Monday, May 20, 2013

How Much Do You Know About Your Food?

For all my inability to cook, I think I know a lot about food. I am aware of the issues surrounding GMOs and hormones in meat.I understand what foods are important to buy organic and why fast food is bad for you. Sometimes, though, it's good to be reminded where our food comes from and what to be concerned with

If you've never seen Food Inc. you should check it out. Its a bit graphic, but it's an eye opening experience. Here is the trailer for the film. The full version is available on Netflix and Hulu.

Friday, May 17, 2013

What To Snack On

Another time I find it hard to eat as well as I should is when I'm extremely hungry and everything looks edible and I don't want to cook. Some nights on my way home from class the call of the McDonalds' drive through is strong. So I make sure I have some easy and tasty snacks on hand at home.

I've found that I'm more likely to reach for something that I don't have to prepare, but I want it to be as natural as possible. 

I found this nifty option a little while ago and it's become one of my go-tos....

Single Serving Avocado! This may seem a bit odd, but I love guacamole and there's always waste when I buy avocados and make it from scratch. At 90 calories for the whole cup I can add some chopped up onion and cilantro or even just some garlic and onion powder. With some veggies or corn chips, it's very satisfying and full of really good fats.

Another of my favorites is caprese salad. This usually consists of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. Since my laziness knows no bounds, I usually prepare some mozzarella ahead of time using this great recipe and pair it with some cherry tomatoes. 2 oz of the prepared mozzarella and tomatoes will cost you 140 calories.

Finally, if your in the mood for something sweet there's no need to reach for the Ben and Jerrys pint. I make my own macerated strawberries and mix them up with some Cool Whip. It's sweet and light and if you want to turn it into a real desert all you have to add is a biscuit. 

What do you reach for when your stomach is growling?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

What To Eat Out

If you are anything like me, you may find it hard to eat healthy when you have a busy schedule. Somedays I leave the house at 7am and don't make it home until 10pm. What's a girl to eat?

I make a habit of always bringing healthy food to the office. Most days I have soup and veggies for lunch and snack on almonds or oatmeal. The meal I struggle with is dinner. I usually can not sit down and eat a home cooked meal. I usually have an hour in between work and school at night. Most days I find myself at the gas station or in a drive through.

Over the years I have found some tried and true options that leave me feeling a lot less guilty when I do find myself eating out.

Dunkin Donuts : This is my favorite dinner stop. Sounds strange, I know. But they serve the same food all day at a relatively low price point. Here's what I recommend there.

  • Egg White Flatbread : There are two flavor options here, Veggie and Turkey Sausage. Both weigh in at 280 calories. Eggs give great energy and are really good for you. The flatbread keeps carbohydrates to a minimum but still helps you feel full. 

  • Wake Up Wrap : Another egg option also available with sausage, ham or bacon. These are not too substantial, I usually get two with just egg. The wrap with ham comes in at 170 calories, while one with just egg is 150 calls. 
I avoid their bakery sandwiches as they are high in calories. They are usually on a bagel or croissant and most lean to 500 calories a piece! Another way to cut a few more calories out is to order the sandwich without cheese. This is what I do and I don't miss the slimy american cheese at all. 

Starbucks : A little pricier, but the food is much more substantial and higher quality. Again, I go for breakfast options here, they seem to give you the most bang for your buck and calories. 
  • Spinach and Feta Wrap : Egg whites, spinach, feta, and sun dried tomatoes give great flavor and the wrap makes this option very portable. This option is 290 calories and well worth it. Warm and tasty, it doesn't feel like a drive-through option at all. 
  • Protein Plate : This is a very popular option at Starbucks at all times of the day. It is one of their bistro boxes and it contains an egg (I really like eggs) cheese, grapes and apple slices, organic nut butter and a piece of muesli bread. At 380 calories, it is on the high side, but for the amount of protein and the quality of the food, I don't view these as empty calories. This option keeps me full and focused at school. 

Its hard to go to Starbucks and not indulge in a Frappacino or some other sugary drink, but when committing 380 calories to real food, I usually go for a Passion Iced Tea. Unsweetened it costs me no calories at all, while a grande with sweetener comes in at 80 calories. 

Wendy's : For those of you that can't stomach eating breakfast foods for dinner, I recommend Wendy's over McDonalds or Burger King. They have quite a few healthier options. 
  • Plain Baked Potato and Small Chili : A small chili is 180 calories and the plain baked potato can vary based on the size, but usually is around 270 calories. This is on the higher side for calories, but it is very filling and does not contain the same fat content of other menu items with a similar calorie count. For the whole meal the calories from fat is only 45!
I avoid salads at fast food restaurants because they are so high in calories. The lowest calorie count on a Wendy's Garden Sensation Salad is 340 calories for a side salad. I personally don't find a little lettuce and a few pieces of chicken to be satisfying enough to warrant the calories.

