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Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 59 Two Months Fast Food Free

So, here it is, today, I have reached 2 months, fast food/soda free!(pause for applause) As I prepare myself for month three, I am super excited by all of the changes which have already taken place. I have saved a ton of money, I've lost a pant size, I've learned about 20 new recipes, and I've become more aware of what I put into my body. I have 10 months left of this challenge, but I cannot see myself, on day 366 pulling into a Sonic for everything I've missed because I don't miss it. I'm not suggesting that I will never eat in a restaurant again, but it will never again be the all out tater tot orgy, it once was. I love trying new foods, so I will probably limit my choices to local restaurants with a very fresh menu, no processed Crappleby's type stuff.
Last night I made something really good and I want to share it, because, let's face it, there are days, despite my good fortune, when  I make bologna bupkus for dinner...doesn't always work out. So here it is, one of my better creations:

 Cream Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

Portabella Mushroom Caps ( I live alone so I used 1)
Whipped Cream cheese 1 Large spoonful per cap
Chopped chives a sprinkling
Italian breadcrumbs 1/3 C
1 egg
Olive oil
Chopped onion (a handful)

Mix cream cheese, chives, onion, egg, and breadcrumbs together. Drizzle oil over mushroom and stuff with mixture. Drizzle again, once mushrooms have been stuffed. Bake at 350 until mixture is firm, broil for about 3 minutes, until browned.

Bring on month 3 you demented onion ring pushers!


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Day 58 Double Bonus Small Pants Day

I've been saying it for awhile, my pants are getting looser and I've been meaning to make a trip to Old Navy. I wanted to wait until the end of month two, just to be certain, so today, I went, I tried, I bought a size 14. This may not seem small to some of you, and honestly, I kind of like being rounded, but nonetheless, I have dropped a pant size. I have done this by dropping soda and fast food and adding more vegetable dishes to my life, that's it. I buy normal stuff at the grocery, but do try to go with fresh foods instead of processed, (I do not always stick to this). I ate what I wanted at the office potluck, including cupcakes, I do not feel deprived in any way, in fact I feel well fed and well nourished. When I feed myself well, I do not have a need for junko. Tonight, I am having vegetable and cream cheese stuffed portabella mushrooms and leftover homemade mac and cheese. I do not count calories, fat, or carbs, I'm just trying to keep everything I eat balanced and diverse and it seems to be working! Today, I went to Whole Foods and was lost in a sea of "trendy" people, looking for whatever trendy people look for in a grocery store, when I noticed the man in front of me in the check out line. The counter was piled with weight management bars, boxes of them, and nothing else. He had so many that the total came to 196.00 I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he was taking them to a third world country, where obesity is a problem? I don't know, but I did find it kind of strange, that here we were, in a store full of beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables, everything you needed to feed your body properly, and he was buying 196.00 worth of probably healthy but very one dimensional processed food. To each his own, I guess, I just find it frustrating to see willful ignorance regarding health and wellness in this country....then again, it was only two months ago, that I was one of them.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Day 57 Onion Tea And Other Circusy Concoctions

I fully believe that we have everything we need in nature to cure ourselves of illness and today, I have used a little bit of everything. The night before last, I began drinking green tea with raw ginger, when I felt the first tickle in my throat, last night, I upped the ante and added cayenne and garlic. Today, I have tripled the tea intake and am about to add onion juice, lemon, and honey to my already strange concoction. I'm actually feeling better than this morning and think that my cockamamie remedies are working. I felt good enough to go to the grocery store for fruit and actually bought the dreaded oranges, everyone knows I hate oranges, I hate the smell, the taste...the color, but for immunitys sake, I am going to maybe squeeze some juice into my tea, along with the other stuff. For dinner, I had blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and pomegranate juice. Have I left anything out? Could I possible add anything else to my veritable witch's brew of natural medicine? I intend to be completely cured by Monday morning, to prove that there is no need for NyQuil, or Theraflu, or whatever else Wal-green's sells in it's cold and flu section. Now I just have to figure out how to get enough juice out of the onion to cover the citrus smell, I think I would rather eat a beet.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 56 Macaroni And Magic Potions

Today was the working lunch potluck, the macaroni was good, but for the fact that it was cold by the time chow time rolled around. Sitting through hours of updates, accolades, reprimands, and the ever evolving world of mental health care, all the while, just beyond reach of the cookies, was a tad irritating. My salvation came later in the form of  super delicious guacamole and chips and raspberry injected lemon cupcakes. I'm making it my mission in life to buy a cupcake injector and to morph into some sort of half human, half cupcake queen, master of tiny cakes. After work, I  shared some of my leftover two ton macaroni medley with my family, who deemed it delicious, after reheating and re moistening. Here is the recipe, large enough for a group and then some:

Baked Macaroni and cheese
2 bags of macaroni
3 C of shredded Gruyere cheese
3 C of Shredded Colby Jack cheese
1 pint of heavy cream
1/2 stick of butter
1 C of flavored cream cheese (I used garlic)
1/4 cup of breadcrumbs
Boil macaroni as directed on package. In a sauce pan, mix cream, butter, cheese, and cream cheese until melted and smooth, mix with cooked macaroni. Pour into a large baking pan and mix well. If you want to, add additional cheese on top of the macaroni, provolone would be a good topping, although I did not initially use this. Sprinkle the top, lightly with breadcrumbs and bake at 350, until bubbly and lightly brown.

