Sunday, November 13, 2016

Confetti Salad

I love salad but I hate the work: cleaning, cutting, chopping, etc ... 

Yet I spent a couple of hours in my kitchen this evening doing just that and I have a vat (you'll find I love hyperbole!) of good stuff to gnosh on throughout the week. It is inspired by a rainbow slaw from Rainbow Foods (peeps local to the Decatur, GA area will know this natural food store that has been around for 40+ years). 

Here's what I put in today's version: 
1/4 red cabbage, shredded
1 carrot, shredded (I wanted to put in two but only had one)
2-3 stalks of celery, chopped 
1 red bell pepper, chopped 
1 red onion, chopped 
2 apples, peeled and shredded 
1 cucumber, chopped 

I tossed it all together, then added the secret sauce: 
Brown Rice Vinegar
Toasted Sesame Oil 

I did not use any specific amount - I just chugged them over the confetti of veggies and tossed. Less is probably better than more, but then my personal preference is not to drown my food in sauce - whether it is a salad dressing or a gravy. (Butter would be the one exception!) You could also change the proportions on the veggies as well. 

I love Balsamic vinegar and Olive Oil - two great traditional combinations, but there is a certain "umami" flavor of the combination of Brown Rice Vinegar and Toasted Sesame Oil that just cannot be beat. Add the slight sweetness of the apples and the crunch of the veggies - yum! 

Earlier in the day I had set some dried garbanzo beans to soak, and then cooked them while I assembled the salad. Adding them to the salad makes for an easy meal. You can certainly use canned beans as well. 

If you want a more traditional salad with lettuce chop/clean your favorite type, put it in a bowl and add as much or as little of the "confetti" as you would like - toss and enjoy! For what it's worth - I have found that salad spinners are the best places to store lettuce if you do not use it all at once. I just wish they did not take up so much space in the fridge. 

I'll bring a container of this to work tomorrow to store in the fridge. I may supplement it with an easy chicken salad - drain a container of chunk chicken, mix with some mayo, add pepper and perhaps a few other spices and lunch is done while the coffee is brewing. 

I saved the odds and ends to be stored in the freezer for later use in making vegetable broth/stock. Peels went into the compost pile, along with egg shells I saved and powdered in the food processor. It's not much but it's my way of doing what I can to fulfill my "hippie-at-heart" self.  

I had a productive evening, as I also made a snack mix by toasting some slivered almonds and pecan pieces (together) - 350F, ~20 minutes. Once they were out of the oven I slipped in several handfuls of flaked coconut to toast as well - this isn't as forgiving as the nuts, so be careful to not overdue them, 350F ~10 minutes. I mixed the coconut with the nuts and once they had cooled I added some mini chocolate chips. Nummy to nosh! Some dried fruits would likey make a fab addition to this. It also is delish as a mix-in for yogurt. 

**No affiliate links in this post**

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Spotted Trotter: Charcuterie

This past weekend I had the pleasure of a trip to The Spotted Trotter, a charcuterie in Atlanta. There are two locations (Kirkwood and Krog Street Market) - I went to the Kirkwood location, a small shop in the historic neighborhood of Kirkwood. While it is local to Atlanta they do ship and if you are not near enough to come physically I encourage you to make use of this option - you will not be disappointed! 

Charcuterie is the branch of cooking that specializes in prepared meat products, especially (though not necessarily only) pork. Fortunately there is more to this than mixing meat together, stuffing it in a casing, and "preserving" it with lots of salt and even more chemicals. 

I appreciate the philosophy of the owner of the Spotted Trotter - procuring (pun intended!) locally and humanely raised meats and continuing to treat it with respect as it is prepared for our enjoyment. The more I learn about CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) and mass-produced big-ag meat the less I want to eat it and the more willing I am to pay a premium for meat raised in a physiologic manner - respecting how it was designed, and killing it in a humane way, respecting the principle of stewardship (which is far different from "sustainability"). I was told the meat is all pasture raised, and I saw a display for White Oak Pastures - a place for which I have deep appreciation and great respect. 

