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Alive and well!

16 Dec

Hello all, it’s been awhile and I’m sorry about that, but as Nerf 1 pointed out I recently moved to Chicago and am just starting to get settled down. Even though it’s mid December, the weather here has been surprisingly warm for the past six weeks I’ve been here but we had our first really big rainy day yesterday. What better dish for lunch than soup on a rainy day? But I didn’t want just Campbell’s chicken soup, I wanted something healthy with some saltiness and not too much fuss so I went to my go to favorite dish of udon with shitake mushrooms and spinach. It’s not quite a soup because there isn’t a bowl full of broth but I really love it because it’s easy and quick to make.  I got the recipe about a year ago off of NPR from an article all about tofu but because the recipe is so simple I don’t follow it exactly. For example, the recipe calls for about 10 shitake mushrooms, but I love mushrooms so much I add about 20 and a mixture of shitake and oyster. Basically I use whatever amount of whatever I have (half a bag of spinach instead of the instructed 4 cups of spinach) and it comes out tasty every time. Here is the recipe but tweak it however you’d like!

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1 tsp of toasted sesame oil

1 block of tofu (I use extra firm for easiness), cubed

2 teaspoons of olive oil (I honestly forgot about this ingredient all the times I’ve made this. I just either use the toasted sesame oil left behind or use a little more from the bottle).

6 cloves of garlic, sliced

10 shitake mushrooms, sliced with stems removed

4 cups of spinach

4 Tbs of soy sauce (I use low sodium soy sauce because I find regular soy sauce way too salty for my taste)

2 Tbs of sesame seeds

2 bunches of udon

Instructions:

  1. Cook the udon according to the package instructions.
  2. Over medium heat, heat the toasted sesame oil in a pan.
  3. Lightly fry all sides of the tofu cubes; when finished put in a bowl and set aside.Image
  4. Now add the olive oil to the same pan and add the garlic cooking for a few minutes over low heat.
  5. Add the mushrooms and a tiny bit of water; cook until tender.
  6. Add the spinach and soy sauce and cook until spinach is wilted.Image
  7. After being drained, add udon noodles and mix into vegetables.
  8. Toss in tofu and sesame seeds.
  9. Enjoy!Image

Chicken Kababs and My Vitamix…a Love Story

7 Feb

A desire for grilling and something with veggies had me on a quest to make some chicken kababs (kebabs? kabobs?) . I love Persian style chicken kababs (joojeh kabab) and found a recipe from blogger Tumeric and Saffron and another from Chow.com. I took elements of both and created my own recipe to my tastes. It’s actually pretty simple to prepare and cook and you’re left with really juicy chicken. If you have a Vitamix like I do, then it’s even less time consuming (thanks to my Dude for the awesome Christmas present!).

Marinade recipe:

3 pounds of boneless chicken

1 teaspoon of saffron powder or saffron threads

2 tablespoons of hot water

1 cup of plain yogurt

1/4 cup of olive oil

1 large onion cut coarsely

2 cloves of garlic peeled

Juice of 1 lime

Zest of 1 lime

2 teaspoons of peppercorns or 1 teaspoon of ground pepper

kosher salt to taste (I used about 3 tablespoons)

Directions:

Cut chicken to kabab sized cubes and set aside. Put saffron threads in hot water and let it steep for 10 minutes or longer. Using the Vitamix, blend the saffron water, saffron, yogurt, olive oil, onion, garlic, lime juice, lime zest, peppercorns, and kosher salt for about 30 seconds or until everything is smoothly blended. I used my Vitamix (thanks, Dude!) which saved me a ton of time not having to chop and grate. The Vitamix even ground all the peppercorns! I blended everything for about 30 seconds, poked around the mixture with my wooden spoon, then blended for another 30 seconds. Marinate the chicken in this mixture for at least 8 hours or up to 2 days. If you don’t have a blender or food processor to do this, you’ll need to grate the onion and garlic and use ground pepper.

Chicken cubes marinating in a ziploc bag.

Baste recipe:

Juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup of butter, melted

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Skewer the chicken and prepare the baste by mixing the lime juice, melted butter, salt, and pepper. Grill the chicken for 8 to 15 minutes and make sure to baste in between. I decided to include bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms on my skewers. Make sure you space everything well on the skewer so it all cooks evenly. Serve with grilled tomatoes and saffron rice.

The marinade is really gloopy and cold. I swear this is worth it.

The Dude basting the kababs. Much love to him for freezing his butt off on our porch in 40-some degree weather to tend the grill. 🙂

Here are the first batch of grilled kababs. We couldn’t help ourselves and promptly started digging in.

This is probably the 3rd or 4th batch of grilled kababs. Good char and color on this one. Major props to The Dude.

