COOKING EXTRAVAGANZA Part 2

Well it was a fast and furious Sunday evening but Karen and I accomplished it all! Unfortunately it was SO FAST AND FURIOUS I forgot to take many pictures but so goes! We did mostly stick to the plan and I’m really happy we got so much done!

We tried the spinach/fat free feta breakfast muffins and they are quite tasty. It was a good substitute and I plugged in the new information in myfitnesspal and it actually is fewer calories with the same protein as the broccoli/cheddar so… that’s something! This is one of those I forgot to document last night but here is breakfast today:

IMG_4171We thought about adding an additional breakfast but I really couldn’t think of what to make. Didn’t want the same spinach pie two days in a row and wasn’t sure what else would be super high protein that isn’t very similar to the egg muffins. So we just kept it there for now. Might dabble in overnight oats again. Stay tuned. For lunches we made a pan of Turkey Meatloaf. We actually made two pans of the meatloaf (one for lunches and one for dinner for last night and it was delicious). Check out all that protein:

IMG_4160For dinner we also roasted some Brussels sprouts a spray of Pam and that Lemon Pepper seasoning. So good.

IMG_4167For another lunch option we made Asian Turkey Meatballs with Zoodles and a sesame sauce. I forgot to take a picture of them together but here are the parts:

                           IMG_4162        IMG_4163

I’ll let you know how they ended up. I didn’t use cilantro because I don’t love it (plus it’s a lot of chopping work). We also didn’t cook the zoodles and left them raw because I figured they’d cook better in the microwave when reheating all of this. Also the sesame sauce called for water which I didn’t add because the zoodles will make some water in the dish anyway and I didn’t want it too liquidy. Also a reminder I LOVE my Paderno spiralizer.

After all that cooking we were a little wiped out but felt like a dessert option would be good so we made these Skinnytaste Breakfast Cookies! They are REALLY small (I did manage to get 18 cookies out of it but they are suuuper teeny. Not sure if you can tell from this picture. But two cookies are less than 100 calories and I think just one cookie will satisfy my chocolate craving. They came together in like … 20 minutes start to finish and are quite tasty. Not high in protein but they’re small enough to not worry about it.

IMG_4170For reference this is only half of my baking tray.

So all in all a very productive evening. I’m excited about eating all the food. This week I have a few more evenings out so I’m getting prepared to deal with that (researching Snatched-Friendly restaurants). If you have any suggestions for restaurants — especially those that publish their full nutrition information online — have at me! Happy Monday everyone!

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Really Tasty Sunday Recipe – Greek-Style Fresh Veggie Casserole (Briami)

Bon Appetit recipe for Greek style veggie casserole

Bon Appetit recipe for Greek style veggie casserole

One of my Sunday rituals is trying to get something together to take to work during the week. Usually I make a big “one-pot” batch of something healthy and easy so that I don’t have to worry about fixing lunch during the work week. This veggie casserole thing from Bon Appetit was really awesome. It did take a little over an hour start to finish, but overall it was incredibly easy and tasty.

Briami is a traditional Greek dish that is pretty similar to ratatouille. You can use pretty much whatever veggies you want, but traditional ingredients include zucchini, potatoes, onion, and tomatoes.

Basically, all you need are a couple of potatoes, an onion, a zucchini, a can of tomatoes, and some green beans. We substituted a bag of frozen green beans, because we are lazy, and didn’t feel like cleaning fresh ones.

Even the chopping was pretty minimal. Basically, you just chop up your veggies and bake them in the oven with some olive oil, lemon, and garlic for about an hour.

The only issue I had with the recipe from Bon Appetit was that the directions have you cool the onions and zucchini on a wire rack. But, you don’t really need to do that. When I make this again, I’ll just scoop them into a bowl.

 

 

The New Cooking Website from the New York Times is Pretty Great

NYT Cooking

I am always looking for cooking inspiration. The New York Times just debuted a new website called NYT Cooking (still in beta) which is pretty awesome.

