Monday, January 30, 2012

Overnight Greek Salad and Dave Matthews


From the ages of 16-20 years old, I went to four concerts. Three were for Dave Matthews. See, my best friend Cristina was absolutely, legitimately and completely obsessed with Dave Matthews. She owned like fifteen CD's for her car. They were all Dave Matthews. I don't think it ever occurred to her to listen to anything else. Naturally, being the best friend, I got dragged into the whole thing. Cristina got her mom to buy us tickets to every concert Dave Matthews performed within the greater Los Angeles area for a few years. I saw him at Dodger Stadium. I saw him outdoors at Glen Helen Pavilion where we sat in the back on blankets and couldn't get over the amount of marijuana smoke around us. And now that I think about it, I can't even remember the other venue. That's a bad sign, isn't it? I do remember meeting Ryan Seacrest after the Dodger Stadium concert. He wasn't big time like he is now. Back then he was just our local radio deejay for Star 98.7, my favorite station. He was short. That's all I remember.


Suffice it to say I listened to Dave Matthews a lot as a teenager. Have you ever listened to him? He can be a bit odd. Examples 1, 2 and 3, are excerpts from some of his most famous songs.

Crash Into Me-
I watch you there, through the window and I stare at you, you wear nothing but you wear it so well, tied up and twisted the way I like to be, for you, for me, come and crash into me, baby. Craaaash into me. Crash into me. Crash into me. Ooooh, you know, I'm the king of the castle, your the dirty rascal, crash into me. Yes, I see the wave come and crash into me.

Crazy, how it feels tonight. Crazy how you, make it alright, love. Crush me, with the things you do. And I'll do for you, anything too. Oh, sitting, smoking, feeling high..and in this moment, oooh, it feels so right. Lovely lady, I am at your feet, oh God I want you so badly, and I wonder this: Could tomorrow be so wondrous as you there sleeping? Lets go drive till the morning comes. Watch the sunrise and fill our souls up. Drink some wine till we get drunk. Yeah, crazy I'm thinking just knowing that the world is round, and here I am dancing on the ground, am I right side up or upside down? And is this real? or am I dreaming? lovely lady let me drink you, pleeeease.

Satellite. In my eyes, like a diamond in the sky, how I wonder. Satellite, strung from the moon and the world your balloon, peeping tom from the mother station. Who's the king of your satellite castle?

Dave Matthews has to be on drugs...right? And he is a little perverted, no? What do these lyrics even mean? Alright, so I get the whole beautiful artistic side, but as an outsider he really does seem to be pretty warped. I like him still, and the more I listen, the more I remember how much ("#41" live at Radio City Music Hall and "Say Goodbye" are absolute perfection and both get stuck in my head like no other) but am not the biggest everyday fan despite my three concert visits. Or am I? I did go see the movie "Black Hawk Down" ONLY because they used Dave's song "The Space Between" in the previews. Well, that and for Josh Hartnett. Anyone remember him? He was Danny in "Pearl Harbor". Remember Pearl Harbor? I loved that movie! But I loved both Josh Hartnett and Ben Affleck so maybe it had something to do with that. No, it couldn't be because it was an awesome movie, too. And I think about and quote it quite a bit, so there, take that Rodger Ebert. To this day, Ben Affleck is still my number one. Go ahead, make fun of me- I know you guys are all nuts for Brad, Ryan (Reynolds and Gosling), George and Colin, but I only have eyes for Ben. Don't tell me you didn't fall head over heels in "Armageddon". You did. Don't even try and lie.


Whoooo-wee, where were we? Ben gets me all flustered (sorry, honey). Oh yes, Dave Matthews. So many of my memories are tied up in his songs. One night Cristina and I were giving ourselves pedicures when we thought we should partake in some red wine. Now, we were only about seventeen, and I have no idea where we got ourselves a bottle, but Cristina had just gotten back from Costa Rica (where part of her family lives) and they allowed her to drink some while she was there. We figured, what was the difference? Cristina was mad for red wine and it had been all she would talk about since she got back. It was inevitable. It was also the first time I remember ever drinking before I was supposed to. My mom would allow me to have a half a beer or to take a few sips of something before, but this was the first time I actually drank unsupervised. We were semi-responsible and didn't get crazy with it, but I remember feeling tipsy. This whole evening, and I mean the WHOLE evening, we listened to Dave Matthew's "Crush" on repeat. I went into that evening knowing nothing. I came out of it with every single lyric of that song forever burned into my memory, nice nails, and a taste for good red wine. I guess you could say a have a confusing sort of love for Dave.

This overnight Greek salad has nothing to do with The Dave Matthews Band, but I'll try and tie it all together by the end. We will see how that goes. I first made this salad one night last summer after I discovered that raw onions were so much better after they had pickled and soaked in a vinegar mixture for a while before adding it to food. Likewise, I thought a salad would have a lot more flavor if the vegetables could soak and marinate in the dressing for a while before adding it to the lettuce. So I tried it. Success. Not only does it cut your prep time to nothing, since chopping is done the night before, but it tastes better having set. There is also no real recipe or ratios since it is so downright simple and very customizable. Swap out the garbanzo beans for cannelini, feta for mozzarella, then add some chopped salami and you have yourself an overnight Italian salad. Options are limitless and this one will fix what ale's you, even if you are being moody like Dave Matthews. Oh, he's moody, let me tell you. You think a woman who's seen him perform three times wouldn't know this? He got so mad at the audience one time because they were not listening to him attentively enough (I think they were smoking too much pot) and we are pretty sure he cut his concert short and ended with the song "Ant's Marching" on purpose with no encore. The last words in the song? "Lights down, you up and die." Coincidence? I think not.


