Monday, November 30, 2009

The Greatest Thing Ever



If you're wondering what the hell is happening, these are the real World of Warcraft character dancing animations for most of the races, dressed up to look like the person or people they emulate! This is amazing.

Pasta Fagioli



I'm sure you're all familiar with this dish. Delicious and filling! I am obsessed with all soup- and stew-like foods, so this was great! This is your basic goulash of turkey bacon, random veggies and spices, and beans and pasta. It was amazing.

I'm not going to rave too long since it is Cyber Monday, and I got a hankerin' for some Amazon.com browsing.

But I will rant about my neighbors for a few minutes. I pretty much want to kill them all the time. My entire apartment smells like smoke from them, and I swear they are constantly yelling at each other, playing loud TV or music, or BANGING ON THE WALLS CONTINUOUSLY. And FYI, this is while I'm being quiet, so they aren't banging to shut ME up, har.

Happy Smart Shopper Day!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holiday Rush

Hi, handful of faithful viewers! I know, I know, I'm way behind on this culinary pilgrimage. I've been really busy with social engagements, Thanksgiving junk, and general distraction. I have made plenty of dinner and taken plenty of pictures though, so expect a string of updates once per day pretty soon!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pumpkin Pancakes



So far, this has been my LEAST favorite thing to make. I hate baking, and I had never made pancakes before. To be honest, they don't taste as bad as they look, but that's all I can say for it.

Sean claims to have liked them, but I found them barely above palatable - at least, not without a bunch of cinnamon, nutmeg, and honey to marinate them in.

I don't know if it was because I had already eaten something with pumpkin in it earlier, the fact that I wasn't really in the mood for something sweet, or the absolute weirdness of mushy [because of the pumpkin texture] pancakes. It might have also been the fact that there wasn't very much sweetness going on at all in this recipe [only 2 T. of brown sugar], something I've come to expect in droves in pumpkin-flavored baked goods!

At least we got some beta-carotene, which protects against heart disease and types of cancer.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ham Sandwich with Mushrooms & Fruit Salad with Yogurt Dressing



The days just keep getting tastier! This was a really simple, really quick, really delicious dinner. Well, I suppose it is only as delicious as you make it. I bought my ham and swiss from the deli, and it was some of the best of both I've ever had! If you use lesser ingredients, you will have a lesser sandwich! Not to mention, if the cool dude is working, he might give you a slice to sample for free! I'm not sure if it works if you're not a young girl though...

The recipe involved making your own awesome fresh dill/mustard/mayo spread, in which I doubled the amount of dill, because dill is my favorite spice! And before you Eastern Shore purists get up in arms, Old Bay is a *seasoning*. :p

I must admit that once again I made a fatal n00b error in the procedure, by buying pre-sliced raw mushrooms a week before making this. They were supposed to be sauteed and placed on the sandwich. They smelled awful when I brought them out of the fridge [Maybe they aren't supposed to refrigerate? Maybe I should have bought whole and sliced it myself? Dad, help.] so I didn't risk adding them to the sandwich. So really, this is a ham and cheese sandwich, sans mushrooms!

I also learned that even out-of-season fruit tastes great with a homemade yogurt dressing!

Instead of my normal small amount of nutrition geekery here, I'd like to go on a diatribe about packaged lunch meats:

Prepackaged lunch meats are made out of kittens and cute puppies and babies!

But seriously, the stuff is gross, slimy, and packed with preservatives. Preservatives such as nitrates and nitrites, which are suspected to be carcinogens! I also find that most of the time, buying from the deli is roughly the same price as buying prepackaged meats and cheeses. Not to mention it is way tastier, and not soaking in cancer juice.

My mom [among others, I'm sure] agrees, but says she doesn't want to wait in line for the deli. She shops at Wal-Mart, which is always a madhouse, so I can't say I blame her. Not that there's anything WRONG with shopping at Wal-Mart - it's the cheapest! - but frankly, I would never buy anything perishable from there.