The site is really attractive and well designed, but my favorite thing is that it’s really easy to filter and search for specific ingredients, dietary restrictions, and cuisines. For example, searching for vegetarian and Italian pulls up 508 recipes. You can also save any recipes you like to a “recipe box” connected to your account.

I made the Farfalle With Artichokes, Peas, Favas and Onions to take in to work for lunches this week.

A few other recipes that I added to my recipe box:

White Bean, Summer Squash and Tomato Ragout

Roasted Cauliflower Gratin With Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

Cold Sesame Noodles With Sweet Peppers

Grapefruit With Olive Oil and Sea Salt

Spiralizer!

So I’m starting a boot camp next week and they suggest a nutrition plan which basically is high (HIGH) protein and lowish fat. I’m trying really hard to cook recipes for myself that fit this plan. Most of what I’m looking at is double portions from skinnytaste.com which is definitely the best low fat cooking blog — hands down. A few more things to know about me: I love pasta. I love carbs. While this new diet doesn’t put much restriction on carbs they really want you to eat for the protein first and then fill it out with whatever you’d like. However a majority of your calories will end up going to protein goals. On SkinnyTaste she’s frequently using a Spiralizer which makes really awesome looking zucchini noodles or “Zoodles” and carrot salads.

After an expensive impulse driven ride through amazon.com I had a nice spiralizer sitting on my counter.

And MAN did I love it. It was easy to use — fairly intuitive after you read the little pamphlet on what each of the blades do. It cleans easy, stores relatively well and makes some DAMN good Zoodles. I tried this yesterday as my first project: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2014/04/zucchini-noodles-zoodles-with-lemon.html

My dinner!

The recipe was good and very simple — we doubled it — the only qualm we had was that it was a little too lemony. We also forgot the garlic — oops! My fiance also felt it was not quite filling enough but he’s also a human garbage disposal and I thought it was plenty filling. Anyway — if you’re trying to do low carb but crave a good pasta sauce or whatever I think Zoodles are for you. I used the sprializer and then sauteed the strands for about 2-3 minutes — you don’t want it too soggy but I actually really don’t like raw zucchini — so somewhere in between was good for me. And I can imagine using this ALL the time. It cooks up SO quick (maybe faster than a box of pasta including all the prep?) and it’s actually sort of fun and really quite delicious.

I highly recommend getting one of these guys for only $35 dollars (even qualifies for free shipping!) here on Amazon!

Look how pretty!

Miso: The tastiest form of soybean?

It is often said that miso is to soybeans what cheese is to milk – Amanda Hesser

Miso is delicious. And, as mentioned in my previous blog post about probiotic foods, miso can be a great source of beneficial probiotic bacteria. After buying my first container of miso (pronounced mee-soh) about six months ago, it quickly became one of our go-to kitchen items along with salt, garlic, and olive oil. I’d only really had miso before in the soup that you get at sushi restaurants, but I found that it enhances pretty much dish and it’s particularly good for adding some savory flavor to vegetarian dishes.

 

Probably the best known use of miso- miso soup.

Probably the best known use of miso: miso soup.

What is miso?

Miso is a tasty seasoning often used in Japanese cooking that is made from soybeans, salt, and the same variety of  mold spore (Aspergillus oryzae) that is also used to make saki. When miso is made in the traditional Japanese fashion, grains (rice, barley, or soybeans) are cultured with the mold spore to create a substance  called koji. The koji is then mixed with cooked soybeans and packed into wooden barrels with sea salt, and the fermentation process begins! The miso is aged anywhere from a few months to several years.

Like cheese, there is a huge range of flavors, colors, and textures that miso comes in. Miso that is aged for shorter time periods tends to be lighter (white miso) and sweeter, while miso that has been aged up to three years will be darker and heartier (black or red miso).

 

Aspergillus oryzae is so popular that its genome was sequenced in 2005 and the spore has been turned into a collectible character

Aspergillus oryzae is so popular that its genome was sequenced in 2005 and the spore has been turned into a collectible character

How do I pick a miso?