Overnight Greek Salad
serves 4

1 -2 heads Romaine lettuce or a mixture of romaine and arugula, chopped
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 cup roasted red pepper strips (from a jar)
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
1 small English cucumber, sliced into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
bottled balsamic vinaigrette, greek dressing, red wine vinaigrette or Italian
salt and pepper

Optional additional mix in's or toppers: Grilled shrimp or chicken, salmon, salami or prosciutto.

The night before you want to eat this salad, place cucumber, feta, olives, red pepper strips, artichoke hearts and garbanzo beans in a ziplock bag. Pour as much salad dressing as you would guess you need for the salad over everything. When in doubt, go with about 1/2 cup or more. Chuck the bag in the refrigerator.

The next day, chop your lettuce and place in a large salad bowl. Empty the vegetables in the dressing over the lettuce (if there is a lot of watery liquid in the bottom of the bag, try and keep it out of the salad and discard because it's most likely water the vegetables gave off.) Season with salt and pepper, add a splash more salad dressing to freshen everything up, and toss. Serve plain or with protein of your choice. For a hearty vegetarian option, try tossing in cooked quinoa or couscous.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Homemade Almond Milk (vanilla, chocolate, and coconut)

almond milk

Almond milk is the absolute easiest thing you are currently not making. For the past few weeks I have been making batches and keeping them in mason jars in the refrigerator. My favorite thing to do is combine a cup of the chocolate almond milk, which can be a bit strong, with some coconut milk for a nighttime treat. It's creamy, delicious, and the coconut milk is just sweet enough to make that chocolate sing. My kids think it's chocolate milk. Shhhh, don't tell them.

I started to make my own almond milk after a friend (hi, Susan!) asked me about carageenan, a controversial ingredient in most store bought plant milks. After lots of research and talks with my husband, we decided we didn't drink enough store bought almond milk to really harm us in a big way, but still, I hate knowing an ingredient in something I buy is anything less than good for me. I'm no expert but there are rumors abound that carageenan can help cause cancer. Not true from what we understand. It can help promote tumor growth if you already have one, but not cause one to start. Like I said, I'm no expert and I encourage you to do your own research if this is something you are interested in. Still, I started to make my own milk. We still buy store bought almond milk because we need the fortified vitamins and minerals like iron, vitamin A, calcium, riboflavin, magnesium, copper and zinc, but now I supplement some with homemade. Homemade is still super nutritious for you boasting calcium, phosperous, protein, good fat, and fiber.

So, how do you make it? First you must soak your almonds in a mason jar or other container overnight (this is only so the almonds can get soft so they will be easier to blend). When morning comes, drain your soaking water out because it will be cloudy with almond residue and slightly bitter.

almond milk

Next, blend your almonds with fresh water thoroughly and voila! You have almond milk!

almond milk

Now, all thats left to do is strain the almond meal out using a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth or even a coffee strainer in a pinch, and then add your flavorings. Make the almond milk as sweet as you would like. Store almond milk in the refrigerator until ready to use. Don't throw away that almond meal! It can be used in smoothies or muffins and pancake batters!

almond milk

Easy peisy, right? And so many options. Make the almond milk, choose your flavorings (included here are recipes for chocolate, coconut, vanilla, and cinnamon). Savor and enjoy.

Homemade Vanilla Almond Milk - And Three Variations
makes 4-5 cups almond milk

1 1/2 cups raw almonds, soaked overnight in water and rinsed off
4-5 cups fresh water ( I prefer 4 c. but some people like theirs watery)
1-1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey, or 1/2 packet of stevia
a pinch of sea salt (you must use salt, it brings out the flavor)

Blend almonds and fresh water together until well blended. Strain out almond milk with a fine mesh sieve, cheesecloth or coffee filter into a clean container. Pack up leftover almond meal for another use. Pour almond milk back into the blender and add the vanilla, sweetener and seas salt. Blend to combine and pour back into clean container. Store in the refrigerator for 1 week, or longer. If the almond milk smells sour, it's time to go.

For Chocolate Almond Milk: Add 4 tablespoons of good quality cocoa powder and increase the agave nectar or honey to 4 tablespoons total (or stevia to 1 1/2 packets-about 2 teaspoons), and increase the vanilla by a 1/2 teaspoon.

For Coconut Almond Milk: Add 1/2 cup unsweetened dried shredded coconut to the almonds and fresh water at the beginning of blending and blend together. Strain as directed and add in the same flavorings as you would for vanilla almond milk. You could also use sweetened coconut for this since most people sweeten their milk anyway. Just taste first before adding more sweetener to it.

For Cinnamon Almond Milk: Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon to vanilla almond milk, and more to taste.

For Unsweetened Almond Milk: Leave out the sweeteners.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Broccoli and Cheese Soup

Broccoli and Cheese Soup

I really want to change the name of this to "broccoli, arugula and Romano cheese soup" because really that's what it is. But Gwyneth Paltrow calls this simply "broccoli and cheese soup" so we will just go with that. Things you should know about it:

A) It is really good
B) It is really good for you
C) My husband says we should eat a bowl once a week for the rest of our lives.

This one is easy and one might argue that you don't even need a recipe. Unless you are me. I (usually) always follow a recipe as written and then make the necessary changes to suit my tastes for the next time. That's not true. Well, it sort of is. See, I have a gift. I am a "recipe reader" by nature. Listen to this: I read recipes thoroughly and when I am done I know exactly what they will taste like in my head before I even start cooking. You might not think this is really a gift. Everyone can do this to some degree. We all know what tomatoes and garlic and olive oil tastes like. Ah, but I am being sincere when I say that after I read a recipe, I will know it shall I put this?...intimately.

