Saturday, April 27, 2013

Gimme Some Sugar

Actually, don't. Because even though I want it REAAAALLLLLLYYYY badly, I'm trying to skip it today.

{I'm not going to go into the bazillion reasons why I haven't blogged in about four months. Let's just move forward.}

I've actually been in a long process of researching. For a while I've felt over whelmed by my diet possibilities. Kind of like, the more you learn, the more you realize you don't know?

As you know, I have several vegan and vegetarian friends out there in the world, some who buy organic, others who grow their own organic, and others on Paleo. (Holla!)

So basically, I'm surrounded by healthy diets and overwhelmed by my options-- some of them conflicting-- especially when I hit the grocery store. Do I buy tofu? or $9/lb organic beef? or do I get my protein from grains and beans? It's all so confusing.

At this point, I've decided to do what I've been doing. As Dad always said, everything in moderation. Sometimes, he really knows what he's talking about. 

Basically, I haven't cut anything out completely. That makes me nervous.  But I'm careful about my soy intake, and picky about what meat I buy. I've laid off the milk and cheese, and upped my fruits and veggies big-time.

One thing I HAVE  cut out lately though, is white sugar and white flour. Basically, no good can come of these, so I don't mind. 

Well, I mind a little. Especially at 3PM after a rough day in 8th grade.

But I've found a couple of ways around white flour and sugar that I want to share.



Chocolate Chunk Paleo Cookies
Copied straight from: http://www.runningtothekitchen.com/2012/10/chocolate-chunk-paleo-cookies/


Author: 
Recipe type: cookies
Serves: 10 cookies
Ingredients
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil (*update: make sure to measure oil after melting so that you’re not inadvertently using too much. This can cause cookies to flatten)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond milk
  • ¼ cup chopped dark chocolate pieces (I used Ghirardelli Sea Salt Soiree-highly recommended)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
  3. Whisk together wet ingredients in a small bowl.
  4. Add wet to dry and mix together.
  5. Fill a tablespoon measure with batter and press down to form a half-circle. Tap batter out onto baking sheet and lightly press down in the center.
  6. Bake for 10-11 minutes until bottoms just start to turn brown.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool 2-3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. They will be soft when removed from oven but firm up in a couple of minutes.


***** These are a win. We've made them twice so far. Easy to make, full of protein, and yummy. Tip: I bought both the almond meal and coconut oil from Trader Joe's; they have it the cheapest. Honey is local and from the Little Falls Co-Op.



Banana Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:
2 large old bananas
1 cup of quick oats

Mix those two together. Old bananas are amazing for this, but you can use fresh ones too. I buy a bunch of bananas, let them get old on my counter, and then stick ‘em all in the freezer.
Then add in what sounds yummy to you! (or nothing!) We love:
-a handful of chocolate chips
-crushed walnut pieces
-cinnamon
-raisins
Since all bananas are different sizes, the needed measurements can vary. If it seems too runny and the cookies would flatten out too much, add in more oatmeal. And make sure to not add in TOO many mix-ins as the cookies won’t hold together very well. The ones in these photos have a handful of chocolate chips, a teaspoon or two or cinnamon, and 1/4ish a cup of crushed walnuts.
We made 16 cookies with those measurements. We cook them at 350 degrees for 15 minutes on a GREASED cookie sheet. 
*****These were okay. A little bland, and a little dry (I added more oats because I thought the dough looked too wet....). I added in cinnamon and raisins, which helped. Next time I might add in some peanut butter or dried cranberries.

Raw Salted Peanut Butter Cookies
the what:
1 cup of raw almonds (you can use roasted as well if you'd prefer)
1/2 cup of peanut butter (i used creamy, unsalted)
1 cup pitted medjool dates
1 1/4 teaspoons of vanilla extract
maldon sea salt to garnish
the how:
- combine almonds, peanut butter, dates and vanilla in a food processor and blend until a dough-like texture is achieved (a couple of minutes).  add more peanut butter if necessary to make the dough stickier *
- form into small balls and use a fork to press down and create a crisscross pattern
- sprinkle liberally with maldon sea salt
- store in refrigerator (in my opinion they were better the next day!)
*i was concerned about the motor in our food processor being overworked so i used the dry container in our vitamix to break down the almonds into a pasty flour before i added everything to the food processor.  almond flour could also be substituted if you don't have access to a vitamix!

*****These were GREAT! We really love peanut butter, so these were particularly awesome. I used the almond meal left over from the first cookies, and I just sprinkled the tops with sea salt. I also added some dark chocolate chips. Definitely make these whether or not you're cutting anything out of your diet!