In DC there is a really amazing Japanese market where there is a selection of dozens of different varieties of miso, which can be a little overwhelming. If you have absolutely no idea what to pick, I recommend choosing a white miso to start just because the flavor is very delicate and versatile. If you’re eating it for the probiotics, in addition to tasty flavor, you will need to pick out a miso that is unpasteurized because pasteurization kills off any beneficial bacteria.

White Miso: White or beige color, made from soybeans fermented with white or brown rice. Delicate flavor, often a little sweet. Also called shiro miso.

Yellow Miso: Yellow or dark beige color, made from barley and soybeans. A little more savory than white miso, but still delicate. Also called shiro koji miso and shinshu miso.

Red Miso: Red or dark brown color, contains all soybeans and the longest fermentation. The saltiest, richest kind of miso. This is good for hearty flavoring like stews and and marinades. Also called aka miso.

 

Care and keeping of miso

Miso can last for several months in the refrigerator, but because it contains living bacteria you should be careful to spoon it out with a clean utensil to prevent any contamination. Lighter varieties will keep for about 9 months and darker ones up to a year. When making a soup or other hot dish, you should avoid boiling the miso. Instead, stir the miso in at the end of cooking to avoid overheating it.

 

What are some good miso recipes?

Image via Gaia Cafe

Image via Gaia Cafe

  • I LOVE this super easy super healthy veggie miso soup from Honest Fare. Takes about 15 minutes to make and you can substitute in any veggies you have laying around.
  • One of my favorite recipe blogs Love and Lemons has another great miso soup recipe that uses chickpeas, kale, and elbow macaroni.
  • Mark Bittman has a bunch of great suggestions for using miso as a sauce, glaze, dressing and even as a flavoring for butter.
  • This recipe from The Kitchn is a great example for using miso to beef up a really simple three-main-ingredient noodle dish.
  • There are many, many variations on miso dressings. This one is awesome. I like to keep a jar of the dressing around to top off roasted veggies, noodles, or rice.

 

For more information on miso:

Mark Bittman, New York Times- The Miso Primer

Erin Riddell, Consumer Reprots- Is miso good for you?

The Miso Promotion Board of Japan has a handy pamphlet

 

Review: Fresh Routes

A few years ago a couple friends of mine started a company called Fresh Routes. Their goal was to bring home-cooking that fit into busy New Yorker lifestyles. They launched a home delivery service after winning the 2012 Food for Health Business Plan Competition at Mt. Sinai Hospital. And TODAY they are opening their first store front in the Union Square Subway Station. The basic concept is fresh, locally sourced dinner kits. They give you all the materials you’d need to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes. They have relationships with local vendors such as Satur Farms and Hot Bread Kitchen.

I couldn’t help but want to try this out. I love cooking at home but frequently get home late and am stuck frying an egg for the zillionth time. Or come home to an empty fridge and end up ordering on Seamless because I can’t figure out what else to do. Though the Union Square subway station is a little out of the way I went down on Tuesday evening with my fiance to see how it was.

First the storefront was small but lovely. You have to actually be IN the station to get it but I feel like they’re targeting the commuter crowd so this is quite strategic. They had Thai Coconut Chicken with Rice Noodles for $33.79, Berbere Spiced Beef with Cremini Mushrooms for $35.79 and Soho Rice Bowl with Avocado Relish for $32.49. All of these are meant to serve 4 people. photo 1(1)

The friendly salesperson recommended the Thai Chicken with Rice Noodles so we went with that. The packaging was very cute from the outside and everyone behind the counter was really friendly and eager to help us. They had dessert and side add-ons but we stuck with the main course.

photo 2(1)

We got on the subway and made it home pretty quickly. I wish I’d taken a picture of the inside of the box because it was all very neatly packed and labeled. There was also a very detailed one page instruction sheet that seemed foolproof to me.   photo 3(1)