In other news, I am trying one of my own tea recipes, listed on my recipe page, to combat an oncoming cold. I have added a few things and it is extremely potent. I began with green tea, added ginger, cayenne, garlic, lemongrass, and threw in a Saw Palmetto bag, just for giggles. Here's hoping it works, cause I feel a whole heap of yucky at the moment....at least I have 47 pounds of macaroni to make me feel better.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day 55 Pitch Till You Win Potluck Countdown

Tomorrow is the day I 've been waiting for, because our office potluck is the closest I'll get to a buffet for at least another 10 months. It's kind of like the Super Bowl, who's going to bring their game? Who's going to walk away with bragging rights, who's going to sit on the bench, and who is going to be the halftime show? Let me just say, that I am that show and I'm not inviting the Black Eyed Peas....let's get ready to rumble. So, the line up includes, two people bringing chips and salsa, (somebody failed to read the list) Guacamole is back, which I am now ready for, after a break. Shredded chicken chili, is making an appearance (sadly verbotten in my world), Lil' smokies, (ditto), and a vegetable tray, (score one for my team.) Taco soup, cookies and cupcakes round out the party. I don't know what taco soup is but I'm crossing my fingers that it does not contain any doe eyed cow friends and on the dessert front, it's already shaping up to be a double bonus day if the cupcakes are not just a rumor. I, of course am bringing the super secret, patented baked mac and cheese, I may share the secret, if proper adulation is bestowed upon my creation... hold your breath. Despite my anticipation, one thing about our special lunch makes me very, very sad, I will have to bring my own drink. There will of course be a jewel colored array of sprightly spritzers, none of which are presently welcome in my world. I'll have my H2O clean, on the rocks, with a twist of fluoride please.
All I have to say to my co-workers is BRING IT! Let the chowing down commence.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 54 New Orleans Vs. The Vegan

Mardi Gras is upon us, and I share this tribute, in honor of one of New Orleans spectacular creations. For seven years I was an excellent vegetarian and for six months, I was a good vegan. I read labels, I studied ingredients, I was militant in my eating habits... and then came that city on the bayou. Let me just say, that it is almost impossible to maintain a vegetarian lifestyle in New Orleans, but it is absolute, utter nonsense to find anything vegan in any part of the city, everything is covered, smothered, drenched, and floating in some sort of buttery creamy magic. A few years ago, I chose New Orleans for a solitary birthday adventure and I was fully aware of the culinary implications awaiting me....I knew that I would face the beignets, the etouffee, the gumbo, no problem, but I was not prepared for my eggy nemesis, Creme Brulee. I knew that my vegan lifestyle was over before dinner at Broussard's even began. As seafood was out of the question, I had some sort of wonderful salad, though I cannot recall a single thing about it, in fact I remember nothing except dessert. I remember only, the Creme Brulee, I remember the tap and the crack of the caramelized crust, the guilty pleasure of this cardinal vegan sin, and the custard's angelic sweetness, as I scraped the ramekin clean. I knew that I could never attend another vegan potluck again, not with this secret on my soul. So, here I salute the dessert that brought down a girl, I never had a chance and I would do it again. Here's to all the foodies, who will descend on New Orleans next week, eat, drink, and revel in every sinful bite.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day 53 Kids Who Eat Vegetables Are Less Likely To Become Felons

This may come as a revelation to those who know me, but I rarely finish anything...except what's on my plate. I have begun many things in my life, diets, careers, relationships, classes of varying subject matter, belly dancing, knitting. I always start off strong, but somehow, I start to drift and eventually the project or person is forgotten and stuffed into the giant closet of past great ideas. Initially, I was afraid to begin this 365 day project, but I have discovered that the further I go, the more determined I am to finish and the more committed I become to following through, the more I see this as an open door to other goals. I believe that the more I take care of myself, the more I am able to help others and this project has allowed me to do that, even if so far, its just been getting a picky 10 year old to eat an avocado. So, let me jump up on my soapbox for a hot minute, I'm getting to the point, I promise. I don't expect everyone on the planet to stop eating fast food, if I had that power, though, I would use it with a megaphone and a burger squashing quickness. What I do toss out is a challenge to be conscious, of how you take care of yourself and who is watching you do this. I mean come on, its a green pea, not a booger, your kids are watching you eat! Let them cook with you and see you trying and liking new foods, even if it's a nasty beet or pickled okra. Maybe your kid will really dig something you hate, you've lost nothing, while your spawn becomes a well rounded consumer, having ingested one less chicken nugget in his lifetime. It is no secret, that healthy kids are less likely to pick up self destructive habits, like smoking and armed robbery, it's true, vegetables have that power....I'm not making it up!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day 52 Potluck Or Day Of Judgement?

