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When was the last time you got out of your culinary comfort zone? The start of the New Year is a perfect time to look at your habits with fresh eyes and attempt to try something new. Today I ventured out of my food shopping routine and visited Reliable Market, an Asian grocery shop in Union Square, Somerville. I had already gathered necessary ingredients to make this Post-punk Kitchen curry udon recipe, but hadn’t been able to find the udon noodles during my usual trip to Trader Joe’s. At Reliable Market, I found the udon (big, chewy, Japanese noodles) plus a bunch of other fun additions to my kitchen. I brought home a few bags of dried shitake mushrooms ($.99 a piece), teriyaki-flavored seaweed snacks, and some matcha green tea powder—another ingredient that had eluded me during trips to mainstream stores in the past.
Besides the healthy, bargain deals, just the act of wandering around an unfamiliar environment, looking at different types of produce, spices, and sauces, was enough to make me feel refreshed and inspired.
I made my beautiful curry udon stir fry, with the shitake mushrooms, as well as broccoli, red pepper, and tofu. I always try to add in as many veggies as possible when it comes to stir fries, an easy way to get a big serving of vegetables in one delicious meal.
I’m in love with the teriyaki seaweed snacks, and looking forward to going back to Reliable and picking up more. They had about 30 different kinds of seaweed snacks at this store! There are only 10 calories in 10 flavorful, crunchy strips of seaweed, as well as 50% of your daily recommended allowance of Vitamin A. And, medical journals like Nutritional Reviews have shown sea vegetables to be high in many essential vitamins and minerals like iodine, copper, and zinc. Make sure you read the labels of seaweed snacks, though, as some contain MSG.
(1 tbsp.), with 1 cup of hemp milk, 1 tbsp. of honey and a few ice cubes. A refreshing alternative to iced coffee, and high in cancer-preventing polyphenols.
Have you tried any new foods or places to shop lately? If you’re interested in visiting in the Reliable Market, or other interesting ethnic shops in the Somerville area, check out Nibble, a new blog by the Somerville Arts Council, highlighting recipes and ingredients from local shops. Go explore!
I never get sick of oatmeal. I might go through brief interludes of interest in switching it up with scrambled eggs or a breakfast sandwich, but for the most part oatmeal and I stick together like glue every morning. I switch it up with a cold variation like bircher-muesli in the summer, and in the fall and winter I love having a hot bowl in the morning, always with toppings. To me, it’s the perfect breakfast food. The health benefits are undeniable–oatmeal has been found to lower cholesterol, and provides energy in complex carbohydrates with lots of soluble fiber to stabilize your blood sugar. It’s also inexpensive–I like to buy a jumbo box of plain, old-fashioned oats, which has about 30 servings and costs around $3-4. None of the pre-packaged, sugary packets for me, thanks. My long-time standby mix-ins for hot oatmeal have included chopped apples, cinnamon, honey, and nuts.
Lately I’ve tried some other varieties that I thought I’d share. First off, I usually mix my oats with half milk and half water. I recently discovered the joy of using hemp milk from Trader Joe’s in this mix. Their hemp milk provides almost half your daily serving of Omega-3 ALA fats–those healthy fats you need for a healthy functioning brain and heart. The fat and protein the hemp milk provides makes for an extra creamy bowl of oats, and I find that it really helps to keep me full for longer.
Along with hemp milk I’ve tried a few new add-ins:
The Thanksgiving-season appropriate Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal, with:
- 1/4 cup canned pumpkin (plain, not sweetened)
- Pumpkin pie spices: ground ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon, adjusted to your taste preference. I like a lot of ginger in mine.
- Drizzle of honey
- Chopped walnuts
I scoop the pumpkin in with the uncooked oatmeal and hemp milk and heat it up all together (about 4 minutes in the microwave), and then add on the toppings and an extra splash of milk once its cooled a little.
My other new favorite variety involves:
- 2 tbsp dried, unsweetened coconut flakes
- dried cranberries
- chopped walnuts
- drizzle of maple syrup
This variation came out of using what I had on hand in the pantry, and just happened to come together fabulously. It might be my favorite variety to date.
