Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Of all the things I've baked and created, I have yet to do my own granola bars, which are a staple in our house. My Mom likes them for breakfast and my Brother likes them for a snack. They kept asking me to try it out, so yesterday I finally gave it ago. The recipe follows, but it was my first time making any time of granola bar. Also, I made up the recipe off of the top of my head. I liked how they turned out though!

For the bars:
2 Cups raw rolled oats
1 1/2 Cups whole wheat flour
1/2 Cup Sugar in the raw
1/4 Cup granulated sugar
1 Cup creamy peanut butter (crunchy would be good too, you could also add more)
1 Cup roasted peanuts (any nut will do)
1/4 Cup flax seeds (optional)
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup vegetable oil
Splash of vanilla extract
Splash of almond extract
Pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and make sure they are well combined. Use your hands and get dirty if you must! Put into a greased pan and bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes. Let cool completely before you cut.

I even wrapped them individually so we could take them and go!

The best part is that these bars can act as many things.
It's perfectly good to crumble one up and pour milk over it. That's better than store-bought cereal. Also, you can crumble over fruit and yogurt for a parfait (my favorite way). You could even use as a topping for a sundae or your morning oatmeal. Whatever! It's all good! :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

California Style Portuguese Soup

Californians have a reputation of living a healthy lifestyle. There's an abundance of healthy restaurants, farmer's markets, health food stores and just about every family keeps nutrition in mind when cooking at home. Nearly everyone plays a sport. If they don't, they belong to a gym. The housing track sidewalks are filled with people jogging with their dogs, running with their loved ones or riding bikes. In my town alone, I think there's about 7 or 8 gyms and all of them are packed.

This just goes to show you that people are a product of their environment. California has the best weather, lots of sandy beaches, or gorgeous scenery elsewhere and some of the best produce in the world. I often try to leave California. Sometimes I might even claim that I hate it. However, I am glad that it gave me one of my most favorite characteristics...The will and desire to live healthfully.

That being said, we eat the same foods everyone else does, there's just a lot of substitutions going on. My dinner tonight was a classic example of that. Portuguese Kale Soup (I'm not sure of the actual name) is usually made with kale, cabbage, linguica and potatoes. That sounds healthy enough, doesn't it?
Nope. Not for California. I took out the potatoes, because Hollywood-lovers don't do carbs. Then, I switched the Linguica for Chorizo, because there is a large Mexican influence on our cuisine here. I took it one step further, to do my health-nut friends a solid, and used SOY chorizo. I'm a meat doubt about it. But, the soy chorizo from Trader Joe's is an exception. It tastes just as good and maybe even better in this soup! I topped it off with Avocado because they are everywhere around here! I mean, everywhere! Plus, we had a run of good weather the last couple weeks and it created some really yummy ones.

For the Soup:
12 oz. soy chorizo (use regular if you please)
1/2 head cabbage
1 bunch kale
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 white onion
About 2 cups of chicken or veg stock
About 3 cups of water
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Heat up a soup pot and add some olive oil. Once it's hot, add the onions and cook until they are transparent. Then, add the chorizo and garlic. Next, add the kale and cabbage. Top it off with the chicken stock and enough water just to cover. Bring it up to a boil. Then, bring the heat down and simmer until the vegetables are cooked to your liking. Season with salt and pepper at the end. Top it off with avocado.

That's it! How simple is that? One cutting board and one pot. Barely any mess and hardly any time! Yeah, it's super duper healthy, but it tastes like it's BAD! I promise ;)


Here he is!
The new member of the family...BIGGIE :)
He's a lab/mix... aka the cutest mutt I've ever seen!

My little brother has been dying for a dog ever since my parents divorce. I live in a 3 bedroom condo with him and my Mom. We didn't think a pup was possible because we don't have a yard. We have been here for a year now and we decided to rent for another year. I'm home a lot and my Mom only works 3 days a week so, what the heck! As long as we are comfortable here, we can make sure a dog has a good life here too.
My Brother wanted to rescue a dog (so did I after I found what they do to them) so we started searching as soon as we made the decision. I took to Craigslist because I knew there were also families on there that could no longer afford their dogs and they would end up in a shelter anyway. I found Biggie a few days later and picked him up while my Brother was still in school. When he walked in the door, a furry friend was standing in his way. He was so exited! I haven't seen him that happy in a really long time. It was the best feeling! And having Biggie in our house brings lots of joy!