Also I live with a hungry man. His appetite has wowed my entire family. So when something advertises “serves 4” I really think it means serves two plus maybe a small portion left over for lunch. But when I saw how full the box was — complete with four large chicken breasts, a can of coconut milk, two squares of rice noodles — I knew we had WAY more than enough. There was a little prep needed before we got started — we sliced the chicken breast, washed and chopped the cilantro, and cut the ends off of the snap peas. Nothing too labor intensive but took a bit of time. As promised though, the whole dish cooked up pretty quickly once everything was prepped. At one point my fiance said “It’s like we’re cooking real Thai food!” and I think that’s a testament to how good and authentic the recipe seemed.

photo 4

I’d say including prep it probably took the two of us close to exactly 30 minutes to get dinner on the table. And it was tasty. They had red pepper flakes on the side that you could add if you like heat (which we do) and that was a nice touch. We each had second rounds of food and still had enough for two healthy lunch portions for the next day.

photo 5

As you can see — I ate it up!

photo(5)All in all I think this was a great idea. And if you think about what it would cost to go out and buy all this local food and meat — I think it’s a good price for a four person meal — coming in at under 9 dollars a person. I’m excited to see how the company will change and grow and what other meals and options they’ll present to people. For example we had WAYYYY too much cilantro as garnish. Which is not to say I’m unhappy to have extra — I just think it’s something they’ll end up addressing. I know we would’ve liked a little more help with the prep (maybe slice/marinate the breast before we got to it) but that’s just because we are lazy and again — it only took us 30 minutes. I also think it’s good for people who are not used to cooking to try their hand at it in a really guided and relatively fool proof way.

So for all you New Yorkers checking out this blog, bottom line is we were very happy, it was cost efficient, instructions were clear, portions were generous, food tasted fresh and good.

Also you should know I was not in any way shape or form compensated for this post. Fresh Routes does not even know I’m writing it! If you check it out (and try any of the other dishes!) I’d love to hear about your experience.

Work Snacks Friday! Microwave Popcorn Magic

I’m not gonna lie, snacks are a very important part of my work day. So, for the good of humanity I’m going to start doing some serious investigative research on new and exciting snacks that are easy to keep around at work. And thus, the blog’s Work Snacks Friday series was born.

My first discovery is that you can make microwave popcorn with nothing more than a bowl and popcorn kernels. You don’t even need any oil or spray or anything beyond: microwave, bowl with lid, popcorn.

All you need for microwave popcorn at work is: popcorn, microwave safe bowl with lid, and a microwave.

All you need for microwave popcorn at work is: popcorn, microwave safe bowl with lid.

A few weeks ago I saw this great post up on The Kitchn showing that you can microwave your own popcorn in just a brown paper bag. So cool! But…I was reading the comments and some people reported examples of the paper bags catching on fire in the microwave. Now, I’m not sure how often this actually occurs, but I really don’t want to be the person who burns down the microwave or sets off the fire alarm.

Further research turned up that you can actually just microwave plain popcorn kernels in any microwave safe bowl with a plate on top. Cool! But…I don’t have a microwave safe bowl of the proper size at work. I ended up buying a microwave popcorn bowl that had excellent reviews on Amazon and it is awesome! For $7 for the bowl and $3 for the popcorn kernels I am set for snacks for several weeks. Although you don’t need any oil or anything else, I recommend using a little olive oil for flavor and getting creative with some seasonings (garlic salt, dried rosemary, cumin or curry).

Microwave popcorn magic

And two minutes later: microwave popcorn magic!

A few microwave popcorn facts:

  • Workers in microwave popcorn factories have been diagnosed with a rare lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans that is linked to a chemical used in artificial butter flavor. There is currently no evidence that just eating the popcorn will hurt you. But, I would rather not eat something that has been shown to cause life-threatening illness in people who are handling it regularly. (Washington Post)
  • A chemical used in the bags for microwave popcorn called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) has been shown to cause liver, testicular and pancreatic cancer in animals and infertility in women. The chemical is so pervasive that it’s detectable in the blood of 95 percent of Americans. (AARP)
  • Popcorn is a pretty good source of fiber- it has even more fiber per serving than oranges or carrots.  (Mayo Clinic)
Look at all that fiber!

Look at all that fiber!

Do you have any suggestions for Work Snacks? Let us know in the comments!