Review of recipe:

I’d have to say this came out pretty darn well. I doubled my recipe (I really just bought waaaaay too much chicken) and this came out to over 30 skewers. In all honesty, the marinade recipe produced a LOT of marinade. I would say that you could increase the amount of chicken to 4 pounds with the same amount of marinade. This produced really, really, ridiculously juicy chicken with great flavor. I would add some cayenne pepper powder to the marinade to give it a spicy kick and maybe an extra tablespoon of kosher salt. Another word of advice is to ABSOLUTELY baste the skewers. The baste makes the veggies taste soooo good and brings a sense of cohesiveness to all the elements of the kabab.

Speaking of the veggies, I would definitely splurge and get criminis or baby portabellas. They seem to hold up well on the grill while the regular white mushrooms liked to fall off. I’d also use red onions next time instead of the white just because I think the flavor of the red onion might compliment the rest of the kabab more. For the recipe I posted above 3 bell peppers, 1 very large onion, and 1 pound of mushrooms would suffice. For funsies, I added some broccoli to the skewers and the grilled broccoli with the baste is super yummy! Watch out since the florets like to char.

Sugar substittutes the 411

21 Aug

My best friend’s fiance *cough man-servant cough* commented on my last post concerning the use of sugar substitutes. There has been a lot of concerns when it comes to using sugar alternatives with speculation that it could be a carcinogen. Although studies have not been conclusive about artificial sugars causing cancer, some people have developed reservation when it comes to those pink and blue packets of artificial sugar.

To start things off there are two major classes of sugar substitutes, artificial and natural. Artificial sugars like saccharin, sucralose and aspartame are chemically synthesized in the labs. Natural sugar substitutes like stevia are derived from a plant called Stevia rebaudiana.  Each type of sugar have its own pro and cons. Continue reading

Food when we have no time on the go

18 Aug

Everyone out there has probably reached for food in bar form at one time or another. It is hard to avoid when most of us live such busy hectic lives. Things can get out of hand when we rejoice for a day that we could have enough free time to actually get a full eight hours of sleep.  If we can hardly find time to sleep, how on earth are we going to find time to prepare three balance healthy meals a day?

One of the easiest quick meal options are those convenient food/energy/protein bars that are easily found in any food store. These bars are great as a grab and go breakfast, a quick snack during long work days, a snack before or after a workout or has a anytime sort of meal. They are compact, not easily perishable, easy to eat and most of the time tastes like a candy bar. If the convenience factor does not do it for you, these bars usually claim to do miracles things to your body like build muscle, burn fat, shed pounds, supply vitamin supplements and make you feel full for hours. Now before you run out and eat a dozen of these things, I regretfully have to say that most of the energy bars out there do not do any of the miraculous things listed above. In fact, most energy bars sold at your local market are no more than glorified candy bars adding extra fat calories to your diet and then leave you hungry a hour after. Flashy protein bars tend to be the most common type to false advertise.

Although there are a lot of not so healthy energy bars out there, not all of them are bad. So here is my breakdown of how to go about choosing a healthy energy bar. The first rule in choosing a healthy energy bar is to ignore any bar that advertises itself with words like max, pro, muscle, magnum, or other diet or muscle building gimmicks. Don’t get pulled in by that shiny metallic wrapper either. All the flashy colors are there to distract you from what is really important, the nutritional value and ingredients list. Ever wonder why they make the facts in such small print? They do not want you to know what kind of crap you are eating. Like any other girl out there I am easily pulled in by shiny things and anything that claims will help me lose weight. It was a lot of looking around and researching before I learned to consciously step away from that shiny label claiming the bar could help me lose five pounds in two weeks.

After taking the time to read the labels properly I have noticed several things. The first thing I noticed was the sugar content. The amount of sugar varies from most popular bars from five to over twenty grams of sugar per serving. A lot of them have a common source of sugar, high fructose corn syrup. Those that tend to range in the lower end usually have extra added sugar alcohols that do not have as much caloric value as sucrose or fructose but still acts at a sweetener. Although no serious side effects come from consuming sugar alcohol, excessive use can cause some bowel irritability in some people.  The second thing I noticed was the saturated fat content.  Most protein bars tend to have higher saturated fat content. The highest fat content goes to the bars that don’t resemble food in any way, but looks like an unrecognizable mass of fudge like thing. Over all, many of these bars are not going to be the death of you, but they are not healthy either.

So how do we find a bar that is healthy for us? Continue reading

Fiber your new best friend: Demystified

14 Aug

Food is food and delicious food is even better. But how do we know the difference between the friends and the foes? We all hear about fiber and how it is so wonderful for our health. Although the term fiber seems to get thrown around left and right and splattered all across cereal boxes, how many of us truly understand what fiber does? Really, not many of us really pay much attention the term fiber.

I was on a recent bad food binge lately, and after that I felt the urge to start a period of detoxing to feel less guilt about the binge. My research on fiber begins with understanding the physical properties, functions and sources of fiber. After defining fiber, my research lead into the comparison of fiber to is evil cousin sugar. The information I found helped clarify a lot about why fiber is said to be so beneficial for our health, but also how to be weary of the hidden evil cousin.

Fiber the tale to two equally good twin siblings: Continue reading

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