I will know the texture
I will know how thick or thin something will be
How silky or soft, tender or chewy
I will know which spices could make it better, and how I could take it up a notch
I will know what is an unnecessary step or how I could take a shortcut the next time

I could go on here, but this is not a haiku and so I'll stop. My point is not merely that I have superstar awesome skills, but rather, I'm trying to tell you that this is my specialty. Listen, I am not the only one in the world who has this ability. If you are reading this and thinking "Hey, I can do that!", then you, my dear friend, are a "recipe reader" too. Some people can Irish dance. Some people can do perfect swan dives. Some people can add huge numbers in their head and multiply it by 16.3% and then divide it by 5 to the 3rd power.

I am not one of those people. Especially the last one.

But when I tell you a recipe is good you can trust me. Why? Because I am a "recipe reader"- which is not actually a real thing, but that's besides the point.

Broccoli for broccoli and cheese soup

Okay, like I was saying, you might not even need a recipe for this one. The recipe consists of sautéing an onion and garlic in olive oil, then adding broccoli florets to cook a few minutes. Next you'll add vegetable stock and simmer everything together until the broccoli is tender. Then you transfer it all to a blender, add a handful of arugula (or more), salt and pepper and blend baby blend. Then you pour it all back into your pot and add the Romano cheese until melted. Done.

Most broccoli and cheese soups are heavy and creamy and, not that there is anything wrong with that since I happen to love heavy and creamy, but it's also nice to know I can get a nice healthy bowl of soup with the same flavor of the other.

You can use different cheese for this like sharp cheddar or even Stilton, but the flavor will be milder and you'll need more cheese to make up for it so plan for that. I like the idea of less cheese so I stick to Romano.

Broccoli and Cheese Soup
serves 4-6

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 yellow onions, peeled and roughly diced
4 large stalks of broccoli (about 2-2 1/2 lbs) cut into small florets
2 quarts vegetable stock (8 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
2 cups of arugula (watercress would be good too) or more to taste
1/4-1/2c up of Romano or another strong, assertive cheese
Your best, highest-quality olive oil, for serving

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and saute for just a minute, or until fragrant. Add the broccoli florets and cook for 4 minutes, or until bright green. Add the stock, salt, and pepper, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the broccoli is just ender. Pour the soup into a blender and puree with the arugula until quite smooth. Be very careful when blending hot liquids. Start slowly and work in batches if necessary. Pour the soup back into the pot, stir in 1/4 cup of the cheese, taste, and add more if you'd like. Serve with extra black pepper and a drizzle of your best olive oil.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Frozen Chocolate and Peanut Butter Banana Bites

Frozen banana bites

When I was younger my Grandma Grillo used to take me to Knott's Berry Farm. For all you non-Southern Californian's out there, Knott's is a theme park, like Disneyland, but on a slightly smaller scale. There were rides, roller coasters and my favorites included the soap box car races and the log jammer. I also remember having dinner at Ms. Knott's restaurant quite a few times (I think that was the name) where we ate things like fried chicken, biscuits, salad, where I noticed red cabbage for the first time, pie or cobbler, and a berry drink which was always my favorite. Knott's berry farm is known for boysenberries and products made with them (jams, syrups, etc). What they are not known for-at least not that I know of- are chocolate covered frozen bananas. However, it is forever burned in my mind that whenever we would pass those people selling food in carts around the park, I would get a chocolate frozen banana covered in finely chopped peanuts. Maybe, it was just once. I have no idea. But my little mind likes to think it was every time. Those things have stayed with me as a fond memory ever since, probably because when bananas are frozen they taste a lot like vanilla ice cream, and who doesn't love vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and peanuts?

frozen banana bites

frozen banana bites

I saw a recipe for these banana bites on pinterest and knew instantly I had to try them. They are a little different because you cover chunks of the fruit with a melted mixture of both chocolate and peanut butter, and then cover them in shredded coconut. You could just as easily cover them with peanuts, rainbow sprinkles or almonds. I love that you can eat them like a bon bon, are rich so you only need one or two, and are a snap to make.

frozen banana bites

My kids wolfed these down for dessert and my daughter actually requested that I make them for her birthday. The best part is that I felt good about what they were eating. And I won't feel too guilty if after those kids are in bed, I sneak off to the freezer to grab a couple more...

frozen banana bites

Thank you Grandma, for taking me to do such special things when I was little. I remember each and every time.

Frozen Chocolate and Peanut Butter Banana Bites
serves 4

2 ripe bananas
1/3 cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter or almond butter
2 tablespoons shredded sweetened coconut for sprinkling
wax paper

Peel and chop bananas into 5-6 equal pieces each. Melt the chocolate chips and peanut butter together in a saucepan over very low heat and stir until just combined and chocolate has melted. Dip each banana chunk in the chocolate and peanut butter mixture and place on a wax paper lined sheet pan. Sprinkle the coconut over top and freeze for 2 hours or until hard.

Are You Healthy?

So, I conducted a social experiment. I asked a bunch of people to keep track of what they ate for three days if they thought they ate "healthy" most of the time. Healthy is relative and I did not define what I meant by it. I was clear that these people should not alter what they normally ate and they had to be honest about every single thing they put in their mouth. Some of the people confessed that they wouldn't consider themselves "uber health conscious" but they also didn't, in their opinion, eat a lot of crap. Which is exactly what I was looking for. I wanted an idea of the average American diet through the eyes of people who ate pretty well most of the time. These are the results. Where do you fit in?