No Pudge Fudge Brownies

The bright pink box caught my eye at Henry's Market the other day and I have made it for dessert every night since.
Fat free, all natural brownie mix that only calls for fat free yogurt to be added. As if that isn't good enough, you also have the option to microwave some of the mix, instead of baking a whole batch!
Yup, combine a little mix and a little yogurt and pop it in the microwave for only a minute. That's right. In under two minutes you can have yourself a delicious, guilt-free, chocolate-craver-saver dessert!
This morning I spotted the box again at Albertson's, so I'm pretty sure it's easy to find. I noticed they have mint and coffee flavors too. I bought the original, but I totally added a big scoop of Peanut Butter on top...whoops!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Beef & Broccoli...Sweet & Sour Style

Growing up, we had the same thing for dinner every week. One night we would have spaghetti, one night was macaroni & cheese, tacos, pizza and maybe a short list of other cheap eats. My parents were young and trying to make it and those were our options. There was a large shopping center located right behind our neighborhood. To eat, they had Del Taco, a deli/cafe, a Mexican fast food place, Sizzler and a Chinese food place. As you can tell, our options were limited to dine out as well. Not every week, but once in a while my Mom would go get Chinese take out for us. I have loved broccoli since I was in the womb, so Beef & Broccoli is what I got.
I loved it. It made me feel grown up for some reason. It was different than the norm and I always considered it a special treat.
Today my Mom had the idea that she wanted me to make Beef & Broccoli, but with green beans for my little brother (they both hate "the little trees"). I got so exited! The memory of that yummy classic totally slipped my mind! I was in and went to the store to get the goods. I decided to make it with sweet & sour glaze, just to spice it up a little and I had to make due with what I had in the pantry.

For the Sweet & Sour:
1/2 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
3T Brown Sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
3T soy sauce
3T thai chili paste
2T flour (I ran out of corn starch)
Whisk to combine.

You can use whichever cut of beef you fancy, just chop it into bite sized pieces. Brown the meat in sesame oil, when both sides are browned but the meat is not cooked through, add the sweet & sour glaze. Cook until sauce is thickened. I steamed the broccoli first, then added it to the sauce and beef at the end. Yum!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Brand New Addiction

It's been a while since I found something I can't live without. My last post was about California Lifestyle bread, that might be the last thing too. I have been on a major budget lately, as I don't get paid for being on sabbatical. So, I eat whatever is available at my house. Amy's Kitchen makes soups, frozen dinners and pizzas, among other things. All of their products are natural and most of their customers have some sort of food allergy or special diet. Their products can be found at Henry's, other health food stores and I recently found them at Super Target. I have tried on of their frozen dinners before, when I was doing the Gluten-free thing. They make many GF dishes and I fancy the tamales with beans and rice. Normally, I wouldn't go for something you pop in a microwave, but their dinners are surprisingly tasty. At Super Target I spotted a few cans of soup with their logo. I had seen them before but never tried it. The price is heftier than Campbell's, but for good reason. First, I tried the split-pea. It was delicious, gluten free and low in fat. I usually like split-pea with chunks of pork, but this wasn't that and I didn't mind. The other can I bought was Chunky Tomato Bisque. I had it yesterday and I was in love. It's sweet and savory and absolutely perfect. The chunks of tomatoes taste like they were picked from my garden yesterday. I loved it so much I went and bought another can last night and had it for breakfast this morning. I smell an addiction coming on...

Here's the link. They have a pretty nifty website too!

Friday, March 25, 2011

One of my layers is a healthy one...

First of all, let me tell you an important fact. I AM 22 YEARS OLD. If you don't catch my drift already, I'll continue. I am at that stinkin' age where a female is in the middle of finding herself. This time in our life seems to last the longest, as far as I know. I've been (I don't think I'm alone in this) lost since the ago of oh, say 17 or 18. I may have started young, but I was in a very grown up relationship and I've always been ahead of my time.
Since then, I've been searching and searching. For what? Don't know! It's just what we women do, especially women with a mind as imaginative as mine. I guess you can say I've gone through a few phases and I have always taken the time to explore each one. It may be ugly sometimes, but I know that when I'm on the other side of this fence I'll be better for it.
I am beginning to see a pattern. Maybe this is the part where things get good. I am starting to understand what I like and where I might be headed. I still don't know what I want though, so don't get too exited. After much speculation, curious day dreams, tribulations in foreign places and so on, I have figured out that I am a "balance" person. I need balance in my life.
Peace of mind has always been a top priority. When something bad happens, I always have to even it out with something that makes me feel good. When something irritates me, I always smooth it out with whatever has a "calming" affect on me at the time. I am the happiest when aspects of my life are split up in equal (well, some things rank higher than others) parts.
I'll get to the point now.
As far as my health and wellness habits go, this is where I need the most balance. Especially when it comes to my diet. I am very health conscious these days, due to a few years of ill health. Once I saw that healthy eating cured me of many problems, I was hooked. It also did wonders for my body and metabolism. However, I have always needed food for my soul. I have to find a place in my belly for food that makes me feel good. That might be a creature of my sentimental side, not sure.
So, I have been forced to find the gray area in between the health world and the tasty world. Good thing I paid a pretty penny to learn how to cook properly and a variety of different foods, or else I might be screwed. You will see this balance clearly as I post more recipes. Some days I eat all healthy, some days I eat all tasty and some days it's a mixture of both. I just might be the secret to a long, healthy and happy life. Never know.