I shop at Giant only, and they have started providing an electronic kiosk with which to place your deli order if there is a line. You place your order, and you can go shop while they fill it for you! I don't know what the other chain stores are doing, so I can't tout their assets, but I think that's pretty awesome.

Whew!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Beef and Cheese Skillet Casserole



Also pictured: ^steam lines.

If there's anything I like, it's comfort food. This dish is pretty self-explanatory. Beef. Cheese. Pasta. Secret Spices. Except it really is Turkey and Cheese Skillet Casserole. I hate the taste of ground beef; ground turkey is a leaner and cheaper choice! Also, Perdue turkey hasn't been recalled yet...

This should have been a relatively easy meal in practice. Unfortunately, I made some grave errors and grave profanities that probably gave the neighbors pause, including using twice as much tomato sauce and then attempting to hurriedly spoon out half [after it was already thoroughly mixed into the turkey, mind you], and then clogging up the sink with the mess!

The turkey and reduced-fat cheese provided us with good sources of lean protein and calcium, respectively.

I don't have much else to say about this, but it was a tasty meal and made a great leftover lunch today.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Teriyaki Chicken & Green Beans Amandine



Okay, I'm sure you're all sick of soup and soup-related dishes by now! Let's break out into something slightly more exciting!

This was probably the most complex dinner I've made so far, complexity being measured by number of dishes to clean afterward, number of steps to juggle all at once, and number of cuss words used in the process. Well, I take that back...the dinner I made tonight [read: the entry for tomorrow, as I post these on a day after basis] *probably* suffered more profanity - details tomorrow.

The chicken is baked in homemade teriyaki sauce and sesame seeds, and the peppers are sauteed in the sauce and served over brown rice. I also sauteed a bag of green beans in butter and almonds. Mmmmm....

This is a pretty healthy dish. Chicken is one of the leanest of meats, and brown rice is always a good choice over white rice. We got plenty of veggies, and the almonds added a lot of life-preserving bonuses! They are loaded with vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that fights cancer, and they also have been known to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attacks! They also contain plenty of other goodies, including calcium, folic acid, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc! Plus, they are delicious!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New England Clam Chowdah!!



I just want to say, the advertisement for Bud Select was unintentional! Had I been paying attention, I would have put one of my Sam Adams bottles in the frame, and not whatever cheap swill Sean happens to be drinking this week. BUT, if you are from Budweiser[King of Beers], please don't hesitate to pay me.

CHOWDAH!!!!!!! After living in Boston, to me this word will never again have an 'R' in it. I thought the chowdah was pretty decent, since it was my first attempt at chowdah ever! Though, it's hard to say without my friend Justin, the Chowdah Connoisseur from up north, here to be the judge. Apparently the only good chowdah is from Nantucket Island, and I will now recite the limerick I penned for him years ago on the table at Legal Seafoods:

There once was a man from Nantucket,
Who ate chowdah straight outta the bucket,
"What about other chowdah?"
He'd reply even loudah:
"I told you before - FUCK IT!"


But seriously, it was pretty good chowdah, and turkey bacon was actually a nice addition to this dish, probably because its chewiness is on par with clam meat. The chowdah had plenty of protein in it, and our big-ass spinach salads were filled with iron, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A, and lutein, the latter of which being great for the eyes! All the better to watch this great video!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Beef Stew!



Nothin' beats a classic! And Daddy always taught me that it's not beef stew without Brown 'N Serve rolls!

Now I'm sure these little white devils are horribly offensive to my whole-grains-only kitchen, to this cookbook, and to all diabetics' bloodstreams, but...but....childhood nostalgia!!!! Soaked in butter!!!

After the crazy-ass weekend we had, we deserved some comfort food. And homemade beef stew is the ticket. The dish offers lots of protein, lots of fresh veggies, and lots of food-coma-happiness!

This recipe was very thick, nowhere near the consistency of my personal recipe [read: my method of bull-shitting until it tastes right] or my grandma's famous stew, which was pretty much just beef and vegetables in what seemed like straight-up broth to the untrained eye, but it was not so simple at all! It was legendary! Legendary enough to cause extreme run-on sentences!