One of the purchases I made there was some ricotta cheese. This is far different from the glop you get at a grocery store that is mass produced from big-ag dairy! I had never had real ricotta - now I have. The texture was firm but slightly crumbly, and it was ever so slightly sweet with a definite (but not overpowering) hint of lemon. Absolutely amazing!! Yum! 

I also picked up some "Burger Blend" and a recipe for meatballs that I used to make meatloaf. It turned out quite well - I'll post the recipe in a follow up post. 

I am a hippie at heart and one of my fondest fantasies is to have a wee farmette. I don't know that I will ever be able to live that dream, but I feed it through farm tours - and their "friends" page lists plenty of places to be explored!  

Sunday, July 17, 2016

One Pot Wonder (July 17, 2016 version)

One Pot Wonder is rapidly becoming a favorite of mine - practical and versatile it is never the same twice. I can make a vat of this early in the week and have several meals that just need re-heating (or if desperate, can be eaten cold as well). 

The basics of One Pot Wonder involves browning 1 lb of ground beef as a base for protein (I am partial to White Oak Pastures as it is grass fed). Add whatever veggies you have on hand or that you like (tonight it was a diced onion and some shredded zucchini). I also add 1 small can of tomato paste or crushed fire-roasted tomatos (ie: Muir Glen) - tonight it was tomato paste. Season to taste with whatever you fancy - tonight's version was seasoned with Penzy's Pico and Salsa seasoning (hey, I got it **free** today and when I looked at the ingredients it looked like it might work - and the result was not bad, though I doubt I will do that again ... but then again, each time I cook this the result is unique)! I boiled up some pasta (tonight it was Tolerant Foods Red Lentil Pasta) and served the result over that. Chow down! 

Side note #1: I enjoy the Tolerant Foods lentil based pasta - as a substitute it really is not bad, but it may make you worry when you cook it as the water gets cloudy and it looks like the result can be gummy. I don't doubt that could happen - you do not want to over cook this and I suggest you don't walk away, but test frequently to get the al dente texture you like. I also think it helps to rinse it after cooking, even if you have to reheat it in the microwave or **quickly** heat it by putting it in some very hot but not boiling water for about 1 minute after it has been rinsed. 

Side note #2: This could easily be done as a vegetarian dish. 

Side note #3: I have never made this using chicken as the meat/protein base and I don't think I ever would d/t texture issues. 

One other nice feature of this recipe is that it could be stretched very easily using a can of rinsed black beans and additional vegetables. So if you are feeding an army it is very forgiving and practical. 

In previous versions I've put in carrots, cabbage, onions, garlic, potatoes, peas and who knows what else. I've also tossed the pasta in the pot (uncooked/raw) especially if there seemed to be a lot of liquid. 

So here's a summary of the recipe - 

One Pot Wonder

1 lb ground beef (browned) 
Vegetables of choice
1 small can tomato paste or
1 can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes 
1 can black beans (drained/rinsed) - optional 
Seasonings of choice

Pasta of choice 

Brown ground beef. 
Mix in tomato paste or crushed tomatoes
Add vegetables of choice chopped into small/medium sized chunks 
Add beans last

Serve over pasta of choice


(no affiliate links in today's post)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Red Lentils and Green Broccoli - Easy, Healthy, Yummy

I had an unusually productive afternoon (at least by my typical standards)! Laundry, dishes, dabbled a bit in the garden, blog posts - and I also managed to cook a few lunches to boot! I don't have much time or energy when I return home from work to do much in the way of cooking - either for dinner that night or as prep for next day's lunch. This is a set up for bad choices (both financially and nutritionally as I end up eating out more) which I confess I do make. So I was glad I was able to do this today. Here's what I did, I hope it helps you as 
well ... 