Person 1
Day 1
2 Cups coffee with cream and Kahlua
2 bites Honey Baked ham
1 bowl Chicken Chili with a Tablespoon of sour cream
a handful of roasted cashews
1 chocolate truffle
1 slice turkey pot pie. (used refrigerated Pillsbury crust )
1 bite of a cookie
1 ½ cup roasted Brussels Sprouts (grapeseed oil)
45oz water from tap

Day 2
Smoothie (Mixed berries, ½ scoop,Jay Rob whey, Amazing grass Green superfood, Coconut milk.)
Two bites of the kid's scrambled eggs. (no cheese)
About ½ cup mixed nuts throughout the day
3 baby carrots, 1 cup brussels sprouts, 2 sliced green apple
1small wedge of a quesadilla with cheese and black beans
Many bean soup with cabbage and lots more veggies. This time made with leftover ham from Christmas. I don't usually use meat in it.)
1 See's chocolate bar (Christmas is still seeping into my diet. It is unusual to have chocolate and ham and Kahlua. But not this week!)
Approx. 50 oz. water

Day 3
Smoothie (Same as yesterday)
¼ cup of raw almonds, 1 green apple, red pepper slices (Snack throughout the day)
2 slices of pizza from Ceaser's. (I know. Gross.)
Approx. 40 oz. water

    • Person 2- Okay - Here is my Three-Day Food List. This was a great challenge because it made me very aware of what I was eating and last night when I wanted to have another chocolate - I though of this list and refrained! I think this is pretty healthy but I am not vegan/vegetarian, dairy or gluten-free. I believe in a balanced diet with lots of fruits and veggies and my body needs lots of protein. Also keep in mind that my boss's private chef cooks lunch for us three days a week and is very health-conscious. They fly in fresh greens from California, meat from small organic farms around the country and makes everything from scratch with all fresh and organic ingredients. All of the chef's baking ingredients and spices are also special-ordered. So that makes lunches during the week very healthy and easy!

      Tuesday 1/3
      Breakfast: 1 container of Chobani Greek yogurt with a handful of Udi's granola mixed in and a cup of green tea

      Snack: Luna Protein Bar

      Lunch: Penne pasta with grilled chicken, toasted pine nuts, yellow and orange peppers and pesto and a cup of fresh pineapple and kiwi

      Cup of white bean and ham soup, mixed green salad with shredded carrots and Marzetti's Simply Dressed balsamic vinaigrette with two small slices of asiago cheese baquette dipped in balsamic vinegar and a touch of olive oil

      Evening treat: 1 Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate peppermint bark square

      64 ounces of water (daily amount)

      Wednesday 1/4
      Breakfast: One bowl of Special K Cinnamon Pecan cereal with skim milk and one clementine. Cup of green tea.

      Snack: Luna Protein Bar

      Lunch: White bean and vegetable cassoulet (green beans, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, potatoes, etc.) Mixed green salad with sun-dried tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow peppers, shredded cheddar cheese and red wine vinaigrette. Cup of fresh blackberries and strawberries

      Dinner: Jungle Curry (homemade green curry that a friend made us for xmas, chicken, red and orange peppers, carrots and broccoli, lite coconut milk and fish sauce) over brown rice.

      Evening treat: 2 Ghiradelli dark chocolate peppermint bark squares
      64 ounces of water

      Thursday 1/5
      Breakfast: One Chobani greek yogurt with a handful of Udi's granola mixed in.
      granola mixed in. Cup of green tea

      Snack: 1/2 cup of red grapes, one Horizon's organic string cheese, 10 Back to Nature whole wheat crackers. Two cups of black coffee.

      Lunch: One bowl of Butternut Squash soup, a few bites of roasted chicken thigh (I don't like thighs but ate a few bites to be polite!), roasted carrots. Both the carrots and chicken had a light herb sauce on them, as well. One cup of ruby red grapefruit and dried cherries that were tossed with fresh grapefruit juice.

      Snack: Luna Protein Bar

      Dinner: Spinach, mushroom and pesto lasagna. Two small slices of roasted garlic baquette with butter.

      Evening treat: Cup of chamomile tea and one Ghiradelli dark chocolate and peppermint square

      64 ounces of water


      Person 3 -
      B: Juice Plus (JP) capsules, 1/2 piece of whole wheat toast with earth balance on it.

      L: Huevos Rancheros with tofu not eggs and no sour cream (from freshies)
      Snack: handful of almonds and a half of clementine

      D: Shrimp and spinach soup

      B: JP caps, 1/2 a bowl of oatmeal with bananas and blueberries and a slice of WW toast with earth balance

      L: refried bean burrito with corn and salsa on a corn tort

      D: arugula salad with carrots, celery, apple, onion and walnuts with balsalmic vin.

      B: JP caps, JP shake made with coconut milk and frozen berries/banana (Flax seeds and brewers yeast in it too)

      L: White bean and mushroom stew ( mushrooms, carrot, celery, onion and tomatoes)

      D: Vegan mac and cheese ("Cheese" is brewers yeast, dijon, miso, and lemon juice, on spinach pasta)

      For desert vanilla soy ice cream with nutmeg.

      I drink at least 60 oz of water a day and a can of sparkling water sometime in the day.

      Person 4- What I ate for 3 days:

      It varies so much! I noticed I ate a little more these three days due to appetite... not so much the past 2-3 days.

      Day 1 1-3-2012

      • 12+ oz peanut butter/banana smoothie (peanut butter, almond milk, greek yougert)
      • 1 cup of coffee with regular half and half

      • 1 bite of stinky cheese dip with 1/2 trisket

      • 1/2 veggie/avocado sandwich from Bamboo
      • 1/2 superfood ball from Bamboo

      • 2 squares of dark chocolate with almonds and sea salt
      • 1/2 cup of coffee with regular half and half

      • Small container of chicken salad with grapes, almonds, red onion
      • 1/2 San Pellegrino mineral water
      • Large bowl of honey nut cheerios with almond milk (Uh! My go-to. Weakness)

      Day 2 1-4-2012

      • Med (grande) Carmel Macchiato from Starbucks

      • 1/2 roasted turkey/pepper sandwich from Paramount
      • Small amount of hand-cut fries with catsup

      • Hand full of Honey Nut Cheerios
      • Full stem of roasted broccoli with olive oil and kosher salt
      • Bowl of chili brought home from Diva (beans, ground elk/bison tomato base)

      Day 3 1-5-2012

      • 1/2 breakfast burrito from Azteca (eggs, salsa, beans some potatoes)

      • 1/2 of a latte

      • 1 1/2 Rum and Coke (Sailor Jerry's)
      • 2 slices of gruyere from Switzerland (yum! un-pasturized! Wehoo!)