Tomorrow is my favorite day...grocery day! I get to start over with fresh ingredients and new recipes, so tonight I'm perusing my new cookbook and planning my menu. Tonight, I finished off the last of the groceries and made Thai peanut curry with rice and vegetables, fried sweet potato, and you guessed it...my last avocado. I will not be eating avocados this week, nope, not on the list, we need some time apart. This week, I am going to experiment with egg roll wrappers, I'm going to see how many different things I can stuff them with, maybe mushrooms, squash, sweet potatoes, cheesecake, money....just a thought. If I can find something really yummy to wrap and fry, I may add it to my potluck collection on Friday, along with the best mac and cheese ever. This is purely for the morale of my co-workers, sometimes you have to bring a little flavor to the table, regardless of caloric content. My mac and cheese is going to be a secret, original creation, which will be so good, my co-workers may have to sing a show tune to express their joyful exaltation. Not trying to toot my own horn here, but it really is the best mac and cheese in Oklahoma.... maybe the universe. I'm really excited about this work lunch, potlucks are so much more personal than restaurant meetings! It's a chance to show your creativity, I may treat you a little nicer, if I like your dish, who knows, I may dial down the sarcasm if your cheesecake is homemade. I think you can tell a lot about a person by what they bring to the table...don't ever be the one to bring paper plates and a loaf of bread, believe me, we judge you.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 51 Spreading The Love and A Little Guacamole

So last Sunday, I revealed how my Grandmother had never tried an avocado, she would buy them, let them rot, and throw them out, she just never knew what to do with them. Today, I gathered the elements, avocados, lime, garlic, and some seasoning, for a trip through the woods to Grandmother's house. Turns out, she was fully expecting a lesson in guacamole making, she had purchased four giant avocados, bringing the grand total to seven, with my contribution. Too much of anything makes me nervous. I only buy enough fruits or vegetables for what I'm presently making, because I panic at the thought of wasting anything and the avocados were ripe, not to mention expensive. This whole situation left me in a tizzy and to further complicate things, my Grandmother had made us both big salads, things were moving too fast. If I added the avocado to the salad, we would be too full for guacamole, but there were so many avocados on the fast track to rotville, it had to be done. OK, so two down with the salad, leaving five, there was no way we would be able to eat ALL of the guacamole before it went bad. We finished our salads and waited....and waited...and waited for snack time, I wasn't hungry and neither was she, but we had to address our bounty. If we postponed the guacamole making session, we would be throwing away a five dollar bill, I knew if I left them with her, she would not cut them at all and I certainly couldn't eat them all in one day! So the lesson began, we used two avocados, made a lovely dip and called my 10 year old cousin to try it. Success, cousin and Grandmother ate it all immediately and scraped the bowl clean, there are now, two new guacamole lovers in the world. My Grandmother now knows how to process them and has one avocado left to do so with, tonight. I took the other two and had them for dinner, crisis averted. I end this day having ingested several very fattening avocados but none the worse for wear, and I have imparted a bit of knowledge on the rest of the world, done and done.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day 50 I've Never Done Anything For 50 Days Straight

Even though we're only halfway through February, I feel that I have reached a milestone, 50 days is a lot! 50 days of self control and self regulation, 50 days of taming my worst health habits, today, was a day for treating myself well. This morning, my brother and I hit the bankrupt Border's Books to snag a few deals and I found a HUGE Mediterranean cookbook for 7.00 which has Italian, Greek, French, Spanish, North African, and Middle Eastern recipes. I was so excited, I started flipping through it while driving, not the safest thing, I know, but I arrived home safely, with a few new recipes fermenting in my brain. This evening, I went to hear Elizabeth Gilbert, of Eat, Pray, Love fame talk about her new book, Committed and scored an autograph as well. She is such an amazing writer and so funny, she of course makes me want to travel the world, and to write about it, in my own Girl in a circus kind of way. My favorite discovery of the day comes from my new cookbook, it's called Marrakesh pizza, it's a Moroccan pizza, which looks kind of like a sandwich and appears to be a mite spicier than our familiar Italian pizza pie, anything with red pepper is OK in my book. The ingredients also include Cumin and Coriander and seems to be in between two layers of crust...interesting enough to try at least. All in all one great day in a successful month, it can only get better! Tomorrow, I attempt the fatty mcfatterson muffins, I invented yesterday, you'll gain a healthy 20 pounds with just a whiff. If you need an explanation as to why I'm making fatty muffins, you should have read yesterday's blog...just saying!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 49 If I Should Die In A Muffin Battle

Tonight, I am on a humanitarian mission, to create the most natural, calorie filled, chock full of fat muffin, ever baked, for an acquaintance, who is very ill. The muffins cannot have dairy, fruit, spices, or anything overly sugared, and must be soft enough to eat without much effort. So, I have thought long and hard and have settled on Avocado and Cashew butter muffins made with coconut milk and potato flour. I'm not sure if this will work because I'm just making it up in my head, I may have to make several batches before I'm happy with the results. I'm also thinking of adding bananas, as this is the only acceptable fruit and will give them a natural sweetness. If they work, I'm thinking this would also be a great recipe for the parents of picky kids, who need to gain weight. It's really kind of fun, coming up with the fattest ingredients ever, if dairy weren't an issue, I would use full fat cream and maybe add cream cheese to the batter, but as it is, this should be a gut busting calorie builder.
In other pastry news, this morning, I faced my greatest challenge yet, a new co-worker innocently brought me a cinnamon roll, which she had purchased I'm sure from a bakery on her way to work. Baked goods are my weakness and can topple all of my healthy eating, in a flaky second. However, I accepted the cinnamon roll, pinched off a couple of bites, exclaimed how good it was, and stuffed it back into the bag and into my purse, and later into the trash. Was this rude? Where does my challenge end and good manners begin? I feel that I handled it well and did not betray my mission, while at the same time, showing gratitude for a kind gesture.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day 48 Lunch Beast Wants Tater Grease