This past weekend was some pretty glorious Fall weather! Unfortunately, I spent most of the weekend locked away, working on a huge paper for one of my classes (almost finished), but it was just too nice outside to not sneak out and do something fun. I ended up going apple picking with some friends at Russell Farms in Ipswich, quite possibly one of the cutest places ever. I ate the best cider donuts and hot apple cider I’ve ever had, took a hay ride out to the orchards, and brought home a ten pound “peck” of Cortland, Macoun, Macintosh, and Gala apples.
One of the great things about season fruit picking, is finding ways to eat your new bounty. Some of those apples have been getting cut up and cooked with oatmeal in the morning. Some of them might end up going into that apple chicken recipe that I wrote about a few weeks ago. And yesterday, I decided to procrastinate with that paper just a little bit more, by baking an awesome apple crisp. I love apple crisp because it’s so delicious and easy and can be prepared without a lot of extra fat or sugar. I actually really don’t like most store-bought crisps or packaged mixes – I find them to be way too sweet and gooey. Apples baked with some cinnamon and raisins have so much natural sweetness and flavor on their own, why would you want to cover that up? I prefer to keep mine simple, with just a little bit of crumb topping. Below is the recipe I came up with yesterday.
Slightly Sweet Apple Crisp
5-7 apples (I used 5 because mine were huge) peeled, cored and sliced thin. I used the aforementioned apple varieties which are all semi-sweet and tart, good for baking
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup raisins
3 tbsp tapioca pearls – this is optional, I like to add them because they add some fun texture
1 cups water
½ cup rolled oats
¼ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp butter
Preheat the over to 375 degrees, and coat a 9 x 11 glass baking pan with non-stick spray. Arrange apple slices to an even layer on the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon, lemon juice, raisins, tapioca, and stir until evenly coated. Add water to the apples. In a separate bowl, combine the oats, sugar, and flour and mix well. (I also added an extra sprinkle of cinnamon to this mixture). Cut the butter into the mix using a pastry knife or two butter knives (if you don’t know what this means, here’s a link to a video that explains). Sprinkle crumble mixture evenly over apples. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until apples are soft.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I usually try to use Sunday afternoons as a time to cook and get ready for the next busy week ahead. I always feel much better about the start of the week when I know that I have a fridge full of prepared healthy foods…Since I shifted my work hours a half-hour earlier to accommodate my nighttime schedule of graduate classes, I’ve had very little time to sit down and eat breakfast in the morning. So this Sunday routine has started to include baking a stockpile of healthy muffins for the week.
This past weekend, I discovered a new exciting ingredient from the geniuses over at Trader Joes – peanut flour. I incorporated this high protein (16 grams of protein per ¼ cup), gluten-free flour into a batch of banana-peanut-chocolate chip whole wheat muffins. It was actually less peanut-y tasting than I had expected once the batter was baked, so I think the next time I make these I will swap more of the peanut flour in place of whole wheat. Regardless, the results were delicious. I included some frozen, overripe bananas that I had stored in the freezer about a month ago. I highly recommend saving bananas this way. They are great for blending into smoothies or defrosting for use in recipes like this one. Peel them first and freeze in a plastic container, though — I’ve stuck them in the freezer whole before, and had a hard time removing the peel when I wanted to use them later.
High-Protein Banana Chocolate Chip muffins
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups peanut flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 cups applesauce
4 egg whites
3-4 very ripe bananas
1 cups chocolate chips (I like the mini ones if you can find them)
Preheat the over to 375 degrees. Combine flours and baking soda and powder in a large bowl. Mix applesauce, egg whites, and mashed bananas in a smaller bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry, then mix in chocolate chips. Bake in a coated, non-stick muffin pan for about 20 minutes or until cooked through.
This made about 15 muffins, which I’ll be eating this week for quick breakfasts and snacks. I also did a quick online search for more recipes with Trader Joe’s peanut flour and found all sorts of recommendations – apparently you can even add water to the flour and create your own low-fat peanut butter. Sounds like it would be great in smoothies, too. I will definitely be experimenting more with this new ingredient! Let me know if you have any ideas…
One of my favorite things about summer in Boston is the farmers markets all around the city. I’m a big supporter of eating locally produced foods – shopping at farmers markets is a great way to support our environment, our American farmers, and our health. I’m fortunate enough to work near the Government Center market, and I love walking over there on my lunch break and meandering around the farmers’ tables, checking out their latest harvests. Last week, on a whim, I bought zucchini, summer squash, an heirloom squash, a big bunch of bright green swiss chard, and some garlic scapes, which I’d never cooked with before. I also bought a dozen fresh farm eggs from Silverbrook Farms. These eggs are amazing – definitely pricier than a cheap dozen from the grocery store, but the taste and texture is so superior that I find myself savoring them in a way that I never do with “regular” eggs. Some research studies have suggested that the nutrition content of free range grass-fed eggs is also better than their factory-farmed counterparts – providing more healthy fats, less saturated fat and cholesterol, and higher amounts of vitamins.
