Archive for February, 2008

The opposite of a Big Mac

I was so hungry all day yesterday.  Not just “I want to eat” where you’re not really hungry but just keep eating, it was “I am so hungry I need to eat NOW”…all day.  It was actually really annoying because I don’t have that happen often, and I couldn’t figure out why it was happening.  Maybe I ate less than I should have the day before?  No, I ate my normal planned food.  Maybe I worked out more than I normally do?  No, although on Tuesdays I do a tempo run, which always burns a little more calories than I do in a normal workout, but I’ve never had the ridiculous hunger I was feeling the day after.  Bad sleep?  Stress at work?  More “lifestyle” exercise (cleaning, walking around the city, etc.)? No, no (well, a little to the stress), and no!!  I would eat my lunch, and BAM, 1 hour later I was hungry.  WTF???  Does this ever happen to anyone?

Because of this incessant hunger, I started thinking about my dinner early.  Like, on my commute TO work early.  I already knew what I was making because I had to defrost a block of tofu, but I was thinking about how amazing it was going to be, and so tasty and satisfying.  I thought about it alllll day.  I almost started salivating at my desk, but I didn’t, cause that would be gross.  Ew.  However, because I kept thinking about it and dreaming about it and putting my dinner on a pedestal, I started getting nervous I was going to be disappointed by it. 

Thankfully, I didn’t!  I did, however, almost cut my roommate with a really really sharp knife while making it cause I was so excited and so hungry!  I think disappointment would have been much better than a bleeding to death roommate. 

And this is what I made:

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Isn’t it pretty?? Well, if you don’t like vegetables or tofu or quinoa, maybe not.  But, it sure was pretty to me.  And it tasted pretty! 

I do bowls of food like this everyone in a while with staples I have on hand.  I always have quinoa, always have frozen broccoli, always have tofu in the freezer.  And always have lots of spices, cause they make things spicy ;).  Here’s how I made each:

Tofu:  Cause a block of tofu is WAY too big for me to eat in just a few days, I always cut it into 4 even pieces, press out the water and freeze each individually.  Freezing it turns it yellow (the first time I saw it, I freaked out, cause it looked like a dog had gotten in to my freezer, peed on each piece, then sealed the bag back up and shut the door), but that goes away when you defrost it.  I cut it into about 6 smaller pieces and squeezed out the water, cause there is lots in it.  Then, I sprinkled each side LIBERALLY with chili power and red curry.  In a hot, non-stick pan, I seared the pieces, about 4 minutes a side.  It comes out really good, and slightly crispy cause the pieces are small, which I like.  Alot.

Broccoli:  Wow, you’re probably saying, I know how to cook broccoli.  Boil some water and steam it.  But no!  I have a secret!  See those seed things?  I always put carraway seeds in the water at the same time I fill the pot, and it makes the broccoli truely amazing.  I have no idea when or why I started doing this, but it sure makes it tasty! Only if you like carraway seeds.  Cause if you didn’t, it wouldn’t be tasty.  I only added 2 spears of broccoli, cause I added something I normally don’t have around…

Kale:  I had about half a bunch of kale leftover from the white bean and kale soup that I wanted to use.  I didn’t even chop it this time, just washed it and removed the stems and threw it into a pan with olive oil, salt and pepper.  While it’s cooking, toss pretty regularly with tongs to make sure all the kale it cooking.  It took about 10 minutes to get everything all wilty, but still bright green.  This was soooo good (like Teen Girl Squad…anyone?), and probably my favorite part. I must by kale more often.  Too bad it cost an arm and a leg.  Now I have only 1 arm and 1 leg.  Damn.

Quinoa: Man, I sure do love quinoa.  I first tried it (and heard of it) sometime when I started my job and got a quinoa salad from our cafe (before I brought my lunch EVERYDAY), and it was fun!  I researched it and realized the amazing, fantastic nutritional profile and tried it at home, and now know it is just so easy to cook!  I make it pretty regularly, and always have some on hand (also, it’s really cheap.  Maybe I can save money on that and buy back my arm and leg.)  This time, I made about 1/8th of a cup, and added a little more than 1/4 cup of water and a good, liberal sprinkle of cardamom.  When I’m eating quinoa plain, not in a salad or something, alot of times I’ll add a spice and today, cardamom sounded good.  And, you know what…it was!!!  Really good, in fact!