Planning ahead is important, it's so important that I will say it again....planning ahead is important. Today, I did not plan ahead and flew around by the seat of my ever loosening fat jeans and as a result, was famished for most of the day. I'm pretty sure I lost a few pounds just from the effort of keeping my pants up, I was so busy, that I never even set foot in my office, where my bread and cheese are living temporarily. I was on the road from 8 until 4, with no provisions. My co-worker stopped at Sonic twice and I refused to acknowledge the glistening cheese sticks on the menu board, I turned my face away from the light of the sparkling Limeade photos, whispering my name, it could have gone either way, really. I sustained myself with water and a bag of chexmix, from a mini market, which is probably just as bad as any fast food, but I digress. My point is this, I need lunch options that do not require microwaves or refrigerators, so this evening, I have been on the hunt, both for food and  for lunchboxes. I'm proud to say that I have found the superhero of all lunchboxes, the Zojirushi Stainless Steele Bento Lunch Jar With Bag! The "jars" are stainless steel, so no throw aways and no BPA, and the bag is insulated, it says specifically for use when no microwave or fridge is available. The cost is substantial for a lunch bag, 55.00 but compared to what I am saving and the daily usefulness, I think that it's reasonable. My second mini challenge, today is to find a recipe for homemade veggie burgers, I feel that when I buy a box of Morning Star or Bocca Burgers, that I could still be eating better and fresher food, not processed stuff.  This is my  only job tonight so that next week, I will start my week prepared to the max....I will beat the nagging lunch beast in my tummy, who screams for tater tots and cheddar peppers!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 47 Take Your Free Wontons And Scram Man

I have no doubt that today would have been a breakfast, lunch and dinner restaurant day, if not for this challenge and this blog. To start, I had a very early meeting, with no time to do anything but stuff a piece of toast into my mouth and go, it would have been so easy to swing through the McDonald's drive through for an egg and cheese biscuit and a sugar jolt. Second, my boss had reason for celebration and wanted to take us all out to lunch, but remembered that I am currently no fun and would not participate in the chowing down. Yes, I ruined it for everyone, my job here on earth is done! If we had gone to lunch, I'm sure we would have gone to the Mazzio's buffet, for an all you can eat pizza throw down...I'm inclined to shed a little tear right now. When I finally got home, there was a Chinese delivery menu on my door, with a coupon for free cheese wontons and egg rolls, with a 15.00 purchase! The delivery menu will not go to waste, I am going to use it as a guide for the Chinese recipes, I would like to learn how to re-create in my own kitchen. So, I'm going to add up, what I would have spent today on convenience and comfort food. The value meal would have come to about 5.60 plus a lunch buffet at 8.99 and finally, the 15.00 dollar special from the Rice Bowl for a grand total of 29.59! That's like half of my grocery money for the week. I'm really excited about all of the money I've been saving on food and I just paid off a bill, which was putting me out 120.00/month! I have saved enough money that I don't feel stretched at the thought of buying a much needed, functional phone this weekend. I'm having so much fun, that I'm not missing out on my favorite foods, because I am a master at re-creation, I'm also a much better cook than some pot smoking teenager who probably spits on the biscuits anyway. Six weeks down, go me!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 46 IHOP Into The Kitchen To Make Breakfast

The best thing about my day, today, was the roasted squash I had for breakfast...that's right, I had squash for breakfast! I woke up with plenty of time to spare, an aging yellow squash in the fridge, and the realization that today was going to be a very long day, with little time for lunch, so I made squash. I sliced it, tossed it in olive oil and Italian breadcrumbs and stuck it in the oven, it roasted while I dried my hair. I don't think there's anything wrong with vegetables for breakfast, it's certainly healthier than Crunchable smack jacks with marshmallows and chocolate covered sugar cubes. While I was growing up, I always preferred a sandwich or leftovers from the night before, to muffins or sugary cereal for breakfast. In my quest for how the rest of the world eats breakfast, I discovered www.mrbreakfast.com which is devoted to nothing but the preparation of the first meal of the day. I found a universe of recipes for omelets, quiche, scrambles, and souffles. I have to say, that I am most intrigued by the chili onion oatmeal, once again, an alternative option to a food that is traditionally sweet, I can't wait to try that one. There's even a section on crock pot breakfasts, where I found crock pot Omelet casserole, I love breakfast! One early morning recipe I can't quite wrap my mind around, is beans and toast...I don't get it, beans are good, toast is good, but I think never the two should meet. I think tomorrow I will start my day with a whimsical sounding recipe, Eggs Piperade, basically a garlic and bell pepper omelets, I just like the name, sounds like a fun way to start the day. Eat your veggies...for breakfast!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 45 Gonna Get My Pesto On

