Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A new approach

Rather than to continue boring you to death with what I ate for breakfast last Tuesday, I think I'll shift this journal to a more encyclopedic approach. To be fair, there are days where I just eat leftovers and salads. How boring. So, I'll take a topic (today's happens to be mushrooms) & expand on it until I'm totally out of ideas. Sound good? Okay.

What we recognize as a mushroom is actually the fruit of a fungus. While off-putting in description, the deep, earthy flavor of a mushroom is one of the most palatable. Mushrooms are a rich source of glutamic acid - the natural verson of MSG, and so they enhance the flavor of any savory food they are cooked with.
They soak up the essence of whatever they're cooked in - the thinner the slice, the more flavor that can be absorbed.

I prefer mine stuffed with spinach, onion, parmesan and garlic. Better yet, a grilled portabello cap makes for a delicious alternative to the everyday burger. Sandwiched in a whole wheat pita & topped with feta, lettuce, tomato, and an olive tappenade - it doesn't get much better in my book. My husband prefers his decorating the top of a still-mooing sirloin, drizzled in a creamy peppercorn sauce.

Common culinary belief states that mushrooms should never be washed with water. They are very porous, and washing them in water will render them soggy. Instead, mushrooms (which are now grown in pasteurized compost, NOT maneure) should be cleaned using a brush.

I find this completely annoying & unnecessarily time consuming. Not to mention, I always thought it was a load of crap.

Last year this "common knowledge" was tested. The results found that 4 ounces of button mushrooms only drink in .2 oz of water when submerged for ten minutes. .2 ounces is a little less than a teaspoon (an actual teaspoon, not what you use to eat your cereal). I don't know about you, but I don't plan on submerging my mushrooms for ten minutes, so I wouldn't worry too much about rinsing them under running water for a few moments. It's also my belief that the fibrous stem does much of the soaking... however that hasn't been proven.

Fun mushroom fact: The cell walls of mushrooms are made of chitin - which also makes up the exoskeleton of insects & crustaceans

Stuffed Mushrooms (my mother's recipe)

36 button mushrooms - cleaned & stems removed (chop the stems)
two 10 oz packages of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 large yellow onion, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced (I use 5)
1/2 cup panko
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1 and 1/2 sticks of butter ( I use 3/4 stick + 1/4 cup olive oil)
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg (I've actually never used this... I guess I should use recipes more?)

Cook the onions & garlic in the fat until translucent. Add mushroom caps to coat with butter. Place the caps on a sheet pan. Add stemps, spinach, and remaining ingredients to saute pan & mix well. Stuff the caps & bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Serve hot.

I'm really beginning to miss bread, by the way.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cravings.... the start of many.

Bagels. The big, fluffy kind - the ones with 500 calories and a chewy exterior.

Back when I went to college there was a Dunkin' Donuts situated between my house off campus & the college itself. On either side of it sat the only two bars within walking distance from school - so you can imagine it got a lot of business, especially late night. I always had a love/hate relationship with this place - I would say they had a 40% accuracy rating when you went through their drive-thru. It was like dealing with the soup nazi. You got what you got, and you didn't complain... lest they actually remember you next time & spit in your order.

So you ordered a plain bagel, toasted, with light cream cheese and a small iced coffee? Chances are, the surly woman (who clearly was way too important to be dealing with you in the first place) with the 4 inch  orange fingernails would hand you a vanilla chai tea and a paper bag that contained a stale powdered donut with 5 packages of jelly. Bon appetite, and better luck next time.

Why even bother with a place that got so much business it didn't even care what product it handed out? The bagels were amazing. Those 4 out of 10 times they actually took the energy to get my order right made it all worthwhile. For some reason, the bagels at other Dunkin Donuts just weren't as good. Maybe it was the anticipation - I would convince myself not to get my hopes up. And then, the satisfaction - knowing that I was lucky to actually get what I ordered, that made it all the more savory. Whatever it was about the bagels, this is what I woke up craving this morning.