Overall, this was a huge success.  So delish, and all that anticipation throughout the day made it even better!  Any more ideas for fun bowls like this, let me know!  Now, I’m off to get hungry again.

To redeem the last post-a healthy soup

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I love soup so much.  Like, an incredibley ridiculous amount.  If I could, for the rest of my life, cozy up every night on the couch with a delicious bowl of steaming soup, I would.  I like soup so much, it’s almost inappropriate. 

The last time I made white bean soup was Fall of 2006.  And it was really really good.  For me, that’s a looong time to go without making something again when I enjoyed it.  So, on Sunday, I was trying to think of what to make for dinner for the next few nights, and that somehow popped into my head.  Why it didn’t pop into my head any of the other 70+ Sundays have passed since the first time I made it, who knows.  However, when I set about to make a grocery list of ingredients, I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember what I put in it besides white beans.  So, I had to make up a new recipe.  I googled “white bean soup” to get some ideas, and ended up buying cabbage, celery and kale to go along with the beans. 

Kale-what a wonderful wonderful veg.  I am NOT a fan of cooked greens at all.  I love raw spinach, but hate-really really hate-cooked spinach.  Swiss chard-yuck.  Collard greens-ick.  (side note-a month ago, I was at an Ethiopian restaurant with some friends and one of the things we got for our special crazy spongy Ethiopian bread was collard greens.  Everyone was raving and shouting about how amazing the collard greens were, and forcing me to eat them.  I was NOT a happy camper.   Afterwards, everyone said that was their favorite dish.  WTF??  Is there something wrong with me?  Do I have mutant taste buds or something?  Anyone else hate cooked greens??)  I digress…kale is the only cooked green that I can stomach.  In fact, I love it!  So, I thought it would go well in this soup, so bought some of that too.

I got home from the store and just started cooking.  I was totally beat, so I wanted to get it done fast (I was really tired from the night before and that cold had gotten to me-bad).  Also, I was doing it while doing laundry at the laundromat.  Thankfully, I was able to get it together in about 20 minutes, and then let it simmer for as long as I could stand it.  I was sooo excited for my bowl and I cozied up on the couch to eat and watch the cutest thing ever- Marion Cotillard win the Oscar.  I took my first bite, ready to be entraced, and I was…underwhelmed.  It was good,  but slightly bland.  I couldn’t tell what was missing, and I still can’t.  I added more salt, more thyme but didn’t have anything else to add.  I added a tiny drizzle of my really really really good Spanish olive oil on top and that helped alot.  Not to say I didn’t enjoy it, it just wasn’t as good as I knew it could be. 

Since Sunday, it was gotten MUCH better.  Last night it was especially tasty.  And I froze about 2 servings so I’ll have more to eat soon and look foward to.  So, maybe this is just a make-a-day-ahead soup.  Gotta let those flavors mingle.  I think next time I’ll use veggie broth instead of water as the liquid.  If anyone tries this recipe and uses broth, please let me know!!  But, don’t get me wrong-it was still good!  Just not fantastic.  At least it offset the oreos.

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 White Bean & Kale Soup

I can’t be 100% sure on amounts for herbs, but you can use your judgement

1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
3 stalks of celery
1/2 head small cabbage
2 cans of white beans (I used navy beans this time, but you could use cannollini), drained and rinsed
A good bunch of fresh thyme
1-2 teaspoons of dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon of ground sage
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper
1 bunch kale, off the stems and roughly chopped.

Saute the onion and garlic in a large pot in olive oil till golden.  Add the celery and keep sauteing, still the celery is brown-about 5 minutes.  Add the cabbage that has been sliced and saute for about 2 more minutes.  Add beans, herbs and salt & pepper(to taste) and enough water to make it the soupy consistance you desire.  Simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes.  Add the kale.  Simmer, covered for about 25 more minutes.  Take the cover off and simmer for about 20 more minutes.  Eat!!!!! -better the second day. 

I hope this is clear enough-I am trying to remember everything.  Let me know if something doesn’t make sense.