I adapted this recipe from Whole Foods Market: 
Red Lentils with Garlic and Onions 

  • 2 cups uncooked red lentils, rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 12 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 6 cups cooked brown Basmati rice

Put lentils, turmeric and 4 cups water into a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until lentils are very soft and pulpy, about 25 minutes. Add salt to lentils after cooking, then purée in blender and set aside. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until golden brown, taking care not to burn them. Add onion mixture to lentils and stir well. Serve hot, with basmati rice on the side.
Nutritional Info: 
Per Serving: 340 calories (50 from fat), 5g total fat, 220mg sodium, 57g carbohydrates, (11 gdietary fiber, 5g sugar), 17g protein.

I cut the recipe in half - 2 cups of water (I ended up adding a bit more later) and 1 cup of uncooked red lentils. I did not cut the spices in half, and I also added 1/2 teaspoon of Red Curry (good decision, I actually wish I had add a bit more of all of the spices). I used 1/2 of a regular onion and less garlic (3 cloves - I like garlic, so it would have been fine to add more. I didn't even notice it called for so much until just now). 

I cooked the lentils until they were mushy, and added the onions/garlic about half way through. I also did not puree them in a blender or food processor - so I simplified the recipe and I am glad I did as it still turned out yummy, but fewer dirty dishes to clean. Since I did not cook the onions and garlic separately I omitted the oil. Lastly I also omitted the rice. 

While the lentils were cooking I steamed some broccoli (using the cut open bag and dump into steamer method!) 

When it was done I divvy'd the broccoli and red lentils into two storage containers, ate a small amount of each for a snack - and poof - done, two lunches in the fridge.  

Sorry, no pics - I'll try to remember next time! 

Breakfast is so easy I assemble it in the morning as I make my coffee (Peet's - I am grateful Publix carries it!) and is inspired by Chocolate Covered Katie (I think she calls them overnight oats). I take a mason jar, sprinkle 2-3 teaspoons of raw rolled oats (I like Bob's Red Mill), pour some kefir (from Maple Hill Creamery) over it, add a scoop of plain yogurt (usually homemade using Kalona Milk), add a generous pinch of coconut flakes, add a generous pinch of whatever nut I have handy (hopefully toasted) and a smaller pinch of mini-chocolate chips. I will sometimes also add a dribble or two of maple syrup and/or a teaspoon of cinnamon sugar. Screw the top on, grab my coffee and head out the door. I eat it when I get to work. It is yummy and incredibly filling. 

Most of us lead crazy busy lives - I hope these ideas help you manage yours! 

(no affiliate links in this post)

Evernote - Excellence!

I have been using Evernote (not an affiliate link) for nearly two years and really appreciate it. My favorite feature thus far is the web clipper - it's an app embedded in your web browser with a button you can use to clip web pages. You can clip the entire page, or a portion of it, or simply a screen shot. I have another blog - and use Evernote to save clips of webpages for blog posts. You can also use it to write draft blog posts. 

There are three levels available - Basic (free), Plus ($24.99/year) and Premium ($45.00/year). I started with the Basic, but quickly went with Premium because the price is so reasonable and I wanted to be able to save items (almost) without limit - with the Basic plan I would bump up against the monthly limit, with the paid plan I never have, though I suppose it is possible depending upon how you use it. You can upload up to 10GB/month with the Premium plan, but there are additional functions that come with each level above Basic. 

I have needed to contact customer support on a (very) few occasions and have been very happy with the service they provided - the issues have been resolved quickly and I found them to be very responsive and helpful.    

Even if you are not a blogger it can be very useful - it can be a great place to keep recipes for easy access. I also like to use it to store contacts/business cards - a quick scan with my phone's camera and done! I don't need to have the card continue to clutter up my wallet or my desk. 

Once an item is in Evernote it can be organized into Notebooks. You can also assign multiple tags - so between the Notebooks and Tags searching for an item is easy. 

I suspect that if you try Evernote, you will like it! 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Travel Tips - Hampton Inn

I love to travel - especially if it involves going to someplace I have never been, and even more so if it involves going to someplace warm and sunny with a beach! 