While I don't miss bread yet, I can tell my husband is starting to get antsy. The man would routinely eat half a loaf, smeared with butter, for breakfast. Thankfully my aunt has been generous enough to offer me her breadmaker - I will be picking it up on Thanksgiving. In the meantime we can do without... but I will be researching the best way to make bagels at home

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Days 5 & 6

Over the past two days I've made granola, salmon with lentils, lemon garlic roasted chicken over hominy, chicken stock, and more baby food. Our son is already 20 pounds, and isn't showing any signs of slowing down. I've had to double my recipes for baby food over the past month, I can't even imagine how much food we'll go through in fourteen years... aigh.


3 cups rolled oats (not the quick-cook!)
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons agave nectar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
any dried fruit you prefer - I like dehydrated blueberries

Preheat your oven to 250*. Mix the ingredients (except for the dried fruit) in a large bowl, and spread a thin layer on two half sheet pans. Bake for an hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Add in your dried & store in an airtight container.

Salmon with Lentils

I used Ina Garten's recipe -- found here

Before last night, I had never cooked a lentil. I was a little freaked out - they didn't look very appetizing. It turns out that they're suprisingly tasty - and contain as much protein per serving as beef, without the fat and only 70 calories. I'll have to experiment with different spices, as they can be bland.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Whole vs. Organic

These two concepts may seem interchangable, but they aren't. I thought all morning how I could best explain the difference, and came to the conclusion that Wikipedia (in it's infinite, unchecked wisdom) was the best way to go about it.

"Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible before being consumed. Whole foods typically do not contain added ingredients, such as sugar, salt, or fat.[1] Examples of whole foods include unpolished grains; fruits and vegetables; unprocessed meat, poultry, and fish; and non-homogenized milk.
The term is often confused with organic food, but whole foods are not necessarily organic, nor are organic foods necessarily whole."

"Processed organic food usually contains only organic ingredients. If non-organic ingredients are present, at least a certain percentage of the food's total plant and animal ingredients must be organic (95% in the United States,[4] Canada, and Australia) and any non-organically produced ingredients are subject to various agricultural requirements. Foods claiming to be organic must be free of artificial food additives, and are often processed with fewer artificial methods, materials and conditions, such as chemical ripening, food irradiation, and genetically modified ingredients. Pesticides are allowed so long as they are not synthetic"

So, to summarize:

Whole food is unprocessed, not necessarily organic.
Organic can be processed.

While I am striving to incorporate as much organic food into our diet as possible, I'd like to stay reasonable. Organic is expensive. Organic isn't always realistic. We exist solely on my husband's paycheck, and I'm not about to compromise our future savings to ensure that every little thing we consume hasn't been touched by chemical pesticides. To me, not everything is worth the cost. If I intend to continue this lifestyle, it has to make sense, financially.

I have at least half a dozen bags of frozen fruit & other "out of season" produce in my freezer - none of it is organic. Why? Because a bag of frozen organic broccoli was $5.50, and the non-organic was on sale for $1.25. Organic condiments are, on average, twice the cost of their non-organic counterparts ($9.50 for a small jar of organic almond butter? I'll pass....) And to be completely fair, just because something is labeled organic, doesn't mean that 100% of the ingredients are.

What I buy organic:

Meat & Dairy
Celery (it has no protective skin)

I pass on the organic with these fruits & veggies

Sweet Potato

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 4

The big excitement of day 4? Using dried beans for the first time. I know, not that enthralling... but I had never considered buying those enormous bags of dried kidney beans for $1. Sorting, soaking overnight & cooking them (in a slow cooker) for hours isn't as efficient as opening a can... but not having to deal with that viscous, mucous-like goo the manufacturers can the beans in was nice.

I seasoned the beans with cumin, garlic powder, and cayenne. After they were cooked I mashed them to create a substitute for traditional refried beans.