      • Salad with greens/romaine, avocado, apple, almonds in vinaigrette dressing
      • 1/2 breast Cranberry chicken
      • Roasted broccoli and zucchini in olive oil and kosher salt

      • Person 5- Tuesday January 3.

      • I am trying to learn how to eat healthy so I will comment on if I think it's healthy:

      • Breakfast - left over breakfast casserole (bread, breakfast sausage, cheese and eggs) with a piece of White toast and no I don't consider this healthy but I did think that the next time I will make it with english muffin, elk breakfast sausage, and less fat cheese and have it with dark Rye toast - I do think that would be healthier.

        • Lunch- Big House Burger; had two sliders without cheese, didn't eat the larger top bun, had it with sauteed onions and mushrooms and she said they sauté them in water and broth not butter so I did ask and instead of fries I had a side salad with a vinaigrette dressing.

        • Dinner I made stew, with all fresh veggies and a roast I had cooked last week and froze but it was cooked in just a can of tomatoes and the crock pot. I didn't use flour to thicken, I ate it over a half a cup of plain Couscous and that was the only carbs in the dish with a side salad with Braggs Vinaigrette dressing.

          • Dessert - I had one piece of miniature chocolate - Mr. Goodbar. Oh and a glass of red wine.


            • Breakfast: Kashi Oatmeal

            • Lunch - left over dinner so the same stew with Couscous

            • Dinner - Subway sandwich 6 inch Italian bread turkey with ham, toasted with Mozzarella cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion,spinach, green peppers, olives, and topped with oil and vinegar.

            • I also had blue chips and hummus with my two glasses of red wine and for Dessert two pieces of miniature chocolate; Mr. Goodbar.


              • Breakfast: Kashi Oatmeal and coffee with Stevia and Coconut milk.

              • Lunch - 1/2 of a sandwich from Cruiser's. Turkey, cheese on White with lots of veggies.

              • Dinner - I made a ham (I know it's not the greatest of meats but I got it on sale) I made Au Gratin Potatoes by Healthland foods (100% natural) Read these ingredients: Potatoes, Cornstarch, Cheddar Cheese Powder, Salt, Onion Powder, and Annatto Powder! I can read everyone of those!!!!! My family loves them!! For the veggie I made Sauteed Zucchini, Squash, onions and mushrooms in Marcella wine (I read the ingredients on the Marcella wine, not so great.

                For dessert - this is where I got into major trouble. I ate THREE cookies. The ones that the Girl's basket ball team sold - YUMMMY. It's cookie dough that you just pop in the oven - so yummy. The Ingredient list wasn't WAY bad, just a bit bad. But here is the kicker that I am super excited about. I just bought shares of a cow so I am getting WHOLE REAL MILK, YUMMMMYYYY. Very fattening but sooooo goooood for you.


                Person 6- Day1:
                apple and banana
                Amy's organic burrito (beans and vegetable - non dairy)
                Pop chips - 1 serving
                Sweet potato
                green beans
                Morning Star black bean burger (no bun)
                2 Hershey kisses
                banana and apple
                FAGE Greek yogurt (1 cup) and Kashi Go lean crunch (1 cup)
                Green Giant box of vegetables (healthy weight kind)
                Chobani yogurt cup
                Clif Kids Z bar
                2 baked bean taquitos
                spinach salad with italian dressing
                Whole wheat english muffin with peanut butter and banana on top
                cucumbers (handful)
                Wendy's apple pecan chicken salad (no chicken)
                Orzo (1 cup)
                spinach salad with italian dressing

                And, to be fair, this was my food diary for the three days. Keep in mind I was on a sugar detox cleanse (no fruit) but this, for the most part, is an accurate representation of how I eat on a normal basis along with a fruit smoothie in the morning, a piece of fruit for snack, a few bites of dessert one of the nights and probably, 2 glasses of red wine (or a margarita :)


                Breakfast: 1 Ezekiel english muffin with 1/2 avocado spread on with garlic and sea salt and 1 cup of black coffee.

                Lunch: Ezekiel english muffin with tuna salad (parsley, apples, lemon, vegenaise, celery and jalapenos)

                Snack- A handful of twigs and sticks (made with chia seeds and brown rice)

                Dinner- a huge serving of cabbage salad with snap peas, radishes, cilantro and sesame seeds with homemade miso dressing and roasted sweet potato wedges.

                Drinks: 3 tall glasses of water and 1 glass of pellegrino (mineral water) with lemon.

                Day 2-

                Breakfast- 1 cup black coffee and 1/4 cup ezekiel cereal with homemade almond milk

                Lunch: Pea and basil soup (vegan) with 1/2 and ezekiel english muffin with tuna salad (same as above)

                Snack: 1 large carrot and smoked tomato and basil hummus

                Dinner: Roasted wild salmon with mustard herb sauce, lemon broccoli, arugula salad with veggies and brown rice

                Drinks: 4 tall glasses of water and 1 tall glass of pellegrino (mineral water) with lemon.

                Day 3-

                Breakfast: Hot water with lemon and 1 cup coffee with 1 tablespoon coconut milk (no real breakfast-oops! Bad, Krysta, bad!)

                Lunch: 2 Ezekiel tortilla tostadas with vegetarian refried beans, green salsa, red onion, baby greens and cholula.