WARNING: This is not healthy food

But that doesn’t mean it’s off limits 😉
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My father is addicted to Oreos.  Growing up, we always had them in the house (and an extra, unopened package incase we ran out and someone couldn’t get to the store fast enough), and everytime I go home, they’re still there, in the same glass jar with the yellow lid, calling out to me.  Every night when he walks the dogs before bed, he takes about 6 with him to munch on during the walk.  A walk that takes about 5 minutes.  But, I guess he needs the extra fuel???  hmmm.   Lucky for him, my dad has a enviable metabolism, is a biker, former marathoner (got my love of running from him) and does triathalons, so he can eat all those Oreos.  I can’t.  They go straight to my hips (soooooooo cliche, i love it!), and I don’t like the fact that they have trans-fat.  But, because I grew up around them, I sure do love them.  I never buy them, but when I’m at home, they are really really hard to avoid.  Every trip back to Cleveland, I manage to leave with about 10 Oreos in my stomach.  It’s all your fault Dad.  All your fault!!!!!!! 

 But, I jest.  I originally saw this recipe from Deb a loooong time about, and really really wanted to try it.  (Oh-you better click on that link.  I’m not going to post the recipe so you look at her GORGEOUS blog.)  However, I have a rule about baking, that I only do it for an occasion.  I absolutely love love love to bake.  But, I never (anymore) will just bake something on a whim, or I’ll eat it all up.  I do, however, jump on the chance to make cakes, cookies and muffins for anyone’s birthday, a party, our work holiday party (my department threw our holiday party this year, and we got the regular food catered, but I volunteered to make dessert…for 70 or so people.  That was a really long weekend.)  Oh, and how do I make cookies and all these other baked goods while losing weight?  Especially as a cookie dough addict (hello, my name is betsy and I am…oh, shut up!!  enough with the cliches!!)? I made another rule, that when I bake something, I’m allowed a small cookie’s worth of dough, and I make a small cookie to eat after.  Amazingly, since i made that rule, I haven’t broken it!  It seems that that amount of dough is just as satisfying as gobs and gobs that cause intense nausea.  Well, one of my best friends announced that her birthday party was going to have a black & white theme and asked if I wanted to make dessert (but not a cake-she insisted on Buttercup).  Hello-black and white party-Oreos!!!  So, I finally had the occasion to make them, and man oh man, they turned out swimmingly.  Swimmingly, I say! 

I made the cookie part on Thursday night and froze them, because I wanted them to stay fresh and crispy for Saturday.  Then on Saturday, I made the cream while still in my running clothes (don’t worry, I didn’t sweat on the cookies or anything) and filled them.  I though filling them was going to take a while, but it was super speedy!! Overall, they were great.  The cookie was nice and crispy and not too sweet and the filling was super sweet, but not overwhelming, just like a real Oreo! And, at the party, they were quite a hit.  It seems my friend had told all the party-goers that I was making them, so expectations were high.  And, I’m (pretty) sure they didn’t disappoint! And I think they made the party even better.  They were almost entirely gone at the end of the night.  At least I think.  I was undeniably tipsy.  Yay for homemade nostalgia!!  Although, Oreos and champagne is not a combination I remember from when I was younger…

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 A couple of notes about the recipe:  you will see Deb’s note about the amount of sugar to use.  I agree with her that the cookie in an Oreo is not sweet, so I used 1 cup instead of 1.5 and it didn’t effect the cookies.  Also, I used exactly a teaspoon of dough for each cookie, filling my teaspoon and then scooping it out with my 1/2 teaspoon.  I could have used a little less dough, but what I did was fine.  Also, I wish I had flattened the cookies out a little more, cause, as you can see, they were thicker than an original Oreo, but still quite small.  A perfect little snack! And I used Spectrum shortening, cause I was nervous about using shortening in the first place and thought this would be the least harmful. Oh, and when I said I never buy Oreos, I was right.  The real one for the picture is from a pack my roommate bought about 2 months ago had has been sitting on top of the fridge since.  ewwww.

I broke my one cookie rule last night while watching the Oscars and ate one more while jumping up and down and screaming for my man Javier.  Ooooo, I love you Javier-I hope you know that.

I also made these too…delish. I forgot to type up the recipe, but if there is demand, I’ll post it.
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Running Just as Fast as We Can…

Whether you prefer to sing the above to the Beatles version or the Tiffany version, I won’t judge you. Considering I am now humming the Tiffany version in my head, I have no right to judge. You’re probably judging me now.