Oatmeal with blueberries
tea with lemon
1 egg, scrambled with tomato & scallions

Vegetable barley soup
carrots, celery & cauliflower to dip in hummus

Turkey tacos with beans & pineapple black beansalsa, wrapped in romaine lettuce
spicy brown rice

Pineapple & Black Bean Salsa

1.5 cups black beans
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno diced, remove the seeds for less heat
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced
3/4 cup fresh pineapple, diced + 2 tbsp pineapple juice
handful of fresh parsley (or cilantro), chopped
the juice of 2 limes
salt & pepper to season

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl & refrigerate

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 3

I honestly can't even tell you what I've done these past 2 days (I swear I've been busy). I know I went food shopping at some point and the endless cycle of housework has been kept up with, but beyond that? I have no idea. Baby wrangling now consumes the majority of my waking hours... and he isn't even crawling yet. He scoots all over the place, our two monstrous dogs cautiously inching behind him in amazement that the little, noisy, drippy thing is mobile.

While this is hilarious (it's impossible to watch him scoot & be in a bad mood), it's time consuming. Something as simple as loading the dishwasher now takes three times as long, since I'm constantly looking over the counter to make sure he's on his play mat... and he never is, so baby wrangling I go.

I was able to make vegetable barley soup, which turned out delicious. I wish I had a precise recipe to relay, but to be perfectly honest I rarely follow one, unless baking. I sauteed mirepoix, radishes, zucchini, garlic, & fresh spinach. Once seasoned, I poured in vegetable stock, threw in barley and a few fresh herbs... and waited an hour.

My darling husband even had a bowl for dinner - which is huge. The man wont consider himself "full" unless he's consumed a side of steer, or some other protein equivalent. This, so far has been my tallest hurdle - the whole foods way of living is largely plant based, which I interpreted to 50% - 75% fruits and vegetables. My husband's reaction to only eating red meat once a week was, well... less than enthusiastic. I chalk this up to the caveman that deep down, he really is. 

Day 3

Breakfast -
scrambled egg with tomato, fresh herbs & cracked pepper
1/2 cup yogurt (I am learning to love Stonyfield's plain organic) with wheat germ & honey
1/2 serving of strawberry smoothie

Lunch -
grilled portabella cap stuffed with crab
spinach, radish, carrot salad drizzled with lemon

1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds

aforementioned soup


No-Bake Peanut Butter Coconut Spheres

2 cups of unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoon agave nectar
1/4 cup peanut butter (Smucker's Natural is good, and wont break the bank)
1 tablespoon vanilla
pinch of salt
Almonds, or whatever you'd like

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and shape into 1 inch spheres. I place mine on to a quarter sheet pan, lined with parchment paper. Freeze 2 hours, and enjoy!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 2

I had completely expected to wake up starving. I ate considerably less than I normally do at dinner, and there had to be some negative reprecussion. To my surprise, I wasn't! And so I began my day.


Slow-cooker cinnamon oatmeal with cubes of Gala apples. (The house was perfumed with the scent of cinnamon - I recommend waking up to this as often as possible!)
Green tea with local raw honey

Chipotle sweet potato mash
4oz grilled garlic shrimp over a bed of spinach, with lemon juice & olive oil
24oz water with lemon

sliced tomato and basil drizzled with balsamic vinegar

Broccoli-Ricotta calzone, with red sauce
spinach, radish, & carrot salad with lemon & olive oil

Pizza dough

3/4 cup very warm water
1 packet dry active yeast
1 tbsp honey
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder (or any seasoning you'd like)

In my KitchenAid with the dough hook attatchment, I pour in the yeast packet. Fleischmann's makes yeast specifically made for pizza (it comes in a strip of 3), which is faster. Add the water, honey & stir. The sugar from the honey feeds the yeast, so the dough rises better. In about 5 minutes, after the yeast has bloomed, add in the flour, olive oil, and salt. Depending on what I'll use the dough for, I usually add in garlic powder, oregano, or pepper. This is completely optional. Slowly start the mixer, being careful not to coat your kitchen in a thin layer of flour (a rookie mistake, I've done it several times when I'm in a rush) After 30 seconds or so, I increase the speed to medium & let the mixer do the heavy work for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes the dough should have formed a ball, which I then roll out onto a floured counter. A few minutes of gentle kneading is all it takes. Form the dough back into a tight ball & coat with a thin film of oil. Place the ball of yeasty dough back into the bowl, and cover for 20 minutes.

This recipe makes enough dough for 2 pizzas, calzones, or strombolis. To cook, heat your oven to 450 degrees and bake for 15 minutes.