                Snack: 2 cups herbal hot tea and a small bowl of vegetarian lentil chili

                Dinner: Carrot and miso soup with a large serving of collard greens on the side

                Drinks: 4 tall glasses of water and 1 glass of Pellegrino with lemon.

                What do you think? Interesting? Or just what you would expect? About half of the people I asked didn't actually turn their lists in to me. Some confessed they were too embarrassed of what they ate and others either forgot or didn't complete the three days and get it to me.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chicken Stock

Chicken Stock

I took Isabella to the dentist last week for a cleaning. Poor kid ended up having four cavities, with one so bad it had to be pulled that day. She obviously did not get my good dental genes. Although if you asked her little brother, it was getting "ripped out." Boys. She was so brave and didn't flinch almost the whole procedure. She was all smiles as we left the office and only complained once of it being sore. Then, when we got to the car, she looked in the mirror at the gauze they gave her to bite down on. Mistake numero uno. She saw that is was red and, seriously guys, proceeded to FREAK THE HECK OUT. Wailing, crying, tears, gnashing around, you name it. It wasn't until the ibuprofen kicked in a little later that she finally relaxed. The upside? Getting a filling compared to an extraction is nothing, so our next two trips to the dentist should be easier.

With all this dental work in our future, I got to thinking about comfort food. There are definitely a lot of foods you can't eat when your mouth is sore. Soup, of course, is always the answer. Me? I'm sort of a soup snob. I much prefer homemade stock to build my soups upon. It always surprises me what a difference it makes in flavor. If you swapped out homemade chicken stock for the store bought variety, and that was the only change you made, your soup would taste more superior by ten fold. Girl Scout promise. And yes, I was a legit girl scout. Troop 538, we are great, 538 the best in the state!


I have tried quite a few recipes for chicken stock and while they were all good, nothing blew my socks off until I tried Ina Gartens. And are you really surprised? That woman is a genius. She jam packs her pot with vegetables and herbs which gives off more flavor. The first time I made this, it looked as if I was going to only be left with the tiniest bit of stock since most of the pot space was already taken up, but the recipe actually yields, on average, enough for two different meals. The second thing is she leaves all her vegetables un-peeled. The onion husk stays on, and same with the garlic which gets one vertical cut to expose the cloves to the water, and no need to peel the carrots or parsnips either which makes prep that much easier. The third difference is she uses fresh dill along with her other herbs. I have never seen that before and I can tell you it might be what single handedly won me over. Dill is absolutely divine in chicken stock-who knew? I would never make it again without using it. It's flavor is light and you might not be able to quite put your finger on what it is, but you know it's awesome.

The only place you can possibly go wrong with chicken stock is if you don't use enough salt. Stock can taste like dirty dishwater without the proper amount of salt, so keep adding as necessary. Ina does provide a near perfect amount in her recipe, but I always taste at the end and see if it could use more. Sometimes it does. Make sure you pick up all the ingredients and don't skimp. It's worth it in the end for maximum flavor. Chicken stock takes a while to simmer, but only takes a couple of minutes to prep and get it going. Then, all thats left is to strain it, chill overnight, and use it all right away, or chances are you'll want to store half in the freezer for another time. You must chill it overnight so that you can remove the fat the next day. When the stock gets cold, the fat rises tot he top making it easy to remove.

You'll need a really large pot for this (a big spaghetti pot will work, but keep in mind, some are bigger than others.) If you don't have one, can't borrow one, and don't want to buy one, you can cut the recipe in half, using half a chicken or a smaller one and using the biggest pot you own, providing it all fits. You won't end up with enough stock for two recipes, but you'll get enough for one.

There we go. Chicken soup for the soul and hopefully teeth as well.

Chicken Stock
adapted from Barefoot Contessa, Family Style, by Ina Garten

Makes about 10 cups

1 5-pound roasting chicken
2 large yellow onions, unpeeled, quartered
2 carrots, unpeeled, halved
2 celery stalks with leaves, cut in thirds
2 parsnips (or sub more carrots) unpeeled, cut in half
12 sprigs fresh parsley
10 sprigs fresh dill
10 sprigs fresh thyme
1 head garlic, unpeeled, cut in half crosswise
1 tablespoon kosher salt (more to taste)
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Place the chicken, onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, parsley, thyme, dill, garlic, and seasonings in a large stockpot. Add 12 cups of fresh water (or more if needed, to cover all the ingredients) and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 4 hours. While cooking, add more water (up to 3 cups total) to the stock after 2 hours, to replace what is evaporated during the cooking process. The chicken and ingredients will rise to the top while cooking. It's okay. I just push everything down once and a while with my spoon. Taste stock for salt and add more if needed.

Strain the entire contents of the pot through a colander and discard the solids. Chill the stock overnight. The next day, remove the surface fat. Use immediately or pack in containers and freeze for up to 3 months.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tuna Salad with Apples, Parsley, Vegenaise, Celery and Jalapeno

Tuna Salad

I'm pretty sure I could eat this tuna salad everyday for lunch. Seriously, this stuff is so refreshing and has great flavor with wonderful crunch. I like to pile mine high on top of a toasted Ezekiel (sprouted grain) english muffin half and I am one happy girl. The combo of apple, parsley, celery, and jalapeno is a lot like my old standby and favorite tuna salad of years past, which calls for apples, red onion and pepper jack cheese, but this version is a lot healthier which is a huge plus. How is it healthier? Let me splain...

I was shouting the other day that this was basically a vegan tuna salad. Now, I am an educated person and I understand that the notion of a "vegan" tuna anything, is impossible. But it was still rude when my husband yelled back "Krysta, stop saying that! Its like me saying "she is pregnant with a boy girl"... Rude, I tell you but also true. I was assuming he would know that I meant there was no pepper jack cheese like in my usual version, and also the base for the tuna salad was vegan since I used vegenaise instead of the usual mayonnaise.