I hope these options can help get you through without feeling like you fell off the diet wagon when you can't eat at home.

What are your favorite options for on the go eating?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Whole Foods Friday : Pasta Edition

After my foray into pasta earlier this week it occurred to me that I had never really had fresh pasta. I thought making fresh pasta myself may be a bit ambitious for a Friday night, so I picked up some fresh pasta from Whole Foods. I did, however decide that pasta sauce was something I could make from scratch.
I do not care for meat in my sauce and since Fridays are supposed to be 'easy' I decided on a recipe that was mostly tomatoes and fresh herbs. I substituted canned tomatoes because none of the tomatoes at Whole Foods looked very good. April is not the time for beautiful tomatoes I suppose. I was very pleased to find that something as simple as fresh basil and garlic made this sauce taste so much better then canned sauce. It was so simple to make and I will absolutely do it again.

Please excuse the lighting and poor presentation. A light was out in my kitchen and this is fast and easy Whole Foods Friday.

This is the recipe I followed, with the exception of using canned tomatoes instead of fresh ones.

8 pounds tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 large onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1.In large saucepan, cook tomatoes and basil over medium-low heat until tomatoes are soft.
2.Meanwhile, in medium skillet, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onions are translucent.
3.Add onion mixture to tomato mixture and add salt and pepper. Let simmer on low heat for 2 hours or until thick.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Small Apartment Woes

I'm going to make a gross over generalization and say that a lot of people who may be in a similar boat as me and learning how to cook may also live in an apartment. Living away from your mom and her dependable 5pm meals is a sure fire way to learn how to cook right?
If you are like me and you live in a small apartment, you might find cooking even more challenging for reasons concerning space. My kitchen is so small that when your in it half of you is also in the living room. I have disqualified several recipes because I would need more space to make them.
I am a big fan of YouTube 'blogs' and I found a channel called CHOW and they have a lot of great stuff! Everything from making pancakes from scratch and candied bacon to this awesome tip for how to magically 'add' space to your tiny kitchen! Check it out!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Birthday Brownies!

I wanted to take a treat to work today for my birthday (because apparently I am 10 years old) so I decided to make some brownies I saw on Pinterest. They had Baileys Irish Cream in them and I adore baked goods with liquor flavoring.

For all my inability to cook, I am actually not a bad baker. At least this was what I thought prior to making these brownies. I've never made brownies from scratch but I don't think I made any critical errors other then not cooking them long enough.

When I pulled them out of the oven I tested them by sticking a knife in the middle. It did not come out completely clean. I didn't think this was a problem because I figured the cream cheese filling would always be a bit gooey. I let them sit for a few hours figuring the brownie part would harden up a bit more. I was wrong though, they are not really cooked in the middle. It's too bad really, because the edges are awesome!

I will try these again and see if I can get them to come out better. Tonight I am going out for birthday dinner :)

Here's a picture of what they should look like and the recipe. If anyone makes them successfully, let me know and invite me over!

Brownie batter
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Cream Cheese Filling:
  • 16 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur

For the brownies:
Place the butter and chocolate into a medium saucepan and melt gently over low heat while stirring frequently. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow to cool. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 13×9 inch baking pan with aluminum foil.  Coat the foil lightly with non-stick cooking spray.

Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and eggs together in a medium bowl until light and fluffy (this took about 3-4 minutes with my mixer).  Sift the flour and salt together; add to the sugar mixture in three half-cup increments. Add in the chocolate mixture by folding it into the sugar mixture. 

For the cream cheese filling:
In another medium bowl, combine the cream cheese and sugar and beat until creamy. Continue to beat while adding the egg and liqueur.

To assemble the brownies:
Pour half of the brownie batter into the pan. Spread all of the the cream cheese layer over the brownie layer. Pour the remaining brownie batter over the cream cheese layer and using an offset spatula, smooth the batter. To create a marbled effect, swirl the layers together with a knife. Bake for 40 minutes; cool completely before cutting.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Easy Spaghetti

So, one might think I had learned my lesson about recipes that seem easy. But I found a recipe for a yummy sounding pasta I thought I would try. I'm actually not much for pasta. I like it once in a while, but it's not my favorite. This recipe sounded simple and delicious.

It was really good and so easy to put together. I have been trying to build up a repertoire of things that I can throw together easily even when I don't have much time. This seems to be the key for cooking during the week.

7 ounces of spaghetti
2 large or 3 small garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons of chili pepper flakes
1/4 to 1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
The measurements in this recipe can be shifted depending on your taste preferences.
  1. Cook spaghetti according to the directions on the package, until it is al dente.
  2. Strain spaghetti and place in a large serving dish.
  3. Add minced garlic, chili pepper flakes, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and mix together well.
  4. Serve warm or at room temperature.