Give one of these healthier snacks a try, and see if they satisfy your sweet tooth ;)

Salted PB cookies. You can't go wrong here.

Now if anyone can invent a delicious, sugarless and flourless cupcake, I'll be in business.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year's Reflections


Hi there, friends. Long time, no see.  It's my fault.  I haven't been blogging.

Friday Tea Date, Saigon Spring, Clifton Park, NY

You see, I was (am) having a bit of an identity crisis with this blog.  So, I awkwardly avoided the situation. But now, it's a new year, and it's time to grab this bull by the horns.


Since this is the time of year for reflecting, I will explain.  The sitch is that I started this blog 4 years ago, during a time when I was newly exploring the Capital Region, just starting to feed myself like an adult (as in, no longer having beer for dinner), and working in the Land O' Farms.



Did someone say beer for dinner? (Brewery in Chicago)




Four years later, I've lived in every city in the Tri-City area, I've come a long way in the kitchen, and I work in an urban school district (i.e. my co-workers no longer deliver duck eggs or microgreens).  I moved 3 times (downsizing each time), gained a kitty, was laid off twice, dabbled in art, quit running three times, took up yoga, and started a blog.

Basically, I am in a different place than I was in 2009, and wasn't sure if this blog still fit.  I was learning how to eat healthier, but I was afraid I had started to veer away from the path too much. First of all, what do I know about food? I'm not the Fussy Professor: I don't have a depth of knowledge or an experienced palate. I'm not a trained chef who has real techniques to teach anyone.  And, I mean, sometimes, I just eat (delicious) BAD food.  And love it.  Can I still call this the Green Scene with that on my conscience?


Poutine, Montreal, Quebec. If you look up Sinfully Delicious Food in the dictionary, this is what you'll see.

But then, a wise little friend - we'll call her City Mouse - asked me some really important questions: Who cares?  and also: Why not?

City Mouse stopping to smell the flowers in Union Square Market.

Why not tell you about the cheese-tacular grits I had in New Orleans? Maybe you'll want to try them out for yourself when you visit?



Why not show you the buttery le beouf in Montreal that made me practically melt off my chair in ecstasy?


Who cares if your diet doesn't call for amazingly delicious and amazingly easy ginger cookies that I made for a friend's Christmas Cookie party?  At least they're VEGAN! (By the way, MAKE THESE NOW.)

I guess I'm not always totally green (although, I do recycle EVERYTHING).  And I'm not always that healthy (just ask my marathon-running, salad-eating boyfriend, who probably would be horrified to know how much cheese I just ate while writing this).  And hopefully, my friends who read this won't mind, and might still even ENJOY reading what I have to say.

I'm hoping that it's actually OKAY that I'm not an expert, because I'm just like the rest of you out there, trying my best, and learning as I go, which IS the frame of mind in which I began this blog.  I'm still learning new things, whether that's how to make a new healthy salad, or how much BBQ I can stuff myself with during one trip down south.

I just really love food.  Most of the time it's good for me, but sometimes... I like to say, When in Rome, eat like the Romans do. YOLO.




Since you've listened so patiently, you deserve another recipe. Besides the ginger cookies, you should also make this wicked easy butternut squash soup, that has become a staple around here this fall.  This great recipe was shared with me by the dear DC2Alb (we made it easy by skipping the garnish entirely), and it actually IS healthy.







Butternut Squash Soup with Fall Mushrooms
adapted from Jean-Georges Vongerichten and J&G Steakhouse

makes about 4 servings

for the soup
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
4 cups chicken stock
1 ¼ cup crème frâiche
2 tbsp butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

for the garnish
2 cups black trumpet mushrooms, washed (or use shiitakes if you can't find black trumpet )
1 shallot, chopped
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp chives, cut into small pieces

In a large pot, combine the squash and stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and cook for about 20-30 minutes, until the squash is very tender. Working in batches, purée the mixture in a blender. Return the purée to the pot over medium-low heat, and add the crème frâiche and butter. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

Meanwhile, to prepare the garnish, sauté shallots in butter for 3-4 minutes over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté for about 3-5 minutes, until the mushrooms start to brown slightly.

Pour the soup into bowls and garnish with the mushrooms and sprinkle with chives.

**** D's note: By the way, I made this VEGAN, too, by substituting in veggie stock and soy yogurt.  Couldn't even tell, I swear!







Thanks for reading.  And for sticking around through multiple quarter life crises.  

Happy New Year!