Valentine's Day is upon us and instead of my beautifully planned stuffed mushrooms and macaroni with Gruyere, I had corn chips and salsa. I just didn't have time to be nice to my self today and was too pooped to cook anything, much less something amazing. But, there is a light in the Valentine's vortex of singledom. My co-workers hooked me up today with kitchen swag! First let me preface the gifts with this fun fact, I've had a dented can of garbanzo beans on my desk for about a month. Every day, I look at the can and wish that I had some magical tool to open it, every day,  nothing but empty wishes. Today, one of the girls presented me with a can opener for my can o' beans, to be used solely for work based opening issues. I was elated, but decided that the can looked rusty and could not chance a case of on the job botulism so, am saving the can opener for a cleaner and less fatal lunch. My next gift was a red rubber spatula, a baking scraper, and.....a mortar and pestle! That's right, the blog fairy answered my call, now I can crush things to my heart's content, spices, herbs, garlic, maybe grind some corn, who knows? My first experiment with this lovely tool will be Pesto and I have already found the perfect recipe, Asparagus Pesto with pasta! This, I will add to my original V-day meal, which will now be a post V-day creation, tomorrow night. Today was a great day and I can't wait to share my new pulverized creations with everyone Happy Valentine's Day!


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day 44 Eleventy-Billion Uses For Avocado

Today, I learned that my Grandmother has never eaten an avocado, she doesn't know about the world's most perfect fruit! Avocados are my favorite food, unless you count cheese enchiladas, covered in avocado, so I cannot fathom, how someone has lived for 80ish years, without ever having eaten one! As I babbled on and on about guacamole and avocado sandwiches, I realized that that there must be a million other recipes, I had never laid eyes on. My Grandmother slipped me 5.00 as I headed out the door, and told me to buy something for myself....I bought 4 avocados and sat down to research over my simple dinner. Well, let me just say that the California Avocado Commission does not play around in their diverse collection of avocado recipes, concoctions I would never dream of! How about a California Avocado Milkshake, or an avocado Daiquiri? If drinking your Guac is not for you, how about couscous with avocado and mango or Grecian avocado pizza? Avocado poblano soup or Peanut crusted red curry avocado satay, the list is endless! The truth is that there are so many things we can do to make eating any fruit or vegetable delicious and interesting, but most of us cruise the produce aisle, tossing in iceberg lettuce, a couple of bananas and baby carrots, never considering the vast opportunity for healthy eating and food experimentation. I have also discovered that like the avocado commission and the potato commission, every other piece of produce probably has a commission too, this is a great place to find recipes and ideas for bringing more vegetables into your family meals. Eat Your Vegetables!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Day 43 Big Ideas Sometimes Come With A Little Smoke

My love of food experimentation and jumping in way over my head, started very early. I was ten, when I made my first serious dinner, it was for my parent's anniversary and I was determined to do it by myself. I never once thought about making something easy like a cake, no!  I went big, I wanted to make the most difficult thing, a ten year old had ever made. I wanted them to gasp with surprise and wipe away a tear, while wondering how I, a child had pulled off this feast. My menu was manicotti and garlic bread. I found a recipe and enlisted an aunt to drive me to the market to buy the ingredients. As I picked out each item, she nervously wondered out loud whether I should try something easier, like burgers or spaghetti, no, no, no, it had to be huge, it had to be Italian, and it had to be manicotti. The day arrived and I had one hour, after school before my parents arrived home from work. I set to work, following the recipe to perfection, like a tiny Martha Stewart. I boiled the manicotti, I stuffed the slippery pasta without tearing even one, I covered it beautifully with sauce, and put it into the oven to bake. The minutes were ticking closer to my parent's arrival; everything was perfect, until it was time to broil the garlic bread. The bread began to burn and then smoke, I turned the oven off, but of course the smoke detector blared a nonstop, honking warning. I ran next door, like my hair was on fire and yelled for my aunt to help me. I wasn't so much worried that the house would burn down; I just didn't want to ruin the scene, where my parents came in and cried over my meal, I had to get the smoke out, fast! Of course, just as we reached the front door, my parents pulled up. They were met with a chaotic, smoke filled house, burned bread, and a halfway decent manicotti with a few chewy parts. They were impressed and went on and on about how I hadn't needed any help until the very end; they ate every bite and asked for more. I still consider it one of my biggest accomplishments and appreciate the encouragement and love that they showed me back then. That was 25 years ago this week and I'm still getting in way too deep, but learning a lot. Happy Anniversary!


Friday, February 11, 2011

Day 42 Tanzanian Potato Balls or Little Bites Of Sunshine

Today, by a stroke of pure luck, I discovered Tanzanian food and thus my culinary salvation all in one fell swoop.  Thanks to a co-worker, who answered the call, when I wondered out loud, "what will I make for dinner?" Somewhere deep in the heart of cyberspace, there was an East African treasure, and I was smitten  by the ingredients, even before my trip to the market. Tonight I made Coconut bean soup and Tanzanian potato balls, which will now be the stars of my recipe box. I'm adding the recipes, from www.celtnet.org.uk with a few variations and tweaks from me.