I was hoping this would be a nice little post on how awesome my race this morning was. I was planning on running this and then doing 4 more miles after for my half marathon training-that’s 8 overall. Well, yesterday, two things happened: We got a ridiculous snow storm in the city making everyone freak out (I’m originally from Cleveland…6 inches is nothing people. NOTHING!!!), and I started getting a cold. The race was turned into a fun run (no timing) and I turned into a cranky 25 year old. I spent all day yesterday pondering and wondering and thinking if I should run it or not and eat the $15 I paid for registration and not get a cute t-shirt. After developing a killer headache and a even more killer sore throat yesterday, I decided to sleep in and not run it. I was going to see how I felt in the morning, and if I felt ok, I would to my 8 at the gym.

I woke up feeling ehhh: tired and still with a sore throat, but I decided to just run anyway on the dreadmill. 8 miles with no changing scenery, starting at myself in the mirror that the treadmills face (whose stupid design idea was that!! i hate you!!). I thought I was gonna be bored out of my mind. I’ve also never run 8 miles before, my longest run before being 7. But, I have a 15K in two weeks and need to be prepared for that. So, I ran. and ran and ran. The treadmill timed out after an hour, but I super quickly started over to do my last mile. And watched Millionaire Matchmaker(not by choice. I SWEAR!!) and Make Me a Supermodel. Mile 5, I was really tired and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to finish. But, by 6 I felt really good and the last 2 were a breeze. And. Oh My God!!! I just ran 8 miles!! Trumpets! Confetti! Lasers! Parade! Hooray! I’m going to DisneyWorld! Yeah…the best part of running…the amazing runners high you get after. And now, it’s like, What cold?? So, although I missed my race, I got a great, even wonderful, run done at the gym. And don’t feel so scared anymore for my 15K. Oh, and in terms of weight loss, as I said i would update, as of this morning, I’m down exactly 10 pounds from Jan 1. About 15 more to go!!! Oh what a beautiful morning….I think I need to calm down a little. I’m gonna start scaring my roommates.

Off to finish my blueberry peanut butter oatmeal, fill the homemade oreos and enjoy the day. Happy weekend!

Sweeeet!!! Potatoes

First of all, fellow New Yorkers (all…zero of you): insane snow out there!!! And my office closed at 11 so I got to go home super early. Although it was GORGEOUS outside when I was walking to work. I had a blast stomping through the snow!

On to food. Sweet potatoes!!
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This is sooo simple, it’s not really a recipe or anything. Its just delicious and healthy and full of vitamins and happiness. And sunshine and rainbows.

I roast mine in the oven for about an hour or so at high heat-like 450. Make sure you poke the potato with a fork so it doesn’t explode and you spend the next 8000 days cleaning your oven of sweet potato that should have been in your stomach.

When it’s alllll done, top it with whatever you so desire. I like to think of sweet potatoes as the oatmeal of savory foods. You can top it with pretty much whatever you want. I got the black beans idea from Kath, and I haven’t been able to ween myself away from them yet. So delish.

How I make mine: I split open the potato and drizzle the inside with a bit of really good olive oil. Then I sprinkle it with salt, pepper, chili powder and crushed red pepper flakes. Then i put a heaping scoop of black beans on top, and top all that with olive oil, salt, pepper, chili power and crpf (if you didn’t get that, its crushed red pepper flakes), cause I like lots of flavor throughout. Mmmmmmmm.

I ate this one last night when I was soooo hungry after coming home from the gym. I was making cookies for my friend’s birthday (Homemade Oreos….oh yeah….that’s another post), and thought this would be easy to pop into the oven at the same time. I was a little nervous the cookies would taste like sweet potatoes, or the sweet potato would taste like cookies, but thankfully I had no flavor interaction. Each was individually delicious. Or magically delicious. Like Lucky Charms.

Curry Chickpea Deliciousness

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One of my favorite things to make is a big stew or soup on a Sunday, and then eat it for the next 3 or 4 nights. If you get bored with food easily, this isn’t for you, but I make things I LOVE, so this is great for me, and it’s great for the budget too!! I made this recipe up one day last year with some chickpeas that I had in my cupboard, and now it’s one of my favs. And its soooooo easy!