Awkward family photo --->




Sunday, October 28, 2012

Home is where the heart is

This weekend some 'old' friends visited.  I've known these beautiful women for about 8 years now, basically what I consider my entire adult life. Since I became ME.  They know everything about me that brought me here. They are the kind of friends who make you feel all filled up when they're around. The kind that "get" you, without explanation. The kind who will tell you when you look good, or when that outfit just isn't doing anything for you.  They'll tell you when the boy you're dating is a keeper, and when he isn't, when you're right, and when you're just being crazy.  And when you are being crazy, they understand why, and don't hold it against you.  You know that they're always on your team.

Snuggle Time on the futon. Cuteness.

I also realized that after 4 years, the Capital Region feels like home.  That I'm happy to be living here-- it's a good fit.  I finally know where to get the best sushi, or sandwich, or brunch.  I know which grocery store is cheapest, what Target is the best, what time of day to avoid certain parts of the city, who makes the best coffee.




I also really like living in Troy.  I do miss Albany, being in the center of everything.  But I don't miss the traffic, and the character-less malls.  If it's lacking anything, Troy certainly isn't missing character.  The hipsters, the farmer's market, the beautiful buildings, coffee, pizza, and fried chicken.


Julie enjoying chicken 'n waffles after a long bus ride. 
The Flying Chicken, Troy, NY.












And as much as I want to gush about my old friends, I have really great new ones, too.  Patrick and I threw a costume party last night, and brought together his friends and my friends, old ones and new ones.  And it was FUN.  That's really the best.  You know you have a good crowd when they all mix and mingle and mesh like that. Magical.


The "new" friends :)











Three people at the party last night were brand new to the Albany area, and since many of us others in the room were also transplants, I think we tried extra hard to make them feel welcome. Because we remember that starting over is hard.  Whether it's your first semester at college, or first month in a new city, many lonely days are going to precede the fun ones, and sometimes it can feel like nothing will ever change.  And then suddenly, four years later, you will pause for a moment in a room full of costumed, laughing, hugging, dancing friends and think to yourself, "I finally know enough people to throw a party!"

So, to my friends, old and new, thank you.

Julie, Marisa (City Mouse), and I...Then:

May 2006, SUNY Binghamton


...and Now:


October 2012, Troy NY
(P.S. We're wearing costumes.  We don't normally look like this.)








And to Patrick... thank you for always being such a good sport for my schemes ;)









HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Embracing Fall

In past years, I dreaded the fall.  I've always considered myself a warm-weather person -- I much prefer to be hot than cold -- and most winters seem to drag on and on and on...

The last couple of years, however, I've felt myself embracing the fall.  Maybe part of it is getting older.  I think I appreciate the beauty of the changing seasons.  Also, part of it is definitely that the winters haven't been as harsh recently.  But mostly, it's because the fall just has so much darn character, from the weather, to the activities, to the foods.

The sunlight hits us from a particular angle and the sky glows that striking blue.


Crisp fall walks are the best, right Patton?


The best apples come straight from the orchard.

Bowman Orchards, to be exact.  And while you're there, have a scoop of apple cider donut ice cream.



Garlic lovers eat their fill at festivals.

It takes a true garlic lover to eat straight samples. 



And we use up the tail end of the summer harvest.

 Stir fry! Broccoli, peppers, onions, kale, bok choy, with garlic and toasted sesame oil.



Homemade pickled beets over arugula, topped with goat cheese and candied almonds.


More pickles, anyone?

Roasted eggplant pitas!  Prep eggplant and roast at 450 until it's browned (flip once).  Stack on a whole grain pita with hummus, spinach and feta.  Good lunch!

I hope you are enjoying fall, whether you are cooking, outdoors-ing, or participating in other Autumn-ish activities...












Monday, September 3, 2012

Hello, Goodbye

September is a wonderful and awkward time of year.


Apple season came early this year.  Go get 'em!

Technically, it's still summer.  We're wearing shorts and sundresses, and planning outdoor activities.  We're buying nectarines...


He really loves fresh produce.

and making fresh marinara.

Connecting with my inner Italian Grandma.

On the other hand, it's fall.  It's cool enough in the morning and evening to wear a jacket, and at the same farm that we bought the nectarines, we gobbled up fresh cider donuts.


The circle of life?

It's the overlap of summer and fall, and endings and beginnings are always bitter sweet.

This was one of the best summers I've had in years, and I'm sorry to say goodbye to it. I traveled and celebrated and cooked and drank and danced. I made new friends, and spent quality time with the old.  I tasted wine and collected sea shells. I swam in a lake and in the ocean.  I drove to another country. I made pickles.