Psst. Tuna salad is not the most gorgeous of subjects to photograph.
Tuna Salad

Vegenaise is not just for vegans. In fact, I would choose vegenaise over mayonnaise any day just based on flavor. You should try it-you'll like it. I know the name is a little strange, but vegenaise isn't made up of anything weird. The ingredients are non-GMO expeller-pressed canola oil (you can get versions made with grape seed oil and soy bean oil as well), water, apple cider vinegar, brown rice syrup, non-GMO soy protein, sea salt, mustard flour and lemon juice. It's tasty, egg free, gluten free, low in saturated fat and high in the all important omega-3's. You can use it anywhere you would use mayonnaise.

The quantities of ingredients used in this recipe are based on how I like my tuna, but you can change it up to suit your taste, since tuna salad can be highly personal. Mine is seasoned well with quite a bit of garlic salt, heavier on the lemon, loaded with crunchy bites and just slightly hot. I always end up putting more jalapeno on top, so don't be afraid of it being too spicy.

I like to double this recipe so I have lots of leftovers. I also find that the tuna is better the second day. Another plus!

Make sure to buy solid white albacore when choosing tuna. Anything else will taste pretty fishy. Also, you can make this even better by buying tuna that is organic, dolphin-safe and contains low mercury. Vital Choice or Wild Planet brands are good choices.

Tuna Salad with Apples, Parsley, Vegenaise, Celery and Jalapeno

serves 3-4

1 12-oz can solid white albacore tuna, drained
1/2 a medium granny smith apple, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 tablespoon jarred, chopped jalapenos (fresh jalapenos would be too spicy)
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons Vegenaise
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt, plus more if desired
freshly ground pepper ( a few dashes)

Mix everything together in a large bowl with a fork, breaking up the tuna as you go along until incorporated. Taste and add more garlic salt or jalapeno if needed. Pile high on a crunchy cracker on on top of toasted ezekiel english muffins and enjoy...every. single. day. Store leftovers in the refrigerator, tightly covered with plastic wrap.

Take care to not over mix the tuna. You want it to stay in chunks similar in size to the apples and celery. Mushed tuna can get mealy, which is a total turn off.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Blythes Blueberry Muffins

blythes blueberry muffins

Good morning to you all! Or as I like to say, guten trog! I think it's German, but now that I think it through, it might be "guten morgan" which I say all the time. Either way, you know what I mean. The sun is shining and it has snowed one and a half times in the past 3-4 weeks. Not good for skiing but it's great weather for trips to friends houses and grocery shopping. There is nothing worse than pushing a full cart through the snow banks and ice, in a blizzard, through the parking lot and then unloading the bags. People fall all the time doing this. Its kind of funny, except when it's you. Oh, and I bit it big time about 2 years ago. So embarrassing.

Along with the favorable weather, blueberries were on sale at the store as if it were full-on spring. I'm not getting my hopes up that the weather stays like this. I have lived here long enough to know that inevitably it will dump buckets, and we will have storm after storm move in with a few sunny days in between, skiers will rejoice, and I will fall on my butt in parking lots. It is so in my future. But for right now, I think I'll eat blueberry muffins, pretend it's warm (it's not) and enjoy the sun...and The Bachelor.

blythes blueberry muffins

These little darlings are studded with blueberries. I think the ratio of blueberries to batter has to be 50/50 which makes these, in my opinion, nothing short of awesome. The recipe is easy, can be mixed by hand, and the muffins once baked, are tender and fluffy and only slightly sweet. This is not a sugary muffin, which is a plus in my book is a plus because it lets the taste of the blueberries shine (you can probably add up to 1/4 cup of additional sugar to this recipe if you like your muffins on the sweeter side.) By the way, in case you were thinking of tweaking this recipe to make it healthier, you know, because of the new year and the resolutions and all, think again. I made them the first time using 1/2 whole wheat flour and almond milk and while they were still good, they were also heavy and not as tender. I think you would have better results using coconut milk, for the higher fat content and only subbing out about 1/2 cup total of whole wheat flour.

Blythes blueberry Muffins

I should mention these are named after Gwyneth Paltrow's mom, Blythe Danner, who I love. She's the mom in "Meet The Parents" and "Meet The Fockers" movies, among many other roles. I love her even more now that I know she makes a mean muffin.

Blythe's Blueberry Muffins
adapted from My Fathers Daughter, by Gwyneth Paltrow

Makes 12

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (frozen berries will bleed purple dye through your batter)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Line a 12-cup muffin tin with papers. Whisk the butter, eggs, and milk together in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, the 3/4 cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold in the blueberries. Divide among the muffin cups and sprinkle the muffins with the remaining teaspoon of sugar. bake until a toothpick tests clean and the muffins are golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Best to eat these warm.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Raw Vegan Chocolate Mousse

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

Some things get better with age like fine wine, George Clooney, and this insanely decadent dessert. I whipped this up last night within minutes, then let it chill for an hour in the fridge like I was supposed to. When I finally sampled it, I was pleased but not wowed at first. It was strong and really rich so a little went a long way. When I dug into it again today though, things had changed some. It had thickened to a gloriously creamy and firm velvety texture and had mellowed and sweetened significantly. The night before, although it was getting really good by about the third bite, I could still detect strong flavors like the almond extract and avocado. But today everything tasted blended and in unison, sweeter, more wonderful. Yes! I am excited. Really guys, what other dessert do you know of that is as healthy for you as a handful of vegetables?

