Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hail, Kale!

If there's one thing I've learned during the writing of this blog, it's that I've lived a very sheltered life, culinarily and nutritionally speaking.

Kale is another vegetable I never had growing up.  It's the weird, really curly stuff I'd see in the vicinity of the cabbage and spinach (vegetables I didn't have very often as a child, either).  I never really knew if it was a stiff kind of parsley or romaine lettuce.

And for years (even into my thirties, I freely and ashamedly admit), I confused kale and kelp.  That's an ignorant landlubber for ya.  At any rate, I was never impelled to pick up a bunch of kale for any reason...which is too bad, because it's REALLY good for you and versatile and stuff.

Until now (not being impelled to pick up kale, that is).  First, though, let me explain how it came about:

1.  Husband receives an iPad for his birthday (this last February).
2.  Tech-savvy husband uploads a bunch of free, fun apps onto iPad (including the infernal "Angry Birds").
3.  Husband lets wife play with new iPad, but not before he uploads a free app from Epicurious.com, just because he knows she loves cooking and preparing and reading about food.
4.  Wife has blast looking up, and trying, new recipes including a turnip gratin, roasted asparagus, etc.  A whole new world of vegetable dishes opens up before her eyes.
5.  Wife finds a neat-looking, super-easy recipe for Tuscan Kale Chips.  She files it in her recipe box for later referral.
6.  Wife takes a full-time substitute teaching job and is kind of absent from the kitchen for about three months.  Tuscan Kale Chips are on backburner.
7.  About a week and a half ago, daughter is watching random TV cooking show in which one of the items being prepared is Kale Chips!  She raves to her mom (me) about how cool they look and easy they seem.  She does not know of the recipe stored in her mom's Epicurious recipe box.  Mom realizes the universe is speaking to her and that it is time to make Kale Chips. 

Here's the recipe here: (Tuscan) Kale Chips.  The kale I used is of the curly variety, not Tuscan; thus, I really cannot refer to these as Tuscan Kale Chips.

The only problem?  I salted the leaves too much before putting them in...otherwise, I really, really, really liked them, as did everyone else, except Kirby (who, ironically, was the impetus for making them in the first place).  And speaking of...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lower Arm Workout

Now, I know you read this entry's title, and you wonder what you've stumbled onto.  A food-turned-exercise-blog??  What craziness is that?

Rest assured, I am still me and you are still you.  This is still a blog about food.

A few days ago, I used one avocado and one tomato for those California Chicken sandwiches.  Today, I decided to make guacamole with the remaining avocadoes and tomato.  It's a pretty easy process, actually:

Two avocadoes, One tomato, Chopped onion, Lime juice, Salt and pepper and Hot sauce (optional...well, not for me, but for you).

Now, here's what I did: I processed everything in my food processor, until it all looked like this...

I think the final product is too runny, and so next time I will cut back on the lime juice, and I will also hand mash the avocadoes and hand-mince the tomatoes and onions.

As if this wasn't bad enough, one of my avocadoes was extremely underripe.  If I knew then what I know now, I would have chucked one in a paper bag with the tomato and let nature take its course.  Underripe avocadoes lead to wrist hyperextension when doing Lower Arm Exercise #1, which is the Twist and Pit.  To do this exercise, twist each half of the avo in the opposite direction (after you've sliced it).   If the avo is ripe, the two halves will separate easily...if not, then the chef runs the risk of major injury in the form of carpal tunnel.  Then, remove the brown pit thingy.

This batch here is still serviceable, taste-wise.  Nevertheless, this gal has learned her lesson.  Ripe avocadoes make or break the guacamole.  How do you know if it's ripe?  The darker, the riper...but you gotta feel them to know for sure.  If the flesh inside yields a little to a gentle squeeze, you should be good.  When you peel it later, the skin will practically fall away from the pulp.
Onto Lower Arm Exercise #2: The Grate

A good friend (whose blog you'll find here) was mentioning Parmesan Chips in a Glycemic Index discussion we were having recently.  Well, I like Parmesan and I like chips...and that's all I needed.  Another simple recipe, really:

Although it's not shown here, I also added garlic powder...for that little extra something-something.  However, I think I will leave it out next time, because Parmesan has a strong flavor anyway.

I shredded the cheese wedge with the box grater...during the two minutes it took, I developed some serious forearm muscle.  In one arm.  I look a bit lopsided now, but next time I will grate with my left arm and even things up.

I mixed the cheese with the powder and sprinkled the entire mess on a cookie sheet lined with the parchment paper.  Then, I baked it all at 350 for about six minutes.  When the edges start going brownish, it's done.

Again, let me tell you what I did, what went wrong, and how I might fix it for next time.

I removed the sheet from the hot pan and placed on a wire rack to cool.  Then, I left my house for about an hour.  I returned and cut the sheet of cooked cheese in chip-like forms.  They were chewy...very tasty, yes, but not crunchy like I was expecting chips to be.  And that, friends, was the only real fail.  So, next time, I may try to spread the cheese out even thinner than I did...and I may try to remove the cheese mass from the parchment paper sooner so that it doesn't remain in contact with the natural oil cooked out of the cheese (which may have contributed to the chewiness).  And, finally, I will probably not leave my house at all next time, so that I monitor the product better.  But - I will definitely be trying it again.  Any hard cheese is viable here as well.