I attached a link to Mahler's Wholesale Bakery. They make a high protein and low carb bread, called California Lifestyle. It's mostly made up of soy and flax. It holds 10g of protein and just 6g of carbohydrates in each piece! It's my favorite product to recommend to carb-loving health nuts who want to cut it out. I have been buying it for over 1 year now and I swear by it. I know it's good for me, it's a perfect replacement for processed bread, it keeps me "regular" and I can do everything with it! My best advice would be to try it in your french toast recipe. Since the bread is not as dense as white-flour based breads, it acts like a super sponge. It will soak up the batter and makes for an incredibly rich dish. Always use Peanut Butter instead of butter, because I say so. Of course, top it off with pure maple syrup with a very high percentage of maple or sugar free syrup. It just might be a carb-counter's dream!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Asian Meatballs, Veg and Rice Noodles

This is a perfect first recipe post. It really gives me a chance to show you my cooking style. I practice free-spirited, whimsical ways....In life and in the kitchen. I don't particularly like following recipes and although I like to create them, I hardly ever write them down. I want to add what I want to add, right when I think I should add it. I want to follow my heart, my stomach and taste buds. I also don't like math. That might be a reason.
My point is that I am a very true believer in doing exactly what you want, when you want. I have a mind of my own and I do things with passion instead of thought. Dinner will be good because you made it good. Not because you followed a recipe perfectly. I love to encourage people to be their own person in the kitchen. Take your basic skills, the ingredients you have available and go to town.
As I start putting up more posts and recipes, you'll get the hang of how I do things. You might see "spoon fulls" instead of "tablespoons" or "handfuls" could be new to you. I was classically trained in a very prestigious culinary school, but why bother with the boring stuff? Just go with the flow. I hope it brings you as much happiness as it brings me!
The recipe for this bowl of goodness follows. I only used things I had in the fridge already. We are on a tight budget and our taste buds never know it! I only had saltine crackers available (old-school meatball style) but you can use penko bread crumbs if you have it on hand. You can also add other finely chopped vegetables to the meatballs. Carrots would be good, I think. I used beef, you can use whatever you like.
No eggs? No problem! We used the rest of the eggs this morning for breakfast, so I had to do without them for a meatball-binder. You can also use any other kind of Asian noodle, like soba, or even rice would do the trick. And vegetables? All veggies would be good! Load em' in!

"Asian" Meatballs:
16 oz. (or so) of lean ground beef
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
6 or 7 saltine crackers, crushed
Salt & Pepper
1 spoonful of Thai chili paste (optional, if you don't like it hot)
A handful of chopped cilantro
Sesame oil or olive oil

In a large saute pan, heat up some oil.
Once the oils hot, toss in the meatballs and brown on one side. Flip em' over to brown the other side. Once you've flipped the meatballs and they are browned on both sides, pour in a little soy sauce. The pan will sizzle...cover it with a lid for a minute or two. This will help them cook through.

Next, you throw in the veggies...
Put the meatballs on one side of the pan and turn down the heat. Put your prepared veggies on the other side of the pan and put the lid back on. Cook for a minute, open it up and stir them a bit and finish cooking...only about another minute or so, it's best if they are still a little crunchy.
Take everything out of the pan and cover to keep warm while you cook the noodles.

For the Noodles, I used dry thin rice noodles. You can use as much as you want, they are good cold the next day too. Just follow the packaged directions.
Once they are done and drained, throw them in the same pan and add butter. Maybe a little more soy sauce too. Once the butter is melted and all the noodles are good and sauced, it's time to plate it all up!

Big bowl, noodles, veg, meatballs and a slice of lime.
I topped mine with some more Thai chili paste. Heaven!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! And I hope you put your own twist on it!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Kiss Me...I'm Irish!

When people ask where I'm from or what I am, I usually reply "American".
I was born and raised in America, as were my Parents and Grandparents. I'm a very prideful American to boot. I love the USA and everything it stands for. However, part of Lady Liberty's beauty is diversity and the American dream. We all know that everyone here comes from somewhere out there.
So I am American, but I am also a mixture of other things.
There's some Native American in me, maybe some German and I know for sure that there's a lot of Irish. Don't ask me about "the luck of the Irish" though, because I sure as hell didn't get any of that.
 In fact, I don't know anything about being Irish. All I know is that they like their meat, their "biscuits", their fresh produce and beer. Sounds good to me.

St. Patrick's Day in Ireland is a national holiday, unlike here. It usually involves family, a feast, maybe a festival and definitely mass. But us Americans, we have our own traditions for this day and I love them just the same. Corned Beef & Cabbage it is! Green beer, green clothes and a lot of pinching. Really, it's just another day to celebrate here in America. We love finding ways to justify a party and I like to cook for the occasion. Cheers! To another day of food, drinking, family and friends!

I bought the corned beef pre-brined from Henry's Market. I liked the brine but it was especially fatty. Instead of boiling the cabbage the traditional way, I roasted it along with the organic onions and carrots. Just a little olive oil, salt and pepper was all it took. I topped it off with my take on another Irish classic, parsley cream sauce. We didn't have cream, so following the theme of this post, I did it the American way. MAYO, a little lemon juice/zest and chopped parsley. Perfect!

Happy St. Paddy's everyone!