When I got home, I threw together all of my farmers market bounty into a frittata, which came out great. Below is the recipe I conjured up. The beauty of the frittata is that you can put in whatever you want, though, so it’s a perfect base to experiment with as the seasons and available produce changes.
Farmers Market Fritatta
6 eggs (preferably farm fresh!)
1 cup skim milk
Dash of salt and pepper
Sliced zucchini and summer squash, one of each
1 bunch of chard, de-stemmed and torn into small pieces
1 tablespoon chopped basil
3 chopped garlic scapes
2 sliced shallots
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper, and basil. In a cast iron skillet, or a large saucepan, sauté shallots in some olive oil until browned, then add garlic scapes and sauté about a minute longer. Add zucchini and squash and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add swiss chard and sauté about a minute. Preheat over to 400 degrees. Pour egg mixture into the skillet, reduce heat to medium low, and cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until it has mostly set. Sprinkle with cheese and breadcrumbs, and place in oven for about 10 minutes, or until the top has browned.
What are your favorite finds at farmers markets?
Did any of you make a New Years resolution to eat breakfast every day? If you’re still looking for a commitment in 2010, breakfast might be a good place to start. Eating breakfast improves your weight control/loss and helps give you energy all morning long. I never have a problem with eating in the morning, but I do struggle with getting out the door in time, so I am a fan of easy breakfasts that can be made in advance. I recently discovered Bircher Muesli at brunch a few weeks ago. Bircher Muesli differs from the Muesli you might have seen in the cereal aisle of the grocery store, and is much healthier. Bircher Muesli is made of uncooked oats, soaked overnight, and mixed with yogurt and dried and fresh fruits. It was developed around 1900 a Swiss physician named Maximilian Bircher-Benner, who was a very early pioneer in eating raw and whole foods. It’s easy to prepare, delicious, and keeps me full all morning long. There are many variations on this dish, below is the recipe that I have been enjoying: Read the rest of this entry »
Did anyone take advantage of the BURN open house last weekend? I managed to get a spot in the Build and Burn session with Beth B., which was awesome. I really liked the strength training mixed in with speed and resistance intervals on the treadmill. As aforementioned, I rarely mix up my workouts, and often rely on some standard settings on the treadmill. I felt really challenged in the BURN workout, and motivated to try and replicate some of the intervals when I’m working out on my own. I highly recommend BURN to anyone who is trying to shake up their usual routine and get quicker results in a short amount of time.
I also squeezed in some cooking this past weekend, and made a great spicy soup recipe that I want to pass on. The following recipe for Jamaican Sweet Potato Kale soup came from my friend Steph, who I take yoga classes with frequently. She is a self-proclaimed soup-nut, and has tons of cheap and easy soup recipes to recommend, so there will be more to come.
This particular recipe is great because of the few ingredients, very little prep time, and super healthy super-food inclusions of kale and sweet potatoes. As I mentioned in my Kale-chips recipe, kale is rich with vitamins, anti-oxidants, and fiber. Sweet potatoes offer carotenoids in their bright orange color, and are a good source of vitamin C and potassium. And coconut milk contains anti-bacterial properties. This recipe is a little fiery, so adjust the habaneros according to your preference. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve made this Red Lentil and Brown Rice soup, which I adapted from a recipe on www.101Cookbooks.com, about three times in the past two weeks! It’s simple, healthy, and tastes great, which is my triumvirate for perfect recipes. Plus, the ingredients are inexpensive, which is always a bonus. Lentils are a great source of protein, iron, and fiber. They come in a variety of shapes and colors, and red are my favorite. I like the smooth texture they produce because they break down quickly while cooking – no soaking required. And they make a beautiful orange-red stew. This recipe makes about 4-6 servings. Take it to the office in a plastic container for a perfect fall afternoon lunch during the week.