Montreal, Quebec


Cayuga Lake, Ithaca, NY 



Making Dilly Beans!



I felt relaxed for the first time in a long time, and I'm anxious to get back to the grind.  But I'm also excited to start a new chapter as an 8th grade English teacher, and hopefully, further establish myself at my new school. I'm excited to make new friends, and try new things.  I'm excited for the learning and growing.


If this doesn't make you excited to read, I don't know what will.

Goodbye, Summer. Hello, Fall!

D

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Eggplant, Etc.



Hi there, friend.



Sorry it's been quiet around here for the past week.  That's because it's been pretty quiet in real life, too.  And that's just fine with me.




Wata melon. It's that time.





The back pack has stayed (mostly) unused, and I've spent the week hanging out, sleeping, eating, and yoga-ing.







Full-on Summer Vacation mode. Just in time for the end of summer....




Stowaway.



I know it's the end of summer because I've already been to my new classroom once to organize.  And it's been chilly at night and in the mornings.



And I've eaten so much zucchini and eggplant!

Erin's zucchini chips, dipped in milk instead of eggs.  Gooooood. I ate the whole plate.


Then it rained and cooled off, and I got on a spicy curry kick:

Sauteed summer veggies over curried lentils.  Sweet and warm on a rainy evening.


Curried summer veggies on a bed of whole wheat cous cous.  Cous cous is as fun to eat as it is to say.  This was lighter and nuttier than the lentils, more like a stir fry.

And THEN there was the eggplant. Oh, the eggplant.



Eggplant pizza. Saute the eggplant first.  Topped with peppers, onions, eggplant, mozz. Pairs well with Downton Abbey.

I love eggplant, but I didn't have many good recipes using it beyond eggplant parm, which is heavy for summer.  I just didn't really know how to make it taste good when it wasn't covered in bread crumbs, cheese and sauce. (Hence, the bitter baba ganoush fail.)

Then I discovered the technique on Pinterest (man, I love Pinterest), and it worked like a charm.  

Hello, grilled eggplant.


Grilled eggplant panini.

It's what everyone else knows how to do, but I had never actually done it.  

Directions: Slice up the eggplant and layer it in a colander with a bunch of salt.  Set a bowl of water on top, and let it push out all the bitterness.  Then rinse, olive oil, grill (grill pan counts).

Trust me, this will change your life.  At least when it concerns eggplant.


August of our CSA has been bountiful, but it's sometimes hard to eat all the veggies and not get sick of them. It's required research and creativity, but that was the idea when we started it. I've eaten more veggies in the last few weeks than... ever! It's good for the waistline, and almost makes up for all the wedding meat I ate last month...

Enjoy your summer veggies.  Then make these:



... and call it a meal.  It's fine. YOLO.


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Friday, August 10, 2012

Time to Relax.


I've been to Ithaca twice in the past month... both times to see good friends tie the knot.


Local brews. Do it.


M+B


I've known Mary for a really long time (we've been friends since the first day of kindergarten!) so it was especially awesome to celebrate this day with her and her new husband.  She's wanted this for a very long time, and they're a beautiful couple.  Cheers!

Her wedding also marked the end of the my extensive summer travels, and I was really excited this week to.... do nothing. Rest and detox, and spend QT with the kitties. 


Taking in the view from her new favorite window.

I finished Catching Fire in 3 days.  I tried several new recipes that came out really good.  And I still can barely lift my legs after taking the longest yoga class of my life last night.  All of my favorite ways to relax.

The next phase of August is getting ready for school, but I don't want to talk about it yet.

In the meantime, I'll keep pretending that summer lasts forever.  

And I'll leave with you some of my new favorite recipes to try this week:

Fresh corn salad. LOVED this one. Follow this recipe, but I substituted the wheat berries for Israeli cous cous because it's what we had in the cupboard, which made an even lighter summer salad.


Tomatilla-Avocado Salsa (over chicken tacos).  Tomatillas are weird. But this salsa was easy and really delicious.  I'm sad that we already ate it all, and I'm crossing my fingers for more tomatillos to show up in our CSA.  I mean, let's face it, it's mostly an excuse for a taco night.  Taco night is always my favorite night.





Ratatouille. Not the Disney movie, although that's really good, too.  This was an easy and delicious way to use up a ton of summer vegetables all at once.  The eggplant came out especially buttery and delicious sauteed in the olive oil.  All the work is in the chopping, which isn't so bad.  Emeril knows what he's doing.

I hope you're enjoying this last stretch of summer.  Have fun, and keep cool. 


-- D