Tanzanian Potato Balls
3 C. of potatoes
1/4 C. lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 C. chickpea flour
1 C. Coconut milk
3 C. Water
1/4 cup of fresh grated coconut
Oil for frying
Cut, cube and boil potatoes in water and coconut milk, until soft. Cool the potatoes and mix with lime juice, cayenne, coconut, and salt, form into balls. Roll the balls into flour and fry in oil until brown.

Coconut Bean Soup
1/2 C. of onion (chopped)
1/2 C. Green Peppers (chopped)
1 tsp. curry paste (I used red)
1 tsp salt
3 Tbs. butter
1 C tomato (diced)
2 1/2 C. Kidney beans
2 C. Coconut milk
1/3 C. grated coconut (not the sweetened kind)
3 C. Water
1/2 C. cooked rice
Brown the onions in butter, add green peppers, curry, salt, butter, and tomatoes, when brown. Add beans, coconut milk, water, and rice and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add grated coconut to the top of the soup.

I was so impressed with these two dishes that my interest has been piqued as far as other African recipes and I think I've found what I'm bringing for our office potluck in a couple of weeks. So, here's to whomever is bringing the lil' smokies and  the generic cookies......I win.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Day 41 Eating Dandelions

When I was four, I ate a fuzzy dandelion, this was not a conscious decision on my part. My cousin stuffed the flower into my mouth when I fell for his stupid line, Open your mouth and close your eyes and I'll give you a big surprise. I still remember trying to spit out the fuzz, while delivering a  well deserved beat down to my tormentor. I didn't taste another flower until some 26 years later, when I discovered rose petal ice cream, in an Iranian restaurant. My first thought was that it was a little confusing to taste such a flowery scent, but once my senses adjusted, I found it to be a really lovely, subtle taste, and went on to order a rose water flavored hookah to go with my ice cream. It was my birthday, I went a little crazy. So, what's all this talk about eating flowers? Well, I'll tell you! My mom's birthday is in the spring and I have a fabulous idea for a menu made with flowers.  The main course will be Grilled Salmon with Nasturtium flower vinaigrette, fried squash blossoms, and a banana blossom salad. The dessert is of course, rose petal ice cream with lavender cookies. My mother appreciates creativity and this dinner will be original and will be way better than the sack of potting soil and the garden knee pads I got for her last year. My brother's birthday is on the same day, so I'll have to think of something fabulous for him as well and something tells me, an 18 year old boy will not be impressed with the flower theme. I'm thinking maybe a bacon cake for him, ham flavored ice cream? I don't know, I'll have to ponder it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Day 40 What Is An Egg Topper And Why Do I Need It?

Today, as I click through the entire Williams Sonoma catalog online, I have discovered that I am woefully ill prepared in the kitchen. How was I to know that garlic actually needed a canister, why can't it just live in the little produce baggie, on the counter? In fact, according to the Williams Sonoma product line, nothing in your kitchen should be exposed, viewed, or smelled until, it is ready for use! There are canisters for onions, potatoes, whipped cream, I could go on and on. The most confusing item, I encountered was the egg topper, I don't understand this product. When you hard boil an egg, aren't you supposed to remove the entire egg shell? The egg topper only removes the top of the shell, why not just crack it on the edge of the table and peel it off with your fingers? The banana slicer was another head scratcher, can you not find a butter knife for this energy sapping chore? Yes, I know some gadgets are helpful in the kitchen, but does it take away from the cooking experience to have a tool for every single thing you do? For example, I love the tedious and labor intensive process of making bread. I love kneading it and waiting for it to rise and smelling the yeast wafting out of the oven. The bread machine experience makes it so much easier but so much less enjoyable, you can't smell anything through all that plastic machinery! OK, I admit, I did see several things I would like to have on hand in my own kitchen, I've always wanted a mortar and pestle to grind herbs and garlic and for making pesto, but 49.99 is a little steep these days. I also need a good chef's knife, I have never actually gone the distance and bought a real one, right now I am using a big butcher knife, a friend brought, when she came to visit. I was also mesmerized by the four in one avocado tool, which would actually be very helpful, I hate trying to pick out the slickery pit, and I never seem to get all of the avocado out of the skin, this one was only 15.99. I may treat myself to this tool for Valentine's day, with all of the money I've saved from not eating out, I think I deserve it!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day 39 A Sucker By Any Other Name

Today, I debate myself, is a Tomato juice from the soda machine a violation of my 365 day oath? Budget wise, I could buy it from the grocery store for less than the machine but health wise, of course not, it's a can of vegetables! I see no violation here. How about a sucker from the bank, is it considered "fast food"? Let's look at the facts, the sucker was free, so no budget impact, the bank was not fast in any way, as I stood in line long enough to earn two suckers, and the health impact of said crappy sucker was negligible. I'm going with no on this one too. My next delima is popcorn, my brother and I are going to a movie this weekend and I am stymied over whether or not I will be a cheater if I buy a tub. I'll bring my own water of course but is it tacky/illegal to bring a bag of microwave popcorn to the show? Don't get me wrong, I always bring my own  drinks, so sneaking it in is not the issue, the issue is that popcorn is an integral part of the movie going experience and I really want some! I just don't know about having a steaming bag of kettle corn wafting from my purse, will they throw me out, will they arrest me? Of course my brother will get popcorn for himself, if he buys it, can I eat it? So many questions! I'm going with a yes, this would be a direct violation, both because of the enormous cost of movie popcorn and the fat/sodium content, it's just not worth it. OK. I'm just going to come up with my own super special movie snackage collaboration so that I won't miss out. When I was little, my granny always brought a bag of  soggy blueberry muffins to the show with us but nary a sip of water... I won't be doing that, in fact, it's the reason I don't eat blueberry muffins today. Perhaps, I'll use my mom's Carmel corn recipe and throw in some fun stuff like slivered almonds and marshmallows, but in a much smaller and more responsible serving than the theater bucket creation. Homemade granola is another possibility, maybe chex mix, who knows, the point is I don't have to play by the theater's rules!Possibilities:1000 Violations:0