In the end, you get a product that looks like this and tastes great!


So, in short, both recipe attempts today left a little to be desired...however, I believe I know how to do it differently for next time.  Don't be surprised, with all the forearm workout I'll be getting, if you don't see me on the cover of Muscle & Fitness sometime soon.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Simple Summer Bill of Fare

This is Fish.  He is a mahi-mahi.



+
Asparagus
+
Olive Oil
+
Salt & Pepper



+
Grill
=
Happy families and happy stomachs!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Jumping On The Avocado Bandwagon

So, here's a fun thing.  Go to google.com and type in 'avocados' - you'll get 37 million hits.  It's got its own wikipedia entry (although, who doesn't, besides me?), .org website, festival, not to mention millions of recipes. So, yeah, avocados are a pretty big deal.

Well, put me on the list of recent admirers!

There were no avocados in my house as a youngster.  I don't remember trying one in college.  I might have had two or three children before the urge to do so took over.  In fact, the general opinion about avocados seemed negative because of the fat content.  But that was before the discovery of the benefits (or neutrality, at the very least) of the high percentage of monounsaturated fats, the fact that it contains more potassium than a banana, and a high fiber content.

Thus, avocados should be enjoyed...but like everything else, in moderation.

For example, at my house tonight.  My plan was to have plain ol' precooked grilled chicken breasts (on sale at Walmart this week); I was hoping for a bolt of divine inspiration on how to prepare them.  Then, I saw my daily email from www.allrecipes.com.  California Chicken.  I was intrigued, and sure enough, with minor modifications, I, too, could enjoy the Recipe of the Day.  And this was the eventual product: 


Yes, real cheese does get shiny like that when it's being baked.  Of course, I could have left it off entirely.  I baked the breasts for ten minutes, then topped them with a slice of tomato and two small avocado slices before laying the cheese atop. 

I had mine without a bun, but everyone else in the family chose to eat it as a sandwich.  And all plates were clean.

Go, Avocado!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Alaska: Big Coastlines, Big Waistlines

Here's a tip for any of you thinking about visiting The Last Frontier:

Do not underestimate driving times.  There is no such thing as a fifteen-minute drive from town to town.  That distance is measured in hours.

Some of you good folks out there have the intestinal fortitude to go a good four or five hours without a stop of any kind.  Not true for yours truly.  I have a small bladder and a penchant for Diet Coke.  Also, I was traveling with five kids.  It stands to reason that we were going to stop quite a bit.

Mistake #1: Consuming either Diet Coke or coffee most of the time I was in AK.  It's been proven that caffeine stimulates appetite...so I would drink, then I would want to eat.  Bad.

Mistake #2: Relying on gas station food more often than I should have.  Because I was imbibing ridiculous amounts of caffeine, I was eating...I've already said that.  But...what I was eating?  Crap.  Junk.  High-carb stuff.  I was making bad choices, for sure.  I do remember a stop in Healy where I purchased a string cheese stick, a hard boiled egg, and beef jerky - that might have been the healthiest I ate during all the driving.

When it came to regularly scheduled meals, I did fine.  Sort of.  Probably too much fat and protein, truth be known.  But better than refined and processed, right?  Maybe.

Anyway, now I'm home.  Both my husband and I stepped on the bathroom scale after an eleven-day hiatus...and it is definitely time to get back on track!  For whatever reason, I did not partake in my usual morning cup of coffee, nor did I consume any Diet Coke until well into the afternoon.  But guess what?  From eight o'clock a.m., when I ate my oatmeal, to noonish when I ate lunch with the kids, I felt no hunger whatsoever...no raving desire to consume food.  I must try the experiment again tomorrow.

So, the prodigal daughter returns to her kitchen.  I'm probably going to start back up reading my Julia Child; however, I've got a new project brewing (besides the no-storebought bread challenge), and it involves the Glycemic Index.

Happy week all!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Alaskan Cuisine

I have been a visitor of the state of Alaska for about four days now, and I have not sampled the local cuisine yet.

I'm not sure Alaska has a local cuisine, actually.  So far, it's been pizza, grilled chicken, chicken patties, Wendy's, red velvet cake...

Tomorrow, though, tomorrow, I think will be different.  We will be attending an Alaskan Salmon Bake!  More details then.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A One-Day Challenge

Even though I had three weeks, I did not fulfill my freezer-cleaning-out Challenge.  However, that is in the past.  Today brings a new challenge.

I have one day to clear out a significant portion of my refrigerator, which contains these items:

Dozen eggs
Four cups spaghetti sauce
Oranges
Head (and a bag of prewashed) lettuce
Six cups thawed chili
One bag unpeeled carrots
Half of a loaf of bread
Half container cottage cheese
Five hot dogs
Leftover Tater Tot casserole
A gallon of milk
Half a package of hamburger buns
A partially-used package of diced ham
Lunchmeat

The menu today stands as thus:
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and ham

Lunch: Leftover TT casserole for kids, chili and salad for us

Dinner: Hot dogs, spaghetti

Snacks: Cottage cheese

My primary concerns are the spaghetti sauce and the milk.  Looks like it's calcium overload today!

We are very likely doing a big breakfast before we get on the road tomorrow, so I've decided to pack the following for snacks and "lunch" along the way: oranges, sandwiches, and carrots.

Corking good plan, yes?