again, agave nectar is not the same as splenda. Texture is more important than I can say. Now, after my very interesting experience with the filling, I knew I couldn’t get away with the agave method again. So instead I decided to use ½ tablespoon regular sugar combined with ½ tablespoon agave nectar. First of all, the addition of agave nectar and regular sugar dramatically alters the caloric intake of this recipe. But also, the texture of the icing was slightly off. Not really ‘bad’, but definitely different.

STEP FOUR: “Prepare a dry surface by sprinkling it with a small amount of flour to prevent sticking. Remove dough from package and kneed into a ball. Using a rolling pin dusted lightly with flour, very firmly roll out dough into a thin sheet about 8 inches by 12 inches. Spray the dough’s surface evenly with butter.”

This went smoothly enough. Since our kitchen space is about 5’x3’ (I wish I were kidding), there’s not nearly enough counter space for me to roll out dough without risking the dough touching other non-dough items. Therefore, I always use these awesome, super cheap cutting boards from ikea as a rolling surface. Oh, and my rolling pin? Definitely came from target, at the price of $2.50. I’ve had it for quite some time, but before that I’m not ashamed to admit I swore by the canned food rolling pin. I have to say, though, an actual rolling pin is a serious upgrade. Also, I used Parkay spray instead of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! and couldn’t tell a definite difference.

STEP FIVE: “Spread filling out evenly over dough, leaving a ½ inch border around the edges.”

STEP SIX: “Starting with a long side of the dough, roll it up tightly, forming a log. Once dough is completely rolled up, pinch the long seam to seal.”

STEP SEVEN: “Turn the log over so that the seam is facing down. Using a very sharp knife, cut log into 8 even pieces, being careful not to squish dough.”

STEP EIGHT: “Spray a baking pan with nonstick spray and arrange pieces of dough in the pan with swirl sides facing up. Use your hands to firmly press down on the tops of the pieces. Pinch the side seams to seal, if necessary.”
So do these look a little extra gooey to you, like maybe the filling is oozing out of the top a little too enthusiastically? Uh, yeah. Once again: don’t use agave nectar AT ALL.

STEP NINE: “Cover pan with aluminum foil. Bake in the oven for 8 minutes. Remove foil and return pan to oven. Bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until cinnamon rolls have risen and are slightly browned on top.”
During step nine I whipped up an easy egg white omelette to enjoy with my cinnamon roll.

STEP TEN: “Evenly distribute icing over cinnamon rolls and then enjoy!”
Finished product?

All in all, I thought the rolls tasted pretty delish, even with my slight recipe malfunctions. But trust me, the fun wasn’t over after I’d put my cinnamon rolls in some regifted tupperware and stored them in the fridge. Then I had to deal with this:

I don’t know if you can tell, but the pan is absolutely coated in cinnamon roll filling which oozed from the rolls into a hardened glaze on the baking sheet. Damnit. Damn, Damn, Damn.


I bet the Hungry Girl doesn’t have to put up with s*** like this.

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