Monday, February 7, 2011

Day 38 Mangos and Yogurt and String Cheese Oh My

Today, I returned to the world of social working, after 6 long snowy days off. I have never been so happy to see other humans in my life! We all survived the blizzard so I wasn't upset to find the ceiling crumbled on the floor of my office, I didn't cringe at the unexpected arrival of new employees, with eager faces, awaiting instruction. I was ecstatic to spend my lunch sampling cheese at the grocery store, with a co-worker, and I was THRILLED to leisurely enjoy my eclectic snack fest of mangoes, avocados, and yogurt amidst some very entertaining people, back at the ranch. I have to say that I was not entirely happy when one of the newbies pointed to my fleece jacket and asked me what kind of cat I had, referring to the dog hair I happened to be wearing in what I thought was a pretty stylish manner. The tactless pointer outer was also eating McDonald's, in a very greasy and smelly way, needless to say, I was not impressed sir, not impressed at all.
On a happier note, Valentine's day is coming up and I have some pretty great ideas for a V-day menu. I'm thinking, a strawberry spinach salad, baked macaroni with Gruyere cheese, vegetable stuffed portabella mushrooms, and plum sorbet for dessert....ya I'm single, but I am going all out this year, a girl's gotta eat! I may share my leftovers with family, friends, and co-workers, if they are nice to me and/or buy me stuff in honor of this blessed Hallmark holiday.

Plum Sorbet


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Day 37 Is There A Snow Route To Thailand?

I read cookbooks like I read novels, I get carried away in the descriptions, the ingredients, the pictures, everything. So, today while I listen to the snow mercifully melt into a river in the back yard, and wait for the next wave to come, I am dreaming of the Bankok floating market and perusing a beautiful Thai cookbook, I received for my birthday, last year. I do not have ingredients for even a few of the recipes, so I'm mostly just dreaming of what I'm going to make when I'm able to move about the city freely, without the aid of skis or spikes on my shoes. It's true, I still have the red curry paste from my last experimentation, but it is a certainty, that I need further education in this area of international cuisine. Apparently, as I learned from my mistake, you cannot just throw the curry in and stir it around, you should  use ALL of the ingredients listed, and use the paste sparingly. I'm kind of a willy nilly cook and don't always follow the rules, which sometimes leads to disaster and sometimes to things that are surprisingly good.
So the recipe that I'm eyeing right now, is spicy noodles with mushroom egg rolls or guay tiaw tom yam kub po pia hed, as it's called. I've never made egg rolls before, but I'm all about it since this recipe is vegetarian, it's spicy, and I loooove mushrooms in, around, or on anything that I put into my mouth. Next we have zucchini and cashew curry or kaeng courgette med mamuang for our imaginary side dish, ending with mango brulee, mamuang for pretend dessert. It's all a distant dream now, but maybe I'll have a post blizzard dinner party with a Thai theme, we'll have a little curry heat to make us forget about the snow. Right now, it's time to pack the dream away, I'm off to make a roasted squash soup and maybe make a grilled cheese with my snow storm, survival food. Sometimes, it's just a super fabulous soup and sandwich kind of night, I guess.

Mango Creme Brulee

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Day 36 Monster Trucking To The Market

I have come down from the mountain and the world looks a mite different than it did a week ago. Thanks to global warming and the mayor's confusion over how to move snow from one place to another, there is still a lot of it and most of it is between me and the market. Today, my family drove 25 miles in their ginormous, snow slaying, pansy car squashing, monster truck to take me to the grocery store and once again I have enough food to keep myself kicking for another week. The shelves weren't fully stocked and there were limits on what one could buy, but I managed to get a few things, I'm looking forward to. Tonight, I'm making a favorite for myself; I really miss eating in my preferred Mexican restaurants during this year long challenge, so I'm making cheese enchiladas with guacamole and rice, YUM!  I'm hoping these avocados don't make me cry like the ones from last week, such a tragedy, they were moldy, when I cut them. I was so looking forward to them, I almost scraped the mold off, but my fear of Botulistic Shagalosous held me back and ration prevailed, no amount of lime was gonna freshen those precious, dead avocados. More snow is coming in the next few days and I am going to get creative with some beans, how creative you ask? Creative enough to blow your hair back, my friends, it's gonna be a windy week here on the plains! Also, this week, in honor of an old friend and a tragic break-up, I'm making dump cake, say so long to the past, eat some cake, and move on!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 35 Black Market Omlettes