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

I used organic raw cacao powder for the chocolate in this recipe. It might seem like the same same thing as cocoa powder, but it's not. Hark! I got a lesson in raw cacao from Sarah B over at My New Roots, who has an equally delicious recipe for vegan chocolate mousse tarts, a while ago and it changed my world. Raw cacao is considered a superfood because it contains a naturally rich supply of antioxidants and is also a good source of dietary fiber. It's also known to be one of the highest sources of magnesium, flavanols and polyphenols that will increase energy and enhance health. It also contains more antioxidants per gram than goji berries, blueberries, red wine and even green tea. Yes, it's quite amazing what a little raw cacao can do for your health, but it doesn't mean you should read this and use it as a pass to start eating chocolate mousse everyday. This is dessert after all, and should be treated like it. Regular cocoa powder that can be bought at the grocery store is not good for you and is highly processed thus killing any and all of the nutritious enzymes that were once present, but (and I say this reluctantly) you can use it as a substitute if you don't have the real thing- I'd go out and buy some at your local health food store if I were you, though. Make sure it is organic and raw before making the purchase. I like the Navitas Naturals brand. It will cost you a few extra dollars than the Hershey's stuff, but it's well worth it and not that expensive. Think $10 vs. $4.50.

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

The other ingredients in this recipe are great for you too. I'm sure you knew avocados were good for you, but do you know just how great they are? If you are one of those people who sees the word avocado and thinks "fat", please, please, go google the benefits. Avocados are a good fat, which is good for your body. I know you have heard that before, but they can also help lower your cholesterol, not to mention providing good amounts of vitamin K, vitamin C and calcium. Plus, they are delicious. Can I get an amen?

This mousse is sweetened with agave or maple syrup and flavored with vanilla and almond extracts (you can leave out the almond and sub vanilla if you are not a fan). You just put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz away. That's it! This will keep covered in the refrigerator for a few days just fine. I'd serve it in little shot glasses if I were you because it's cute and seems to be the perfect serving size for me.

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

Raw Vegan Chocolate Mousse
adapted from "If It Makes You Healthy" by Chuck White and Sheryl Crow (chocolate-avocado mousse martinis)
serves 4-6

2 large ripe avocados
1/2 cup raw organic cacao powder (or cocoa powder with a minimum of 70 % cocoa)
1/2 cup agave nectar, or maple syrup, or more to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 pint fresh raspberries for garnish

Halve and pit the avocados and scoop out the flesh. Transfer the avocado flesh to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the cacao powder, agave nectar, vanilla extract, and almond extract to the bowl and process for 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and process again until the mousse is very smooth, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Taste the mousse and if not sweet enough add more agave, 1 teaspoon at a time.

Transfer the mousse to a clean container and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour (taste is better and more developed if it sits overnight). Serve chilled in tiny bowls or shot glasses and garnished with raspberries.

By the way, I don't have a thing for George Clooney. I don't even know why I said that in the beginning of this post, but you have to agree that he looked better in "Oceans Eleven", when he was older, than in "ER".

Monday, January 2, 2012

Arugula and Tomato Pasta

Arugula and Tomato Pasta

Happy New Year everyone! I got a few new cookbooks this holiday season and have been so excited about sharing some of my new favorite recipes with you all. Back in November my mother got me Gwyneth Paltrow's "My Fathers Daughter" for my birthday and I have been cooking through it ever since. I highly recommend this book with its beautiful pictures, interesting narratives, and simple yet delicious recipes like broiled salmon with homemade teriyaki sauce, Asian portabello burgers, broccoli and cheese soup (which is healthy and so, so good-I'll be blogging about that one!) artichoke and parmesan frittata, and of course this easy arugula and tomato pasta.

Arugula and Tomato Pasta

The arugula that gets thrown in at the end wilts and becomes a welcome, bright green and healthy addition to the dish. It's like having a salad right in the pasta instead of on the side, which I love. I really like that it's done with arugula instead of spinach since it can make your teeth gritty. I can't stand that!

Arugula and Tomato Pasta

I have already made this twice, which is big for me, and it was love at first bite for the whole family. Everything about the sauce is simple, but after you let it simmer for an hour it gets really silky and decadent and really, really tasty! I really like how she uses whole tomatoes for this recipe because they cook down and while you do break them apart with a wooden spoon, you are still left with hefty chunks which are delicious with the bite of the pasta and arugula. The Parmesan cheese on top is the perfect salty compliment.

Arugula and Tomato Pasta

Plan to use the whole box of arugula. It wilts down quite a bit and you could even stand to put more in. We love arugula in this house. Originally this recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds to be crushed and added to the sauce for a subtle sweetness, but it's really not something I'm into. If that sort of thing excites you, by all means, add it in with the chile flakes.

Arugula and Tomato Pasta

Plan ahead. This one is super easy, but you need to let the sauce simmer for 1 hour.

Arugula and Tomato Pasta
adapted from My Fathers Daughter, by Gwyneth Paltrow
serves 6

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
2 28-oz cans whole tomatoes with their juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
Black pepper
1 lb box spaghetti (I used whole wheat)
1 5-oz box of fresh arugula (about 4 large handfuls)
Grated Parmesan Cheese, for serving

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic and chile flakes and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until very fragrant. Add the tomatoes and their juice, season with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and pepper to taste, turn the heat to high, and bring the sauce to a boil. Turn the heat to medium low and let the sauce cook on a low boil for 1 hour. Crush the tomatoes in half with a wooden spoon just before serving.

About 10 minutes before you're ready to eat, boil the spaghetti in salted boiling water. A minute before it's al dente, add the arugula to the pasta pot. Drain the pasta and arugula and toss them with the tomato sauce. Serve each portion with plenty of grated Parmesan.

By the way, if any of you missed my post on the three detoxifying juices and smoothies and are looking to become healthier in the new year, go check it out and see if any are for you. I personally like the beet+carrot+apple+mint juice the best.