In other news, this book is an absolute godsend, and I signed up for a community college course on nutrition today!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Baked Potato Soup



I've spent the last few days driving to and from Vermont so we could take care of bidness, and I'm tired as hell. I did manage to go grocery shopping last night for the next six meals, and also, with a beer-fueled attack of mania, cleaned the bathroom!

I also ordered our "Thanksgiving Meal For Two" from Giant. Sean will have to work that day because, as it turns out, old people still need to eat on holidays. For twenty bucks, I can get a turkey breast, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, butternut squash, rolls, and a pumpkin pie. And all I have to do is heat it. Yeah, so I don't care what you traditionalists say, that's freaking awesome and delicious. I don't have to slave over the kitchen all day, and we can have a relaxing evening at home together. I'm also going to make Cranberry Salad and a Sweet Potato Pie, courtesy of Healthy Calendar. It's like having pumpkin pie twice!

***

So, this isn't the best picture of Baked Potato Soup, but the camera sputtered and died during the photography process, and I was ready to eat!

This was really really really delicious, but I am having trouble seeing the nutritional saving grace, especially for a diabetic! It's potato! Maybe the problem is we are failing to observe the suggested serving size put forth by the book. Oh well, I'm not making a separate dinner just so we can have a cup of soup with it.

The book DOES substitute turkey bacon for real bacon. Verdict: shitty. It's not TOO noticeable in the soup I suppose, but of course I had to make an extra test strip, and turkey bacon sucks! But, my arteries will thank me, as it has 65% less fat than good bacon. And the less fat in your diet, the better your circulation will be. My posts will be more frequent this week, I swear!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pesto Chicken Pita & Brussels Sprouts with Citrus Butter



THIS. WAS. AMAZING.

What you can't see inside the pita is chicken and delicious delicious pesto sauce - fresh basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese blended together and mixed with half-and-half. The sauce was wonderful, but blending the ingredients together wasn't. I might have to ask Santa for an immersion blender, because I can't think of anything in my kitchen more infuriating to work with or clean than a regular blender.

The brussels sprouts were also awesome in their citrus butter. Who knew that butter, salt and lemon juice could work such magic? Probably everyone but me.

Brussels sprouts have been thought to prevent different types of cancer due to the phytonutrients and the fact that it is a cruciferous vegetable, and all cruciferous vegetables have EXTREEEEEME DETOXIFICATION POWERS! :O :O :O

And the best thing about this dinner was the fact we had leftovers!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Letter To PETA

Hi, I'd like to report a really awful zoo I visited near Myrtle Beach, SC, called Waccatee Zoo. I'm not sure what zoo regulations are, and if this place is considered bad enough to shut down, but this place was, quite frankly, a hellhole.
The animals appeared uncared for, sickly and/or miserable in most cases. They had two lions, the lioness of which was wheezing constantly, in a cage the size that my local zoo [Salisbury Zoo] uses for a BOBCAT, approximately the size of someone's living room. Same with the tigers.

The 'habitats' were simple, dusty cages with no plants or anything remotely resembling nature. They pride themselves on not being a 'concrete jungle' but the most rustic part is where the patrons walk. You wander through a bunch of woods to eventually view lemurs being kept in a horse barn. The place looked like a remodeled farm. I feel like it might have been a nice place twenty years ago, and the upkeep has just gone incredibly downhill since.

Another 'feature' for the customers is that you can feed the non-aggressive animals, a practice I feel probably isn't safe for the animals or humans, but I indulged in because part of me was afraid that was the only time the animals might eat!! I didn't see any visible food or water bowls in any of the cages. As I said before, they are dusty, desolate cages, most of the time with nothing in them but the featured animal, so it isn't likely they have the bowl stashed somewhere.

One particularly heartbreaking experience was a lone donkey in some random room by himself. He was in one of the empty cages, hee-hawing sadly before we entered. My party and I fed him by hand, and one of my companions reached up through a hole in the fence to pet him for a bit. The donkey actually followed us along the fence until we were out of sight, which leads me to believe these animals are either starved for food or attention or both.