It's snowing again and things are getting a tad desperate in Tulsa, everyone is out of eggs. I don't mean that there are none in the fridge, I mean there are very few in the stores, people are jonesing for their scramble and I'm a little frightened! I hear rumors that bands of people are searching store to store on foot, searching for the elusive egg carton, without success. I thought ahead and bought two cartons last week, before the storm came. I have used my secret golden commodity for omelettes, cake, french toast, fried egg sandwiches, and today egg salad. I even made a scrambled egg for my dog as a treat, I know, I know I'm being wasteful with my stash. Maybe, but I would like to take a moment to honor the faithful egg, with it's selfless decision to forgo chickenhood, the egg has nourished billions in times of desperation and hunger. (Vegan readers, please avert your eyes). In times when funds are low, I often buy a carton of eggs for a mere 1.99 and instantly have 6-12 meals at the ready, that's like .06 a meal! I could spend 2.00 in the drive through and satisfy my hunger for an hour, or I could buy a carton of eggs and eat well for a couple of days. If I splurge on bread, beans, and cheese, well I have a veritable buffet of options to egg around with. So, back to the situation at hand, If things get dicey around here, I may have to barter what I have left, I would give up my eggs for a jar of olives, green, black, or purple, doesn't matter, come alone and we'll work out a deal. I may also consider trading for a snow shovel or a really nice scarf.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day 34 The Cake That Saved Me

Today, I woke up mad. I was mad at the snow, mad at my boss, mad at my dwindling bottle of shampoo, just upside down, rabid monkey angry. So, I strapped on my old lady, anti-slip, sneaker covers for ice travel and headed out in search of happiness. I made it to the little convenience store three parking lots over and was overjoyed to find them open for business. I felt like an orphan who finds her long lost parents, after years of eating gruel. The shelves didn't have much but I was enthralled by every single cellophane wrapped treasure. I nodded hello at my old friends in the soda isle and moved on, so much history, it was hard not to stop and catch up. As I weighed my options and corralled the temptations, I saw it, it was a plain yellow Betty Crocker cake mix, yellow happiness for 1.99! I looked at the required ingredients, oil, eggs, water, check, check, and check. I raced to the check out line, giddy at the thought of one more day of sustenance in my snow filled world. I handed the man my debit card...... sorry, he says, no purchases under 3.00 with a card. I stopped, I stared, please I whispered, I really need this cake! I fluttered my eyelashes, tried to look seductive in my mounds of snow garb. OK, he said, this time I'll do it, but next time....Yes, yes, thank you kind stranger, thank you. Like a raccoon with a tasty piece of garbage, I hurried home with my loot and set to work. The store was out of icing so I invented my own by mixing mocha latte coffee mix with butter and melting it into a chocolate glaze.  I also added a chopped up pear to the cake mix, the icing worked, the pear did not. All in all the cake was super delicious and just what I needed to cheer myself up, while waiting for rescue. Hopefully tomorrow I can go to a real grocery store for fruit and vegetables, maybe I won't catch the scurvy before then.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day 33 Waiting For The Olive Fairy

I just returned from the parking lot. That may sound like a benign sentence, but I assure you that it was a long and arduous journey, all 50 feet of it. Luckily someone shoveled through the chest high snow drift, separating us from the outside world and I was able to reach my car to warm the battery. This will be as far as I get for a few days, as all exits are blocked, there's not a plow in sight, and well, the snow refuses to move it's self. If I don't get out of here soon, I'm going to have to tunnel through the sewer to the grocery store, I'm talking Shawshank style. I'm sick of chili and today I made the worst cornbread anyone has ever made, it literally tasted like I just shook the bag of corn meal into my mouth and swished it around with river water. Right now, I'm chewing gum, the fake strawberry flavor reminds me that there are real strawberries out there somewhere, in a produce section far far away. I really, really miss olives, I know they must still make them somewhere in the world!  If the Red Cross ever finds me, huddled here in my apartment, cold and hungry, perhaps they will bring olives to revive me. OK, enough wishing and hoping, one thing I am thankful for and swimming in, is tea, I have a 100 count box of green tea, ginger tea, Lipton iced tea, and Saw Palmetto herbal tea. So, if the good Lord is willing and the pipes don't burst, at least I won't die of thirstation.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day 32 Lessons in Creative Blizzard Cuisine

The excitement of blizzard chili and coco can only go so far, when one is for shizzle stuck in the house behind giant snow drifts. I'm considering either eating a snowball or concocting some sort of new and original cookie. My options for said cookie include squash or collard greens. I'm pretty sure squash could be manipulated into something sweet but I'll have to make it up as I go along. I could use peanut butter but should probably save that for actual starvation, sure to come by Thursday or later this afternoon. Also on my radar, is my last Kashi bar, I'm thinking I could crumbled it up, mix it with butter and make a tiny pear cobbler....I'm creative that way. I also have a few grapes left, I could make jailhouse wine, but I'm pretty sure that involves fermenting the concoction in a toilet, so that's out.  If I could just use all of these items together in some sort of "end of time casserole" I think I could muster up enough energy to go outside and make a snow angel or shovel part of the sidewalk. OK, I'm out of ideas the blizzard has sapped my creative reserves, if the cookies turn out OK, I'll share the recipe, if not, we'll just pretend they were never mentioned and move on with our lives.