Curry Chickpeas
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 largish yellow onion
1 large can of whole tomatoes
1 small can of crushed tomatoes
2 cans of chickpeas
chili powder
yellow curry powder
red curry powder
salt, pepper, olive oil

Chop the garlic and onion (I like “half moon” onions-chopping the onion in half then slicing fairly thin) and saute in olive oil until soft and a little brown in a large pot (I prefer a dutch oven). In the meantime, chop the whole tomatoes into about 6 pieces each. Save the juice!! When the onions are soft and brownish (about 7 minutes), pour in the chopped tomatoes, the crushed tomatoes and the juice from the whole tomatoes. Add the 2 cans of chickpeas that have been rinsed (get off that extra sodium!!) and stir it all together. Add water to the desired thickness of the stew while remembering that some of the liquid is going to evaporate. Add about 2 teaspoons of chili powder, and LOTS of yellow and red curry powder. About a tablespoon of both, but you can use how much you want. Taste it before you add more so it’s not too hot for you. Stir it all together, along with some salt and pepper, cover, turn the heat to LOW, and simmer for about 45 minutes. The longer it cooks, the more the flavors will fuse together. Serve in a bowl while steaming hot. Makes about 4 servings.

I like to top it with a little basmati rice to add some more texture. So delish!!
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My “Manifesto”

What is this, and am I, about?

Well, a little about me. I am 25, living in Manhattan on a ridiculous budget. I work non-profit and thus make a small income. It’s not like i regret it though…I truely love my job and I have to make sacrifices to maintain the lifestyle I want to live while making not alot of money. Therefore, I cook my own food. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who cooks for themself as much as I do in Manhattan. New York is the city of take out, order in, 3 AM gourmet meals and delivery of every shape, type and flavor of food. Once I told a friend that I eat out maybe once every other week and he laughed, looked at me in shock, and they blatently asked “why?” “It’s so convenient to just open a menu and order anything you would ever want to eat!” But to me, a life overflowing with convenience is too much. Yeah, I live in a city where I can get anything at any hour of the day or night, but that doesn’t mean I have to take advantage of it. I think in order to be successful in life, you have to rely on yourself for alot, and that includes cooking. Sounds a little far-fetched, but I really view cooking for myself as part of that.

Another reason why I cook, as I mentioned before, is money.  I’m on a very tight budget considering I don’t make alot at my job and I pay an unbelievable amount of money on rent.  I don’t have alot left over after rent and bills are paid, so why would I want to spend it over and over again on ordering in food that isn’t really that good, is too expensive and not healthy?  The pile of take-out menus in my apartment is huge (which is probably true in any New York apartment) and used often by my roommates.  But, when they get food delivered, what I’m eating that I made myself not only often much yummier, but a hell of a lot cheaper to make.   I’ll often make a big pot of hearty soup or chili on Sunday night which costs about 5 bucks to make, and eat it for 3 nights…that’s less than 2 bucks a meal!! Beat that crappy restaurants down the street!

 A third reason is that, truthfully, I’m trying to lose a bit of weight.  I gained weight in college and trying to get it back off.  I’m already an avid exerciser and on the petite side (only 5’2″), so losing weight is really difficult for me.  By cooking for myself, and cooking healthy food, I’m able to control what I eat.  No hidden oils, butter, duck fat (ewww…just read an article in the NYTimes that many restaurants sear fish in duck fat…who knew!?!?) here.  I know every ingredient that is in my food and can therefore healthfully fuel my body just enough to maintain my active lifestyle and lose weight.  I’ll keep you updated as this progresses…

 The final, and probably most important reason I cook is because I enjoy it!  I’ve always loved cooking, and when I was young, dabbled in the thought of going to culinary school.  My mom is a truly wonderful cook (except for the tuna cheese puff that was a staple of my youth) and a big fan of using fresh, simple ingredients.  I developed that love of cooking from her and hanging out in our kitchen and am always excited to go home to help her and eat her delicious food.  I love trying new recipes and developing my own, finding new ingredients at the grocery store and the farmers’ market and seeing how I can integrate them into my diet.  No matter how late I get home in the evening, I never mind cooking something for my dinner rather than ordering it.  I could be sleeping over the stove, but I enjoy it and know it will taste good, at least most of the time. 

 So, that’s me and why I cook in a nutshell.  I hope to use this blog to share my recipes, thoughts and lifestyle.  Enjoy and feel free to leave me lots of comments!