I think those are all the major points; please investigate this glorified petting-zoo!

Thanks, Meredith

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ten-Minute Tostadas & Tomato Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette


Also pictured: Goofy Chef Sean pants.

Woohoo! I hope you like tomatoes, because this recipe is chock full o' pre-ketchup goodness.

These bean-and-cheese tostadas were delicious and the aptly titled tomato salad tasted great, especially on top of the tostadas. The dinner was really quick to make, especially if your stove doesn't take an eternity to preheat, like mine! Just a quick assembly of the tostadas for the baking, during which you can prepare the salad, though Sean suggested doing this a few hours in advance so the dressing could seep into the tomatoes. Pfft, I'm too much of a rebel to follow society's rules, I make my tomato salad on the fly!

This is a great quick-'n-healthy meal! The beans provide lots of fiber and protein [though I wouldn't advise being among fancy company for at least a day], the cheese provides calcium, and the tomatoes provide some serious lycopene, which is thought to lower the risk of cancer!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Barbeque Shrimp over Wild Rice



Here's the first meal of November out of the new book: Homemade BBQ sauce with pre-cooked shrimp over Uncle Ben's long-grain and wild rice mix!

It was a snap to make, only around half an hour with most of that time waiting for the rice to cook. The most time-consuming part of making the sauce was removing all the spice bottles' safety covers. After that, it was a matter of heating up the shrimp in the sauce and throwing it all together!

Though I followed the recipe to the "T", I ended up with a ton more sauce than I feel I should have. Sean and I downed the entire recipe [except about a cup's worth - lunch today!] and only used probably a quarter of the sauce. Neither of us are huge fan's of BBQ; maybe real BBQ connoisseurs would have drowned the food in it? It was also a surprisingly thin sauce, but I have no real complaints in that arena.

Overall, I thought the dish was very tasty, especially since I always look for an excuse to eat shrimp! Shrimp got a bad rap back in the day for being high in cholesterol, but it's actually been proven to LOWER triglyceride levels! It's also rich in omega-3 fats, vitamin B12, niacin, and essential minerals.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Healthy Calendar!

Okay, so last night, I was hoping to introduce what will hopefully be the new godsend of my household. Just about anyone who knows me read my rant last night and was like, "Yeah, sure, be all high and mighty...but you aren't exactly the picture of health yourself, Mere."

This is true. I don't eat as well as I should and I don't exercise at home. I get a moderate amount of activity at my job, but nothing I would consider a cardio workout. Since I started living alone, I have tried to follow my former favorite diet, The Supermarket Diet, which is less of a *diet* diet and more like a nutritional guideline to eating healthy and shedding a few extra pounds.

It's great, and I strongly would recommend it to anyone. The problems with it are few, but they make it very easy to abandon. It is very difficult to do by yourself, and unless you are on the [expensive] two-week "Boot Camp" phase, it is VERY difficult to plan meals. I have always lamented my poor planning skills and prayed for the day when a book would tell me what to eat every day. I knew that if something else was calling the shots, I would make healthier food and be happier.

I am now sharing my home with a type 1 diabetic boyfriend, and dinner plans have gone topsy-turvy. Where I am nearly a vegetarian, sometimes I could just mix up a big bowl of starch and eat it for dinner back in the day. Feeding Sean a big bowl of white potatoes and cabbage is pretty much the equivalent of feeding him cabbage buried in table sugar.

So the search began for a diabetic cookbook that would hopefully also teach me a thing or two about diabetic nutrition. Diabetic cooking is not as depriving as one might think. Just a few simple swaps that are just as tasty. It's also very nutritious for anyone; it is very heart-healthy and encourages you to eat more seafood [yay] or other lean meats.

Enough exposition. I'm ready to unveil what will probably the greatest thing to hit my bookshelf since Bart Simpson's Guide to Life.



The Healthy Calendar Diabetic Cooking cookbook is a full year of tasty, healthy recipes. It is laid out like an actual calendar[the book starts with January 1] , with 5 recipes per week and 4 weeks per month. There is also one bonus dessert recipe per month. And it's published by the American Diabetes Association, so it damn well better be healthy.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!!!