Why do I like Hampton Inn?
When my travels require me to use a hotel I am fond of staying at Hampton Inns (a Hilton Hotel - this is not an affiliate link). They intersect reasonable cost with pleasant amenities. Rates have ranged from <$100 to no more than $150.00/night (they vary by location and room size), and since they have many locations it has not been hard to find one fairly close to, if not actually in, my ultimate destination. Rooms are appointed comfortably and in all my stays have always been clean and well serviced. 

I appreciate that WiFi and breakfast are included with your stay (at least in the US locations) - I doubt I would stay at a hotel that did not provide these amenities.  

Frequent Traveler Program
Hilton has its "HHonors" points program - but this, understandably, is mostly a benefit to frequent travelers. Points expire if you are not continuously accruing additional points. Though considering the bennies of the four levels it is clear only someone who stays frequently enough to earn "free" or comped stays should bother opting in to this as many of the bennies are available to any guest (spouse stays free, complimentary continental breakfast - how is that different from what is already provided?) 

I currently have no points (Blue level - I had points that I lost through inactivity) - and to reach the next level (Silver) I would have to stay at a Hampton 4 or more times or 10 days. So that should give one an idea of just how frequently someone would need to stay at a Hampton to earn the elite "Diamond" level - quite a few, no doubt! 

I usually make my reservations through the Hampton Inn website. The "Find a Hotel" feature on the left makes it easy to find a Hampton Inn close to where I am going and usually provides a list of Hampton Inns nearby. This way I can choose how close do I want to be (and do I want to pay a premium for being closer to my destination or would I rather stay further away and save a few dollars - I typically opt for the latter).  

Do you travel with pets? 
I could not find a specific policy about pets on the Hampton Inn website. A quick search about pets shows that some Hampton Inns are pet friendly, though it is likely prudent to call a specific location and ask about their policy regarding pets before making a reservation.  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Only the best for Bunny ...

I have a cat named Bunny (and how she came to that moniker is a story for another post) who is now nearly 19 years old (I joke about changing her name to Methuselah). For most of her life she has been hacking up hairballs and until recently nothing I tried helped. I tried the commercial food "specifically formulated" for hairballs, brushing her, hairball goo, etc ... several times each week, if not daily, she would barf up and deposit some nastiness on my floor, or my bed, or in my shoe - well, you get the idea. 

But for the last two weeks this has not happened - and the only change was giving her one tablet/day of "Vet's Best Hairball Relief Digestive Aid" - the ingredients are listed below. The directions say to give 1 tablet twice each day. My wee girl also has horrible constipation for which I have been giving her Miralax (please check with your vet before giving your pet any medication or product, even if it is available over the counter). 

It was $7.95 (for 60 tablets) at the local health food shop where I found it but I found it on Amazon for almost 1/2 that price (though that does not include shipping if you do not have Amazon prime). 

I am most grateful to have found this and only wish I had found it sooner! 

Ingredients (active ingredients):
psyllium seed
slippery elm bark
papaya extract
Allzyme (lactobacillus acidophilus, aspergilus oryzae, bacillus subtiles,
papain, amylase, protease);
Ingredients (inactive ingredients):
apple powder, brewer's yeast, calcium carbonate, chicken (dried),
liver (defatted pork), magnesium stearate, natural flavorings,
yeast (torula).

(no affiliate links in this post)

Feb 7, 2016 - update: 

Of course, the day after I wrote this original post, the Bunster hacked up a hairball! However, after at least 3 weeks of daily use (1 tablet/day) I can say that the Bunner's hairball problem seems to be quite a bit better - not cured, but both the number of hairballs she hacks up and the frequency and size are far, far less than before. At this point I plan to continue using the Miralax until it is gone and then I will increase her dose of Vet's Best Hairball remedy to the recommended two tablets/day (1 am, 1pm) and see how she does with that. I am very pleased with this product and so wish that I had known about it sooner!