Not only does it take my planning agony out of the equation, there is a weekly grocery list included that I can easily photocopy and take to the supermarket!

AND THAT'S NOT ALL!

The book is written by a dietitian and a chef, ensuring that the foods will be nutritious AND delicious! And there is a tip included on each page by one or the other of a way to up the health factor or the taste factor.

Why am I telling you this? Because I am a complete foodie, and totally plan to blog about this culinary adventure! I will include a picture and brief description of everything we make, complete with our personal thoughts of how it turned out, of course. And perhaps some fun facts about why it's nutritious. I've been wanting to take this blog in the food/nutrition direction for a long time, and now I finally have an excuse!

Expect the first post [ghost] before Monday.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

You Are What You Eat

I turn down a new road in my life. I am rebuffing the art life [at least career-wise] and choosing a more noble path. No, I haven't been 'saved' by any religious figures yet; I'm hoping to perhaps save a few lives myself - perhaps even those closest to me.

I want to become a nutritionist. I have always been interested in this field and for some reason did not realize until now that spending a quarter of my internet downtime reading about it was perhaps a sign!

In this country of over-stressed, over-medicated, over-fed, under-exercised troglodytes, nutrition really takes a backseat. Better eating habits could help or even prevent "society's problem"s.

First of all, I'm sick of childhood obesity being blamed on VIDEO GAMES and TV. Sure, kids are more sedentary today because of higher crime rates [my rant on "Stranger Danger" shall be saved for another day], but when they turn off the XBox, what are they eating for dinner? Probably some processed or fried meat, too much starch and not enough vegetables. Or unhealthy takeout.

"I'm tired and it's quick?" Well, it takes like 10 minutes to prepare a salad. And zero time to substitute healthy alternatives into your diet. So many parents are uninformed about nutrition that it is scary. I'm just so sick of child obesity being placed on the scapegoat of video games. Also, since the advent of the Wii, which almost EVERY KID HAS, the argument is hardly even valid anymore.

****Side Note: A study has recently shown a correlation between bad nutrition and violent or criminal activity in young men. JUST SAYING. Apparently video games don't cause THAT either.****

Next, I bet you can name at least five people off the top of your head that you know with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, or other obesity-related disorders[whether they are skinny or not!]. Maybe you are one. The numbers are growing steadily, and while some people just get unlucky, the best way to avoid becoming a statistic is to eat healthier and hopefully engage in some light activity regularly. I wish healthcare providers would teach these people how to control or lessen their problem with foods that are known to regulate these disorders, instead of just prescribing them some medication to hurry and get them out of the office so they can see the next patient. Did you know that cayenne pepper works instantly to lower blood pressure and won't give you inconvenient side effects like seizures, stroke or sexual dysfunction?

***I did not mention type 1 diabetes above since there is no real prevention to the disease; however, a healthy diet is extremely important in their lives. Some type 1s have been able to regulate their blood sugar levels through diet, exercise, and supplements without the use of prescribed insulin, which is extremely admirable!***

If, through healthy eating, more people started working to prevent health problems in themselves and their families, perhaps the healthcare system in this country would be much better. More medically needy people could get care, and perhaps the providers could spend more time with their patients, instead of assessing the situation for a few minutes and prescribing the quick-fix drug.

I didn't want to get started on cancer, but I will. Everyone knows someone with or has lost someone to cancer. The rates are rising. What in the world can be causing so many problems in so many peoples' bodies on a cellular level?? Obviously, some cancers [i.e. melanoma or lung] can be blamed on known factors, but...seriously. I know there are a lot of fumes flying around today, which certainly can't help, but I have a strong suspicion that it is all this crap they are putting in food nowadays. All the preservatives and additives can not be good for our bodies. It blows my mind.

Okay, I'm done ranting, I hope. I was planning for this entry to be an introduction to the new and amazing cookbook I'm using in my house, but I think I'll save that for tomorrow!

I hope one day I can educate new parents and/or young people about proper nutrition.